The 7 Wonders of the Ancient World
Today, our current civilization prides itself as a technologically advanced one. But have you heard about the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World? They are artistic and architectural accomplishments from a number of ancient civilizations that remind us about the unquestionable ingenuity of the Earth’s early inhabitants.
Overview of the Seven Wonders
The works of ancient writers such as Philo of Byzantium were pivotal in compiling the first list of these must-see places. The 7 Wonders of the Ancient World are: the Great Pyramid of Giza; Hanging Gardens of Babylon; Statue of Zeus in Olympia; Temple of Artemis at Ephesus; Colossus of Rhodes; Mausoleum at Harlicarnassus; and Lighthouse at Alexandria.
As we speak today, not all the 7 Wonders are still intact on the earth surface — only the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt has beaten the odds of time. The other wonders (if at all they existed) were eroded by the forces of nature and humanity. Here is a descriptive overview of these historic wonders.
The Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt
Perhaps, the most famous and realistic wonder among the Seven Wonders is the Egyptian Pyramid at Giza. You could find this iconic structure along the western bank of the Nile River in Egypt. Among the 3 main Egyptian pyramids, the Great Pyramid (known as Khufu Pyramid) is the most spectacular one.
The construction period of the pyramids goes back to around 2700-2500 BC. Named after the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Khufu, the Great Pyramid has a sizable area of about 13 acres. Khufu’s pyramid was built from the base to the top by using over 2 million blocks — each stone block weighs 2-3 tons.
This huge pyramid stands tall to a staggering height of about 139 m (456 ft) . No wonder for over four millennia, the pyramid held records as the world’s tallest artificial structure. It was only in the 19th century that modern humans surpassed the height record of the pyramid.
Hanging Gardens of Babylon
According to the writings of Diodorus Siculus (an ancient author), Nebuchadnezzar had a pretty wife by name Amytis of Media. She had nostalgic feelings about her homeland’s attractive mountains and beautiful greenery. Around 605 & 562 BC, Nebuchadnezzar ordered for a mountain-like structure to be constructed in Babylon to meet the needs of his dear wife — this was the foundation of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
Even though the existence of the Hanging Gardens is highly questionable, Diodorus stated that the garden had a diverse range of plants and animal species. The greenery was arranged in ascending series of stairs up to 75 ft high (23 m) — it automatically watered itself.
A historic study of ancient Babylon reveals no evidence to back the reality of the Garden. But ancient writers such as Philo and Diodorus both claimed it existed. Apparently, it got destroyed by a post-first century earthquake.
Statue of Zeus at Olympia
This wonder was sculpted by Phidias (one of the greatest sculptors of the 5th century). The statue is a vivid depiction of the Greek god Zeus sitting on a throne with his ivory skin and golden robes. The 40 ft (12 m) magnificent statue was designed to amaze worshipers in the Temple of Zeus at Olympia.
The nearly perfect statue had an Achilles heel which drew criticisms from writers such as Strabo — Strabo pinpoints that the statue is disproportionate because Zeus‘ head was too close to the ceiling, implying that if the powerful Zeus was to stand up, his head would puncture the ceiling.
Following the introduction of Christianity and the stoppage of the pagan Olympic Games, the statue crumbled.
Lighthouse of Alexandria
It was a large and tall building with luminous night bonfire that was put at the coast of Alexandria, Egypt. Its purpose was to guide visiting sailors from the seas to the city of Alexandria (Alexander the Great’s city) — it also functioned as a tourist observation deck and a security point to watch out for sea enemies.
Unfortunately, the lighthouse went down and disappeared from the surface of the earth. Just like the other wonders, the Lighthouse’s destruction was most likely hastened by a number of earthquakes in the 14th century AD.
Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
Before its completion in 550 BC, construction work on the Temple of Artemis had spanned for over a century; it was erected to honor the legendary Greek goddess Artemis (Apollo‘s sister). The temple’s site was at Ephesus – a former Greek colony in present-day Turkey. King Croesus of Lydia was the main sponsor of the project.
About 127 columns (each measuring 60 ft) held up the gigantic temple. 356 BC was a worrying moment in history when an attention seeker by name Herostratus made a infamous name for himself by setting the temple ablaze. For destroying the second Artemis temple, Herostratus was executed, but he achieved his desire to gain historical popularity.
Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
Also known as the Mausoleum of Maussollos, this great wonder was likely built in 351 BC; it rose to about 135 ft high. The architectural brains behind this titanic tomb probably came from Greece and Egypt; it’s believed that Artemisia called for the tomb to be constructed for the Carnia ruler Mausolos, who was her spouse. The English word “mausoleum” is believed to have come from Mausolos.
The tomb had 36 columns, Greek statues (reminiscent of their battle with Amazons), chariots, and pyramids on which the pinnacle sat atop. The four elaborate walls of the tomb earned it a place on the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Earthquakes ruined the mausoleum on several occasions before it was completely invaded and destroyed by European Crusaders in 1494.
Colossus of Rhodes
This was a big bronze statue of the Titan Helios (Greek god of the sun). It was made by the Rhodians (inhabitants of the Greek island of Rhodes) between 292 & 280 BC. With a height measuring slightly above 30 m (100 ft), the Colossus is believed to have had similar features to the United States’ Statue of Liberty. In the ancient era, it was the tallest statue on earth. The statue’s construction work lasted for about 12 years.
Rhodians built the statue to commemorate their victory over Demetrius’ forces in 304 BC. The Colossus of Rhodes stood tall for 56 years before it was eventually overpowered by an earthquake in 226 BC.
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