Similar to today’s backpackers, clutching their travel guides and setting out on great adventures to see the Eifel Tower, Great Barrier Reef or Machu Picchu, Hellenistic travelers in the 4th Century longed to catch a sight of one or all of the seven great, manmade wonders all located in the Mediterranean region. The list of seven wonders created by historian Herodotus and architect Callimachus Cyrene during the 400s BC and still today gives modern researchers a glance back into the ancient world. Only one, the Pyramids of Egypt at Giza, remains intact today.
Wonder 1: Pyramids of Egypt at Giza
In 2550 B.C., Pharaoh Khufu, the second ruler of the 4th dynasty of Egypt, moved the royal city to Giza. For centuries it was thought that Khufu forced slaves and foreigners to build his pyramids, but researchers who found skeletons in the pyramids proved they were built by locals. It’s now believed that the builders were Egyptians, who worked together to construct these pyramids which would take their Pharaohs to the afterlife where Egypt would continue to bask in its glory. Compared to surrounding pyramids, the Great Pyramid of Khufu is superior in construction. It features several burial chambers, a gallery and air shafts for the Khufu’s spirit to escape to the heavens.
Wonder 2: Hanging Gardens of Babylon
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were built for King Nebakanezer II, or rather for his wife, or so the story goes. The King’s wife, Amytis, missed her lush and green homeland in the dry climate of Babylon, so he built her a grand garden which was located thirty miles south of present day Baghdad, Iraq. There are few to no remains of the Hanging Gardens however, leaving some historians skeptical it ever existed at all. Historical documents from the garden’s construction time period, 600 BC, are elaborate and include water pumps, lead covered foundations and progressive architecture and design.
Wonder 3: Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
Architects, artists and designers of the seventh century BC banded together to build the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, often called the “most beautiful structure”. What made the temple so awe-inspiring was its marble décor, bronze statues made by renowned artists including Pheidias and Polycleitus. The temple became infamous when a man named Herostartus, who was looking for an easy way to become legendary, burned it to the ground. The burning happened to be on the same night Alexander the Great was born. Before its destruction, the Temple of Artemis was a place for business and a sanctuary for religious worship.
Wonder 4: Statue of Zeus at Olympia Greece
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Greece, was constructed to honor the Olympic Games which kicked off in 400s BC. Zeus in statue form was breathtaking – with a gold robe and sandals, and a body carved from ivory. The statue was designed and created by the artist Pheidias, who had a special knack for creating giant ivory statues. In the end, the statue was 40 feet tall. Unfortunately, today the only remains are pictures of the statue on coins and the debris and rubble at the temple’s site just west of Athens.
Wonder 5: Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
In present day Bodrum, Turkey, the site of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus can be visited. The Mausoleum was an enormous tomb, 150 feet tall, an imposing construction for the time period 353 BC to 350 BC. What made the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus unique was that it was not built for gods or goddesses but for people. It fell once in a flood and was rebuilt, then was again damaged in an earthquake. Although it survived attacks from Alexander the Great and pirates, it was permanently wrecked in 1494 AD.
Wonder 6: Colossus of Rhodes
If you’ve ever imagined sailing between the legs of a colossal statue, then you may have been a Greek Islander in a past life around 408 BC. The Colossus of Rhodes was a statue sculpted by Chares for the city of Rhodes. This twelve year undertaking produced a 110 foot statue of Helios with a torch in one hand and a spear in the other. There are no remains of this statue, however its prominence during the time was so wide spread it became a wonder of the world.
Wonder 7: Lighthouse of Alexandra
Antipater of Sidon deemed the Lighthouse of Alexandra a wonder of the ancient world, most likely because of its height which was 380-440 feet tall, but also probably because of the legends. It was situated off the island of Pharos which was well-known as an extremely dangerous area for sailing. Constructed for Ptolemy Soter and his wife in the 3rd century, the Lighthouse used fire and sun rays to help guide ships into the harbor safely. Legend had it that the Lighthouse was powerful enough to ignite enemy ships from miles away.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons