THESE ARE THE 7 WONDERS OF THE ANCIENT WORLD
From the tallest man-made structures of the Ancient World to the controversial Hanging Gardens, NOMADSofORIGIN presents to you the lasting fame of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World
Words: Aleksandra Georgieva
Photography: Mat Reding
29 April 2020
Ever wanted to know more about the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World? We list them dating from the 1st-2nd century BC. There is a predominant praise of the Greek architecture and art culture in the list. This has to do with the fact that the known world to the Greeks at that period in history extended to the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean areas and landmarks beyond those regions were not considered.
The list was essentially a guide of travel recommendations to exploring the Ancient World. The word ‘sights’ preceded the description ‘wonders’ when the list was originally created by Hellenistic travellers. The Greek conquest a significant part of the western world prior to the 4th century BC. They allowed travellers to explore the civilizations of the Persians, Egyptians and Babylonians.
Most of the original Seven Wonders were destroyed throughout time and evidence for their existence is found in the writing works of poets, philosophers and scholars. Greek historian Diodorus Siculus was the first to refer to a list of seven significant landmarks. Later, manuscripts covering the same monuments were written by more observers such as ancient Greek historian Herodotus, mathematician and engineer Philo of Byzantium, poet and scholar Callimachus of Cyrene, etc.
Only the Great Pyramid of Giza is intact to this day, while there are speculations regarding the location and even the existence of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, also featured among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. All seven landmarks coexisted for a period of less than 60 years. The Colossus of Rhodes was remarkably not only the last of the seven wonders to be completed but also the first that was destroyed in 226/5 BC.
Great pyramid at Giza
For nearly 4,000 years the Great Pyramid at Giza existed as the tallest man-made structure in the world. It was built for the Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu between 2584 and 2561 BCE. What impressed ancient travellers was the perfect symmetry and the never-before-witnessed height of the landmark. Up to present day modern humanity is intrigued by the interior of the pyramids. Ancient writers were unfamiliar with any aspect of the pyramid’s interior as excavations were issued in late 18th and early 19th century CE.
Hanging Gardens of Babylon
To this day the existence and the fate of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon have not been officially confirmed. The Hanging Gardens were described by ancient writer Diodorus Siculus as self-watering planes of exotic flora and fauna. He wrote about a series of climbing terraces, reaching a height of over 23 metres (75 feet). Siculus wrote that Nebuchadnezzar II requested the gardens to be built between 605-562 BCE as a gift to his wife, Amtis of Media. She missed the flowers and landscapes of her homeland, which inspired the king’s command to have a mountain built for her in Babylon.
The controversy: there is no mention of the Hanging Gardens in Babylonian history, not even by ‘the Father of History’, Herodotus. However, he was confirmed to have been wrong on occasions, while he also failed to mention other figures and facts of the Ancient World. Diodorus, Philo and other historians claimed the gardens existed and that an earthquake caused their destruction at some period in time after the 1st century CE.
Statue of Zeus at Olympia
The massive sculpture portrayed Zeus seated on his throne with robes of hammered gold and skin of ivory. The 12 metres (40 feet) height of the monument was designed to awe and inspire those, who visited the Temple of Zeus at Olympia to worship the Greek God. Phidias, who was considered the finest sculptor in the Ancient World, created the monument in the 5th century BCE. He was also known to have worked on the famous statue of Athena in Athens and on the Parthenon.
The Statue of Zeus was taken to Constantinople after the rise of Christianity lead to the fall of the temple at Olympia and the ban on the Olympic Games. Speculations state that the statue was destroyed either in the 5th or 6th centuries CE by an earthquake, while others claimed people stole it and melted down the bronze.
Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
Over 120 years were needed to build the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (a Greek colony in Asia Minor) and it took a single night to destroy the landmark. Poets and historian alike describe the temple as one of the most amazing structures to have ever been created by humans. I was sponsored by King Croesus of Lydia, who gladly invested a vast expanse to have the landmark completed by 550 BCE. The Temple of Artemis was about 129m (425ft) long and 69m (225ft) high, supported by 18m (around 127ft) high columns.
A man named Herostratus set the temple on fire on July 21, 356 BCE. He wanted eternal historical fame for destroying such a beautiful and significant construction and the Ephesians insisted his name never to be recorded or remembered. The night of the fire was the time Alexander the Great was born, who later offered to rebuild the temple and faced rejection by the Ephesians. After his death, the Temple of Artemis was rebuilt at a smaller scale and ceased to exist after the Goths invasion. It was rebuilt for the second time, but Saint John Chrysostom lead a Christian mob initiating its final destruction in 401 CE.
Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
Halicarnassus and his wife Artemisia put great efforts into creating a city with unseen beauty in any other part of the world. In 351 BCE the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was built as the tomb of the Persian Satrap Mausolus. It was decorated with prestigious sculpture and artwork, reaching 41m (135ft) height.
In 353 BCE Mausolus died and Artemisia wanted to create a resting place worthy of the great king her husband was. Two years later, Artemisia died too, and her ashes were entombed with Mausolus’ in the mausoleum, while the work on the temple continued with the belief that the structure will serve as a tribute to the everlasting fame of its two patrons. A series of earthquakes stroke the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. Hundreds of years later, in 1494 CE, the Knights of St. John of Malta used the remaining ruins to build their castle at Bodrum, where visitors can see some of the ancient stones of the mausoleum to this day.
Colossus of Rhodes
The Colossus of Rhodes was a massive statue constructed between 292 and 280 BCE. It was built to worship the god Helios, who was the Greek sun-god and patron of the island of Rhodes. The structure overlooked the harbour of the island reaching a height of over 33m (110ft). The Statue of Liberty in New York City, USA, was modelled on the Colossus of Rhodes.
In 304 BCE the invading army of Demetrius was defeated, and Rhodians sold the left behind weaponry for around 300 talents (approx. 360 million U.S.D) to build the Colossus. It was the tallest statue of the Ancient World for only 56 years. In 226 BCE an earthquake destroyed the Colossus of Rhodes but for the next 8 centuries the ruins still attracted tourists from around the world. Historian, Theophanes, claims that around 654 CE the remaining were sold to ‘a Jewish merchant of Edessa’, who melted them down.
Lighthouse of Alexandria
Commissioned by Ptolemy I Soter, the Lighthouse at Alexandria was built on the island of Pharos reaching a height of around 134m (440ft). It was the third tallest man-made structure in the Ancient World, after the Pyramids. It was built around 280 BCE, having had a square base, an octagonal section in the middle and a circular top. The light of the landmark was created by a fire at night and by day a mirror was positioned to reflect the sunrays so that the light could be seen at 35 miles out in sea. Earthquakes stroke the Lighthouse at Alexandria in 956 CE, 1303 CE and 1323 CE causing significant damage, while the year 1480 CE saw the structure’s final days. The lighthouse was described as utterly beautiful. Stones from the ruins were used to build the Egyptian fort Quaitbey, which is now found at the site.
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