Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

Timeline and map of the Seven Wonders. Dates in bold green and dark red are of their construction and destruction, respectively.

The Seven Wonders of the World or the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is a list of remarkable constructions of classical antiquity given by various authors in guidebooks or poems popular among ancient Hellenic tourists. Although the list, in its current form, did not stabilise until the Renaissance, the first such lists of seven wonders date from the 1st-2nd century BC. 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 (also called the Pyramid of Khufu, after the pharaoh who built it), the oldest of the ancient wonders—remains relatively intact. The Colossus of Rhodes, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Temple of Artemis and the Statue of Zeus were all destroyed. The location and ultimate fate of the Hanging Gardens are unknown, and there is speculation that they may not have existed at all.

Background

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.[1] Impressed and captivated by the landmarks and marvels of the various lands, these travellers began to list what they saw to remember them.[2][3]

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.[4] Hence, the list was meant to be the Ancient World's counterpart of a travel guidebook.[1]

The first reference to a list of seven such monuments was given by Diodorus Siculus.[5][6] The epigrammist Antipater of Sidon[7] who lived around or before 100 BC,[8] gave a list of seven such monuments, including six of the present list (substituting the walls of Babylon for the lighthouse):[9]

I have gazed on the walls of impregnable Babylon along which chariots may race, and on the Zeus by the banks of the Alpheus, I have seen the hanging gardens, and the Colossus of the Helios, the great man-made mountains of the lofty pyramids, and the gigantic tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the sacred house of Artemis that towers to the clouds, the others were placed in the shade, for the sun himself has never looked upon its equal outside Olympus. – Greek Anthology IX.58

The Great Pyramid of Giza, the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still standing

Another 2nd century BC observer, who claimed to be the mathematician Philo of Byzantium,[10] 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.[3]

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.

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