Hands on History: Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
By Shani Asokan Ceylon Today Features
Over 2000 years ago, when we had no cameras to capture on photo or video the wonders of our planet, travellers wrote about the incredible sights they saw on their journeys. These travellers journeyed far and wide, seeking out places in the world that many had never seen before. Over time, seven of these places made history as the wonders of the ancient world.
1.The Pyramid of Giza
Pyramids are massive structures built of polished limestone, as tombs of the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs. Found in Cairo, Egypt, near modern day Giza, the pyramids are the only ancient wonder to still be standing today. In ancient times, the Pharaohs were buried in tombs under the pyramids with gold, perfumes, jewels and other luxuries as a sign of respect. Of the pyramids, the tallest is the Great Pyramid of Giza. Originally standing at 146.5 metres tall, it was known to be the tallest man-made structure for around 3800 years.
2. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
Described as a series of tiered gardens, home to a large variety of trees, shrubs, and vines, this mountain-like structure is said to have been built in the ancient city of Babylon. In modern times, this places the gardens near Hillah in the Babil province in Iraq. Long gone now, historians have to rely on ancient accounts of these beautiful gardens to understand how and when they were built. The gardens have been closely associated with King Nebuchadnezzar II and his wife Queen Amytis, and alternatively with the legendary Queen Semiramis. The precise location of the gardens is unknown.
3. The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
A Greek temple built for the goddess Artemis, this wonder was located in Ephesus, near the modern day town of Selcuk, Turkey. The temple was rebuilt twice, once after a big flood and again, 300 years later after it burned down. Today, only fragments of its foundation remain. The earliest version of this temple dates back to the Bronze Age of human civilization.
4. The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
A giant seated figure of the Greek god Zeus was erected in a temple in Olympia, Greece. Made by the Greek sculptor Phidias, this statue was in honour of the king of all gods in ancient Greek religion, to mimic his seat in the hall of the gods at Mount Olympus. The statue was made with ivory and gold panelling on a wooden framework and adorned with ebony, ivory, gold and precious stones. It was destroyed sometime during the 5th century CE.
5. The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
This is a tomb built between 353 BCE and 350 BCE for King Mausolus and his Queen Artemisia. The structure was designed by Greek architects, Satyros and Pythius of Priene. Situated in modern day Turkey, the tomb stood at approximately 45 metres tall.
Stone lions guarded the stairway up to the tomb. The bottom third of the structure was made of solid marble, the middle contained Greek-style columns. The top of the structure was a pyramid on top of which sat a large stone sculpture of Mausolus and Artemisia standing side by side in a chariot. A series of earthquakes during the Middle Ages destroyed the tomb, and remnants of it were taken by people in the surrounding areas to be used in building.
6. The Colossus of Rhodes
The ancient city of Rhodes was known for its giant statue, Colossus. The statue was made of iron and bronze and stood looking over the great harbour of Rhodes that was one of the great cities for trade. Big ships carrying traders from the Mediterranean area, Greek and Persian civilizations would stop in Rhodes on their way to other cities. During the time of Alexander the Great, Rhodes became part of Alexander’s empire but when he died, other great empires struggled to seize the city. However, no matter how strong the attacks, the walls of Rhodes held. The people of Rhodes decided to build a statue of their favourite god, Helios to watch over them and the statue of Colossus came to be.
7. The Lighthouse of Alexandria
Located on a small island off Pharos. This giant lighthouse lit the way for sailors pulling into port at one of the greatest cities in the world, Alexandria. The brainchild of Ptolemy I, the successor of Alexander the Great, the lighthouse was such a big project, it was only completed after his death. The building had three parts, constructed one on top of the other. The lowest was a square, the middle an octagon and the top a cylinder. The total height of the building would be similar to the height of a 40 story building today.