Aug 16



The term Seven Wonders of the World is often used, but few people can name them all. Sure a few will usually know some but in most cases not all.

Historically the list of the Seven Wonders originated around 200 BC. The final list of the Seven Wonders was compiled during the Middle Ages. This list was made up of the seven most impressive monuments of the Ancient World. Only one survives to the present day, the Pyramids of Giza.

 

The first reference to the idea of the Seven Wonders is found in History of Herodotus as long ago as the 5th century BC. Decades later, Greek historians wrote about the greatest monuments at the time. Callimachus of Cyrene (305BC-240BC), Chief Librarian of the Alexandria Mouseion, wrote "A Collection of Wonders around the World". All we know about the collection is its title, for it was destroyed with the Alexandria Library.

Today, archaeological evidence reveals some of the mysteries that surrounded the history of the Wonders for centuries. For their builders, the Seven Wonders were a celebration of religion, mythology, art, power, and science. For us, they reflect the ability of humans to change the surrounding landscape by building massive yet beautiful structures, one of which stood the test of time to this very day.

Here is the list, with relevant links to the sections of this document, where brief explanations of each are given.

     

  1. The Lighthouse of Alexandria

     

  2. The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

     

  3. The Pyramids of Giza

     

  4. The Statue of Zeus at Olympia

     

  5. The Colossus of Rhodes

     

  6. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

     

  7. The Temple of Artemis
  8.  

 

 


 

THE LIGHTHOUSE OF ALEXANDRIA

Of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, only one had a practical use in addition to its architectural elegance it was the Lighthouse of Alexandria. For sailors, it ensured a safe return to the Great Harbor.

The Lighthouse of Alexandria stood over 122 meters high and it was the tallest building on Earth. It stood on the island of Pharos in the harbor of Alexandria, in Egypt. Scientist to this day are still fascinated by the mirror whose reflection could be seen up to 50 kilometers away. It is interesting to note that the word "pharos" came to mean lighthouse.

In the fall of 1994 a team of archaeological scuba divers entered the waters off of Alexandria, Egypt. Working beneath the surface they searched the bottom of the sea for artifacts. Large underwater blocks of stone were marked with floating masts so that an Electronic Distance Measurement station on shore could obtain their exact positions. Global positioning satellites were used to further fix the locations. The information was then fed into computers to create a detailed database of the sea floor. Ironically, these scientists were using some of the most high-tech devices available at the end of the 20th century to try and discover the ruins of one of the most advanced technological achievements of the 3rd century, B.C.: The Pharos. It was the great lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The story of the Pharos starts with the founding of the city of Alexandria by the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great in 332 B.C.. Alexander started at least 17 cities named Alexandria at different locations in his vast domain. Most of them disappeared, but Alexandria in Egypt thrived for centuries and continues even today.

Alexander the Great choose the location of his new city carefully. Instead of building it on the Nile delta, he selected a site some twenty miles to the west, so that the silt and mud carried by the river would not block the city harbour. South of the city was the marshy Lake Mareotis. After a canal was constructed between the lake and the Nile, the city had two harbours: one for Nile River traffic, and the other for Mediterranean Sea trade. Both harbours would remain deep and clear Alexander died soon after in 323 B.C. and the city was completed by Ptolemy Soter the new ruler of Egypt. Under Ptolemy the city became rich and prosperous. However, it needed both a symbol and a mechanism to guide the many trade ships into the busy harbour. Ptolemy authorized the building of the Pharos in 290 B.C., and when it was completed some twenty years later, it was the first lighthouse in the world and the tallest building in existence, with the exception of the Great Pyramid.

The lighthouse's designer was Sostrates of Knidos. Proud of his work, Sostrates, desired to have his name carved into the foundation. Ptolemy II, the son who ruled Egypt after his father, refused this request wanting his own name to be the only one on the building. A clever man, Sostrates had the inscription: “SOSTRATES SON OF DEXIPHANES OF KNIDOS ON BEHALF OF ALL MARINERS TO THE SAVIOR GODS” chiseled into the foundation, and then covered it with plaster. Into the plaster was chiseled Ptolemy's name. As the years went by the plaster aged and chipped away revealing Sostrates' declaration.

