Seven Wonders of the Ancient World While the ancient world left little written record, the evidence that we do have depicts it as far more advanced and culturally rich than many would expect. From the Phoenicians in Mesopotamia to the Mayans in Central America, technological advancements and complex theories drove the ancient civilizations ahead. Great thinkers from that period like Socrates left huge marks on the literary world. Great scientists like Copernicus developed theories that provided the foundations for more modern thought. Juxtaposing their technology with our own, we find their accomplishments truly amazing.
Their buildings, remarkably built without cranes, bulldozers, or assembly lines, rival our greatest and create great wonder among our culture. Chief among their architectural feats, the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World remind us constantly of the ancient cultures’ splendors and advancements. These landmarks, the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria or the Walls of Babylon according to the list, left evidence of the magnificence of the ancient world.
Understanding the history of the whole group as well as the history of the individual places creates a gratitude and reverence for our ancient ancestors. Herodotus created the first list of wonders in the fifth century BC but gained little notoriety for the feat and inspired few subsequent lists. His written record, a list mirroring that above with the exception of substituting the Pharos of Alexandria for the Lighthouse, was destroyed with the exception of references in the burning of the Library of Alexandria (History Reference Center). In following centuries, however, Herodotus’s ideas began to catch on.
Conquering vast empires in the name of Macedonia, Alexander the Great led a strategic military campaign throughout the Balkans and much of the ancient world. Through these fourth century BC annexations, Alexander stimulated travel in the area, which in turn led to the Greeks gaining immense cultural knowledge about peoples like the Persians, Egyptians, and Babylonians. Alexander truly opened their world. With the influx of travel, the Greeks began and compile oral lists of ‘theamatas,’ a word translated to mean ‘the must-sees’. The lists, though they varied from person to person, lways contained a constant number of seven sites. Being neither a product nor factor of any number less than ten, seven is hard to separate into subdivisions and therefore provides an excellent number for indivisible things like the Seven Wonders, the Seven Deadly Sins, and the Seven Sages. After Herodotus, the next well-known list is that of Callimachus of Cyrene, a worker at the Library of Alexandria. He wrote a work entitled ‘A Collection of Wonders in Lands throughout the World,’ but destroyed early on, the contents of the list remain unknown.
De Septem Mundi Miraculous, or Of the Seven Wonders of the World, was written in 200 BC. Attributed to and supposedly written by Philo of Byzantium, many argue that it was actually written in the sixth century AD (Infoplease). Regardless, this work gives an excellent description of Seven Wonders, including the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Pyramids of Giza, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Colossus at Rhodes, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the Temple of Artemis and Ephesus, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria.
While most lists agree on at least six of the seven wonders, some ancient and modern lists substitute the walls of Babylon for the Lighthouse of Alexandria. The most renowned ancient list, coming around 80 years later, belongs to Antipater of Sidon and does exactly this. A citizen of Alexandria, Egypt, Antipater compiled his list in a poem during the second century BC, saying I have gazed on the walls of impregnable Babylon, along which chariots may race, and on the Zeus by the banks of Alpheus.
I have seen the Hanging Gardens and the Colossus of Helios, the great man-made mountains of the lofty pyramids, and the gigantic tomb of Maussollos. But when I saw the sacred house of Artemis that towers to the clouds, the others were placed in the shade, for the sun himself has never looked upon its equal outside of Olympus (History Reference Center) These lists inspired others to not only explore but to tell of their explorations.
After the works of Herodotus, Callimachus, Philo, and Antipater, people strove to make their own lists of wonders, almost always including the eight documented by Philo and Antipater. The oldest and only remaining of these eight wonders, the Pyramids of Giza took ancient Egypt by storm in 2560 BC. A remarkable architectural feat, they remained the tallest structures in the world until the nineteenth century. They originally stood at 481 feet tall but have shrunk to around 450 feet.
Khufu’s pyramid, also known as the Great Pyramid, contains 2,300,000 blocks weighing around two and a half tons each. Every side of that pyramid is 756 feet long (Infoplease). Fourth-Dynasty Pharaoh Khufu, also known as Cheops, ordered the pyramids built as tombs for Pharaohs Khufu, Khafra, and Menkaure. Their splendor begins with their location. Cheops chose a plateau made of white limestone located southwest of Cairo. Surrounded by the Nile River, spacious green plains, astounding palm groves, and the magnificent skyline of Memphis, the area itself is a wonder.
Originator of the concept of Seven Wonders, Herodotus became the first to describe the Pyramids when he visited Egypt around 450 BC. His account of the pyramids begins with an insult of Cheops, saying claiming “Cheops, who reigned over them, plunged the country into deep calamities” (History Reference Center). In Herodotus’s books, he asserts that Cheops employed over 100,000 slaves at a time, switching the men out every three months, but ancient historian Diodorus Siculus alleged that the pyramids actually required 360,000 slaves.
Recent discoveries, however, have pinned the number of workers between 5,500 and 8,000 and declared that they worked willingly, not as slaves. Herodotus goes on to describe a magnificent causeway used to transport stones and marvelous underground rooms that took approximately ten years to build. With information gathered from his Egyptian guide, Herodotus chronicled the process used to build the pyramids, writing This pyramid was constructed on the following plan.
They began by building it in the shape of steps, having first made it in this form, they drew up the stones for the rest of the work by means of machines, consisting of short pieces of wood, when they had lifted them from the ground to the first tier of the steps; as soon as stone had reached so far, it was laid on another machine, placed on the first range; from thence it was hauled up to the second [and from the second to the third,] by means of another machine, for as many as the tiers of the steps there were, there was the same amount of machines. This passage shows the technological advancements employed by the Egyptians.
