Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, selected by Hellenic travelers and noted in poetry and other arts, tell the stories of human imagination and technical aptitude, and how civilizations left their marks on the world and culture.


3 - 12


Social Studies, Ancient Civilizations, World History


The Great Pyramid

The Great Pyramid, the largest of the Pyramids of Giza, is the only Great Wonder still standing. It was build more than 4,000 years ago.

Photograph by James P. Blair
The Great Pyramid, the largest of the Pyramids of Giza, is the only Great Wonder still standing. It was build more than 4,000 years ago.
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Ancient Greek travelers selected the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The wonders demonstrated the possibilities of human imagination and technology.

There have been many monuments that tell stories of human achievements in history. Yet only seven are known as "wonders." They show the lasting contributions of ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern civilizations.

Ancient Greeks who traveled to Persia, Babylonia, and Egypt selected the Seven Wonders. They saw much of the modern-day Middle East. Travelers described the wonders in travel guides, artwork, and poems. The most famous list of the Seven Wonders was created in the second century B.C.E. when the Greek writer Antipater of Sidon wrote a poem about them.

While these constructions are stunning achievements of ancient engineerning, they don't include marvels from many of the ancient civilizations of Africa, Europe, and Asia, and the Americas, which were unknown to the Hellenic peoples.

The Seven Wonders are still celebrated today, but only one remains standing. The wonders show that even the grandest human achievements are fleeting.

Great Pyramid of Giza

The Great Pyramid is the only wonder that still exists today. It was the world's tallest human-made structure for nearly 4,000 years. The Great Pyramid was first built as a pharaoh's tomb. The pyramid was completed around 2560 B.C.E. along the Nile River in Egypt.

The pyramid is enormous even by modern standards. Over time, the pyramid has become slightly shorter than it once was. However, it is still around the same height as the Los Angeles City Hall, which is a 32-story building. The length of each side is more than two football fields. The pyramid took more than 20 years to construct, using more than two million stone blocks.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

There is not much firsthand evidence proving that the gardens existed. Those who claimed to have seen the gardens in Babylon described them as marvels of engineering. Blooming flowers, fruit, trees, and waterfalls were said to have filled them. The hanging gardens were believed to have been built around 600 B.C.E. by King Nebuchadnezzar II. They were located in what is now Iraq.

Statue of Zeus

Phidias was a celebrated sculptor in ancient Greece. He created a statue of the god Zeus, the king of the ancient Greek gods. The statue was housed in the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, Greece. It showed Zeus seated on an elaborate throne.

The statue was almost as tall as a three-story building. Many viewers said that Zeus was too large in relation to the whole temple, but most admired it. The statue was destroyed by an earthquake in the 5th century B.C.E.

Temple of Artemis

The Temple of Artemis was constructed in what is now western Turkey. Observers described it as magnificent. The writer and engineer Philo of Byzantium saw several of the Seven Wonders. He wrote, "when I saw the temple rising to the clouds, all other wonders were put in the shade."

The temple was first constructed to honor Artemis, the Greek goddess of hunting. The temple was torn down and rebuilt several times, and the most famous version was completed in 550 B.C.E. It was decorated with sculptures and paintings.

A criminal called Herostratus burned down the temple, and today there are only a few remains.

Mausoleum of Halicarnassus

The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus was built in modern Turkey to house the dead. It was designed by Greek architects around 350 B.C.E. and honored a Babylonian governor.

The mausoleum was adorned with carvings. Although the structure stood for centuries and survived a raid by Alexander of Macedonia, several earthquakes destroyed it. Today all that remains are a few pieces of the foundation.

Colossus of Rhodes

In ancient times, visitors to the Greek island of Rhodes were greeted by a statue of the god Helios. The statue was erected between 292 and 280 B.C.E. It was built to honor a victory over an invading army. An earthquake destroyed the statue in 224 B.C.E. after only 56 years.

Pharos (Lighthouse) of Alexandria

This ancient lighthouse served as the model for all lighthouses that followed. The lighthouse was completed between 285 and 247 B.C.E. on the Egyptian island of Pharos. The lighthouse was intended to help sailors navigate their way to port.

The lighthouse was damaged by earthquakes, and by C.E. 1480 it was completely gone.

Media Credits

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Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Clint Parks
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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