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Everything To Know About The Original Seven Wonders of the World

The first mention of the “Seven Wonders” was made by Herodotus between 484 and 425 BC. The renowned architect Callimachus of Cyrene made references to the wonders at the Museum of Alexandria during the period 305-240 BC. The seven ancient wonders of the world accepted by historians are as follows:

  • The Great Pyramid of Giza
  • Hanging Gardens of Babylon
  • Statue of Zeus at Olympia
  • The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
  • Mausoleum of Mausolus
  • Colossus of Rhodes
  • Lighthouse of Alexandria

The Great Pyramid of Giza

From the original seven wonders of the world, the Great Pyramid of Giza is the only one still standing. It is also known as the pyramid of Khufu or the pyramid of Cheops. It was constructed around the year 2560 BC and is said to have been built as the tomb of King Khufu. There are three known chambers deep inside the pyramid, the upper two being the king and queen’s chambers. It took over 20 years to construct and remained the highest manmade structure for over 3500 years (146.6 meters). The total mass of the pyramid is estimated to be close to 6 million tons and if it took 20 years to construct, it would mean moving 250 tons of limestone a day. How this mass of stone was mined down the river Nile, shaped and moved to the construction site still remains a mystery. Originally, the outer surface of the structure is said to have been smooth as it was covered in casing stone, which got worn out over the centuries. Historians estimate that as many as 200,000 skilled laborers and slaves were employed at the construction site.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Among the original seven wonders of the world, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon have captured our imagination for several centuries. Though there is some controversy about the actual site of these gardens, many believe that they were located at the present-day Al Hilla, Babil in Iraq. The existence of the lush Hanging Gardens was documented by Strabo and Diodorus Siculus, the famed Greek historians. They were built around the year 600 BC by King Nebuchadnezzar II to please his sick Persian wife who longed for the fragrant plants and trees of her homeland. According to Diodorus the historian, it was a terraced garden in several tiers and each garden plot was 100×100 feet and as these terraces ascended, they resembled a theater. Vaults constructed at each level carried the entire weight of the planted garden. The highest vault was approximately 30 feet high, in level with the top of the city wall. The base of the vaults on which the gardens were laid out were constructed out of long stone beams over which were laid thick weeds set in tar, covered by a layer of bricks and cemented together with a final covering of lead to prevent any seepage of water. The mud placed on each vault was thick enough to hold many plants and the large trees. There were hidden water conduits through which the garden was watered.

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia

The statue of the Greek god Zeus was 39 feet tall and depicted the Greek god in a sitting position. The statue was housed in the temple of Zeus and for many centuries people from all over the civilized world visited Olympia to see the statue. The statue was sculptured by the renowned Greek sculptor Pheidias around the year 432 BC. The statue was made of bronze with inlay ivory work and plated with gold, ebony, precious stones and occupied the entire width of the temple. A very detailed description of the statue and its throne was recorded by the traveler Pausanias in the second century. As per his description, the sculpture depicted the Greek god Zeus holding a small statue of Nike, the goddess of Victory in his right hand and a scepter inlaid with gold in his right. How and when the statue perished is a subject of debate. Some historians record that the statue was carried to Constantinople where it was eventually destroyed in a fire in 475 AD, while others argue that the statue perished when the temple of Zeus was burned in 425 AD. A confirmation of the existence of the statue and its location was authenticated when excavations were being carried out at Olympia in 1954-58 and tools and terracotta molds and a cup with the inscription “I belong to Pheidias” of the sculptor were found.

Temple of Artemis

The temple was constructed in Ephesus which is about 50 kilometers south of the present port city of Izmir in Turkey, around the year 550 BC. Also known as the temple of Diana, it was a Greek temple dedicated to Artemis, the Greek Goddess who was venerated with great passion. It is said that earlier, another temple stood at the same site around 800 BC but was destroyed by floods and in its place the new temple began to be built around 550 BC. Except for the roof, the new temple was built of white marble. The roof stood on huge marble pillars to make a wide ceremonial passage. At present, only the foundations and fragments of the temple remain. The construction was supervised by an architect named Chersiphron and his son Metagenes. The temple became a tourist attraction and was visited by merchants, kings and many worshipers who made offerings of their goods and gold to Artemis. The temple was destroyed on 21 July, 356 BC by Herostratus. According to stories, he undertook its destruction in order to become famous as ‘The Man who destroyed the Temple’. The destruction took place on the same day that Alexander the Great was born. Alexander offered to rebuild the temple but the Ephesians rejected it. The Temple is said to have been reconstructed after the death of Alexander but was once again destroyed by the Goths in 262 BC.

