Would you like to discover the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World? Know the stories behind each Wonder? Or learn more about their different creators?
Our team has put together an article that traces the history of each of these Seven Wonders.
The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World were:
- The Pyramid of Khufu
- The Lighthouse of Alexandria
- The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
- The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus
- The Statue of Zeus
- The Temple of Artemis
- The Colossus of Rhodes
The story of the "antique Seven Wonders of the World" will soon have no more secrets for you.
We now invite you to immerse yourself in this fabulous tale!
1) The Pyramid of Khufu
The first wonder of the world that we are going to talk about comes straight from Egypt: it is the famous Pyramid of Khufu, the only Wonder of the Ancient World that still exists today.
Built more than 4500 years ago (in 2532 BC), the pyramids of the site of Giza are unavoidable symbols of ancient Egypt. A true reflection of the architectural skills of the Egyptians, the pyramids are still a mystery to contemporary Egyptologists today.
In ancient times, the Pyramid of pharaoh Khufu was considered the world's first wonder. Indeed, for millennia, it was the highest, most massive and voluminous edifice in the world.
To give you an order of magnitude, the Pyramid of Khufu is 139 meters high, half the height of the Eiffel Tower (measuring 324 meters high). On the other hand, the Pyramid of Khufu is much wider with its 230 meters wide against the 124 meters wide of the Eiffel Tower.
All the known architectural techniques of the time were used to build the Pyramid of the pharaoh Khufu (or Cheops in Greek). This masterpiece is attributed to the architect Hemiunu, vizier of Khufu and member of the royal family. This feat required more than 20,000 workers and more than 20 years of construction.
The Pyramid of Khufu is the largest of the three Pyramids of the site of Giza (located near the old city of Cairo). On the site of Giza, the two other pyramids are those of the pharaohs Khephren and Menkaure.
Above, the Pyramids of the site of Giza: the Pyramid of Khufu/Cheops (139 m high), the Pyramid of Khephren (136 m high) and the Pyramid of Menkaure (61 m high).
Why the pyramids have been created?
In ancient Egypt, the pyramids were used as tombs for the pharaohs and their families.
Pyramids were designed as giant square funnels in which the souls of the pharaohs could ascend to heaven with ease. This peculiar shape was intended to make it easier for pharaohs to reach Ra (the Egyptian Sun god) and reign with him for eternity.
The pyramids also have an elaborate structure of traps and curses to prevent grave robbers from desecrating the mummies of the pharaohs.
Indeed, the body of a pharaoh was considered as the "vessel" of his spirit. Its desecration could thus have repercussions on the pharaoh's well-being in the Beyond.
2) The Lighthouse of Alexandria
Let's now discuss of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, a wonder of the ancient world built 2200 years after the Pyramids of Giza.
The construction of the Alexandria Lighthouse began in 294 BC during the reign of Ptolemy I and was completed 15 years later around 279 BC during the reign of Ptolemy II.
Built on the tip of the island of Pharos, this monument plays a very special role in antiquity. In addition to being a landmark for sailors who wanted to approach the coast, it is the symbol of Alexandria's technological power and is used as real propaganda: just like the city, the Alexandria Lighthouse is a real feat and is completely disproportionate for the time.
From the top of its 135 meters, the light of the lighthouse is visible more than 50 miles away.
Unfortunately, the lighthouse was built on a seismic zone and has deteriorated over the centuries. Numerous earthquakes contributed to its total destruction in 1303.
The lighthouse no longer exists today. In its place is a citadel, built in the late 15th century by the sultan Al-Ashraf Sayf (one of the last Mamluk rulers of Egypt) to cope with a possible invasion by the Ottoman Empire.
3) The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are a set of gardens located in the ancient city of Babylon (nowadays in Iraq).
No longer existing today, their very existence is disputed by some historians because their location has never yet been clearly identified by archaeologists.
However, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon appear in many Greek and Roman writings. The main source from antiquity is that of the Babylonian priest Berossus, who tells the story of the construction of the Hanging Gardens.
The gardens took the form of a stepped construction consisting of large terraces containing plants and trees from all over the world.
The recognized ingenuity of the Babylonians is expressed here through the irrigation system of the various terraces: an Archimedes' screw drew water from the Euphrates and sent it into a system of pipes that distributed it to the terraces.
One can also draw attention to the complexity of floor insulation. The terrace floors were composed of several layers of stone, bitumen and lead to contain the water from the upper floors (to redirect it).
The supposed splendor of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon was known throughout Mesopotamia for its richness and greenery.
What was the origin of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon?
The gardens were built in the 6th century BC by the king of the Babylonian empire Nebuchadnezzar II for his wife Amytis.
Nebuchadnezzar II wanted to remind his wife of the nature of his native country, Iran. The gardens were high ("hanging") to remind Amytis of the Iranian mountains. They were also filled with greenery to contrast with the arid climate of Mesopotamia.