The lighthouse was built on the island of Pharos and soon the building itself acquired the name. The connection of the name with the function became so strong that the word "Pharos" became the root of the word "lighthouse" in the French, Italian, Spanish and Romanian languages. The lighthouse was apparently a tourist attraction. Food was sold to visitors at the observation platform at the top of the first level. A smaller balcony provided a view from the top of the eight-sided tower for those that wanted to make the additional climb. The view from there must have been impressive as it was probably 300 feet above the sea. There were few places in the ancient world where a person could ascend a man-made tower to get such a perspective.

How then did the world's first lighthouse wind up on the floor of the Mediterranean Sea? Most accounts indicate that it, like many other ancient buildings, was the victim of earthquakes. It stood for 1,500 years but was damaged by tremors in 365 and 1303 A.D. Reports indicate the final collapse came in 1326.Did the divers actually find the remains of Pharos in the bottom of the harbour? Some of the larger blocks of stone found certainly seem to have come from a large building. Statues were located that may have stood at the base of the Pharos. Interestingly enough, much of the material found seems to be from earlier eras than the lighthouse. Scientists speculate that they may have been recycled in the construction of the Pharos from even older buildings.

The structure, completed during the reign of Ptolemy II (283-246 B.C.) was from a design by the Greek architect Sostratos. Of the six vanished Wonders (the Pyramids of Giza still exist); the Lighthouse of Alexandria was the last to disappear. Therefore we have adequately accurate knowledge of its location and appearance. The lighthouse rose from a stone platform in three sections. The bottom section of the lighthouse was square, the middle octagonal, and the top circular. A fire burning at the top of the light-house provided light reflected into the mirror.

The Lighthouse of Alexandria stood for about 1,500 years before earthquakes in 1303 and 1326 finally caused it to topple.

 


THE MAUSOLEUM AT HALICARNASSUS

The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus was built on a hilltop over looking the city of Halicarnassus. It was a built there so the whole city would be able to see it.

Mausolus, with his queen Artemisia, ruled over Halicarnassus and the surrounding territory for 24 years. Mausolus, though he was descended from the local people, spoke Greek and admired the Greek way of life and government. He founded many cities of Greek design along the coast and encouraged Greek democratic traditions.

In 353 B.C. Mausolus died, leaving his queen Artemisia, who was also his sister (It was the custom in Caria for rulers to marry their own sisters), broken-hearted. As a tribute to him, she decided to build him the most splendid tomb in the known world.

It became a structure so famous that Mausolus's name is now associated with all stately tombs through our modern word mausoleum. The building was also so beautiful and unique it became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The mausoleum featured a rectangular basement beneath a colonnade formed by 36 columns. A stepped pyramid rested on the colonnade. At the top of the pyramid shaped roof was a statue of a four-horse chariot in which were statues of the king and queen.

The Mausoleum overlooked the city of Halicarnassus for many centuries. It was untouched when the city fell to Alexander the Great in 334 B.C. and still undamaged after attacks by pirates in 62 and 58 B.C.. It stood above the city ruins for some 17 centuries.

The top part of the mausoleum was destroyed by an earthquake, and in 1494 A.D the Knights of St. John, one of the knight groups in the crusades, used the marble blocks of the base of the mausoleum to make a castle. By 1522 A.D, almost every block had been torn down and used to make the castle. Today, the castle still stands, and with them, the separate pieces of the Mausoleum of King Maussollos.

 


PYRAMIDS OF GIZA

The great pyramids of Giza were built around 2700-2500 BC as tombs for the pharaohs (rulers of ancient Egypt, who held the status of gods on earth ). The Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops to the Greeks) is the largest, pictured here in the left of the photograph, it covers 13 acres. Its 756 feet long on each side, 450 high and is composed of 2,300,000 blocks of stone, each averaging 2 1/2 tons in weight. Despite the makers' limited surveying tools no side is more than 8 inches different in length than another, and the whole structure is perfectly oriented to the points of the compass. The granite slab that is the roof of Khufu's burial chamber weighs 50 tons in itself.

