Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: The Most Magnificent Monuments of Antiquity

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The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World are seven awe-inspiring monuments of classical antiquity that reflect the skill and ingenuity of their creators.  The list, comprised by ancient Greek historians, covers only the monuments of the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions – the known world for the Greeks at the time.

Today, only one of the Seven Wonders remains intact – the Great Pyramid of Giza.  Three of the Wonders – the Colossus of Rhodes, Lighthouse of Alexandria and Mausoleum of Halicarnassus – were destroyed by earthquakes. Two of the Wonders – the Temple of Artemis and Statue of Zeus – were intentionally destroyed by enemy forces, while the final Wonder – the Hanging Gardens of Babylon – has remained a matter of contention for millennia, with some historians questioning whether existed at all.

The Great Pyramid of Giza

The Great Pyramid of Giza

The Great Pyramid of Giza (also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops) is the oldest of the Seven Wonders, and the only one to remain largely intact.

It is estimated that the Great Pyramid is comprised of more than 2 million limestone blocks weighing from 2 to 70 tons. Originally standing at over 140 meters (481 feet), the Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years. It was built with such precision that it would be difficult to replicate it even with today’s technology.

The Magnificent Mausoleum of Halicarnassus

The Magnificent Mausoleum of Halicarnassus

After the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus is the longest surviving wonder of the ancient world, having stood for more than a millennium and a half.  The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus was built for Mausolus, the second ruler of Caria from the Hecatomnid dynasty (and nominally a Persian satrap) who died in 353 BC. As the man who refounded Halicarnassus, Mausolus was entitled to receive cultic honours and a tomb on the central square of his city, in accordance with Greek custom. The final construction was a wonder built in the styles of three different cultures – Greek, Lycian and Egyptian.

During the 13th century, a series of earthquakes destroyed the columns of the Mausoleum, and brought the stone chariot, which sat atop the Mausoleum, crashing to the ground. By the early 15th century, only the base of the structure was recognisable. By the end of the same century, and again in 1522, following rumors of a Turkish invasion, the Knights of St. John used the stones from the Mausoleum to fortify the walls of their castle in Bodrum. Additionally, much of the remaining sculptures were ground into lime for plaster, though some of the best works were salvaged and mounted in Bodrum castle. During the 19 th century, the last remnants of the Mausoleum, including sections of relief, a broken chariot wheel, two statues, and some foundations, were unearthed by British archaeologist Charles Thomas Newton and taken back to the British Museum, where they remain to this day. They are the last remnants of a once spectacular monument that had the ancient world in awe.

The Grand and Powerful Statue of Zeus

The Grand and Powerful Statue of Zeus

The statue of Zeus at Olympia, Greece, was arguably the most famous statue of its day.  Once built as a shrine to honor the Greek god Zeus, this statue was considered the incarnate of the Greeks’ most important god, and not to have seen it at least once in one's lifetime was considered a misfortune.  The size of a four story building and seven times the height of an average man, it was the tallest statue of the Mediterranean world. According to legend, the altar of Zeus stood on a spot struck by a thunderbolt, which had been hurled by the god from his throne high atop Mount Olympus, where the gods assembled. 

The statue of Zeus was made by the Greek sculptor Phidias in 430 BC, considered the most famous artist of ancient Greece.  The giant figure was made from a wooden frame of cedar wood covered with expensive materials such as ivory, ebony, bronze, gold leaf and precious stones.  Zeus wore a robe and pair of sandals made out of gold.  The stool beneath his feet was upheld by two impressive gold lions.  In his left hand was a scepter crowned with an eagle's head symbolizing his dominion over Earth.  In his right hand sat a life-size statue of Nike, the winged goddess of victory. 

The statue of Zeus sat in place for over 800 years until Rome’s new Christian emperor Theodosius I ordered the statue dismantled and stripped of its gold in 391 AD.  Today, all that remains in Olympia are the temple's fallen columns and the foundation of the building, which were uncovered during 19th and 20th Century archaeological digs.


IronicLyricist's picture

such r amazing feats.. they go to show the indomitable will and spirit of humanity when we WORK TOGETHER… o yeah so did the tower of babel:/

infinitesimal waveparticles comprise what we call home the earth
manipulatable by thought ability supressed in humans since birth

There were several different lists with different monuments on them - this was just the one that got promoted the most. Plus, maybe they lasted longer than others that could be put on this list. I for one have never heard of this Labyrinth in Egypt and do not recall having seen anything remotely resembling some holy site that looked like a Labyrinth. The only thing close are some of the foundations for the worker housing for the pyramids and the Valley of the King tombs, but I doubt that they could have been so magnificent to be mentioned by Herodotus. Maybe you could explain more about the Labyrinth and where it was located and maybe a reference easily obtainable that shows it.

To the other responder's point about other monuments that could be added to the list, the places he listed appear to be all New World sites, all of which were unknown by the creators of this list of Ancient Wonders. A few of the items I've also never heard of and some, like Puma Pinku or whatever, are ruins without an understanding of what the place looked like originally. I'm sure the original Parthenon in Athens looked marvelous, but right now it's just a bunch of stones laid out on the Acropolis and I don't think I've even seen anyone do a reconstruction of it, except as a vague "temple of the type" you would find in that period.

Tsurugi's picture

Yeah. Can things be added to the list? Along with the Labyrinth, I'd add Teotihuacan, Sacsayhuaman, Puma Punku, Angkor Wat, Ba'albek, and Cholula...just to name a few.

Also, in reading the article I had to ask, how does a mob of people destroy a massive building made of huge stone blocks? You can't burn it down, you can't knock it over, you can't pull it down with ropes. It would have to be done practically one stone block at a time....a difficult and tedious task that does not really fit with the kinds of activities mobs get up to.....?

I am always perplexed by the list of the Seven Ancient wonders of the World, mainly for reason of its lack of including the Labyrinth of the ancient Egyptians. The list is generally credited to the greek historian, Philo of Byzantium. Did he have something against Labyrinths, as if the structure being built underground detracted from its “wonder.” 

I bring this up because the Egyptian Labyrinth is mentioned by two of the most notable/known Greek historians, Herodotus and Strabo, and roman historian Pliny the elder. Herodotus had this to say about the Egyptian Labyrinth,

“I visited this place, and found it to surpass description; for if all the walls and other great works of the Greeks could be put together in one, they would not equal, either for labour or expense, this Labyrinth; and yet the temple of Ephesus is a building worthy of note, and so is the temple of Samos. The pyramids likewise surpass description, and are severally equal to a number of the greatest works of the Greeks, but the Labyrinth surpasses the pyramids.”

According to his words, Herodotus mentions two of the wonders, being the pyramid and the Temple of Ephesus, continuing to state that the Labrinth in scope alone surpasses them. 

Why does it always feel like history is trying to erase the memory of the Egyptian Labyrinth?


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