The architecture behind the underground rooms proved extremely innovative; Cheops used a canal from the Nile to create an insulation system (Books). Summing up his Egyptian encounter, he gives a brief account of the lesser two pyramids, built as tombs for Khafra and Menkaure, and moves on to new things. Though many people doubt its existence, the alleged regality of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon stupefies many. Herodotus, previously mentioned as the first big traveler of the era, gave a full description of the city of Babylon, making no mention of the Hanging Gardens.
This causes speculation among many historians today (History Reference Center). For those who do believe, however, the Hanging Gardens stood in Mesopotamia, near the present location of Baghdad, Iraq. Berossus, a Babylonian priest, wrote the first account of the Gardens in 3rd century BC, but since then, the works have been lost. Strabo and Philo gave the next ancient descriptions. Philo wrote, The Hanging Garden has plants cultivated above ground level, and the roots of the trees are embedded in an upper terrace rather than in the earth. The whole mass is supported on stone columns.
Streams of water emerging from elevated sources flow down sloping channels. These waters irrigate the whole garden saturating the roots of plants and keeping the whole area moist. Hence the grass is permanently green and the leaves of trees grow firmly attached to supple branches. This is a work of art of royal luxury and its most striking feature is that the labor of cultivation is suspended above the heads of the spectators. (Books) While most of Mesopotamia lived up to its appellation the Fertile Crescent, Babylon differed, having a desert-like climate.
According to ancient writers like Berossus, Philo of Byzantium, and Diodorus Siculus, King Nebuchadnezzar II ordered the Gardens built for his wife around sixth century BC (Infoplease). Amyitis, a native of the luscious green Persia, greatly missed the beautiful landscape of her home, and as any affectionate husband would do, Nebuchadnezzar built the Gardens to appease her. The King filled the Gardens with pears, plums, grapes, and many other colorful plants. Providing great shade among the sandy landscape, the Gardens served as a retreat for the royal family.
For the scholars that believe that the Hanging Gardens actually existed, another argument arises over whether or not the Gardens actually “hang. ” In their Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, Michael and Mary B. Woods argue that the description of the Gardens as “hanging” comes from a translation issue. They assert that the original Greek word can be translated into “hanging” or “overhanging” and claim that the original authors meant “overhanging”. Because its very existence remains disputed, no evidence of the date or method of destruction endures.
Built in 560 BC, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus paid homage to the Greek goddess Artemis, goddess of the hunt, childbirth, and virginity (History Reference Center). King Croesus of Lydia ordered the Temple built on a marshland in present-day Turkey, and one hundred and twenty years later it opened for worship. Towering above other structures in the land, the Temple, made of marble, stood 300 long by 150 wide and massive columns (Infoplease). Croesus chose the location in hopes of protecting it from volatile earthquakes.
That natural disaster, however, would not cause the destruction of the Temple; instead, it would fall victim to arson committed by a power-hungry Herostratus in 356 BC, on the birthday of Alexander the Great. Greek legend holds that Artemis, busy assisting with Alexander’s childbirth, found herself too preoccupied to protect her Temple. Alexander, sympathetic to this story, offered to pay for the restoration of the Temple, but the Ephesian leaders rejected the request claiming it was “inappropriate for a god to dedicate offerings to the gods” (Books).
Despite Alexander’s dismissal, the Ephesians, led by sculptor Scopas of Paros, rebuilt the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, beginning almost immediately after the original’s destruction. The new Temple, the first made purely of marble, laid the foundation for extravagant building. Bigger than the original, it had 27 columns stretching 60 feet into the sky, pning 425 feet long and 225 feet wide. Athens’s pride and joy, the Parthenon is believed to have only been a quarter of the size of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.
Pliny the Elder provided a base ancient description of the Temple, along with many other Grecian works, in his Natural History, written in the 1st century AD. Of the Temple, he wrote, “The most wonderful monument of Grecian magnificence, and one that merits our genuine admiration, is the Temple of Diana at Ephesus” (Books). Some, like Pliny, referred to the Temple as the Temple of Diana, Artemis’s Roman form. As Christianity spread through the ancient world, the Temple slowly became obsolete and eventually met its demise through raids from the Goths in 268 AD.
Dedicated Ephesians made a final attempt to rebuild the Temple after its destruction, but Roman Emperor Theodosius the Great’s decision to outlaw Christianity, eradicating the Temple’s purpose. Site of the earliest Olympics, Olympia wished to honor its supreme god, also patron of their games, for their prosperity and success. To do this, they commissioned Phidias, chief sculptor behind the Parthenon, to build a statue paying homage to this god, Zeus. Using an innovative method designed by Phidias himself, he built a wooden skeleton in the intended shape of the statue and ordered workers to adorn it.
Sheets of iron and gold were cut and fashioned to cover the wooden structure. Looming over the Temple of Zeus, the statue rose 40 feet into the air and was a massive 22 feet wide. Zeus’s Statue features him sitting on a magnificent throne, with his head brushing the ceiling. The ancient historian Strabo criticized the proportions of the statue, claiming that Phidias “depicted Zeus seated, but with the head almost touching the ceiling, so that we have the impression that if Zeus moved to stand up he would unroof the temple. (History Reference Center). Citation Page 1. Scarre, Chris. “The Seven Wonders Of The Ancient World. ” (2004): 125-127. History Reference Center. Web. 13 Nov. 2012. 2. Infoplease. Infoplease, n. d. Web. 13 Nov. 2012. <http://www. infoplease. com/>. 3. “Books. ” Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. N. p. , n. d. Web. 13 Nov. 2012. <http://www. claytonpl. org/research/guides/guide. cfm? id=24>.
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