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The seven ancient and new wonders of the world

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The Ancient Wonders of the World


            It was the year 130 BC and Philo of Byzantium was writing the first list containing The Seven Wonders of the World. Right? Wrong.
            First, Philo never wrote a list of wonders. Philo was a mechanic. He did write books, but they were about missiles, fortresses, and war. "On the Seven Wonders of the World" was wrongly attributed to Philo and probably was written in the 4th century BC.
            Furthermore, Philo wouldn't have been the first to write a list of sites of the world. The Greek historian Herodotus (c. 484 BC - c. 425 BC) was the first to write a list of the seven sites (hereafter referred to as "wonders") of the world in Histories. Seven was identified as a lucky number by Pythagoras and his followers. He deemed it lucky because it was prime and no number under ten could be divided by it. It was also special to him because it was not too big and not too small.
            The list has gone through many changes over the years. At times, it has included the Walls of Babylon, the Coliseum in Rome, and others, instead of one or more of the current wonders. The current list of seven wonders, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Pharos at Alexandria, is from Antipater of Sidon, who lived in  the 2nd century BC.
             Even though almost all of these wonders are destroyed, we know a lot about them. Archeologists have found coins that depict many of the wonders. They have also found the remains of  the workshop of Pheidias, the sculptor of the Statue of Zeus. In it they found molds for the drapery, chisels, and other tools.

These are given in the table below:


Date of construction


Notable features

Date of destruction

Cause of destruction

Great Pyramid of Giza

2650-2500 BC


Built as the tomb of Fourth dynasty Egyptian pharaoh Khufu.

Still standing


Hanging Gardens of Babylon

600 BC


Diodorus described multi-levelled gardens reaching 22 metres (75 feet) high, complete with machinery for circulating water. Large trees grew on the roof.

After 1st century BC


Statue of Zeus at Olympia

435 BC


Occupied the whole width of the aisle of the temple that was built to house it, and was 40 feet (12 meters) tall.

5th-6th centuries AD

Unknown, presumed destroyed by fire or earthquake.

Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

550 BC

Lydians, Persians, Greeks

Dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis, it took 120 years to build. Herostratus burned it down in an attempt to achieve lasting fame.

356 BC


Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus

351 BC

Persians, Greeks

Stood approximately 45 meters (135 feet) tall with each of the four sides adorned with sculptural reliefs. Origin of the word mausoleum.

by AD 1494

Damaged by an earthquake and eventually disassembled by European Crusaders

Colossus of Rhodes

292-280 BC


A giant statue of the Greek god Helios roughly 3/4ths as large as today's Statue of Liberty in New York.

224 BC


Lighthouse of Alexandria

3rd century BC

Hellenistic Egypt

Between 115 and 135 meters (383 - 440 ft) tall it was among the tallest man-made structures on Earth for many centuries.

AD 1303-1480



The Great Pyramid of Giza

            The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest and the only extant of the Seven Wonders. It was built in 2560 BC for the Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu or Cheops, as he is known to the Greeks. It is part of a complex of three pyramids at Giza. According to Herodotus it took over 20 years and 100,000 individuals to construct it. By the time Khufu decided to build his pyramid the Egyptian architects were already very good at creating pyramids. Khufu's father had two pyramids and several pharaohs before him had pyramids.
            It is also the largest of the wonders at 138 meters tall. Originally it was 147 meters tall but it has lost nine meters due to erosion and the loss of the limestone casing. Until the 19th century it was the tallest man-made object on earth. The Great Pyramid contains about 2.3 million blocks of limestone, each between two and fifteen tons. The first pyramid was built for the pharaoh Zoser. It was constructed with seven portions and was called the Step Pyramid.
            While pyramids were under construction, the workers were not always at work. When the Nile River was in its flood stage the laborers went to work, since they could not work in the fields. When the flood waters receded, they stopped work on the pyramid and tended their farm crops. Some historians believe that pyramids were also a way to keep the population employed and fed while they couldn't farm. Others believe that the pyramids' only purpose was to be the tomb of the pharaoh and his home in the afterlife.
            The entrance to the Great Pyramid leads to an unfinished burial chamber below ground level. Another passage-way goes up to an empty room called the "Queen's Chamber," but there was never a body inside that room. That passage-way also leads to a large gallery with a corbelled vault ceiling, which is connected to the true burial room. One reason for the many passage-ways might be that the pyramids were robbed so often not only of their limestone casings but of their treasures as well.
            The Great Pyramid was built extremely accurately. Each of the four sides is aligned with one of the four cardinal directions. The Ancient Egyptians did not have compasses and therefore used the stars. Each one of the four sides of the pyramid is 229m (751 ft) and the maximum difference of the length of each side is 0.1%. The blocks were fitted so closely together that you cannot fit a piece of paper between them. The slope angle of each side is exactly 54 degrees and 54 minutes. The best explanation of how that blocks were moved up the pyramid says that the blocks were hauled up long ramps that wrapped around the pyramid.
            Today, the Great Pyramid is a major tourist attraction.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