Mausoleum of Mausolus

Mausolus was a wealthy king of a small kingdom which had its capitol at Halicarnussus. Fond of grandeur, he along with his wife Artemisia started building his capitol city with the help of the best architects and sculptors from Greece. They spent large sums of the state taxes to commission statues, temples and buildings in sparkling white marble. In the center of the city, Artemisia planned to construct a grand tomb as a final resting place for her husband and herself after their death. The tomb was built between 353 and 350 BC and was designed by the Greek architects Satyros and Pythis. It stood approximately 45 meters high and all four sides of the mausoleum had intricate sculptured reliefs by famous Greek sculptors. On top of the walls of the structure were 36 columns (nine per side), and standing between each column was a statue. On top of the columns stood a massive pyramid shaped roof. The structure was so beautiful and unique that it became one of the original seven wonders of the world. Unfortunately before the Mausoleum could be completed, Mausolus died, leaving Artemisia heart broken. Depressed by the sudden loss, Artemisia died two years later. After the cremation of their bodies, urns containing their ashes were placed inside the unfinished tomb. According to historians, the craftsmen working on the tomb decided to stay back and complete the work after the death of Artemisia. Despite many invasions the Mausoleum stood undamaged for almost 16 centuries when a series of earthquakes shattered it around the year 1404 AD.

Lighthouse at Alexandria

Work on the construction of the lighthouse was started by Egypt’s first Macedonian ruler Ptolemy and completed by his son in the 3rd Century BC. It was constructed on the island of Pharos, a small island off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt. Since the Egyptian coastline was very flat and devoid of any prominent landmarks, it was initially constructed as a landmark showing the location of the harbor to sailors. Many years later (around the 1st century), it was converted into a lighthouse by the Romans. The building was square, about 8.5 meters on each side and the height was estimated to be between 115 to 135 meters. There are ancient claims that the lighthouse could be seen as far off as 35 miles by sailors. It was constructed from large blocks of light colored stone and rose in three stages: the lower section was square, the middle was octagonal and the top-most section was cylindrical. The Romans are said to have mounted mirrors which reflected sunlight during the day and a fire was lit by night on top of the structure. The walls of the lighthouse were strengthened in order to withstand the ravages of the sea with the use of molten lead to hold the masonry. This was possibly the reason why among the original seven wonders of the world, this one survived for so many centuries. The lighthouse was severely damaged in two earthquakes in 1303 and 1323. Later the Egyptian Sultan Qaitbay constructed a fortress on the same location, using the large stone remnants of the lighthouse.

Colossus of Rhodes

The Colossus of Rhodes was a statue of the Greek god Hilios and was constructed on the Greek island of Rhodes between 292 and 280 by Chares of Lindos. The statue was approximately 30 meters tall and straddled the harbor (according to descriptions by many historians), though ancient accounts differ on the size, shape and it’s very existence. The statue was mounted on two white marble pedestals that were each 15 meters high. The structure was built using iron tie bars and after it was shaped, brass plates were fixed as the skin of the statue. It is said that much of the metal used to construct the statue was from various weapons left behind by Demetrius’s army when they withdrew after a failed invasion. The statue stood for only 56 years when Rhodes was hit by an earthquake in 226 BC. The statue snapped at its knees and is said to have lain on the ground for as many as 800 years. Even in its fallen state, the statue continued to attract visitors. In 654 AD, the Arab Muslim caliph Mauwiyha captured Rhodes, dismantled the fallen statue and carried away the bronze and metal scrap back home on 900 camels.

Though the very existence of some of the original Seven Wonders of the World are disputed, the Pyramids which still stand to this day, together with the ruins of The Temple of Artemis, The Mausoleum of Mausolus and the Lighthouse at Alexandria stand testimony to the ancient grandeur and skill of craftsmen who lived during that era.

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