Today's post has more of a history vibe to it. We are going to look at the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. These are some of the most debated places and there is only one that survives today. We will look at each place individually as well as taking a look at why we should (or should have) preserve them.
Obviously there are no pictures of 6 of the 7 wonders, but I have included 1 artist rendering for each of them.
What are the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World?
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-sees') 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. The original seven are: Great Pyramid of Giza, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Temple of Artemis, Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria.
For each Ancient Wonder I have included all the information that I could find. I obviously have greatly reduced exactly what is know about each Wonder but I have included relevant information. I will have the information for the book I used at the end of this post.
Now that we now what the 7 Wonders are lets dive into what each place was actually about.
The Great Pyramid of Giza
The Pharaohs ruled Egypt between 2920 & 332 BC. At about 2551 BC Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu came to power. Soon after this he ordered his workers to begin work on his pyramid. Now you must keep in mind that this was to be his burial site, where he would spend the rest of eternity. While he wasn't expecting death right away, these tombs took many, many years to construct. Architects designed the pyramid sides to face exactly North, South, East and West. Each side of the base is almost 758 ft long. While some of the blocks were from nearby the build site, archaeologists believe that a great majority of them had to be shipped up the Nile on boats for the Great Pyramid. It took 20 years for this to be built and when it was completed the stones were covered in polished white limestone and the top block is believed to have been gold or a mix of silver and gold. This would have been an amazing site to behold standing 481 ft high and gleaming white above the brown sands of the desert. When archaeologists entered the tomb to look for Khufu's mummy they found his red granite coffin but his body has never been found.
This was the way that the Great Pyramid stayed until A.D. 1300's and 1400's when the limestone covering was removed and taken nearby to use in the building of the city of Cairo. Without that covering the Great pyramid actually shrank to 450 ft high and 755 ft on each side.
While the Great Pyramid is the only Ancient Wonder, Pharaoh Khufu actually built 5 other structures during his reign. He built three small pyramids for his three wives as well as two temples; one for his funeral and the other for people to use to worship him after his death. There are also two other giant Pyramids on this site and they were built by Pharaoh Khufu's son and grandson. Pharaoh Khafre became Pharaoh after his father died and he built his Pyramid near his father's. It was not as large and he built his own monument to be remembered by. He built the Great Sphinx in front of his pyramid. While this Pyramid looks larger then the Great Pyramid in pictures it is actually 32ft shorter, it was just built on higher ground. The third pyramid was built by Pharaoh Menkaura, Khafre's son. He also built three smaller pyramids in front of his for his three wives.
In pictures Menkaura's pyramid is typically in the front and then behind his is his father Khafre's and then behind them all is The Great Pyramid. Tourism and time have taken there toll on the buildings of Giza. While the Egyptian authorities don't want to keep people away they are limiting the amount of tourist allowed inside the pyramids. The amount of tourists (body heat and breathing) has raised the humidity inside damaging the walls.
If you can I would suggest visiting these amazing Wonders before climate change and other factors rapidly deteriorate these amazing feats of mankind. But please don not climb on the Pyramids it is destroying them. Care for what is the last Ancient Wonder surviving.
The Colossus of Rhodes
This statue stood near or at the entrance of the Mandraki harbor, on the east side of the city of Rhodes at the northeastern tip of the island. This statue was of Helios and it was built as a thank you.
This island was once the conquered land of Alexander the Great. After he died his generals fought for control of all his conquered lands. Ptolemy I Soter was one of the generals and the other was Antigonus I. The people of Rhodes supported Ptolemy not Antigonus. Ptolemy declared himself king of Egypt while Antigonus fought for control of other lands in the eastern part of the Mediterranean. Rhodes controlled the entrance to the the Aegean sea and was an import center for trading and shipping; because of this Antigonus wanted to control this city and ordered his son Demetrius to attack the city of Rhodes.
