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The Great Pyramid of Giza
The oldest and the only surviving iconic landmark that belongs to the seven wonders of the ancient world is the Great Pyramid of Giza. It is the largest of the 3 pyramids found in Giza Necropolis which is now called the El Giza in Egypt.
With the original height of 146.5 meters or 481 feet, the Great pyramid of Giza was considered the tallest man-made structure on the planet for 3,800 years. The absence of its casing stones and the effects of erosion has reduced its height to what it is now at 138.8 meters or 455.4 feet. According to Egyptologists, the Great pyramid of Giza was constructed as a tomb of the 4th dynasty Egyptian pharaoh called Khufu and basing on the mark found in the interior chamber, the construction took 10-20 years before its completion on 2560 BC.
The massive size and the perfect shape of the pyramid raised a lot of speculations and theories about its construction but the most accepted theory was that, early Egyptians built the great pyramid with great precision by moving gigantic stones from a quarry and then dragging these stones and finally lifting them into place. The outer surface of the great pyramid was originally smooth when it was still covered by its white casing stones made of limestone. A great earthquake loosened these stones around 1300 AD and what remained of its outer structure is the stepped underlying core that is seen today. Remaining casing stones are still found intact at the base of the great pyramid.
There are at least 3 known chambers inside the great pyramid. The first chamber is at the lowest part of the pyramid where it was cut into the bedrock (to which the pyramid was built). The second chamber is the Queen’s chamber which is found between the south and the north faces of the pyramid. The third and the most important chamber is the King’s chamber. There are 2 narrow shafts found in the south and north walls of the king’s chamber which Egyptologists believed are created for the sole purpose of air ventilation inside the pyramid. Later, they realized that these shafts are quite aligned with the formation of stars in the universe which meant they may have served a ritualistic purpose relevant to the king’s ascent to the heavens. The chambers for the king and the queen are situated higher within the structure of the pyramid.
The only pyramid in Egypt known to contain descending and ascending passages is the great pyramid. The mass of the entire pyramid is approximately 5.9 million tons and the volume is 2.5 million cubic meters. For this massive structure to be completed in a span of 20 years, it will have to take 800 tons of huge stones being installed everyday. The great pyramid consists of 2.3 million blocks of huge stones and the largest which is found in the king’s chamber weighs 25-80 tons. This means that the early Egyptians have to install 12 blocks of massive stones everyday. It is almost impossible to believe that the great pyramid could have been built with almost perfect precision. The four sides of the great pyramid reflect an incredible human craftsmanship with an average error of only 58 mm.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon is the only structure among the 7 wonders of the ancient world whose actual location has not been established yet up to this day.
It was believed to have been built by Nebuchadnezzar II, a Neo-Babylonian king who ruled between 605-562 BC in an ancient city of Babylon which is now called Hillah, province of Babil in Iraq. Despite many tributes from ancient writers, there were no archaeological findings and no exact Babylonian texts supporting the claim that the Hanging Gardens are indeed found in Babylon. If it indeed existed during that time, it may have gone beneath the Euphrates River which was flowing east of its current position at the time of King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. Excavation is not possible today and the western Babylon is relatively unexplored.
Another theory about the actual location of the Hanging Gardens state that it may have actually been constructed by Sennacherib, King of Assyria who ruled between 704-681 BC at his palace in Nineveh. There were excavated archaeological artifacts supporting the existence of an immense system of aqueducts which may have been a part of a 50-mile canal consisting of a series of aqueducts and dams which were used to transport water to Nineveh. Screws which were used to raise water to the upper levels of the Garden were also excavated.
This proposition came from Stephanie Dalley who believes that the hanging gardens of Babylon did exist but it was built in Nineveh and not in ancient Babylon. She stated that the word “Babylon” was used in many Mesopotamian cities and Sennacherib renamed Nineveh’s city gates as the “gate of the gods” or Babylon. Sennacherib also had created inscriptions describing his water engineering inventions and archaeological excavations support that. Moreover, Sennacherib mentioned his love for wife whose homeland of green valleys and mountains she missed so much.
Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
The Temple of Diana or popularly known as Artemis is located at Ephesus which is now near the city of Selcuk in Turkey. It was destroyed in 401 but was rebuilt completely three times before its final ruin. At present, only structural remains of the later versions of the temple and the foundations remain.
The original temple was built at the time of the Bronze Age and Callimachus attributed the building to the Amazons. It was destroyed by flood at the turn of 7th century BC. The reconstruction started in 550 BC under Chersiphron, an architect from Crete and his son Metagenes financed by Croesus of Lydia. It was completed after 10 years only to be destroyed by Herostratus in an act of arson. He was sentenced to death and everyone was prohibited to mention his name. It was during the destruction of Diana’s temple when Alexander the Great was born.
It was Alexander the Great who first offered to finance the third construction of the temple but Ephesians declined it. It was only after his death when the Ephesians finally rebuilt it in 323 BC at their own expense. It was larger than the first 2 temples with 127 columns. The last temple lasted for 600 years and there were some accounts of it included in the early Christian writings in the Bible. It was destroyed by the Goths in 268 AD.
Today what remains in the site of the temple was a column built with fragmented pieces from the site itself.
Statue of Zeus at Olympia
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Greece was a 13 meter tall seated sculpture of the Greek God Zeus made by Phidias, a Greek sculptor around 435 BC, situated inside the temple of Zeus. The throne to which the Greek God is sat upon is made of an intricate cedarwood decorated with precious stones, gold, ivory and ebony. The sculpture of the god himself is of gold panels over a framework of wood and ivory plates. This statue enjoyed the limelight as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world until its destruction and eventual loss at the turn of the 5th century AD. There were no replicas to the great sculpture. Its form and everything we know about it today was only made possible by ancient Greek writings and old coins.
