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The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World were monumental structures, engineering marvels, and fantastic creations that were famous throughout Ancient Greece and its neighbouring societies! Today, let’s take a look at the seven wonders, their history, and their fate!

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Vocabulary

  • Wonder (n): an extraordinary and awe-inspiring creation or phenomenon
    • The Ancient Greeks made lists of the greatest wonders they found on their travels.
  • Structure (n): a building or construction, typically with a purpose or function, such as a monument, temple, or pyramid.
    • The 7 Wonders of the Ancient world contains some of the most famous and important structures of all time.
  • Subject of debate (phrase): something that is a matter of discussion, disagreement, or uncertainty among scholars, historians, or experts.
    • Some of the wonders remain the subject of debate among historians and archaeologists.
  • Intricate (adj): highly detailed, complex, and finely crafted, often involving many small and precise elements or patterns.
    • The statue was sculpted with intricate details on the face and body.
  • Marvel (n): an object, creation, or phenomenon that inspires a sense of wonder and admiration due to its exceptional qualities, beauty, or significance.
    • The temple was an engineering marvel.
  • To adorn (v): to decorate or embellish something, often with ornaments, details, or decorative elements to enhance its appearance.
    • The sculpture was adorned with beautiful decorations and carvings.
  • To commission (v): to officially request or hire someone to create a particular work or project, often for a specific purpose or commemoration.
    • The structure was commissioned by an ancient king.
  • Monumental (adj): of exceptional size, significance, or importance; it is used to emphasize the grandeur and importance of certain ancient structures and creations.
    • Some of the wonders were designed as monumental tombs, while others were designed to honour the gods.
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What are the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World?

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World are a collection of remarkable structures and creations from the ancient societies of Greece, Egypt, Rome, and the Middle East.

These wonders were considered the pinnacle of human achievement during their time and still have a place in modern culture. While many of these wonders have long since vanished, their stories and legacies continue.

The concept of the Seven Wonders dates back to ancient Greece, where they were initially listed by various scholars and writers.

These early lists referred to “sights” or “things to be seen” rather than “wonders” – meaning that the ancient wonders were a kind of guidebook or travel recommendations.

This also explains the locations of the Ancient Wonders. They were written and described by mainly Greek historians, writers, and explorers. As the Greek’s travelled, they discovered great sites in Egypt, the islands of Greece, modern day Turkey, and the Middle East.

This is why there are no ancient wonders from South or East Asia, sub-Saharan Africa or the Americas – the Greeks didn’t reach there.

The seven wonders I’m going to look at today are…

  1. The Great Pyramid of Giza
  2. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
  3. The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
  4. The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
  5. The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
  6. The Colossus of Rhodes
  7. The Lighthouse of Alexandria

Each of these wonders has a unique history, architectural significance, and cultural importance. Let’s start with the only one still existing today!

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The Great Pyramid of Giza

The Great Pyramid of Giza, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops, is a magnificent structure located on the Giza Plateau just outside of Cairo, Egypt. It has been considered one of the 7 wonders of the world for thousands of years and is the only Ancient Wonder still in existence.

The story of the Great Pyramid begins around 2580 BCE during the Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom. Pharaoh Khufu, also known as Cheops, commissioned its construction as his final resting place. The pyramid was designed as a monumental tomb, built to house his remains after his death and help in his journey to the afterlife.

Khufu, as emperor of a great civilisation, was able to create one of the largest tombs in history. His pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years – originally 146.6 meters (481 feet) tall.

This scale of the Pyramid is evidence of the advanced mathematical and astronomical knowledge possessed by ancient Egyptian architects and engineers.

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One of the enduring mysteries of the Great Pyramid is how it was built. The pyramid required a vast workforce, primarily composed of skilled laborers, engineers, and artisans. Evidence suggests that this workforce was not just made up of slaves, as once thought, but rather a skilled and well-organized labour force.

They quarried the massive stones, transported them, and expertly placed them. It is constructed using massive limestone and granite blocks, some weighing up to 80 tons. These blocks were transported from quarries located several kilometres away, a remarkable achievement.

The inner chambers of the pyramid include the King’s Chamber, the Queen’s Chamber, and various passageways. These chambers were designed with great precision, and their purpose is still a subject of debate among experts.

The Great Pyramid of Giza holds immense historical and cultural significance. It represents ancient Egyptian architectural achievements and the religious beliefs surrounding the afterlife. As one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it remains a symbol of human achievement – a monument that has stood the test of time and continues to inspire wonder and curiosity.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, a wonder of the ancient world shrouded in myth and legend, have captured the imaginations of people for centuries.

The origins of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon are mysterious and debated. They are often attributed to Nebuchadnezzar II, a king of ancient Babylon, who supposedly built these terraced gardens in the 6th century BCE as a gift for his wife, Amytis of Media.

While their existence is documented in ancient texts the details and precise location of these gardens remain the subject of debate among historians.

