History: The 7 Wonders of the Ancient World

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A Brief History

As it is said, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it” (George Santayana, but you will see this quotation in many different forms), today we will go way back into History and find some things that may be worth repeating after all, the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  This list consists of the generally accepted list of “wonders” but feel free to nominate anything you think belongs on this list.  (Note: List is by age, starting with the oldest.)

Digging Deeper

7.  Great Pyramid of Giza (Egypt), 2561BCE.

The only one on the list that is still standing, it was actually the tallest man-made structure in the world (481 feet tall) for 3800 years until surpassed by the Cathedral of St. Nikolai in Hamburg, Germany in 1874.  (Or perhaps 1300 with the completion of the Lincoln Cathedral Spire in England.) It was built as a tomb for Pharaoh Khufu.  A massive 88 million cubic feet and 5.9 million long tons, the structure used over 2.3 million blocks of stone and was originally covered in an outer shell of polished white limestone.  Removal of the limestone and erosion has decreased its current height to about 455 feet. Arguments about the nature of the workforce (slave or free people) and the methods of construction still abound unresolved.  The work force has been estimated at over 14,000 workers on average for 20 years, with a peak of 40,000 working on the project.  Despite the mighty bulk of the tomb and its holy implications, the tomb’s chambers were looted long ago (perhaps 1600 to 1100 BCE). Entrance to the interior is through the aptly named “Robbers’ Tunnel.”

6.  Hanging Gardens of Babylon (Iraq), 600 BCE.

Whether this ancient wonder even existed is questioned, but we tend to believe it did with so many references to it.  Its actual location is also unknown.  Built by King Nebuchadnezzar II  (maybe) for his foreign born wife who allegedly missed the greenery of her home, not just a park type of garden, but a tiered structure with many levels of plants and trees and hanging vines making it look something like a mountain of plants or a plant covered giant structure.  Scholars debate the extensive canals and irrigation schemes that such a garden would necessitate.  The date of destruction may be around 100 CE.

5.  Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (Turkey), 550 BCE (second phase).

(This one was actually destroyed in 356 BCE and rebuilt in 323 BCE for a third time.  The first temple would have been far less impressive and built a hundred years earlier.)  Built by the ancient Greeks to honor their Goddess of the Hunt and the Moon (sometimes referred to by the Roman name, Diana).  The Temple was perhaps the first Greek Temple built with marble columns, which stood 40 feet tall.  The base of the Temple was 377 feet by 151 feet, making it quite large for its day.  The third rebuild in 323 BCE was bigger yeat, 450 feet by 225 feet, with columns 60 feet high.  The site of the Temple was rediscovered in 1869 by a British archeological expedition.

4.  Statue of Zeus at Olympia (Greece), 435 BCE.

A 43 foot tall statue of Zeus seated on a throne made of a wooden frame covered with plates of ivory and gold.  The bejeweled throne was made of cedar and adorned with ivory, ebony, and gold as well as precious stones.  Exactly when and how the statue was destroyed is unknown as conflicting accounts vary.  It may have been lost to a fire in 475 CE, but we really are not sure.  Legend has it that the demented Roman Emperor Caligula ordered the statue dismantled and brought to Rome where the head could be replaced with the likeness of Caligula, but the statue gave a mighty laugh at the workmen sent to do the job and the job was abandoned.

3.  Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (Turkey), 351 BCE.

Designed by Greeks for the Turkish puppet of the Persian Empire, Mausolus and his wife Artemisia II (who was also his sister).  With a height of 148 feet it would dwarf other buildings, and the sides were covered in relief sculptures.  Destroyed by a series of earthquakes from the 12th to the 15th Century CE, the ruins can still be visited.  The lions (statues) that once guarded the Mausoleum are now guarding the British Museum in England.  The building was so beautiful, that when Alexander the Great seized the city in 334 BCE he refused to allow its destruction.

2. Colossus of Rhodes (Greece), 292 BCE.

This giant statue of the Greek Titan Helios, God of the Sun (before Apollo), soared nearly 100 feet tall at the entrance to the harbor at Rhodes, but was destroyed by an earthquake in 226 BCE, giving it a short life as Wonders of the World go.  Built with iron tie bars and a bronze plate skin, then filled with stones, the statue stood atop a 49 foot tall marble pedestal, either round or octagonal shaped and 60 feet in diameter.  Construction was either with giant earthen ramps or modified siege towers used as scaffolding.  Why was the statue not rebuilt?  Because the Oracle at Delphi said not to.

1.  Lighthouse at Alexandria (Egypt), 280 BCE.

Built by the Ptolemaic Kingdom, this giant lighthouse guarding the harbor at Alexandria was perhaps 393 to 450 feet tall, making it one of the tallest man-made structures in the world throughout its existence.  Like many other ancient structures, earthquakes repeatedly damaged the lighthouse from 956 through 1323 CE, causing it to become an abandoned ruin.  By 1480 CE the stones had been taken for use on other projects.  During the daytime, a giant mirror at the top reflected sunlight to ships at sea, and at night a fire was lit and reflected by the giant mirror.  The stone blocks of the base were sealed with lead instead of mortar to better protect them from the waves.

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.