Demetrius began his attack on the city with 40,000 soldiers. Rhodes had an army of 7,000 but the city was surrounded by a high thick wall. Demetrius used siege towers on wheels to gain some sort of entry. Demetrius's army shot arrows into the city; as well as heavy rocks and burning chunks of wood being catapulted in. The people of Rhodes fought back and prayed to Helios to help them. The siege lasted one year before Ptolemy sent soldiers to help the people of Rhodes. Antigonus gave up the battle and told his son to declare peace. The people of Rhodes believed that Helios helped them fight off Demetrius's army. In 294 BC Chares (a sculptor) and his builders began the statue. It was built with metal left from Demetrius's army after the siege and stone. It took 12 years to build but by 282 BC the Colossus stood guard over Rhodes.
No one is really sure where The Colossus stood. Some "pictures" show the statue straddling the harbor's entrance. One foot on each side of the harbor, with ships sailing through The Colossus's legs. Historians say that it would simply not be possible to make a statue that big that ships could sail under the legs. Archaeologists think that Colossus probably stood on one side of the entrance on both legs for added stability.
Colossus only stood for about 56 years, when in 225 BC a terrible earthquake struck Rhodes and the statue fell to the ground in pieces. Colossus's body was probably 110 ft high and it stood on a platform about 50 ft high. The statue wore a spiked crown. One hand shaded it's eyes while the other held a cloak. It wore no clothes and the metal skin was polished and gleamed in the sun.
We might have never known anything about Colossus of Rhodes had it not been for the Roman writer Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79). He visited Rhodes and sat the Colossus lying in ruins. He measured parts and described the statue. Historians know how the Greeks depicted Helios from others statues and artwork. The Colossus lay where it fell for almost 900 years when in AD 654 Arab armies conquered Rhodes, broke up the larger pieces and sold them as "scrap metal".
The Lighthouse of Alexandria
This was the first lighthouse in recorded history.
Alexandria was founded in 332 BC by Alexander the Great, who died before he could finish building the town. Ptolemy I Soter became the new ruler of Egypt and he finished building the city. Alexandria became one of the biggest seaports in the ancient world. Many ships sailed into its 2 harbors. One was on the Nile River and the other was on the Mediterranean Sea. The shore was very flat, no tall hills or rocky cliffs marked the land for sailors at sea. Ptolemy realized the city needed something to help direct all the sea traffic safely into the harbors. Around 290 BC Ptolemy decided that he would build a landmark. He knew his landmark would have to be tall. Ptolemy decided to build a tower on the small island of Pharos just outside the city.
Sostratus, a Greek architect was hired to do the job. He designed a tower almost 400 ft high, it was built in three parts. The first and second floors were staircases and ramps used to get to the third and highest part of the tower. The third part contained a huge mirror. Historians think that the mirror may have been polished metal. During the day the mirror would have caught the sunlight & at night huge fires were built in front of the mirror.
The tower took 20 years to build. Unfortunately Ptolemy I died before it was finished. His son Ptolemy II took over as ruler of Egypt. He dedicated and officially opened the lighthouse in 285 BC. In AD 795 an earthquake knocked over the top part of the lighthouse. Other earthquakes damaged the walls of the remaining stories before a severe earthquake (possibly) around
AD 1303 knocked the lighthouse over.
Fort Quaitbey was built in 1480 where the lighthouse once stood. In 1994, underwater archaeologists rediscovered the lighthouse (at least what they believe is ruins of it) on the seafloor around Fort Quaitbey. They were able to find artifacts as well as stones themselves. The stones were found in layers as if a wall had toppled into the water.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
Babylon was the capital of Babylonia, part of an ancient Middle East region called Mesopotamia. It was located about 55 miles south of modern day Baghdad.
King Nebuchadnezzar II became king in 605 BC and ruled for 43 years. He is the one who had these huge gardens built. Ancient writers tell us that he built the huge gardens to cheer up his wife Amyitis.
Amyitis belonged to a people called Medes. The Medes lived in the northern part of present day Iran. The land was rugged country with mountains, hills, and green plants. It was very different from the flat brown land in Babylon. When she moved to Babylon she became sad and homesick. Nebushadnezzar wanted to cheer her up by creating scenery that would remind her of her home. Around 600 BC, he ordered workers to build the Hanging Gardens.