            We know the least about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. We don't even know that they truly existed. Many sites have been suggested for their location but none are very convincing. We know about the gardens almost entirely from writings that date to the first century BCE. The legends say that they were built by King Nebuchadnezzar II to console his Median wife, Amytis, who missed the greenery of her mountain homeland.
            The German archaeologist Robert Koldeway found the remains of a vaulted building that he suggested might have been part of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. These chambers were  several hundred meters away from the Euphrates River and Strabo had said the gardens were near the river so the chambers may not be part of the Hanging Gardens complex.
            The traditional description of the gardens states that they were built within the walls of the Royal Palace. Historians also believe they were a series of landscaped terraces, constructed c. 8th -6th century BC. The plants did not actually "hang" but were built on these terraces, higher than ground level. They were irrigated by pumps that pumped water out of the river Euphartes. It is believed that they were built out of reeds, bitumen, lead, and stone, so that the water would not seep through.
            Another fact that disputes the existence of the Hanging Gardens is that the kings of Babylonia were very interested in writing down their achievements, but, archaeologists have not yet discovered any cuneiform tablets that describe the gardens. Did the Hanging Gardens actually exist? Only future excavations will tell.

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

            It was the night of July 21, 356 BC and the Temple of Artemis (Diana) at Ephesus was burning to the ground. A madman, Herostratus, wanted to be famous and to be remembered, so he burned the temple down. It worked. Today we know his name and the date he did it. The date also happens to be the night Alexander the Great was born. Legend says that Artemis was too busy assisting at the birth of Alexander, so she couldn't save her beautiful temple.
            The original temple was built by Croesus, king of Lydia, in about 550 BC. The architects were Chersiphron, his son, Metagenes, and Theodoros. It was famous for its great size, over 350 feet by 180 feet, and its numerous works of art. Pliny the Elder said it had 127 Ionic columns around the perimeter of the building. The temple contained a magnificent statue of Artemis that was made of gold, ebony, silver, and black stone. The dress was decorated with depictions of animals and bees. The temple was also used as a marketplace and travelers would come there to pay their respects to Artemis.
            One of the most incredible things about the original temple was its columns. They were Ionic and they were made out of solid marble. The columns going across the front were 21 feet apart. The columns going front to back were, from center to center, were 17 feet apart. There were two rows of columns at Ephesus; in other temples there usually was one. The bases of 36 of the columns had relief sculpture carved into them. One example is in the British Museum. Some of the capitals had rosettes instead of volutes. Volutes are the curly things on the tops of Ionic columns. The volutes were different in that they did not have buttons. At the corners of the temples there were carved lions heads that served as rain-spouts.
            The temple's sculpture was also very impressive. The pediment was extremely different in that it had a door and two windows built into it. The door was used for a mock appearance of the goddess at her temple. This appearance was an eastern religious idea. On either side of the door and in the eaves there were statues of Amazons. They were sculpted by four different sculptors, Phedias, Polycleitus, Kresilas, and Phradmon. Today, we do not have the actual sculptures but we do have Roman copies. Some of these copies can be seen in museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Capitoline Museum in Rome.
            Eventually, Artemis' temple was rebuilt. The second temple had the same dimensions but was on a base 2.68 meters higher. In AD 262, Goths destroyed the temple completely, never to be rebuilt again. In 1860 one of the first archaeological digs began at Ephesus. Soon afterwards, John Turtle Wood found the remains of the temple in the depths of a swamp.

