The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World were a selection of exceptional pieces of architecture and art in the Middle East, North Africa and Southern Europe.
A number of ancient and medieval writers from Europe and the Middle East discussed and described what are now called the seven “wonders” of the world (not all writers used the term “wonder to describe them). The ancient Greek writer Herodotus, who lived from 484 to 425 BC. was one of the first writers to discuss it, and although his writings on wonders have not survived, they have been referenced in later texts.
Which wonders should be included in the list has been debated for millennia, with different authors proposing different sites. The list we have today “was not fixed until the Renaissance,” archaeologists Peter Clayton and Martin Price wrote in the book “The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World” (Routledge, 1988).
In this gallery, Live Science takes a brief look at each of the Seven Wonders.
The Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt
Great Pyramid of Giza is both the oldest ancient wonder on the list and the only one still standing today. It was built as a mausoleum for the ancient egyptian Pharaoh Khufu nearly 4,600 years ago and was the tallest structure in the world until the central tower of Lincoln Cathedral was completed in England in 1311.
The Great Pyramid was 481 feet (147 meters) high when it was first completed, but today, due to the loss of some of its stones, it is 455 feet (139 m) high. The interior of the pyramid contains a system of passageways leading to a “great gallery” which ascends to a room with an empty sarcophagus – often referred to as the “king’s chamber”.
In addition, passageways in the Great Pyramid lead to two other chambers, including what is sometimes called the “Queen’s Chamber” (although it likely did not hold a queen) and an underground chamber located under the pyramid. The purpose of these two chambers is debated. In 2017, scientists also scanned the pyramid has detected a large void above the large gallery that can contain one or more bedrooms.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Iraq
According to legend, the Babylonian king of the 6th century BC. However, archaeologists still wonder if the garden really existed.
The gardens have been described by several ancient writers. “The approach to the garden sloped like a hill and the different parts of the structure rose on top of each other, the whole appearance resembling that of a theatre”, wrote the ancient Greek historian Diodorus Siculus in the first century BC.
Archaeological excavations at the site of Babylon, located 100 kilometers south of Baghdad in present-day Iraq, have failed to reveal a site that can be definitively identified as the Hanging Gardens. Moreover, there is no Babylonian document that speaks of it. One theory is that Diodorus Siculus and other ancient writers got the location wrong, and the gardens were actually built in Nineveh, near present-day Mosul in northern Iraq.
The statue of Zeus in Olympia, Greece
Built around 450 BC. AD, the seated figure of the main Greek Olympic deity measured 12 m. Made largely of ivory, it was built by the sculptor Phidias, it “showed Zeus seated but almost touching the roof with his head, thus giving the impression that if Zeus got up and stood he would open the temple ” the ancient Greek writer Strabo, who lived from about 64 BC to 24 AD, wrote.
The Roman emperor Caligula attempted to steal it around the year 40. Caligula ordered that the statue of Zeus and other famous statues of gods be “brought from Greece, in order to remove their heads and put their [Caligula’s] in their place,” writes Suetonius, who lived nearby. AD 69 to 122 However, Caligula was assassinated before his orders were carried out.
It is not known exactly when the statue was destroyed. Ancient records show that by the 5th century AD, Christianity was the official religion of the Roman Empire and traditional Greco-Roman beliefs were persecuted. It is possible that it was destroyed at that time.
The Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, Turkey
Built around 550 BC. AD by Croesus, a king of Lydia, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus has been praised by ancient writers for its beauty. A smaller temple dedicated to Artemis, a goddess associated with animals and hunting, previously existed at Ephesus, but Croesus, who had recently conquered the area, greatly enlarged it, historian Michael Immendörfer wrote in his book ” Ephesians and Artemis: The Cult of the Great”. Goddess of Ephesus as the context of the epistle” (Mohr Siebeck, 2017).
It was burned down around 356 BC. AD, supposedly by a man named Herostratus who sought fame. It is debatable whether Herostratus actually burned the temple, Immendörfer wrote, noting that people may have been looking for a scapegoat, not wanting to believe that a lightning strike could have destroyed the temple of the goddess. In any case the temple was rebuilt.
In AD 262, the temple was damaged by an earthquake and looted by the Goths – a group of Germanic peoples probably originating from Scandinavia – wrote Immendörfer. All that remained of the temple appears to have been abandoned or destroyed around the fifth century AD, as Christian writers mention the end of the temple at this time.
The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, Turkey
Built for Mausolus, a satrap from Caria in northern Anatolia who died in 353 BC. J.-C., this tomb made a strong impression on the ancient writers and gave us the name of “mausoleum”. Roman writer Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79) wrote that the building came about because a team of the best sculptors of the time – Scopas, Bryaxis, Timotheus and Leochares – worked together on it project despite the fact that they saw each other as rivals. .
When Artemisia, wife of Mausolus, died around 350 BC, the mausoleum was incomplete and it was uncertain whether the sculptors would continue to be paid. But despite this, the team continued. “They did not quit their work, however, until it was finished, considering it to be both a memorial of their own fame and of the sculptor’s art,” writes Pliny.
Pliny wrote that the building was 140 feet (43 m) high and had a pyramid-shaped base with 63 columns at the top. The remains of the mausoleum are still visible today, but they are in ruins – the passage of time and the reuse of stone for other buildings have gradually caused the mausoleum to crumble.
The Colossus of Rhodes, Greece
The Colossus of Rhodes, a huge statue of the Greek sun god Helios, was built on Rhodes, an island off the coast of modern Turkey, around 280 BC, and collapsed in an earthquake in 226 BC. Nothing remains of the colossus today, and the exact location and height of the colossus is the subject of debate among scholars.
The statue itself may have been about 110 feet (34 m) tall and possibly stood on a three-tiered column about 50 feet (15 m) high, wrote Robert Kebric, a professor of retired history at the University of Louisville. in a 2019 article published in the Athens Journal of Humanities and Art. This would have given it a total height of 160 feet (49 m), Kebric wrote, after analyzing descriptions from ancient writers.
While some modern artistic depictions imagine the statue straddling the port of Rhodes, Kebric wrote that a more likely location was atop the acropolis of the island’s main city. A number of temples and religious monuments existed there at the time, Kebric wrote.
The lighthouse of Alexandria, Greece
Built on the orders of Pharaoh Ptolemy II Philadelphus, who reigned from around 285 to 246 BC. AD, the Lighthouse of Alexandria guided sailors to Alexandria in Egypt, one of the greatest ports of the ancient world. It was built on the island of Pharos, located at the entrance to the port of Alexandria. A causeway was created to connect the island to the mainland. The lighthouse had a mirror that reflected the sun’s rays during the day, and a fire was lit at night and at other times when necessary.
Estimates of the lighthouse’s height vary, but it may have been around 400 feet (122 m) tall. The lighthouse was in use throughout the Middle Ages, but collapsed in the mid-14th century, Doris Behrens-Abouseif, a professor at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, wrote in an article. published in 2006 in the review Mouqarnas. Damage from earthquakes and coastal erosion contributed to its collapse, although efforts were made throughout the Middle Ages to repair the damage.
Today, what remains of the lighthouse, as well as a significant part of ancient Alexandria, lies underwater. Remains of the lighthouse were discovered by archaeologists in 1994 and studies are ongoing.
Originally posted on Live Science.