The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is one of the first travel lists in history. The idea of creating a list of architectural wonders arose following Alexander the Great’s conquest of much of the known world in the 4th century BC, which gave Greek travelers access to the civilizations of the Egyptians, Persians, and Babylonians.
The Greek writers didn’t refer to these monuments as “Wonders” but rather as “top sights” or “things to be seen” (theamata). Each person had his own version of the Seven Wonders list. Some lists contain such ancient wonders as the Walls of Babylon and the Palace of Cyrus, King of Persia. The most famous lists of are those of Antipater of Sidon and Philon of Byzantium, both created in the 2nd century BC. Today, new seven world wonders lists are created all the time but these are the original wonders of the world.
The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was built between 353 and 350 BC for Mausolus, a governor in the Persian Empire. After Mausolus died Artemisia, his wife and sister, (a custom in the region to keep the power and the wealth in the family) decided to build him the most splendid tomb, a structure so famous that the word Mausolus’s name is now the eponym for all grand tombs, in the word mausoleum. The construction was also so beautiful and unique that Antipater of Sidon put it on his original wonders of the world list. Artemisia lived for only two years after the death of her husband. The urns with their ashes were placed in the yet unfinished tomb. The mausoleum was destroyed by a series of earthquakes in the 15th century. The remaining stones were used to built the massive Bodrum Castle.
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia was made by the Greek sculptor Phidias around 432 BC. The seated statue, some 12 meters (43 feet) tall, was so large that “if Zeus were to stand up he would hit the roof of the temple it was housed in”. The sculpture seated on a magnificent throne of cedarwood, inlaid with ivory, gold, ebony and precious stones. In Zeus’ right hand there was a small statue of a crowned Nike, goddess of victory, and in his left hand, a golden scepter on which an eagle perched. The circumstances of its eventual destruction are a source of debate: it was either carried off to Constantinople, where it was destroyed in a fire in 475 or the statue perished with the temple when it burned in 425.
The Lighthouse of Alexandria was built between 280 and 247 BC on an island at Alexandria to guide sailors into the harbor at night. Constructed from large blocks of light-colored stone, the lighthouse was made up of three stages: a lower square section with a central core, a middle octagonal section, and, at the top, a circular section. With a height estimated between 120 and 140 meters (390–460 ft), it was among the tallest structures on Earth for many centuries. The lighthouse was badly damaged by several earthquakes and disappeared completely in 1480, when the Sultan of Egypt built a fort on the site of the lighthouse, using some of the fallen stones. The name of the island that it was built on, Pharos, eventually became the Latin word for lighthouse.
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was a Greek temple dedicated to Artemis, the goddess of hunt, wild animals and a lot of other things. It took 120 years to built and was finally finished around 550 BC. Built of marble, it was the favorite wonder of Antipater of Sidon. A young man called Herostratus burned the temple down on July 21, 356 BC to achieve lasting fame. The outraged Ephesians sentenced Herostratus to death and forbade anyone from mentioning his name, which apparently didn’t work out very well. That very same night, Alexander the Great was supposedly born. The temple was restored, destroyed by the Goths, and restored again. In 401, the temple was finally destroyed by a mob led by the Archbishop of Constantinople.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are the most mysteries of the seven wonders. Some historians even question whether the Hanging Gardens were an actual creation or a poetic creation due to the lack of documentation of them in the chronicles of Babylonian history. Supposedly , the gardens were built by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II around 600 BC. He is reported to have constructed the gardens to please his homesick wife who longed for the trees and plants of her homeland Persia. Diodorus Siculus described multi-leveled gardens reaching 22 meters (75 feet) high, complete with machinery for circulating water. The gardens were destroyed by several earthquakes after the second century BC.
Built between 292 and 280 BC, the Colossus of Rhodes was a giant statue of the Greek god Helios, erected in the city of Rhodes. The Colossus was made of bronze and iron and stood over 30 meters (107 ft) high, making it one of the tallest statues of the ancient world. It was the last of the seven wonders to be completed but the first to be destroyed, by an earthquake in 226 BC. The statue snapped at the knees and fell over on to the land. The pharaoh of Egypt offered to pay for the reconstruction of the statue, but the oracle of Delphi made the Rhodians afraid that they had offended Helios, and they declined to rebuild it.
The Great Pyramid wat Giza as built as a tomb for Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu over a 20-year period concluding around 2560 BC. It consists of an estimated 2.3 million limestone blocks transported from nearby quarries. The limestone blocks used for the casing was quarried across the river Nile. The gigantic granite stones found in the King’s chamber weigh 25 to 80 tons and were transported from Aswan, more than 500 miles away. At 146.5 meters (480.6 ft), the pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years. The Great Pyramid at Giza is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to have survived the wrath of time. Or, as an Arab proverb goes: “Man fears time, but time fears the Pyramids.”