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia

            One of the most important parts of the Ancient Olympic Complex was the Statue of Zeus. It was built in the fifth century BC by Phidias of Athens. It has been described by both Strabo and Pausanius. The temple was already built when Phidias began his work. When Phidias was selected to build the statue, he had already built the statue of Athena at the Parthenon. The statue of Zeus took eight years to build.
            We know a lot about the statue and how it was built because the remains of Phidias' workshop were found in the 1950s. Archaeologists found terra cotta molds for the statue and throne, chisels used by Phidias and his assistants, and many other things. These finds confirmed the date of 430 BC for the statue. Coins with depictions of the statue can still be found. The coins are chiefly from Elis. One of these coins was shown earlier in this report.
            The statue was almost 12 meters (40 feet) high and was made out of gold, ivory, ebony, cedarwood, and precious stones. Zeus was seated on a large throne with a statue of Nike (Victory) in his outstretched right hand. In his left hand he held a scepter with a figure of an eagle on the top. The throne was decorated with mythical scenes and creatures which included gods, demigods, and heroes, doing important deeds. Strabo pointed out that if Zeus had stood up, he would not have fit in the temple.
            The temple was destroyed in AD 426 after the Christians closed it in AD 391. The statue was destroyed in AD 462 in Constantinople after being moved by a group of wealthy Greeks.

The Pharos of Alexandria

            What is the Spanish, Italian, and French word for "lighthouse"? The word is pharos, which comes from the name of a small island off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt. On this island there was a magnificent lighthouse. This lighthouse later became one of the seven ancient wonders of the world.
            The construction of the Pharos of Alexandria was finished in 280 BC by King Ptolmey II Philadelphus. The project was started by his father, King Ptolmey I Soter. The Pharos' architect is unknown. However, we do know the name of the person who appears to be the donor for the lighthouse. His name was Sostratus of Cnidus, who was most likely a wealthy diplomat. Pliny the Elder tells us that the construction of the Pharos cost 800 talents. A talent was a bar of silver that weighs about 928 oz. (846 troy oz.). Knowing this, the Pharos would have cost $3,562,472.49 at today's silver prices.
            The entire lighthouse was 384 feet high and was constructed in three parts with a large base. The first part was a cube sloping in slightly. It was 183 feet high. The second section was  90 feet tall and an octagonal prism sloping inwards. The last section was 24 feet tall. It was a cylinder.
            In side this cylinder there was a fire that burned at night and a mirror. The mirror reflected the sun during the day and increased the light of the fire at night. The fuel for the fire was probably not wood, since Egypt does not have a large supply of firewood. Therefor it was most likely dried animal dung. The light from the fire and the mirror could supposedly be seen from many miles away. On top of the cylindrical section there was a statue. There have been many guesses as to who was depicted in the statue. It most likely may have been Zeus or Poseiden. We do know that the lighthouse was dedicated to the savior gods on behalf of those who sail the seas. The savior gods might have been Ptolmey I Soter and his wife.
            The Pharos was the longest lasting of the six non-extant wonders. It aided sailors for over 1000 years before two earthquakes in AD 1303 and AD 1323 destroyed it. The destroyed Pharos was left there until AD 1480 when an Islamic fort was built on the site. It is called the Fort of Kait Bey and was created for military uses only. We have many depictions of the lighthouse from coins that have been found. Some of the coins show circular windows on the lighthouse along with tritons blowing long conch shells as horns. The reason we have so many coins with the Pharos on them is that there was a Roman Mint in Alexandria and the coin designers used the Pharos for inspiration. Recently, some scientists have found the remains of parts of the lighthouse. These remains are being raised to the surface to be examined. They have found many pieces of statues and blocks used in the Pharos.

