Ancient World Wonders
The formulation of the original lists of the ancient world wonders is credited to Heroditus (484 BC -425 BC) who was a distinguished Greek historian and Calimachus of Cyrene (305 – 240 BC), an overall cardinal at the Library of Alexandria. Also associated with this list are Philo of Byzantium (225 BC) and Antipater of Sidon (140 BC) who depicted the architecture in form of a poem. These monuments came about because of inspiration from religion, art and mythology of ancient civilizations. A reflection of people’s ability to modify nature and build beautiful structures is detailed in these ancient wonders. They caused the masses to stare in amazement but nowadays cease to exist. A deeper look into these ancient wonders may cause us to appreciate man’s ingenious ability more.
The Great Pyramid of Giza, also known as Khufu’s Pyramid is one among three pyramids located in Giza Necropolis. The Greeks named it under their pharaoh Cheops and listed it as the first world wonder (Curlee 15). It is one of the greatest tourist sites to date and the one fortunate to remain among the ancient wonders. At its position near Cairo in Egypt, it has an estimated mass of 5.9 million tons and a volume of 2.6 million cubic meters. Highly polished blocks and stones of white casing appear on its surface thus making it a very bright object. Its design implies perfection and many people marvel at Gaza as an energetic place and spiritual destination.
It is believed that it took 20 years of construction under Pharaoh Chreops’ order. In a period of 3800 years, the Great Pyramid remained the world’s tallest monument at a height of 146 meters. An average of 300,000 men would have been needed for such a task. Various theories indicate that these men could have been slaves. However, it is also hypothesized that skilled labor camped near Giza for a month’s wages. It has descending as well as ascending passages and inbuilt airshafts in the Queen and King’s chambers. Tombs are also considered to be there, but no mummy remains have ever been found.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon is our next feature. It is located in Iraq and is sourced back to Nebuchadnezzar who built the gardens as an amusement to Amytis, his wife. Around his palace were trees and beautiful flowers in astonishing terraces. Ancient myths tell that the gardens were mounted quite high. However, archeologists proved that they were still at an impressive height but slightly lower. The gardens dangled in elevated cables, and the origin of their name is from “kremastos” a Greek word meaning overhanging.
A quadrangular shape characterizes the gardens with arched vaults on cube-like structures. The foundation is hollowed out with deep coverings resulting to large trees of asphalt and baked brick. A stairway enables ascension to the terrace-roofs at the uppermost level beside which are screws that conduct water to the garden. The garden lies on river Euphrates’ bank, which has a width as large as a stadium and gushes through the city’s middle. Plants inside the garden are deemed cultivated above ground surface and the trees have their roots in upper terraces.
Stone columns support the entire mass while water streams through sloping channels. The water keeps the entire area moist and saturates the plants’ roots. This would mean that the leaves are always green in all seasons and that leaves grow fixedly on supple branches. Royal luxury best defines this masterpiece and surprisingly its best view is at a suspended height from the overlooking spectators. The garden’s origin dates back to 600 BC when Nebuchadnezzar issued an order to build them. Amytis, a princess in Medes, was married to Nebuchadnezzar to create collusion between nations. Nebuchadnezzar’s intention was to delight his wife using rooftop gardens in a fabricated mountain.
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia stood in Greece at a height of 12 meters and occupied a complete room. Situated at the western end of the temple of Zeus, which was 150 Km away from Athens, the statue remains one among the seven ancient wonders. In Athens, the genesis of Olympic Games was unfolded. A sculptor, by the name of Phidias, made this carving in adoration to Greek gods, and it became the most exalted work of art in all Greece. It was gold plated with an ivory material. Its shape could not be determined since copies of the original statue did not exist. According to Pausanias, the Statue of Zeus was entwined with olive shoots and rested on cedar wood. The source of Phidias’ inspiration was the Iliad of Homer that stated as follows: “He spoke, the son of Kronos, and nodded his head with the dark brows, and the immortality anointed hair of the great god swept from his divine head, and all Olympus was shaken”(Homer 202).
The throne had ebony, ivory, precious stones and gold as ornaments all around. A Victory figure made from gold and ivory was part of his right upper limb. His left palm held a scepter with an eagle resting on it. The scepter had adornments of precious metals while the robe and sandals of Zeus were built of gold. The temple that hosted this statue was of a Doric style, classic in nature, and the statue became an embodied god. In terms of status, the cult statue was the most vital chryselephantine sculpture.