Image Of Giza

Until the 19th century it was the tallest building in the world and, at the age of 4,500 years, it is the only one of the famous "Seven Wonders of the Ancient World" that still stands. Some of the earliest history of the Pyramid comes from a Greek traveller named Herodotus of Halicarnassus. He visited Egypt around 450 BC and included a description of the Great Pyramid in a history book he wrote. Herodotus was told by his Egyptian guides that it took twenty-years for a force of 100,000 oppressed slaves to build the pyramid. Stones were lifted into position by the use of immense machines.

In 1638 a English mathematician, John Greaves, visited the pyramid. He discovered a narrow shaft, hidden in the wall, which connected the Grand Gallery with the descending passage. Both ends were tightly sealed and the bottom was blocked with debris. Some archaeologists suggested this route was used by the last of the Pharaoh's men to exit the tomb, after the granite plugs had been put in place, and by the thieves to get inside. Given the small size of the passageway and the amount of debris it seems unlikely that the massive amount of treasure, including the huge missing sarcophagus lid, could have been removed this way. Some have suggested that the pyramid was never meant as a tomb, but as an astronomical observatory.

Richard Proctor, an astronomer, did observe that the descending passage could have been used to observe the transits of certain stars. He also suggested that the grand gallery, when open at the top, during construction, could have been used for mapping the sky. Most archaeologists, though, accept the theory that the great pyramid was just the largest of a tradition of tombs used for the Pharaohs of Egypt.

So what happened to Khufu's mummy and treasure? Nobody knows. Extensive explorations have found no other chambers or passageways. Still one must wonder if, perhaps in this one case, the King and his architects out smarted both the ancient thieves and modern archaeologists and that somewhere in, or below, the last wonder of the ancient world, rests Khufu and his sacred gold.

The pyramid of King Chephren is behind Khufu's and the pyramid of King Mycerinus is in front. The three smaller pyramids in the front were built for King Mycerinus' three wives. These monumental pyramids are precisely oriented to the four cardinal points. Today the city of Cairo reaches almost to the foot of the pyramids, but when the pyramids were built, they were in the middle of the desert. The Great Pyramids of Giza still have a strong impact on humanity. The impact is best summed up in this ancient Arab proverb: "Man fears Time, yet Time fears the pyramid."

 


THE STATUE OF ZEUS AT OLYMPIA

In ancient times the Greeks held one of their most important festivals, The Olympic Games, in honour of the King of their gods, Zeus.

Zeus

Like our modern Olympics, athletes travelled from distant lands, including Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt and Sicily, to compete in the games. The Olympics were first started in 776 B.C. and held at a shrine to Zeus located on the western coast of Greece in a region called Peloponnesus. The games, held every four years, helped to unify the Greek city-states. Sacred truce was declared during the games and wars were stopped. Safe passage was given to all travelling to the site, called Olympia, for the season of the games

In the early years of these games the shrine to Zeus was a simple affair, but as time went by and the games increased in importance, it became obvious that a new, larger temple, one worthy of the King of the gods, was needed. Between 470 and 460 B.C., construction on a new temple was started. The designer was Libon of Elis and his masterpiece, The Temple of Zeus, was completed in 456 B.C..

The seated figure of Zeus was over forty feet high ( 12 meters) and dominated most of the interior of the temple. Zeus was the most powerful of the gods, and many of the participants of the Olympics paid homage to him before the games. The huge statue of Zeus took up almost the entire interior of the temple.

Made entirely of ivory and gold, The Statue of Zeus was covered with symbols of victory and conquest. The statue may have been the most magnificent of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In the year 391 A.D. the temple in Olympia, about 150 miles west of Athens, where the statue stood had a very bad year. Earthquakes, land-slides, and floods destroyed the temple. The only remaining parts of the temple are the ruins and the foundation of the structure. Earlier, however, Zeus was transported to a palace in Constantinople, now Istanbul, by wealthy Greek men where it was eventually destroyed by a fire near the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 462 A.D.

