The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World were selected by ancient Greek travelers. The wonders demonstrated human imagination, technology, and the impact of ancient civilizations.
There have been many monuments that tell stories of human achievement throughout history. Yet only seven are known as "wonders." These monuments show how ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern civilizations contributed to human civilizations.
Greek travelers to Persian, Babylonian, and Egyptian lands selected the Seven Wonders. They traveled throughout 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. For nearly 4,000 years it was the world's tallest human-made structure. The Great Pyramid, which was built as a pharaoh's tomb, was erected around 2560 B.C.E. along the Nile River in Egypt. The nation was known to its people as Kemet.
The pyramid is enormous even by modern standards. The original height was around 147 meters (482 feet), though time has decreased the height to around 138 meters (451 feet). That is about the same height as the 32-story Los Angeles City Hall. The length of each side averages around 230 meters (756 feet), which is more than two football fields. The Pyramid took more than 20 years to construct, using about 2.3 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, luscious fruit, foliage, 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 believed to be located in modern-day 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. Housed in the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, the statue showed Zeus seated on an elaborate throne.
The statue was 12 meters (40 feet) high, 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. However, it 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, and observers described it as magnificent. The writer and engineer Philo of Byzantium saw many of the wonders. He wrote that, "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 the hunt, and became a place of worship. The temple went through several phases of destruction and rebuilding. The most famous version, completed in 550 B.C.E., was about 115 meters (377 feet) long, which is more than a football field. It was decorated with fine sculptures and paintings.
The arsonist Herostratus burned down the temple, and today only a few remains still stand.
Mausoleum of Halicarnassus
The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, located in modern Turkey, was built to house the dead. Designed by Greek architects around 350 B.C.E., the mausoleum honored a Babylonian governor.
The mausoleum, approximately 41 meters (135 feet) tall, was decorated with carvings. Despite standing for centuries and surviving a raid by Alexander of Macedonia, several earthquakes over centuries 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 a victory monument honoring the defeat of an invading army in 304 B.C.E.
After standing for 56 years, the statue was destroyed by an earthquake in 224 B.C.E.
Pharos (Lighthouse) of Alexandria
This ancient lighthouse is considered a technical masterpiece. It served as the model for all lighthouses that followed. The lighthouse was completed between 285 and 247 B.C.E. on Pharos, an island in Egypt.
Standing more than 107 meters (350 feet) tall, the lighthouse was intended to be a landmark to help voyagers navigate the Egyptian coast. The lighthouse included a mirror to reflect sunlight during the day. At night, a fire was lit to guide travelers.
The Lighthouse of Alexandria was severely damaged by earthquakes. It was completely gone by C.E. 1480. Today, visitors to the place where the lighthouse once stood encounter an Egyptian fort built using some of the stones from the ruins.