The seven wonders of the ancient world have fascinated modern man for many years. The sheer vastness and beauty of the these structures is as astounding as the mysteries that surround them. For those who would like to know more, here are the seven wonders of the ancient world and a little bit of information surrounding their wondrous beginnings:
The Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt
This pyramid was built as a tomb for the Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu and was completed around 2560 BCE. It was apparently built over 20 years using an estimated 2.3 million limestone blocks for the casing and granite stones for the King’s chamber. Considering that each granite stone weighed in at around 25 – 80 tons and were transported from nearly 500 miles away really adds to the sheer magic of such a construction being built with ancient technology. The Great Pyramid of Giza stands at 480 feet (146.5 m) tall which made it the tallest man-made structure in the world for around 4000 years! It is also the oldest of the seven ancient wonders and has survived the wrath of time far better than most.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
By far one of the most mysterious of the seven ancient wonders, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were said to be built by King Nebuchadnezzar II between 605 – 562 BCE. The story goes that he built the gardens for his wife, Amtis of Media, who longed for the mountains and flowers of her homeland. The gardens were described by ancient writer Diodorus Siculus as a series of climbing terraces made up of self-watering planes which included exotic plants and animals and reached a height of over 75 feet (23 m). The mysterious thing about the gardens is that they are nowhere mentioned in Babylonian history and were only mentioned in writing by Diodorus, Philo, and the historian Strabo. New research has suggested that the gardens were actually located in Nineveh, in Assyria, not Babylon. Sadly, if such is to be believed, the gardens were destroyed by earthquakes sometime after the 1st or 2nd century BCE and no traces of it have been found.
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Greece
This larger than life statue was created by famous Greek sculptor Phidias (also known for his work on the Parthenon and the statue of Athena) around 432 BCE. Although this statue of Zeus no longer exists, the stories say that it depicted the god seated on a magnificent throne which was inlaid with ivory, gold, ebony and precious stones. His skin was carved from ivory and his robes were made of hammered gold, whilst he sat reaching an impressive 40 feet (12 m) tall. His whole design was meant to inspire awe in the worshippers who came to the temple and to give the impression that, should he stand, he would unroof the temple itself with his greatness. The destruction of this statue is a source of debate, some saying that he was carried off to Constantinople with the rise of Christianity and was destroyed by an earthquake sometime in the 5th or 6th centuries, whilst others say he perished with the temple when it was burned in 425 BCE.
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
The Temple of Artemis was one of the most magnificent structures of the ancient world, taking over 120 years to build and standing at 425 feet (129 m) high, 225 feet (69 m) wide, and supported by 12 760 foot (18 m) high columns. The temple was completed around 550 BCE but sadly was burnt down by a man named Herodotus in 356 BCE who claimed he did so in order to achieve “lasting fame by forever being associated with the destruction of something so beautiful.” Oddly enough, the very same night the temple was burnt, Alexander the Great was born. He later offered to rebuild it but it was only rebuilt on a lesser scale after his death and then destroyed yet again with the invasion of the Goths. It was rebuilt again and finally destroyed once and for all by a Christian mob in 401 BCE.
The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was built between 353 and 350 BCE as a tomb for the Persian Governor Mausolus. Apparently Mausolus and his wife, Artemisia, chose Halicarnassus as their capital city and went to great lengths to create a city “whose beauty would be unmatched in the world.” When Mausolus died in 353 BCE, Artemisia wanted to build him a magnificent tomb worthy of such a great leader. A mere two years later, Artemisia’s ashes were entombed with her husbands. Despite both their deaths, the craftsman continued their work as a tribute to their patroness and with knowledge that their work on the 135 foot (41 m), ornately decorated tomb would bring lasting fame. It was sadly destroyed by a series of earthquakes and lay in ruin until, hundreds of years later, it was dismantled and used by the Knights of St. John of Malta to build their castle at Bodrum, where the ancient stones can still be seen today. This tomb was so magnificent and famous that the English word “mausoleum” was derived from Mausolus’s name.
The Colossus of Rhodes
The Colossus of Rhodes was a bronze and iron statue of the Greek god Helios, standing over 110 feet (33 m) tall and overlooking the harbor of Rhodes. It was built between 292 BCE and 280 BCE and stood much like the Statue of Liberty, which was actually modelled on the Colossus. The Colossus was one of the tallest statues of the ancient world, and the last of the seven wonders of the ancient world to be completed. It stood for a mere 56 years before an earthquake in 226 BCE caused the statue to snap at the knees and fall over onto the land. Although the Pharaoh of Egypt offered to pay for its reconstruction, the Rhodians were afraid that they had offended Helios and declined. It then lay in ruin for over 800 years before the bronze was sold to “a Jewish merchant of Edessa” around 654 CE who carried it away to be melted down.
The Lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt
Completed in 280 BCE, the Lighthouse of Alexandria was built to guide sailors into the harbor at night. It was constructed out of a light colored stone and was made up of three parts – a lower square section with a central core, a middle octagonal section, and a circular top section. Its light was a mirror which reflected the sun’s rays by day and a fire by night which could be seen up to 35 miles out to sea. The entire structure stood around 440 feet (134 m) in height making it one of the tallest structures on Earth for many centuries to follow. The lighthouse was badly damaged by several earthquakes, the first in 956 CE, and by 1480 the entire structure was destroyed completely. The Citadel of Quaitbey now stands on the site at Pharos, built with some of the stones from the ruins of the lighthouse.
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