Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

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The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World were:

  1. The Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt
  2. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
  3. The Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Greece
  4. The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
  5. The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
  6. The Colossus of Rhodes
  7. The Lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt

The Seven Wonders were first defined as themata (Greek for 'things to be seen' which, in today's common English, we would phrase as 'must-see') by Philo of Byzantium in 225 BCE, in his work on The Seven Wonders. 

Other writers on the Seven Wonders include Herodotus, Callimachus of Cyrene, and Antipater of Sidon. Of the original seven, only the Great Pyramid exists today.

Kheops-PyramidThe Great Pyramid at Giza was constructed between 2584 and 2561 BCE for the Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu (known in Greek as 'Cheops') and was the tallest manmade structure in the world for almost 4,000 years. 

Excavations of the interior of the pyramid were only initiated in earnest in the late 18th and early 19th centuries CE and so the intricacies of the interior which so intrigue modern people were unknown to the ancient writers. It was the structure itself with its perfect symmetry and imposing height which impressed ancient visitors.


Hanging_Gardens_of_BabylonIf they existed as described, they were built by Nebuchadnezzar II between 605-562 BCE as a gift to his wife. They are described by the ancient writer Diodorus Siculus as being self-water planes of exotic flora and fauna reaching a height of over 75 feet through a series of climbing terraces. Diodorus wrote that Nebuchadnezzar's wife, Amtis of Media, missed the mountains and flowers of her homeland and so the king commanded that a mountain be create for her in Babylon. The controversy over whether the gardens existed comes from the fact that they are nowhere mentioned in Babylonian history and that Herodotus, 'the Father of History,' makes no mention of them in his descriptions of Babylon. Although believed to have existed, the gardens were destroyed by an earthquake sometime after the 1st century CE.
Assyrian_Relief_of_the_Banquet_of_Ashurbanipal_From_Nineveh_Gypsum_N_Palace_British_Museum_01Assyrian Relief of the Banquet of Ashurbanipal from Nineveh N Palace, Gypsum, British Museum. Ashurbanipal reclines on a banqueting couch beneath an arbor of vines, facing his queen, shown seated on a throne. His sword, quiver, and bow lie on a table at right, signaling his military prowess. Attendants fan the royal couple while musicians play in the background. 


The Statue of Zeus at Olympia was created by the great Greek sculptor Phidias (known as the finest sculptor of the ancient world in the 5th century BCE, he also worked on the Parthenon and the statue of Athena there in Athens).

The statue depicted the god Zeus seated on his throne, his skin of ivory and robes of hammered gold, and was 40 feet tall, designed to inspire awe in the worshippers who came to the Temple of Zeus at Olympia. Not everyone was awestruck by the statue, however. 

Strabo Reports: Although the temple itself is very large, the sculptor is criticized for not having appreciated the correct proportions. He has shown Zeus seated, but with the head almost touching the ceiling, so that we have the impression that if Zeus moved to stand up, he would unroof the temple.

The Temple at Olympia fell into ruin after the rise of Christianity and the ban on the Olympic Games as 'pagan rites.' 

The statue was carried off to Constantinople where it was later destroyed, sometime in either the 5th or 6th centuries CE, by an earthquake.


model of the temple of artemisDepiction of how the Temple of Artemis looked.Located at Ephesus (Ephesos), a Greek colony in Asia Minor, the temple took over 120 years to build, completed in 550 BCE. It was 425 feet long, 225 feet wide, and supported by 127 60-foot high columns. Sponsored by King Croesus of Lydia, the temple was so magnificent that every account agrees it was among the most amazing structures ever raised by humans.

On July 21, 356 BCE. Herostratus set fire to the temple to achieve fame as being the person who destroyed it. The Ephesians decreed his name should never be recorded nor remembered, but Strabo set it down as a point of interest. On the same night it burned, Alexander the Great was born. A less grand scale version was built after his death, but it was destroyed in an invasion by the Goths. Rebuilt again, it was destroyed again by a Christian mob led by Saint John Chrysostom in 401 CE.


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