7 Wonders Of The Ancient World: Explained

Inspired by religion, mythology, and even art, many of the ancient civilizations took on these seven imposingly magnificent projects between the years 2700 BC to 270 BC. However, only the ancient Egyptian Pyramids at Giza has survived the test of time. Earthquakes, conquests, fires and the ravages of time are perhaps the main reasons why the other ancient monuments do not exist today.

The ancient Romans and Greeks are said to have originally initiated making the ‘7 wonders list’, maybe as a kind of ancient travel guide. Who knows?

Over time, this inventory was modified and monuments were added and then culled and was then finally ‘completed’ somewhere in the Middle Ages. Many of the classical writers later disagreed on what was in the final list, but the following seven works of splendid art and architecture are amongst the most commonly included monuments, and are most likely to be the final seven on the original list.

Unfortunately for us, very few sketches and drawings remain today of these wonders that have long since vanished, so archaeologists have instead relied on ancient literary works and tales to get a sort of vague idea of their history and appearance.

The 7 Wonders of the Ancient World

Here is the list of the 7 wonders that were most likely to be included on the original list:

The Pyramids of Egypt

Built from 2700 to 2500 BC, these ancient pyramids are situated at Giza in Egypt, on the western banks of the river Nile, near Cairo. The Egyptian pyramids are probably the oldest members of the ancient wonders and they are the only surviving monuments also. Of the 10 different pyramids that were erected, the first three were help in the highest repute. The first pyramid was the largest and was constructed for the Pharaoh Khufu. It is known as the Great Pyramid and it rises around 450 feet off the ground and covers about 13 acres of land. Twenty years, and 100,000 laborers, working hard at constructing this mammoth monument, later the Khufu Pyramid was finally erected, using about 2.3 million blocks. According to some theories, crews of men pushed and dragged these humongous limestone blocks up ramps that were mud-slicked in order to construct these royal tombs. Many scholars also believe that the pyramid shape was considered by the ancient Egyptians to be an important religious sign. Perhaps, in a way it symbolized the slanting rays of the sun, which was worshiped by the ancient Egyptians. While others have speculated that these slanting slopes of the pyramids were actually intended to aid the soul of the departed king climb easily towards the sky to join the gods.

The Pharos (Lighthouse) of Alexandria

Built in 270 BC, this ancient lighthouse is located on the ancient island of Pharos, which is in the harbor of Alexandria in Egypt. On its completion, this ancient lighthouse, which was estimated to have risen about 400 feet off the ground, was said to be the tallest structure on the planet at that time. Designed by the Greek architect Sostratus, this monument was built during the reign of King Ptolemy II. This famous pharos was said to have guided sailors into the harbor for more than 1,500 years was also the last of all the six wonders to have disappeared. It was toppled down by a number of earthquakes in the 14th century. The lighthouse was said to have been constructed in three different stages. Right at the top, a mirror was strategically placed to reflect the sunlight during the day. And during the night, a fire was kept burning to guide the sailors. This structure became so famous that the term ‘pharos’ later came to mean lighthouse in Spanish, Italian and French. In the year 1196, a team of divers claimed to have come across the ruins of this fabled Pharos.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Built in 600 BC, the hanging gardens were situated in Babylon, which was very close to our modern-day Baghdad in Iraq. Though some people say that it is only a fable, these gardens were said to have been planted on a brick terrace by the King Nebuchadnezzar II for one of his wives. According to records made by an ancient Babylonian priest, these gardens were roughly 400 feet square and hung approximately 75 feet off the ground. According to him, slaves would work in shifts in order to turn screws so as to lift water from the Euphrates River for irrigating the trees, flowers and shrubs of the garden.

The Temple of Artemis (Diana) at Ephesus

Built around 550 BC, the temple was located in the Greek city of Ephesus, on the western coast of modern turkey. The city of Ephesus was chosen as the final site for one of the most complex and largest temples to be built in the ancient times. The Temple of Artemis had a tile-covered wooden roof and a marble sanctuary. The plan to build this temple was conceived by the ancient architect Chersiphron and Metagenes, his son and the inner space feature a double row of about 106 columns, each being around 40 to 60 feet in height. The foundation itself was about 200 feet by 400 feet. The original temple was burnt down in 356 BC and was later rebuilt on the same foundation work. Sadly, the second temple was devastated by a fire in the year 262 AD, but some debris and remnants of the foundation still remain.

The Statue of Zeus

Built around 457 BC, this statue was located in the ancient Greek city of Olympia. In Olympia, where the first ever Olympic Games were held, a temple was built to honor the god Zeus. This Doric-style temple was considered by many to be too simple, so a lavish 40-foot statue of the god, Zeus was then commissioned to be erected inside this temple. The ancient Athenian sculptor, Phidias, created an ivory structure of Zeus seated on a royal throne, draped in a magnificent gold robe. Zeus also has a wreath wrapped around his head and held a figure of his trusted messenger, Nike, in his right hand and in his left hand was a scepter. Eventually, the statue was moved to a palace in Constantinople. This effort however, prolonged the life of the statue as a devastating fire later burned down the temple at Olympia. However, Constantinople didn’t prove to be a safer place for Zeus because a massive destroyed this statue in 462 AD. All that remains today are some of the fallen columns of the temple and the foundation of the structure.

The mausoleum at Halicarnassus

Built in 353 BC, this Mausoleum was located in what is now Southwestern Turkey. This massive tomb that was made of white marble was built to preserve the remains of Mausolus, a provincial king of the Persian Empire and his dear wife, Artemisia. The Greek architects, Pythius and Satyrus, designed this 135-foot high structure and four of the most famous Grecian sculptors added the ornamental frieze or decorative band around the exterior of the tomb. Word of its grandeur soon spread throughout the ancient world and till date the word ‘mausoleum’ represents a large tomb. This wondrous monument was damaged by an earthquake in the 15th century and was eventually disassembled. Only a few pieces and the foundation still remain.

The Colossus of Rhodes

Built somewhere in the early 200’s BC, this structure was located near the harbor of Rhodes, which is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea. The ancient Greek sculptor, Chares, along with his crew worked for about 12 years to build this giant bronze statue in honor of Helios, the Sun God. This statute that celebrates the unity of the three Rhodes’ city-states was believed to have stood on a sort of promontory, overlooking the waters. At roughly 120 feet, the Colossus stood as high as today’s Statue of Liberty. Interior iron bars and stone blocks supported this hollow statue. Only 56 years after it was built, it was destroyed in an earthquake.

These were the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. And, to think that the people on those days made such wondrous works of art and architecture without the help of technology and machinery – it’s just fascinating!