The statue was constantly treated particularly with oil to avoid cracking the ivory because of the damp weather conditions. The Statue of Zeus led the Olympics until the year 393 AD when Theodosius, abolished the games after Rome evolved into a Christian city. Circumstances relating to abolishment of the games remain a mystery. Artists draw a lot of inspiration from this chef d’oeuvre to date because of its unrivaled quality.
The Mausoleum of Maussollo, also referred to as the acclaimed tomb of king Maussollos, acted as a tomb. Four of distinguished artists at that time in Turkey came together to build this wonder (Weisman 16). The Persian Empire gained from this tomb in that their local governor was bound to lay to rest here. It had a rectangular shape, 30m by 40m and was a building standing on top of a hill. The building was confined in a patio with a stone platform at its center where the Mausoleum rested. Stone lions flanked a remarkable staircase that traversed to the platform’s top.
Its outer walls were ornamented with statues of goddess and gods. At every corner were warriors on horseback guarding this valuable tomb. The tomb lay at the platform’s center with a marble setting. The Mausoleum’s height was 140 feet while the tomb had sculptures covering it. The sculptures portrayed Greek mythology and history such as chronicled battles. On each of the tomb’s four sides were nine slim columns with a statue between any two columns. The weight of the roof was supported by a solid block. The roof resembled a staggered pyramid and the queen and Mausolus riding a chariot with four horses in the lead.
In New York and Los Angeles, Grant’s Tomb and the City Hall respectively are buildings inspired by the Mausoleum. However, today, only sections of marble are visible in Bodrum Castle. This is after an invasion in the fifteenth century by St. John Knights who built Bodrum Castle from the Mausoleum stones.
Located forward to Alexandria’s coastline is the island of Pharos. This is home to the Lighthouse of Alexandria, an ancient wonder. It was amongst the highest buildings on earth and served as a guide to sailors (Saylor 150). This function was a practical one thus making this magnificent wonder the only one to have such a unique agenda. Ships also benefited since they were safely guided to the harbor. Enemy ships approaching from a distance could also be spotted thus being of use to the military. Its observation platforms, two in number, also allowed it to act as a tourist balcony.
Close to its summit were two beacons and an enormous bonfire induced light at night. This was possible because of a concave disc mirror made of furbished metal that reflected light rays at all times. Its structural elements included an octagonal midsection, a tubular upper section and a rectangular base. Stones of light color were elements of the blocks that made up this colossal building. A vaulted ramp with spiral stairs leading up to numerous chambers was used to gain access inside. The Lighthouse was visible from a far off distance of 56 Km.
Its construction was probably in the third Century by governor Ptolemy I Soter’s order. He did not manage to finish the work, and this was left to Ptolemy Philadelphos. Initially it was used for practical purposes. Later on, it became a day beacon or landmark. At around 950AD, the tower walls had several cracks. Further, on in 1323 and 1303, earthquakes caused serious damage to the tower. By 1480, its last remains receded.
Once again, Greece laid claim to another ancient wonder, the Colossus of Rhodes. This was a large statue made of bronze as a representation of god Helios. War machines brought the island of Rhodes to fame in the third century BC, and the Colossus of Rhodes was one technology among these machines. Its base was of white marble with a 15-meter pedestal. Stone carvings comprised its feet that were later clothed with bronze plates. The structure was carefully erected after casts, later plates of bronze, were used in its skin parts (Scarre 120). A stone and iron framework fortified the bronze structure. Charles of Lindos, a Rhodian sculptor, was its inventor.
The Temple of Diana, otherwise known as the Temple of Artemis, is our final of the seven ancient world wonders. It was situated in Ephesus, Greece, at a distance of 50 Km from Izmir city in modern day Turkey. The Greek goddess Artemis was the inspiration behind its creation. This god was deemed a virginal hunter and a Moon Goddess. Its original piece was a wooden version that had numerous breasts denoting her fertility. This was in contrast to the virgin role assumed by Helleric Artemis who was attributed to hunting. Thus, it is believed that the goddess worshipped in Ephesus was a cult that began a couple of centuries prior to the Helleric period.
Curlee, Lynn. Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2002. Print.
Homer, and Richmond Lattimore. The Iliad of Homer. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951. Print.
Saylor, Steven. The Seven Wonders: A Novel of the Ancient World. New York: Minotaur Books, 2012. Print.
Scarre, Christopher. The Seventy Wonders of the Ancient World: The Great Monuments and How They Were Built. London: Thames & Hudson, 1999. Print.
Weisman, Alan. The World Without Us. New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 2007. Print.