The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
~~ Paul V. Hartman ~~
Of those Seven Wonders, only one remains. (The accompanying mini-images are pure artistic guesses.) In no particular order, they were:
1. The Great Pyramid of Khufu in Egypt
Also known as the pyramid of Cheops, is the largest pyramid in the world, and is given the date 2680 BC, though we know that its construction stretched over several years. A solid mass of limestone blocks, it covers 13 acres, rises 482 feet (rather, it did, since it has lost some facing blocks) and 756 feet along each base line.
It remains largely intact on the plane of Gizeh ("Giza") near modern Cairo.
2. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
The Babylonian Empire fits between the earlier Assyrian Empire and the later Persian Empire. At its height, King Nebuchadnezzer (sometimes: Nebuchadrezzer) commissioned the Hanging Gardens, circa 560 BC. Built high and behind tall walls (said to be 75 feet tall) finished with decorative glazed bricks, the gardens were served by an intricate irrigation system which required water to be lifted to the highest point in the gardens.
Nothing remains today, except the word "Babylon" which, because the city was legendary for sensual living, is now synonymous with immorality/Hollywood.
3. The Statue of Zeus at Olympus
Created circa 435 BC by Phidias, the greatest sculptor of ancient Greece, the statue - said to be 40 feet tall - was a magestic bearded figure seated upon a richly decorated and immense throne wearing a cloak itself covered with numerous sculpted decorations. Phidias was known for doing draperies in beaten gold with glass inlays, and for covering flesh parts with ivory.
The statue was destroyed in antiquity, but clay molds from the sculptor's workshop suggest its appearance, and smaller works of his from the Parthenon are included in the Elgin Marbles collection at the British Museum.
4. The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
Artemis, in Greek mythology the daughter of Zeus, was revered by the Greeks as the Goddess of the Hunt. (The Roman equivalent is the goddess Diana.) As the patron diety of Ephesus, the major commercial city of ancient Greece (now a part of modern Turkey), and the major seaport of the region, her Temple was a major attraction and no small source of revenue. In 262 AD the Goths overran the city and destroyed the temple. In the early 5th century the harbor silted up and the city was abandoned.
Efforts to patch together the temple and other classic structures from rubble are underway at Ephesus today.
5. The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
Erected (circa 352 BC) in memory of Mausolus of Caria, the name is now synonymous with any grand burial sepulcher. This was a magnificent white marble structure presumed to have been in the Ionic peristyle, set on a massive and lofty base which contained the sarcophagus, surmounted by a stepped pyramid on the apex of which sat a four-horse chariot, the whole business said to reach 135 feet. Other sculpture surrounded this main piece.
Nothing remains at the site in modern Turkey, as it was demolished in ancient times to use the material in other structures, but some of the smaller statuary is preserved in the British Museum.
6. The Colossus at Rhodes
A large bronze statue in the likeness of Helios, the sun god, was built about 285 BC occupying the walls of the harbor at Rhodes. Said to be 100 feet tall, it is claimed that ships passed between the legs to enter the harbor. Other history, however, states that ships passed by an upright statue rather than under it. It was destroyed in ancient times, the bronze cut up and melted for other purposes.
Current archeologists on Rhodes are searching for evidence of the base, which today might be under dry land.
7. The Pharos at Alexandria
The site of a lighthouse built (334 BC) under orders of Alexander, who united the island of Pharos with a land bridge, forming a peninsula, upon which the lighthouse was erected. In 280 BC, the lighthouse which would become a Seven Wonder was erected by Ptolemy II. Variously estimated to be anywhere from 200 to 600 feet tall, no precise details remain.
The lighthouse was destroyed by earthquake in the 14th century.
Why are so many ancient structural wonders described as having been "destroyed by fire" when they were evidently made with marble, brick or stone? The answer is that wood was always present. If, in ancient times, you constructed a large building, what did you do about the roof? You could use stone-type elements, but short spans and the weight problem meant that you would be obliged to erect a forest of upright columns - which was sometimes done. The more common solution was to beam over with timber, then cover timber with tiles. Stone does not burn, but in intense heat, it will crack and crumble. Thus a good fire will consume much, as Nero discovered.
Paul V. Hartman
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