The Hanging Gardens were celebrated for their innovative design. The gardens were built on a series of terraces, with each level supported by a system of arches, columns, and a complex irrigation system. The English name, “hanging gardens”, is a translation from a Greek word which has a broader defintion, referring to raised structures such as terraces.

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Soil was imported and a wide variety of plants and trees were cultivated, some of which were not native to the region. This remarkable feat of engineering supposedly allowed for the vegetation to flourish on elevated platforms.

Despite their recognition as a wonder, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon remain a subject of debate and mystery. The Gardens are the only one of the 7 Wonders with no definite evidence.

Some scholars question their existence, suggesting that they may have been a product of ancient imagination or confusion with other gardens. The lack of direct archaeological evidence adds to the mystery surrounding these gardens.

Whether real or mythical, these gardens symbolise the human desire to create beauty and escape the limitations of the natural world. Their inclusion among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World demonstrates the impact they had on the imagination of both ancient and modern societies.

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia was a masterpiece of ancient Greek sculpture and engineering.

It was crafted in the 5th century BCE by the renowned Greek sculptor Phidias. It was commissioned to stand on the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, Greece, which was dedicated to the king of the Greek gods – Zeus, the god of the sky and thunder.

The Statue of Zeus was a colossal statue, standing over 12 meters tall, depicting Zeus seated on a throne.

Phidias and his team of skilled artisans sculpted the statue using ivory, precious jewels, and gold. They spent countless hours carving Zeus’s facial features and the intricate details of his robe and ornaments.

It was not only an artistic masterpiece but also an engineering marvel. Its massive size and weight presented a significant challenge. The statue’s frame was constructed from a combination of wood, metal, and stone to provide support for the precious materials.

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The statue played a vital role in the religious and cultural life of ancient Greece. It was not only a tribute to the god Zeus but also a place from religious ceremonies and offerings. Pilgrims from across the region would visit Olympia to witness the statue and worship the king of the gods.

The Roman historian Livy reported that Romans who travelled to the statue were “moved to their souls, as if they has seen the god in person”.

Like most of the wonders of the ancient world, the statue of Zeus no longer exists. In 391AD, the Christian Roman emperor banned pagan religions (with multiple gods) and the temple of Zeus fell out of use.

No one really knows what happened to the statue. One legend states that it was taken to Constantinople and destroyed in a fire in the year 475. Other legends suggest it was destroyed by a fire in the temple of Zeus in 425AD.  

Whatever happened to the Statue of Zeus, it was one of the greatest spectacles in history.

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

The Temple of Artemis, also known as the Artemisium, was dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis, the goddess of hunting, wilderness, and childbirth.

It stood in the city of Ephesus, an important ancient Greek city located in present-day Turkey. The temple’s construction was part of a centuries-old tradition of honouring Artemis, and it was believed to have been the very spot where the goddess was born.

The construction of the Temple of Artemis spanned several centuries. The first known temple on the site was built around 800 BCE, but it was a relatively modest structure.

The most famous and grand iteration of the temple was initiated by the Lydian king Croesus and completed around 550 BCE. It was giant, measuring over 115 meters in length and 55 meters in width. Its majestic columns were covered with intricate carvings and sculptures.

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The Temple of Artemis was more than just a religious site; it also served as a hub of economic activity and pilgrimage. The temple complex included a marketplace, making Ephesus a centre for trade and commerce. Pilgrims from across the ancient world would journey to Ephesus to pay homage to Artemis and offer tributes to the goddess.

The temple’s design was a marvel of classical Greek architecture. It featured a forest of tall, graceful columns supporting the roof, each carved with intricate reliefs and covered in ornate decorations. The temple also housed a statue of Artemis, crafted by the renowned sculptor Praxiteles.

The temple was destroyed and rebuilt on multiple occasions. A flood destroyed the first version of the temple; the second version was burned down; and the third temple was destroyed after the Romans converted to Christianity.

The legacy of the Temple of Artemis endures despite its eventual destruction. It served as a source of inspiration for architects, artists, and scholars throughout the ages. While the original temple no longer stands, fragments of its grandeur can be found in museums and archaeological sites.

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The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, often simply called the Mausoleum, was constructed in the 4th century BCE in the ancient city of Halicarnassus, located in modern-day Bodrum, Turkey.

It was commissioned by Mausolus, a governor of the Persian Empire, and his wife and sister, Artemisia II. It was designed to be the final resting place for Mausolus, and it was also meant to honour his legacy as a ruler.

The monument was a fusion of Greek and Lycian architectural styles, reflecting the multicultural influences of the region. Renowned architects and artists, including Pytheos of Priene, were hired to bring this vision to life.

Rising over 45 meters (approximately 148 feet) into the sky, the Mausoleum was crowned with a pyramid shaped roof adorned with sculptures and statues. The exterior was adorned with intricate friezes, statues of deities, and detailed reliefs, depicting scenes from Greek mythology, battles, and the lives of Mausolus and Artemisia II. The structure featured multiple levels and chambers, making it a complex and imposing monument.