The Hanging Gardens were enclosed within the city walls of Babylon. City walls in those days were protection against invading armies and were fairly low. Babylon's walls may have been as high as 320 ft, 80 ft thick and 56 miles long. Babylon's walls were also not made like walls in other cities in Mesopotamia, city walls were made of mud bricks. But parts of Babylon's walls were brightly colored bricks, some had the faces of lions, bulls, and dragons.
Historians do not think that the gardens were really hanging from anything. Rather they think it was simply a mistake in the translation from Greek to English. Greek writers described that gardens with a word that means "hanging" but it also means "overhanging". The vines and other plants probably hung over terraces. Like they would hang over the railing of a modern day balcony or sundeck.The terraces were a huge structure. Ancient Greek Historian Diodorus described the gardens around 50 BC. He said they were 400 ft wide, 400 ft long and 80 ft high.
There is very little known about eh actual building of the gardens. Another mystery is how they stayed green. Archaeologists know that ancient people in Mesopotamia had machines to irrigate. For the Hanging Gardens, buckets may have been emptied into a pool or irrigation ditch on the top terraces. Water flowed from there to the rest of the garden.
Some say that the gardens never really existed, that they may have been made up by ancient writers. Some evidence seems to shows that the gardens really existed.
The evidence comes from German Archaeologist Robert Koldewey (1855-1925). He excavated many parts of Babylon in the early 1900's. He found the ruins of the city walls, palaces and an ancient roadway. He then discovered the ruins of a foundation. Built of the same type of stone historians said that builders used on the Hanging Gardens. He was sure he had found the "basement" storage rooms of Amyitis's gardens. Not all archaeologists agree with Koldewey. For this reason, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon remain one of the most mysterious of the Seven Wonders.
The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus
Mausolus became King of Caria in 377 BC. Caria was part of the Persian Empire but it operated as an independent kingdom. Mausolus chose Halicarnassus as the capital. (Halicarnassus would be modern day Bodrum,Turkey). While building his city (defensive walls, watch towers for soldiers, a huge palace for himself and his wife, as well as public buildings such as theaters and temples. They paved the streets and built houses for the people of the city.
During this time he began to build a tomb for himself. He chose to build on a hill overlooking Halicarnassus. He died before his tomb was complete but his wife Artemisia carried out his plans. The tomb was completed by 350 BC. When finished it was 140 ft high, one side was 120 ft long and the other was 100 ft long. Along the outer walls rows of columns supported a pointed roof. A statue of Mausolus in a chariot pulled by 4 horses may have stood on the peak.
Carvings on the buildings sides told stories of battles. Statues were placed between the stone columns. Some were life sized carvings of people, while others showed gods that people worshiped. There were even statues of lions,, horses and other animals. Queen Artemisia never saw the mausoleum's full beauty. She died one year before it was completed. She was probably buried in the the tomb with her husband.
The mausoleum stayed in good condition for almost 1600 years. In AD 1200's earthquakes badly damaged the building. Some of it was knocked in pieces to the ground. In the early 1400's crusaders invaded the area around Caria. The Christian Crusaders from western European lands, built a castle near Halicarnassus. In 1494 they decided to make the castle bigger, they used the stones from the ruined mausoleum. By 1522 most of the blocks were recycled into the fort "castle". Some of the mausoleum's beautiful marble carvings became wall decorations.
Sir Charles Newton, a British Archaeologist led a team in 1857 to search for the remains of the mausoleum. He found two huge statues and other artifacts at the site. He sent them to the British Museum in London. I am not sure if they are still there or not.
Visitors to Turkey can see other remains of the Mausoleum at Hilicarnassus. The crusaders castle, known as Bodrum Castle still stands. It is used as a archaeology museum and is open to tourists. The word mausoleum comes from the tomb of King Mausolus. There has been talk of rebuilding this site to what was written about it but I haven't found anything more recent than 2017.
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
The Ancient Olympic Games were held in honor of Zeus. People came to Olympia to watch contests. While there, they also honored Zeus and other deities (gods & goddesses) in the cities many shrines & temples (holy buildings). At first the shrines were small & very simple. As time passed with the town growing and the shrines and temples growing larger and larger.