 


THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES

The Colossus was located at the entrance of the harbor of the Mediterranean island of Rhodes in Greece. The island of Rhodes was an important economic centre in the ancient world. It is located off the southwestern tip of Asia Minor where the Aegean Sea meets the Mediterranean. The capitol city, also named Rhodes, was built in 408 B.C. and was designed to take advantage of the island's best natural harbour on the northern coast.

To celebrate a victory over Demetrius the Rhodians decided to build a giant statue of their patron god Helios.They melted down bronze from the many war machines Demetrius left behind for the exterior of the figure and the super siege tower became the scaffolding for the project. According to Pliny, a historian who lived several centuries after the Colossus was built, construction took 12 years. Other historians place the start of the work in 304 B.C..

The statue was one hundred and ten feet high and stood upon a fifty-foot pedestal near the harbour mole. Although the statue has been popularly depicted with its legs spanning the harbour entrance so that ships could pass beneath, it was actually posed in a more traditional Greek manner: nude, wearing a spiked crown, shading its eyes from the rising sun with its right hand, while holding a cloak over its left.

The Colossus was a huge bronze statue of Helios, the sun god. From its building to its destruction by an earthquake (224 BC) lies a time span of merely 56 years. Yet the colossus earned a place in the famous list of Wonders. "But even lying on the ground, it is a marvel", said Pliny the Elder.

The Rhodian sculptor Chares of Lindos worked for 12 years on the statue. He used stone blocks and about 7 1/2 short tons (6.8 metric tons) of iron bars to support the hollow statue. The huge pieces were left where they fell and were looked upon with awe for centuries to come. Nearly a thousand years later, in AD 656, a scrap metal dealer bought the pieces and had them melted down.

 


THE HANGING GARDENS OF BABYLON

The Gardens is thought to have been situated on the east bank of the River Euphrates, some 50 km south of what is now Baghdad, in Iraq. It is believed that the Gardens were built by King Nebuchadnezzar II.

The ancient city of Babylon, under King Nebuchadnezzar II, must have been a wonder to the traveller's eyes. "In addition to its size," wrote Herodotus, a historian in 450 BC, "Babylon surpasses in splendour any city in the known world." Herodotus claimed the outer walls were 56 miles in length, 80 feet thick and 320 feet high. It was wide enough, he said, to allow a four-horse chariot to turn. The inner walls were "not so thick as the first, but hardly less strong."

Inside the walls were fortresses and temples containing immense statues of solid gold. Rising above the city was the famous Tower of Babel, a temple to the god Marduk that seemed to reach to the heavens. While archaeological examination has disputed some of Herodotus’ claims (the outer walls seem to be only 10 miles long and not nearly as high) his narrative does give us a sense of how awesome the features of the city appeared to those that visited it.

Interestingly enough, though, one of the city's most spectacular sites is not even mentioned by Herodotus: The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Accounts indicate that the garden was built by King Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled the city for 43 years starting in 605 BC (There is a less-reliable, alternative story that the gardens were built by the Assyrian Queen Semiramis during her five year reign starting in 810 BC). This was the height of the city's power and influence and King Nebuchadnezzar constructed an astonishing array of temples, streets, palaces and walls. According to accounts, the gardens were built to cheer up Nebuchadnezzar's homesick wife, Amyitis. Amyitis, daughter of the king of the Medes, was married to Nebuchadnezzar to create an alliance between the nations. The land she came from, though, was green, rugged and mountainous, and she found the flat, sun-baked terrain of Mesopotamia depressing. The king decided to recreate her homeland by building an artificial mountain with rooftop gardens.

The Hanging Gardens probably did not really "hang" in the sense of being suspended from cables or ropes. The name comes from an inexact translation of the Greek word kremastos or the Latin word pensilis, which mean not just "hanging", but "overhanging" as in the case of a terrace or balcony.

