The list of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World was compiled by the Greek writer Antipater of Sidon in a poem in 140 BC. He, along with Philo of Byzantium, Strabo, Herodotus and Diodoros of Sicily, are responsible for providing the descriptions of these sites. Though only one of the seven wonders remains intact, records insist these gardens, statues and tombs were the crème de le crème of ancient times.
Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt
Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Iraq
The Hanging Gardens were built in the ancient city-state of Babylon, located south of modern-day Baghdad. The gardens were built in 600 BC by King Nebuchadnezzar II as a gift to his wife, Amytis of Media, who missed the plants of her homeland. Though the gardens were destroyed by earthquakes after the 2nd century BC, their beauty was documented extensively by Greek historians, including Strabo, who said:
“The Garden is quadrangular, and each side is four plethra long. It consists of arched vaults which are located on checkered cube-like foundations… The ascent of the uppermost terrace-roofs is made by a stairway…”
Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Greece
The Statue of Zeus was built by Greek sculptor Phidias around 432 BC and was erected in the Temple of Zeus in the city of Olympia. The statue was sanctioned to commemorate the Olympic Games, reflect the power of Zeus, and to make the Temple more worthy for the King of all Gods. It took Phidias 12 years to complete the 22 by 40 foot figure of Zeus seated on an elaborate throne, constructed of gold-plate bronze, ivory and gold. The grandeur of the statue and temple, however, didn’t survive centuries of earthquakes, landslides, floods and fires.
Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, Turkey
The Temple of Artemis was a simple yet elegant temple dedicated to the Greek Goddess of hunting and wild nature. It was constructed in 550 BC by a Greek architect, Chersiphron, and was sanctioned by Lydian king, Croesus. Ancient descriptions inform us that the building was made of marble, had 127 columns all 60ft high, a marble staircase led to the high terrace, the inside was adorned with golden pillars, paintings and silver statuettes, and the whole temple overlooked a large courtyard.
The temple was a religious sanctuary where visitors, merchants, tourists, and kings paid homage to Artemis, and it also doubled as a marketplace. Unfortunately, the original building was burned to the ground in 356 BC by Herostratus, who hoped to immortalize his name through his arson. Despite attempts to rebuild over the centuries, the temple was repeatedly destroyed by various religious groups and cults.
Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, Turkey
Located in present-day Bodrum, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus was a tomb built between 353 and 350 BC. It was sanctioned by the Persian queen Artemisia for her husband, Mausolus of Caria, and was completed three years after his death. The tomb was built atop a hill overlooking the city, was approximately 148 feet high and enclosed by a courtyard, at the centre of which stood a stone platform where the tomb sat. The most impressive features of the tomb were the numerous life-size statues and decorations – lions, people, horses, animals, chariots – around the Mausoleum, and on its podium and roof.
The building remained in good condition for 16 centuries, until 1494 when the Knights of St John of Malta invaded the region and used the stones of the Mausoleum to build a crusader castle. By 1522, almost every block of the Mausoleum was disassembled. Today, the crusader castle still stands and the stones of the Mausoleum are visible, and some of the sculptures survived.
Colossus of Rhodes, Greece
The Colossus of Rhodes was an enormous statue erected in the Greek Island of Rhodes between 292 and 280 BC. Built in celebration of the Island’s victory over Cyprus’ ruler, Antigonus I Monophtalmus, the statue was of the Greek Titan Helios, constructed out of bronze, and stood over 107 feet high. It stood for over 56 years until an earthquake in 226 BC destroyed the epic work. Despite offers to repair the damaged statue, under advice from an oracle, the people of Rhodes left the Colossus in ruins and the remains of which were eventually sold by Arabs invaders in 654 AD. The statue inspired the design of the Statue of Liberty.
Lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt
Also known as the Pharos of Alexandria, the Lighthouse was constructed between 280 and 247 BC to guide sailors into the Alexandria harbor at night. After the death of Alexander the Great, his successor, Ptolemy Soter, commissioned the lighthouse’s construction, which was completed in 3rd century BC. It was 450 feet tall and was made of light-colored stones with the statue of a Poseidon at its peak.
The inclusion of the lighthouse into the list of seven wonders is due to its architectural brilliance (it was the tallest building at the time), and the light that could apparently be seen 35 miles off-shore. The building was destroyed in three separate earthquakes in 956, 1303 and 1323 AD, so the description of the lighthouse, in writings by Arab, Roman and Greek travelers, are the only records that remain.
Mamta is a writer living in Sydney, Australia who loves trawling the web for the bizarre, beautiful and obscure everything. Sometimes she finds inspiration on her Tumblr.