Local rulers decided Olympia needed a bigger and better shrine to Zeus, the patron of their games. The chose Phidias, a sculptor from Athens who had just finished working on the Parthenon. Work began between 470 and 460 BC. The frame of the statue was made of wood and ivory was used as the skin. By the time it was done, the statue sat on a carved wooden based about 20 ft wide and 3 ft high. Above that Zeus was seated on a huge throne. He rose almost 40 ft above the base. In his left hand he held a small statue of Nike, the goddess of victory. In his right hand he held a kings scepter with an eagle on top. To finish the statue animals & flowers were carved on the gold robe and sandals. Precious stones & jewels were also added.
Zeus continued to awe athletes & worshipers for 800 years but over time new rulers & new religions took over Greece. In AD 391 those new rulers banned the Olympic Games, they closed all the temples to the old gods including the Temple of Zeus at Olympia. The Greeks decided to move the statue out of the temple to a new palace in Constantinople. The move saved the statue, after the move natural disasters destroyed Olympia. However that survival was short lived as a fire burned down Zeus's palace in Constantinople and destroyed the statue in AD 462.
In 1829 archaeologists from France began excavating at Olympia. They located parts of The Temple of Zeus under the ground. They also found broken pieces of statues. All artifacts found were put on display in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. Not sure if they are still there.
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
During Ancient times Turkey was known as Asia Minor. Ephesus was along the west coast of Asia Minor. Around 560 BC a powerful ruler named Croesus took control of Ephesus. He decided to spend some of his enormous wealth on the city. He decided to build a new temple to Artemis.
Temples to Artemis had stood in the same spot in Ephesus since about 800 BC. These temples were small and simple. Ancient writers give different desriptions of Croesus's temple. His temple to Artemis was designed by Chersiphron, a Greek architect. Roman writer Pliny said that the temple was enormous, 377 ft long and 180 ft wide.
The columns were the most wondrous part of this temple. It had 127 marble columns. Each column was about 60 ft high. They were slender with beautifully carved designs. Inside the temple one huge statue stood at the very center. Artemis, the upper part of the goddess was covered in egg-shaped carvings. From the stomach down her body was enclosed in a straight pillar. Carvings of animals & bees covered the pillar. The crown on Artemis's head was shaped like the walls of the city.
While the temple was very popular, it drew the wrong kind of attention in 356 BC. That year a man named Herostratus crept up to the temple in the dark of a summer night. He climbed the stairs inside the temple & set fire to the roof's wooden frame. As the fire raged across the roof, the heat cracked the marble columns. Then the temple came tumbling down. Herostratus didn't try to escape either. He was proud of what he had done. He wanted to be know as the man who destroyed the temple of Artemis.
At about 334 BC, rulers of Ephesus decided to rebuild the temple of Artemis. This took many years, by the time it was done it was as large and beautiful as the previous temple. However, it to was destroyed by an army that invaded Ephesus in AD 262. People began taking the broken stones and marble from the site. They used these pieces were used to build roads and forts nearby.
Only 1 of the temples original 127 columns remain. It still stands in a field of grass littered with ancient stone building blocks. Tourists can visit the site of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. It sits close to the Turkish town of Selcuk. The Ephesus Museum sits nearby and it houses many artifacts & treasures of the ancient cities history.
Considering that only one of these ancient wonders still exists, I think that there are many reasons why we should preserve these wonders. I didn't know what all the wonders were until I started researching for this post. I think that they could be preserved not by just the sites but by actually teaching children about these wonders in school. I think that Egyptian authorities have the right idea by limiting the amount of tourists but by still allowing them to visit this site and learn more about it. While this could be of great debate that is simply my opinion. I think that we could have a lot more done to preserve even a memory of these places around the world. Another thing could be to try and reconstruct these wonders in the same style based on writings from ancient writers, but using modern techniques.
What do you think? Should these Ancient Wonders be reconstructed or just have them be taught more in schools?
Hope you enjoyed today's post. I have fun researching this post as well and I even learned something new in the process. Have an awesome day :)