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Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

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Title: Seven Wonders of the Ancient World  
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Subject: Halicarnassus, 350s BC, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Lighthouse of Alexandria, Turkish Riviera
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Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (from left to right, top to bottom): Great Pyramid of Giza, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (also known as the Mausoleum of Mausolus), Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria as depicted by 16th-century Dutch artist Maarten van Heemskerck.
The Great Pyramid of Giza, the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still standing.

The Seven Wonders of the World or the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World refers to remarkable constructions of classical antiquity[1] listed by various authors in guidebooks popular among the ancient Hellenic tourists, particularly in the 1st and 2nd centuries BC. The most prominent of these, the versions by Antipater of Sidon[2] and an observer identified as Philo of Byzantium, comprise seven works located around the eastern Mediterranean rim. The original list inspired innumerable versions through the ages, often listing seven entries. Of the original Seven Wonders, only one—the Great Pyramid of Giza, the oldest of the ancient wonders—remains relatively intact. The Colossus of Rhodes, Lighthouse of Alexandria and Mausoleum at Halicarnassus were destroyed in earthquakes, and the Temple of Artemis and Statue of Zeus deliberately destroyed. The location and ultimate fate of the Hanging Gardens is unknown.


In this painting by Maerten van Heemskerck, the seven wonders of the ancient world are depicted as a background for the abduction of Helen by Paris.[3] The Walters Art Museum.

The Greek conquest of much of the known western world in the 4th century BC gave Hellenistic travellers access to the civilizations of the Egyptians, Persians, and Babylonians.[4] Impressed and captivated by the landmarks and marvels of the various lands, these travellers began to list what they saw to remember them.[5][6]

Instead of "wonders", the ancient Greeks spoke of "theamata" (θεάματα), which means "sights", in other words "things to be seen" (Τὰ ἑπτὰ θεάματα τῆς οἰκουμένης [γῆς] Tà heptà theámata tēs oikoumenēs [gēs]). Later, the word for "wonder" ("thaumata" θαύματα, "wonders") was used.[7] Hence, the list was meant to be the Ancient World's counterpart of a travel guidebook.[4]

Each person had his own version of the list, but the best known and earliest surviving was from a poem by Greek-speaking epigrammist Antipater of Sidon from around 140 BC.[6] He named six of the seven sites on his list (leaving out the lighthouse), but was primarily in praise of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus:

Another 2nd century BC observer, who claimed to be the mathematician Philo of Byzantium,[8] wrote a short account entitled The Seven Sights of the World. However, the incomplete surviving manuscript only covered six of the supposedly seven places, which agreed with Antipater's list.[6]

Earlier and later lists by the historian Herodotus (484 BC–ca. 425 BC) and the architect Callimachus of Cyrene (ca. 305–240 BC), housed at the Museum of Alexandria, survived only as references.

The Colossus of Rhodes was the last of the seven to be completed, after 280 BC, and the first to be destroyed, by an earthquake in 226/225 BC. Hence, all seven existed at the same time for a period of less than 60 years. Antipater had an earlier version which replaced Lighthouse of Alexandria with the Walls of Babylon.[6] Lists which preceded the construction of Colossus of Rhodes completed their seven entries with the inclusion of the Ishtar Gate.


It is thought that the limitation of the lists to seven entries was attributed to the special magical meaning of the number.[5][9] Geographically, the list covered only the sculptural and architectural monuments of the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions,[8] which then comprised the known world for the Greeks. Hence, extant sites beyond this realm were not considered as part of contemporary accounts.[4]

The primary accounts, coming from Hellenistic writers, also heavily influenced the places included in the wonders list. Five of the seven entries are a celebration of Greek accomplishments in the arts and architecture (the exceptions being the Pyramids of Giza and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon).

The Seven Ancient Wonders

Name Date of construction Builder Date of destruction Cause of destruction Modern location
Great Pyramid of Giza 2584–2561 BC Egyptians Still in existence, majority of facade gone Giza Necropolis, Egypt
Hanging Gardens of Babylon

(existence unresolved) [10]

Circa 600 BC (evident) Babylonians or Assyrians After 1st century AD Perhaps earthquakes Hillah, Babylon Province, Iraq or
Nineveh, Nineveh Province, Iraq
Temple of Artemis at Ephesus Circa 550 BC; and again at 323 BC Greeks, Lydians 356 BC (by Herostratus)
AD 262 (by the Goths)
Arson by Herostratus, plundering Near Selçuk, Izmir Province, Turkey
Statue of Zeus at Olympia 466–456 BC (temple)
435 BC (statue)
Greeks 5th–6th centuries AD Disassembled and reassembled at Constantinople; later destroyed by fire Olympia, Greece
Mausoleum at Halicarnassus 351 BC Greeks, Carians 12th-15th century AD Earthquakes Bodrum, Turkey
Colossus of Rhodes 292–280 BC Greeks 226 BC 226 BC Rhodes earthquake Rhodes, Greece
Lighthouse of Alexandria Circa 280 BC Greeks, Ptolemanic Egyptians AD 1303–1480 1303 Crete earthquake Alexandria, Egypt


Arts and architecture

A map showing the location of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

The seven wonders on Antipater's list won praises for their notable features, ranging from superlatives of the highest or largest of their types, to the artistry with which they were executed. Their architectural and artistic features were imitated throughout the Hellenistic world and beyond.