4) The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus
The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus is an important monument of antiquity located in the southwest of Turkey. The city of Halicarnassus is today called the city of Bodrum. The mausoleum has long been admired for its decoration and size.
The Halicarnassus Mausoleum is more than 50 meters high. On each of its four sides is erected a statue made by great sculptors of antiquity: Leochares, Bryaxis, Scopas and Timotheus.
The mausoleum of Halicarnassus was inaugurated in 350 BC and its construction took 3 years. Numerous earthquakes caused the destruction of the building in the 14th century.
The mausoleum housed the tomb of Mausole, governor of a province of the Persian Empire. This tomb was so renowned that since its creation, all large burials have been called "mausoleums".
The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus is the most famous tomb of antiquity. Its reputation throughout the Mediterranean basin for its magnificence has made it one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
5) The Statue of Zeus
Now, we will discover together the first of the 3 Wonders of the Ancient World originating from ancient Greece: the "chryselephantine" statue of Zeus.
The term "chryselephantine" comes from the Greek "chrysos" (gold) and "elephantinos" (elephant ivory) to signify that the statue is composed of these two materials.
Built in Olympia around 436 BC, the statue of Zeus is the work of the Athenian sculptor Phidias. This statue was erected for religious reasons in a temple dedicated to the protective god of the city of Olympia, Zeus, the thunder god and the king of all Greek gods.
The city of Olympia was then in full expansion, and the realization of a statue of this scale was a good way to show the financial and technological means of the city. In addition, the city benefited from a very good visibility through its involvement in the organization of the ancient Summer Olympics Games.
The statue of Zeus is a little more than twelve meters high. It represents Zeus, sitting on a throne made of ebony and ivory. The Greek god of gods holds in his right hand a statuette of Athena Nike (the goddess of victory) and in his left hand his scepter of creation on which is perched an eagle.
The statue was destroyed in 461 AD when a fire destroyed the temple in which it stood.
6) The Temple of Artemis
The second Wonder of the Ancient World originating from Greece is the Temple of Artemis of Ephesus. Also called the "Artemision of Ephesus", it is the most important sanctuary of Artemis, the goddess of hunting.
This temple was built around 560 BC by three renowned architects: Chersiphron, Metagenes and Theodore of Samos. It is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World for its size and the technical prowess that was used to build it.
The Artemision was nearly 138 meters long and 72 meters wide. Its decorations were priceless (the temple was made entirely of white marble).
The location of the Artemision has a history prior to the Greek presence. Legend has it that Ephesus was the gathering place of the Amazons, the women disciples of Artemis, at the end of the Bronze Age.
The city has known several archaic temples built around 800 BC before being chosen as the site of the temple of Artemis.
The temple is today considered one of the earliest banking establishments in the world. It had control over its own finances and had all the attributes of a bank.
Sadly, the building came to a tragic end. It was deliberately burned down in 356 BC by Erostratus, who simply wanted to make himself famous by destroying the temple.
Intriguingly, in the same year that this temple was burned in Greece, Alexander the Great was born in the neighbouring country of Macedonia. For this reason, the temple of Artemis is often included when the legend of Alexander the Great is described.
7) The Colossus of Rhodes
The third and last Wonder from the Greek world is the Colossus of Rhodes. This statue, erected at the entrance to the port of the island of Rhodes in 292 BC, represented Helios, the Greek deity of the Sun.
The construction of the colossus was long and tedious. The work carried out by the Greek sculptor Chares of Lindos lasted 66 years.
The monument consisted of a wooden structure, on which was covered with gigantic bronze plates. The amount of material needed was such that the capacity of the foundries on the island of Rhodes was insufficient and bronze had to be imported from other Greek cities.
However, the choice of materials for a statue of this scale makes some historians doubt the dimensions' veracity of the monument and its location. Indeed, a statue of this size resting on a wooden skeleton was almost impossible to make at the time (something that contributed to its inclusion in the list of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World).
Once crossed, the colossus of Rhodes marks the arrival of boats at the city's port.
Unfortunately, the colossus stood at the gates of Rhodes for only 70 years. In 227 BC, it was brought down by an earthquake that left only its feet and shins on its pedestal.
The ruins of the colossus were initially left in place (until 650 AD). An Arab expedition took all that was left of the Colossus of Rhodes (13 tons of bronze) to sell it in the trading posts of Syria.
The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World!
Now you know all about the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. You are now able to explain:
- The origin of each of the Wonders
- What caused the destruction of each of the Wonders
The Pyramid of Khufu is the only Wonder of the ancient world to have survived time, so why not display it proudly in your living room !
Indeed, we possess a wide range of jewelry expertly inspired by Egyptian monuments and Egyptian mythology. Discover our collection of Egyptian rings, necklaces and bracelets by simply clicking on the image below!