As the statue became popular in all the lands, many people have started to treat it with sanctity and respect and many others have tried to possess it for their own selfish intent. On one account by Suetonius, Caligula (Roman emperor) ordered the statue to be brought to Rome from Greece. He wanted to remove the head of the Greek god and replace it with his own but he was assassinated before he was able to accomplish such feat.
The destruction of the statue remains unknown up to this day. Some say it was destroyed in a great fire when it was relocated to Constantinople in 475 AD and others say it was destroyed in a fire along with the temple in 425 AD.
The rediscovery of Phidias’ workshop in 1954-1958 paved the way to the confirmation of the statue.
Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was a tomb dedicated for Mausolus, a great ruler and conqueror and his wife and sister Artemisia II of Caria created between 353-350 BC at Halicarnassus which is now Bodrum, Turkey. The great Greek architects Pythius of Priene and Satyros designed the structure. The estimated height of the structure is at 45 meters and the four sides were created by four Greek sculptors Timotheus, Bryaxis, Leochares and Scopas of Paros and each were adorned with sculptural reliefs. The completed structure was so majestic that Antipater of Sidon included it in his list of 7 wonders of the ancient world. The mausoleum was destroyed between 12th and 15th century BC as numerous earthquakes strike the land.
Modern historians believe that 2 years of construction is not enough to build and decorate such a huge and complicated structure. They believed that the construction and design started even before Mausolus died or it was continued by his successors after his death. Because of its grandeur and detailed design, the Romans called it a wonder of the world and since then, magnificent tombs are referred to as mausolea.
No one knows how and when the mausoleum came into ruins. When Alexander the Great conquered the city, the mausoleum remained intact and untouched. It withstood the siege of the pirates and continued to overlook the city of Halicarnassus for 16 centuries. Series of earthquakes brought the structure to its ruins.
Today, only the foundations and a small museum remained on the site where the mausoleum stood once. The massive castle of the knights of Malta still stands in Bodrum today and one will notice that some of the marbled blocks of the mausoleum and some polished stones were built into the structure’s walls.
Colossus of Rhodes
The Colossus of Rhodes was a statue of the Greek Titan Helios which was one of the tallest structures in the ancient world reaching a height of 30 meters. It was built in Rhodes city on the Greek island of Rhodes by Charles of Lindos in 280 BC as a commemoration of the city’s victory against Antigonus I Monophthalmus which was then the ruler of Cyprus. Rhodes was also attacked by his son but it was not successful in 305 BC and in 226 BC, the massive structure collapsed because of a huge earthquake.
The construction started in 292 BC. There were numerous ancient accounts of the colossal statue. Some say that it was placed on a breakwater and others say it took 12 years to construct the statue where workers would pile a mound of dirt at the side to be used as earthen ramp which was then removed upon completion.
Engineers of the modern world formulated their own hypothesis as to the construction of the Colossus of Rhodes considering the technology and materials they have during that time. They believe that the base of the statue was approximately at 60 feet or 18 meters in diameter and could either be octagonal or circular in shape. The feet were stone-carved and covered with thin bronze plates and eight iron bars forged in a horizontal position formed the ankles and bent upward to follow the shape of the legs. 60 inches square of bronze plates were individually cast and wrapped up together forming a series of rings. The lower plates were 1 inch thick to the knee and ¾ inch to abdomen. The upper plates were ½ and ¼ inch thick and thicker on the shoulder and neck parts where strength is required to join heavier body parts. Stones are used to fill the legs and the knees for the statue to be more stable.
For 56 years the huge statue stood and the earthquake that hit the city in 226 BC left it in ruins. It first snapped at the knees and toppled over the land. After the earthquake, Ptolemy III offered to finance the reconstruction of the statue but the fear caused by an oracle who stated that the God Helios was offended made the people afraid and they declined the offer. For 800 years the ruins are left on the ground untouched. Many who came were amazed by the size of the statue despite being broken. The fingers alone were bigger than most statues of their time.
To this though, no one knows where the remains of the statue are. It was believed to be reused somewhere but the location is unknown.
Lighthouse of Alexandria
The lighthouse of Alexandria stood at 450 feet for many centuries and remained the tallest of all the man-made structures in the ancient world for many centuries since its completion between 280-247 BC. This tower was established by the Ptolemaic kingdom and was also called the Pharos of Alexandria. It became a forsaken ruin after it was destroyed by 3 earthquakes between 956 and 1323. After the Great Pyramid of Giza (still existing today) and the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (existed for 600 years), the lighthouse of Alexandria is the third longest ancient wonder to have existed. The last of its remaining stones were used to build the Citadel of Qaitbay on the exact location in 1480. French archaeologists were able to find some relics of the lighthouse in 1994 on the floor Eastern Harbor in Alexandria.
The tower has three stages. The materials consist largely of massive blocks of stones with light colors. The lower square section contains a central core, the mid section is octagonal and the topmost section is circular. There was a very large mirror at the center which is used to reflect the light of the sun during the day and at night; a fire is used to light it. An image of the lighthouse on a coin showed tritons on each corners of the structure and on top there was the statue of Zeus or Poseidon. To withstand the waves, the Greeks used molten lead to seal the interlocked masonry blocks.
Some of the ruins were found underneath the waters of the Alexandrian harbor and it was proposed by the secretariat of UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage that the submerged remnants of the lighthouse be included on the World Heritage List.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2015 Jennifer Gonzales
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 12, 2016:
Thanks for the history and other details about the wonders of the ancient world. Seems most are forgotten are unknown by now. Good reminders.
Lin from USA on November 20, 2015:
All very well-known Wonders, though it was nice to take a look and read about them once again! :)