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The Mausoleum was not just a grand tomb but also a symbol of the love and devotion between Mausolus and Artemisia II. It became a pilgrimage site for those wishing to pay tribute to the couple’s legacy and the grandeur of the structure itself.

Although the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus suffered damage over the centuries, including earthquakes and the removal of its marble for other building projects, its influence on later architecture cannot be overstated.

In fact, the term “mausoleum” itself has come to mean a grand tomb in general.

It is not known how the Mausoleum was destroyed. It was probably due to an earthquake, or series of earthquakes, around 1000 years ago. Many of the stones from the Mausoleum were used by the Knights of St John of Jerusalem to strengthen their castle at Bodrum.

The monument was considered as one of the seven wonders of the world, not due to size, but due to its beauty and appearance.   

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The Colossus of Rhodes

The Colossus of Rhodes, a colossal bronze statue that once graced the island of Rhodes, is another of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Rhodes, a thriving Greek island in the eastern Mediterranean, became the site of a monumental structure in the 3rd century BCE. The Colossus of Rhodes was commissioned to commemorate the successful defence of the island against the invading forces of Demetrius I of Macedon in 305 BCE.

The statue was designed as a tribute to the sun god Helios, the patron deity of Rhodes, symbolizing the divine protection that had safeguarded the island.

The construction of the Colossus was work of the sculptor Chares of Lindos, who oversaw a team of skilled craftsmen. Standing approximately 33 meters tall, the statue was a remarkable feat of ancient engineering. It was constructed from bronze plates, forged individually and then assembled over an iron framework. The level of detail and artistry in the statue’s design was apparently breathtaking, with Helios depicted holding a torch in one hand and a trident in the other.

The Colossus of Rhodes symbolized not only the protection of the gods, but also the resilience and determination of the people of Rhodes. It was  a source of inspiration and pride for the citizens and a deterrent to potential invaders.

Unfortunately, the Colossus’s existence was relatively short-lived. An earthquake in 226 BCE caused significant damage to the statue, toppling it to the ground. The people of Rhodes chose not to rebuild it, leaving its shattered remains.

However, despite laying on the ground for 800 years, the Colossus was still so impressive that travellers made the journey. In the year 653, an Arab force invaded and took the remains back of the statue check with them.

While the statue itself is no longer standing, it remains a symbol of the enduring human quest for art, culture, and the celebration of monumental achievements.

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The Lighthouse of Alexandria

The Lighthouse of Alexandria, a magnificent beacon that once graced the Egyptian city of Alexandria, is the final of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World I’ll discuss today.

In the 3rd century BCE, the bustling city of Alexandria, founded by Alexander the Great, had become a major hub of trade and culture in the ancient world. Its fame as a centre of knowledge and commerce made it the ideal location for a grand lighthouse.

The Lighthouse of Alexandria, known as the Pharos of Alexandria, was designed to guide ships safely into the harbour. It was commissioned by Ptolemy II Philadelphus and constructed under the supervision of the architect Sostratus of Cnidus. This structure soared to a height of over 100 meters, making it one of the tallest buildings of the ancient world.

Its design featured three tiers: a square base, a cylindrical middle section, and a final circular section with a statue of Zeus or Poseidon, the god of the sea. The lighthouse’s brilliance lay not only in its height but also in its groundbreaking use of mirrors and fire.

A massive central furnace emitted a powerful light that was reflected off polished bronze mirrors, casting a brilliant beam of light across the Mediterranean.

The Pharos of Alexandria was not just a functional lighthouse but also a symbol of Alexandria’s prosperity and the achievements of the Greek world. It played a crucial role in aiding ships in navigation, ensuring their safe passage through the dangerous waters of the Mediterranean, and securing Alexandria’s status as a major trade centre. It also inspired countless stories and legends, becoming a symbol of enlightenment and knowledge.

Regrettably, the Lighthouse of Alexandria met a fate similar to many of the wonders on the list. A series of earthquakes, including a particularly devastating one in the 14th century CE, led to the gradual destruction of the lighthouse. Today, its remains lie submerged beneath the waters of the Mediterranean.

The legacy of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, however, lives on. Its innovative use of technology, its role in maritime safety, and its symbolism as a beacon of knowledge and culture continue to inspire awe and admiration.

Final Thought

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World demonstrate the ingenuity, artistry, and cultural richness of ancient civilizations. While many of these remarkable structures have been lost to time, they continue to captivate our imagination and inspire awe.

From the mystery of the Great Pyramid of Giza to the allure of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, each wonder holds a unique place in history. They remind us of humanity’s quest for greatness and the legacy of those who dared to dream and build on an extraordinary scale.

What do you think? If you were to choose an 8th Wonder of the World…. What would you choose?


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By Tom Wilkinson

Host and founder of Thinking in English, Tom is committed to providing quality and interesting content to all English learners. Previously a research student at a top Japanese university and with a background in English teaching, political research, and Asian languages, Tom is now working fulltime on bettering Thinking in English!

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