The Colossus of Rhodes

            What may have been the statue that inspired the creation of the Statue of Liberty? It might have been the Colossus of Rhodes, built in 282 BC. The Colossus of Rhodes was built on an island near present day Turkey. It was a statue of the sun god, Helios, patron god of Rhodes. The statue was erected to give thanks to him after the island survived the siege of Rhodes. The siege was set in place by the Macedonians after the Rhodians refused to help them attack Ptolemy I in Egypt. Eventually the Macedonians gave up and left their supplies and equipment there. The Rhodians then sold the supplies and erected the Colossus with the money they earned.
            The Rhodians hired Chares of Lindos to create the statue. It was made out of bronze and reinforced with iron and stones. The entire Colossus was 70 cubits in height, about 33 meters or 110 feet. The statue took the craftsmen about 12 years to complete. Popular belief from the Middle Ages says that the stood straddling the harbor mouth. Having statues built by the harbor mouth has occurred in other harbors but the Colossus was most likely erected in the center of the town or in Helios' sacred grove.
            The Colossus of Rhodes was broken at its knees in c. 225 BC by an earthquake that also destroyed a good portion of Rhodes. When the statue fell it destroyed a few houses and buildings according to one ancient author. This therefor rules out the statement that the statue stood bestriding the harbor of Rhodes. According to Strabo, the Colossus was not rebuilt because an oracle told the people of Rhodes not to do so. The fallen Colossus was left there until AD 653. In AD 653 the metal was taken by the Arabs and sold to a Jew from Emesa. Myths say that the metal from the Colossus totaled 900 camel loads.
            Today, archaeologists are still speculating on how the Colossus was built.

The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus

            What is the name for all large tombs today? Large tombs today are called mausoleums. The name mausoleum comes from the name of an ancient Persian Governor named King Mausollos. For King Mausollos' tomb his wife and sister, Queen Artemisia, dreamt up the immense Mausoleum.
            She hired the architect Pythius to design the building. She also hired the four famous sculptors, Scopas, Bryaxis, Leochares, and Timotheus. Each sculptor was responsible for one side of the building. The statue on top was created by Pythius, according to Pliny the Elder. Scholars believe that the Mausoleum was started before Mausollos' death in 353 BC.
            The basic plan for the building was a large temple with a 24-step pyramid on top. The total height of the Mausoleum was 45m (140 ft). This was composed of the 32m (99 ft) base, 7m (22 ft) 24-step pyramid, and 6m (19 ft) statue of a chariot on top. Pliny the Elder said that the total periphery of the building was 440 feet. He also said that the North and South sides were 64 feet long. He also claimed that the other two sides were shorter, but if that was so then the sides would not add up to 440 feet. A Danish archaeological dig between 1966 and 1977 found that the Mausoleum was probably 100 feet by 120 feet. Pliny also wrote that there were 36 columns around the outside of the building.
            Each side of the Mausoleum was decorated with friezes of battle scenes from the Greek war with the Amazons. There were also two other types of friezes. One showed a chariot race and the other showed a battle between Lapiths and centaurs. There also were free-standing sculptures around the outside of the building and on the top. Fragments of the statues and friezes can be seen in the British Museum.
            There have been many excavations done at the site of the Mausoleum. Charles Guichard wrote about  workers discovering the burial chamber in 1522. He said that the sarcophagus was made out of alabaster, he also described bits of gold cloth that were left over from the burial. Sir Charles Newton excavated the site in 1856 - 1858. He discovered an Ionic capital, part of the chariot, and two larger-than-life-size statues. He speculated that the statues were of Mausollos and Artemesia. In 1966 - 1977 there was a Danish excavation that discovered the remains of an offering of food for Mausollos. They found whole sheep, goats, oxen, some chickes, doves, a goose, and a large amount of eggs.
            The Mausoleum was destroyed between AD 1000 and AD 1400, probably by an earthquake. In 1494 the Knights of St. John of Malta built an immense castle during the crusades. This castle was built with blocks from the Mausoleum and the lime mortar was made out of burnt marble from some of  the statues and columns. Today, that castle still exists and the parts from the Mausoleum are still visible.


