They are the original wonders of the world, a triumph of engineering, design and construction. Just thinking of how they got it done can inspire awe and wonder. Save for one, we are not fortunate to witness these marvels anymore, as most have been destroyed by calamities. But historical accounts and archaeological findings stand as evidence of their existence.
7 Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt
The largest of a tradition of tombs reserved for Egyptian pharaohs, the Great Pyramid of Giza took 20 years to erect from 2584 to 2561 B.C. More than a hundred thousand oppressed people were enslaved to help lift the stones into their proper positions through the use of massive machines. And the result is simply a masterpiece. The entire pyramid is oriented perfectly to the points of a compass. Even though surveying equipment at that time was limited, the Egyptians were able to create a structure that is 756 feet in length on each side, with each side only differing eight inches at most from each other. The Great Pyramid stands 450 feet tall, and used 2.3 million blocks of stone averaging 2 and a half tons each. It is the only one of the seven original wonders still around today.
6 Hanging Gardens of Babylon
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon was constructed around 600 B.C. Though there have been accounts that Queen Semiramis of Assyria in 810 B.C. started it, more reliable historical records point to King Nebuchadnezzar as the man behind this wonder.
King Nebuchadnezzar had built several impressive palaces, temples and temples during his time. However, his wife, Amytis, the daughter of the King of Medes who married Nebuchadnezzar to create an alliance, felt homesick because she was used to the greenery and mountains of her homeland. The flat terrain of Mesopotamia was depressing compared to Medes.
To cheer up the wife, King Nebuchadnezzar ordered the creation of an artificial mountain with gardens at its roof. The gardens were said to have reached up to 320 feet, equivalent to the height of the city’s walls. Area size was around 400 feet by 400 feet.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon used to stand in a place now known as Nineveh in Iraq. Unfortunately, it got destroyed as a result of a series of earthquakes in the first century B.C.
5 Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
Artemis was considered the Goddess of Fertility. Often presented as a lady draped with multiple breasts or eggs from her shoulders to her waistline, several temples were built in her honor, with the first being erected around 800 B.C.
In 550 B.C., an impressive shrine was built for Artemis. Herostratus burned it down to the ground, however. Immediately after, Scopas of Paros, a famous sculptor from that time, was commissioned to design and build a new temple. It lasted until the year 262, when Goth invaders arrived and destroyed the temple again. Ephesus, which used to be a great city, was already in decline by that time. A hundred years later, the Roman Emperor Constantine refused to have the temple rebuilt, as he had converted to Christianity and did not approve the veneration of pagan gods.
4 Statue of Zeus at Olympia
The temple of Zeus was originally built to look over the staging of the ancient Olympic games. As the importance of the games grew, the Greeks decided to ask Libon of Elis to design a massive new temple in honor of the king of the gods. The temple was completed in 456 B.C. The temple boasted of an impressive style and workmanship.
A statue was later added to the structure. It was completed more than a couple of decades later in 435 B.C.
Both statue and temple were later disassembled, before being consumed almost completely by fire in the sixth century A.D. The statue is now gone, though a few columns from the temple can still be found.
3 Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
From 377 B.C. to 353 B.C., Mausolus ruled the city of Halicarnassus. Mausolus was an ambitious man who sought to expand his land by taking control of neighboring areas. Eventually, his kingdom included most of the southwestern part of Asia Minor.
Mausolus was a learned man who spoke Greek and encouraged democratic traditions. After he died in 353 B.C., his wife Artemisia (who was also his sister, as custom in their land at that time was for rulers to marry one of their female siblings) felt so broken hearted that she ordered the construction of an impressive structure around her husband’s tomb. It became known as the Mausoleum, and it stood over the city for around 17 centuries, surviving the occupation of Alexander the Great and several pirate attacks between 62 B.C. and 58 B.C.
Earthquakes, however, destroyed the structure in the year 1494. While it did not survive the natural disaster, the name Mausoleum has remained and is now used to describe stately tombs.
2 Colossus of Rhodes
The Colossus is a giant statue built in honor of Helios, the patron god of Rhodes. Rhodes had just defeated the army of Demetrius, who in his haste to withdraw, left behind several of his war machines. The people of Rhodes melted down the bronze from these war equipment and used it for the exterior.
The statue stood 110 feet tall and was placed on top of a 50-foot pedestal. It was depicted in the typical Greek pose of the right hand shading the eyes from the sun and the left hand holding a cloak. It got destroyed in an earthquake in 226 B.C.
1 Lighthouse of Alexandria
Ptolemy built the lighthouse in Pharos Island in the city of Alexandria in 280 B.C. It served as the city’s symbol, as well as a guide to the trade ships plying the harbor. It was the world’s first lighthouse and was the second tallest structure at that time, after the Great Pyramid.
Earthquakes in the years 365 and 1303 weakened the lighthouse. The structure finally collapsed totally in 1326.
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