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The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

The practice of listing wonders began in ancient times, when Greeks and Romans compiled lists of memorable things that travelers should see. There were many lists compiled that included many different wonders, but all the lists included only objects that were made by human beings and that were considered notable because of their size or some other unusual quality. The list of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World on this page is believed to have been compiled around 100 B.C., but its author and exact origins are unknown.

map of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

The Lighthouse of Alexandria stood on the island of Pharos in the harbor of Alexandria, Egypt. The structure, designed about 270 B.C. by the Greek architect Sostratos, rose 440 feet from a stone platform in three sections. The bottom section was square, the middle eight-sided, and the top circular. It is believed that a fire on top provided the light, but exactly how that fire was maintained, what fueled it, and how it was projected, remain a mystery.

Damaged by an earthquake around 700 A.D., the lighthouse stood into the 1300's. It was subsequently leveled by Moslem invaders, who used its stones to construct a fort, the foundations of which can still be seen on the site.

the Pharos (Lighthouse) of Alexandria

The Colossus of Rhodes was a huge bronze statue of the sun god Helios that stood near the harbor of Rhodes on the Aegean Sea. Erected about 280 B.C. to commemorate the lifting of a siege by the neighboring Macedonians, it stood about 120 feet tall -- about as high as the Statue of Liberty.

Toppled by an earthquake in 224 B.C., the pieces remained an attraction until about 655 A.D., when Arab traders sold the metal for scrap.

the Colossus of Rhodes

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, in what is now southwestern Turkey, was a huge marble building built as a tomb for Mausolus, an official of the Persian Empire. The tomb measured about 125 by 100 feet at the base; it was topped by a temple-like structure and a stepped-pyramid roof rising about 140 feet. The Greek architects Satyros and Pythios designed the tomb, which was commissioned about 351 B.C.

Earthquakes and scavengers had reduced the mausoleum to ruins by the 1500's. Pieces of the building and its decorations are all that remain today, on display in the British Museum, London.

Mausoleum of Halicarnassus

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Greece, was perhaps the most famous statue in the ancient world. It was created by Phidias about 435 B.C., and dedicated to Zeus, the king of the gods. The statue, about 40 feet high, was plated with ivory and gold, and was "seated" on an ornamented wooden throne.

It is assumed the statue was destroyed when the temple burned in 426 A.D. One story, however, says that it was shipped to Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) in 391 A.D., where it was destroyed by fire in 475. The only reminder of its existence is its image on some very old Greek coins.

Statue of Zeus

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, built about 550 B.C., was one of the largest and most complicated temples built in ancient times. It stood in the Greek city of Ephesus, on the west coast of what is now Turkey. It was entirely marble, except for its tile-covered wooden roof. It was designed by the architect Chersiphron and his son, Metagenes. Its foundation measured 377 by 180 feet, and had 106 columns, each about 40 feet high, in a double row around the inner space.

The temple burned down in 356 B.C., and another one like it was built on the same foundation. Goths burned down the second temple in 262 A.D. Only the foundation and parts of the second temple remain.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were probably built by King Nebuchadnezzar II, who ruled Babylon from 605 to 552 B.C. No positive trace of the gardens remains, but scholars know about them from an account by Berossus, a Babylonian priest of the 200's B.C. Berossus described gardens laid out on a brick terrace about 400 feet square and 75 feet above the ground. To irrigate the flowers and trees, slaves worked in shifts turning screws to lift water from the Euphrates River.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

The Pyramids at Giza are the oldest and best preserved of all the ancient wonders. The Greeks and Romans marveled at the size of the pyramids, but they considered them extravagances of the Egyptian kings. They made their lists about 2,000 years after the pyramids were built, and by that time the religious importance of the stuctures had long been forgotten.

Pyramids at Giza


The World Book Encyclopedia Chicago: World Book-Childcraft International, Inc., 1979

See Also

Statue of Liberty
Nebuchadnezzar II

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The Robinson Library >> Ancient Art

This page was last updated on 08/28/2018.