In 2001 an initiative was started by Swiss corporation New Open World Corporation (NOWC) to choose the New Seven Wonders of the World from a selection of 200 existing monuments for profit. Twenty-one finalists were announced January 1, 2006. The Finalists for the New 7 Wonders:

Egypt was not happy with the fact that the only original wonder would have to compete with the likes of the Statue of Liberty, the Sydney Opera House, the Taj Mahal, and other landmarks; and called the project absurd. To solve this, Giza was named an honorary Candidate. The results were announced on July 7, 2007 and are:


Date of construction


Great Wall of China

5th century BC – 16th century





Christ the Redeemer (statue)

Opened 12 October 1931


Machu Picchu



Chichen Itza




Completed 80 AD


Taj Mahal

Completed c.1648


Great Pyramid (Honorary Candidate)

Completed c.2560 BC


The Great Wall of China (220 B.C and 1368 - 1644 A.D.) China


The Great Wall of China (220 B.C and 1368 - 1644 A.D.) China


The Great Wall of China was built to link existing fortifications into a united defense system and better keep invading Mongol tribes out of China. It is the largest man-made monument ever to have been built and it is disputed that it is the only one visible from space. Many thousands of people must have given their lives to build this colossal construction.

Petra (9 B.C. - 40 A.D.), Jordan


Petra (9 B.C. - 40 A.D.), Jordan


On the edge of the Arabian Desert, Petra was the glittering capital of the Nabataean empire of King Aretas IV (9 B.C. to 40 A.D.). Masters of water technology, the Nabataeans provided their city with great tunnel constructions and water chambers. A theater, modelled on Greek-Roman prototypes, had space for an audience of 4,000. Today, the Palace Tombs of Petra, with the 42-meter-high Hellenistic temple facade on the El-Deir Monastery, are impressive examples of Middle Eastern culture.

Machu Christ Redeemer (1931) Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Christ Redeemer (1931) Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


This statue of Jesus stands some 38 meters tall, atop the Corcovado mountain overlooking Rio de Janeiro. Designed by Brazilian Heitor da Silva Costa and created by French sculptor Paul Landowski, it is one of the world’s best-known monuments. The statue took five years to construct and was inaugurated on October 12, 1931. It has become a symbol of the city and of the warmth of the Brazilian people, who receive visitors with open arms.

Picchu (1460-1470), Peru


Machu Picchu (1460-1470), Peru


In the 15th century, the Incan Emperor Pachacútec built a city in the clouds on the mountain known as Machu Picchu ("old mountain"). This extraordinary settlement lies halfway up the Andes Plateau, deep in the Amazon jungle and above the Urubamba River. It was probably abandoned by the Incas because of a smallpox outbreak and, after the Spanish defeated the Incan Empire, the city remained 'lost' for over three centuries. It was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911.

The Pyramid at Chichén Itzá (before 800 A.D.) Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico


The Pyramid at Chichén Itzá (before 800 A.D.) Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico


Chichén Itzá, the most famous Mayan temple city, served as the political and economic center of the Mayan civilization. Its various structures - the pyramid of Kukulkan, the Temple of Chac Mool, the Hall of the Thousand Pillars, and the Playing Field of the Prisoners – can still be seen today and are demonstrative of an extraordinary commitment to architectural space and composition. The pyramid itself was the last, and arguably the greatest, of all Mayan temples.

The Roman Colosseum (70 - 82 A.D.) Rome, Italy


The Roman Colosseum (70 - 82 A.D.) Rome, Italy


This great amphitheater in the centre of Rome was built to give favors to successful legionnaires and to celebrate the glory of the Roman Empire. Its design concept still stands to this very day, and virtually every modern sports stadium some 2,000 years later still bears the irresistible imprint of the Colosseum's original design. Today, through films and history books, we are even more aware of the cruel fights and games that took place in this arena, all for the joy of the spectators.

The Taj Mahal (1630 A.D.) Agra, India


The Taj Mahal (1630 A.D.) Agra, India


This immense mausoleum was built on the orders of Shah Jahan, the fifth Muslim Mogul emperor, to honor the memory of his beloved late wife. Built out of white marble and standing in formally laid-out walled gardens, the Taj Mahal is regarded as the most perfect jewel of Muslim art in India. The emperor was consequently jailed and, it is said, could then only see the Taj Mahal out of his small cell window.


            Why is mankind so fascinated with its building achievements? Why do we still build large monuments that may seem to have no purpose even today? Perhaps, we will never know. At any rate, it has happened and mankind creates lists of this and lists of that. We have lists of the seven wonders of the modern world, natural world, medieval world, and many others. What does the Washington Monument or the Statue of Liberty do? Maybe the creation of structures is just part of mankind's goal to be remembered; and mankind has realized this goal, for today we know the names of many of the people associated with the wonders.

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