The Greek geographer Strabo, who described the gardens in first century BC, wrote, "It consists of vaulted terraces raised one above another, and resting upon cube-shaped pillars. These are hollow and filled with earth to allow trees of the largest size to be planted. The pillars, the vaults, and terraces are constructed of baked brick and asphalt."Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian, stated that the platforms on which the garden stood consisted of huge slabs of stone (otherwise unheard of in Babel), covered with layers of reed, asphalt and tiles. Over this was put "a covering with sheets of lead, that the wet which drenched through the earth might not rot the foundation. Upon all these was laid earth of a convenient depth, sufficient for the growth of the greatest trees. When the soil was laid even and smooth, it was planted with all sorts of trees, which both for greatness and beauty might delight the spectators." How big were the gardens? Diodorus tells us it was about 400 feet wide by 400 feet long and more than 80 feet high.

Other accounts indicate the height was equal to the outer city walls. Walls that Herodotus said were 320 feet high. In any case the gardens were an amazing sight: A green, leafy, artificial mountain rising off the plain. But did it actually exist? After all, Herodotus never mentions it. This was one of the questions that occurred to German archaeologist Robert Koldewey in 1899. For centuries before that the ancient city of Babel was nothing but a mound of muddy debris. Though unlike many ancient locations, the city's position was well-known, nothing visible remained of its architecture. Koldewey dug on the Babel site for some fourteen years and unearthed many of its features including the outer walls, inner walls, foundation of the Tower of Babel, Nebuchadnezzar's palaces and the wide processional roadway which passed through the heart of the city. While excavating the Southern Citadel, Koldewey discovered a basement with fourteen large rooms with stone arch ceilings. Ancient records indicated that only two locations in the city had made use of stone, the north wall of the Northern Citadel, and the Hanging Gardens.

The north wall of the Northern Citadel had already been found and had, indeed, contained stone. This made it seem likely that Koldewey had found the cellar of the gardens. He continued exploring the area and discovered many of the features reported by Diodorus. Finally a room was unearthed with three large, strange holes in the floor. Koldewey concluded this had been the location of the chain pumps that raised the water to the garden's roof. The foundations that Koldewey discovered measured some 100 by 150 feet. It is smaller than the measurements described by ancient historians, but still impressive. One can only wonder if Queen Amyitis was happy with her fantastic present, or if she continued to pine for the green mountains of her homeland.

Nebuchadnezzar II ruled Babylon from 605 to 562 B.C. Scientists have been unable to identify positively the remains of the gardens. Modern historians argue that when Alexander's soldiers reached the fertile land of Mesopotamia and saw Babylon, they were impressed, so much so that when they returned home, they told stories of amazing gardens and the palace of Nebuchadnezzar in Mesopotamia. Ancient historians and poets, blended all these tales together to create one of the wonders of the world.

 


THE TEMPLE OF ARTEMIS

The temple stood in the Greek city of Ephesus, on the west coast of what is now Turkey. Although the original foundation of the temple dates back to the seventh century BC, the structure that we know as one of the Wonders was built around 550 BC. This was the largest and most complex temple of ancient times. It was made of marble with a tile covered wooden roof. The temple was built by an architect named Cherdiphron and his son, Metagenes.

Ephesus was one of the greatest Ionian cities. The early Greek colonists at Ephesus, in Asia Minor, built a temple to Artemis (called Diana by the Romans) which was rebuilt and enlarged from time to time. Its foundation measured 115 by 55 meters. It had 106 columns, about 12 meters high, in a double row about the cella. It took 120 years to build and was finished in 430 BC. On the night of 21 July 356 BC, a man named Herostratus burned the temple to ground in an attempt to immortalize his name. Strangely enough, Alexander the Great was born the same night. Another one like it was built on the same foundation. Goths burned down the second temple in A.D. 262. Only the foundation and parts of the second temple remains. The British Museum in London contains sculptures from the second temple.

Back To Top