The Greek influence in Roman culture, and the revival of Greco-Roman artistic styles during the Renaissance caught the imagination of European artists and travellers.[11] Paintings and sculptures alluding to Antipater's list were made, while adventurers flocked to the actual sites to personally witness the wonders. Legends circulated to further complement the superlatives of the wonders.

Modern lists

Of Antipater's wonders, the only one that has survived to the present day is the Great Pyramid of Giza. Its brilliant white stone facing had survived intact until around 1300 AD, when local communities removed most of the stonework for building materials. The existence of the Hanging Gardens has not been proven, although theories abound.[12] Records and archaeology confirm the existence of the other five wonders. The Temple of Artemis and the Statue of Zeus were destroyed by fire, while the Lighthouse of Alexandria, Colossus, and tomb of Mausolus were destroyed by earthquakes. Among the artifacts to have survived are sculptures from the tomb of Mausolus and the Temple of Artemis in the British Museum in London.

Still, the listing of seven of the most marvellous architectural and artistic human achievements continued beyond the Ancient Greek times to the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and to the modern age. The Roman poet Martial and the Christian bishop Gregory of Tours had their versions.[4] Reflecting the rise of Christianity and the factor of time, nature and the hand of man overcoming Antipater's seven wonders, Roman and Christian sites began to figure on the list, including the Colosseum, Noah's Ark and Solomon's Temple.[4][6] In the 6th century, a list of seven wonders was compiled by St. Gregory of Tours: the list[13] included the Temple of Solomon, the Pharos of Alexandria and Noah's Ark.

Modern historians, working on the premise that the original Seven Ancient Wonders List was limited in its geographic scope, also had their versions to encompass sites beyond the Hellenistic realm—from the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World to the Seven Wonders of the World. Indeed, the "seven wonders" label has spawned innumerable versions among international organizations, publications and individuals based on different themes—works of nature, engineering masterpieces, constructions of the Middle Ages, etc. Its purpose has also changed from just a simple travel guidebook or a compendium of curious places, to lists of sites to defend or to preserve.

See also


  1. ^ Anon. (1993), The Oxford Illustrated Encyclopedia, First Edition, Oxford: Oxford University.
  2. ^ Antipater, Greek Anthology IX.58
  3. ^ "Panorama with the Abduction of Helen Amidst the Wonders of the Ancient World".  
  4. ^ a b c d e "The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World". Retrieved 2009-09-14. 
  5. ^ a b "History of the Past: World History". 
  6. ^ a b c d e Paul Lunde (May–June 1980). "The Seven Wonders". Saudi Aramco World. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  7. ^ Clayton, Peter; Martin J. Price (1990). The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Routledge. p. 4.  
  8. ^ a b The New Encyclopædia Britannica Micropædia Volume 10. USA: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 1995. p. 666.  
  9. ^ "The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World — Part II". Retrieved 2009-09-14. 
  10. ^ There is some conjecture as to whether the Hanging Gardens actually existed, or were purely legendary (see Finkel, Irving (1988) “The Hanging Gardens of Babylon,” In The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, Edited by Peter Clayton and Martin Price, Routledge, New York, pp. 38 ff. ISBN 0-415-05036-7).
  11. ^ "Wonders of Europe". Retrieved 2009-09-14. 
  12. ^ Stephanie Dalley (2013), The Mystery of the Hanging Garden of Babylon: an elusive World wonder traced. OUP ISBN 978-0-19-966226-5
  13. ^ Clayton, Peter and Price, Martin: The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (Routledge, 1988), pp. 162–163.

Further reading

  • D'Epiro, Peter, and Mary Desmond Pinkowish, "What Are the Seven Wonders of the World? and 100 Other Great Cultural Lists". Anchor. 1 December 1998. ISBN 0-385-49062-3
  • "The Seven Wonders of the World, a History of Modern Imagination" written by John & Elizabeth Romer in 1995
  • "The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World" edited by Peter Clayton and Martin Price in 1988
  • Johann Conrad Orelli (ed.) Philonis Byzantini Libellus de septem orbis spectaculis. 1816. The original travel guide by Pseudo-Philo

External links

  • "Seven Ancient Wonders of the World" on The History Channel website. Also includes links to medieval, modern and natural wonders.
  • Parkin, Tim, Researching Ancient Wonders: A Research Guide, from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. – a collection of books and Internet resources with information on seven ancient wonders.
  • "Eternal wonder of humanity's first great achievements", by Jonathan Glancey in The Guardian, 10 March 2007
  • List of Wonders, about similar lists
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