The Eye of the Beholder

JESSELYN ONG | KHIU ZUYU (CHLOE) | AMELIA OW
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Montage image of the Seven Wonders of the World (ancient version). By Frank van Mierlo [GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.

Montage image of the Seven Wonders of the World (ancient version). By Frank van Mierlo [GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.

Did you know that there are many different lists with different creations listed as a wonder of the world? Well, does this then mean that there are more than 7 wonders in our world? Certainly so, at least in the eyes of different people. Afterall, being different is what makes us as humans unique, right?

The Greeks first called the seven wonders of the ancient world “themata”, i.e. must sees. As such, we can infer that the Greeks thought that the places in this list were amazing creations and should hence be known to people. During the ancient times, Greeks were known to have loved compiling lists, and this list was therefore, not atypical. Since the seven wonders of the ancient world was written originally by the Greeks, it comes as no surprise that most of the places listed were from Greek culture. From the eyes of the Greeks, these cultural architectures were worth marveling over. This list of the seven wonders though, was highly debated, and this shows that the people of that time did not agree on what was considered a “wonder”. What could have been a wonder for one may not be a wonder to another. Keeping this in mind, our post today will focus on how the original list, i.e. The Seven Wonders of The Ancient World, has brought about new perspectives to the modern age.

Since the original list of the seven wonders was written, many other lists of seven wonders have surfaced. This includes the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, CNN’s list of Seven Wonders, and (what we are probably most familiar with) the New Seven Wonders of The World, just to name a few. What this shows us is that the original list gave us a basis for us to judge what is considered a “wonder”. Take for instance the seven Wonders of the Modern World, which was formed by the American Society of Civil Engineers. From the eyes of engineers, a structure was a wonder if it had good design and construction, contributed to humanity, and overcame tough engineering challenges. However, what is a wonder to engineers may not be a wonder to others, hence the many lists created. Just take a look at the pictures below. All of the photos below show the various wonders of the world according to different lists. As you can see, what is considered a wonder is very relative; they vary from places (Colosseum in Rome), to sights (Northern Lights), and even to sewage systems and what is not on earth (Olympus Mons)! Although some of these may not seem like wonders in one’s eyes, it is viewed as a wonder in another's eyes, and this is significant because it shows us how everyone sees things from different lenses.

Colosseum in Rome, Italy. Photo by David Iliff [CC], via Wikimedia Commons.

Colosseum in Rome, Italy. Photo by David Iliff [CC], via Wikimedia Commons.

A composite Viking orbiter image of Olympus Mons on Mars, the tallest known volcano and mountain in the Solar System. By Image by NASA, modifications by Seddon [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

A composite Viking orbiter image of Olympus Mons on Mars, the tallest known volcano and mountain in the Solar System. By Image by NASA, modifications by Seddon [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, shines above Bear Lake .By United States Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Strang [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, shines above Bear Lake .By United States Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Strang [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

The Victorian Abbey Mill pumping station on the London trunk sewerage system. By No machine-readable author provided. Velela assumed (based on copyright claims). [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.

The Victorian Abbey Mill pumping station on the London trunk sewerage system. By No machine-readable author provided. Velela assumed (based on copyright claims). [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Just like how we currently have different types of seven wonders of the world created by various sources, there were a couple of lists produced by ancient Greek writers. In the early 500 BCE, famous Greek historian, Herodotus described The Great Pyramid of Giza and The Hanging Gardens of Babylon in his works. He was the first writer who opened the doors to the idea of the Seven Wonders (1 & 2), with an eye to their historical resonance.

Renowned Greek engineer, Philo of Byzantium first included the list in his work “On the Seven Wonders” around 225 BCE. Antipater of Sidon then went on to describe the seven wonders in a poem in a later version of the seven wonders in 140 BCE. After Alexander the Great had conquered much of the known world in 400 BCE, the list served as a guidebook for Greek travellers who were given access to the civilizations of the Egyptians, Persians and Babylonians. To the people who built these structures, the Seven Wonders were a significant representation of their sovereignty, religion, mythology, art and science in the ancient times. To us, they reflect the ability of the humankind to change the surrounding landscapes by constructing the world’s most remarkable structures, with the Great Pyramid of Giza still withstanding time to this very day.  

Fun fact! Do you know why it is seven wonders of the ancient world instead of 8 or 50? Well, seven is simply a popular number to categorize things, from Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Pillars of Wisdom to even Snow White’s seven dwarves! Jokes aside, the number seven was chosen due to its indivisibility. It gave each of its elements the same status and thus, was highly honorable in numerology. Guess what? The New Seven Wonders of the World was announced on 7 July 2007. The New Seven Wonders of the World was decided by the votes of 100 million Internet users around the world.

Similar to the objective of the list created in 400 BCE, the casting of votes for the new wonders is seen as a celebration of cultural diversity and history and as an encouragement to travel and interact with people from all over the world. However, the difference between a single person deciding the seven wonders and a collective consensus is that the new wonder is more recognized and accepted by the majority, which makes it even more credible. Also, a consensus would mean that the wonder is a better representation of the views of the majority.

There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million. By BK [CC], via Flickr.

There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million. By BK [CC], via Flickr.

The Seven wonders of the Ancient World sparked the people’s interest of putting together what they consider is marvellous to their own perspectives. Another significance of the list of Seven wonders of the Ancient World is that it allows us to notice something as a “wonder” or “must see” (themata). Without this list, you may come across a monument or a creation and think “oh, that’s nice”, but when you know of this list, you may come across the same thing and think, “oh wow, that should be on the list of the seven wonders!”. After one comes to know about the list of Seven Wonders, people can look at locations or architectures that are deemed to be defined as perfect and extraordinary to their eyes in a different light. In a sense, it provides us with a perspective to appreciate creations that exists around us, and that, is the true significance of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. A list that, when first compiled, would not have expected such an impact on the modern age.

Since the list to the Seven Wonders of the World has been established, it has greatly inspired humankind to recognize the great works of civilizations in ancient times. Factors such as innovative designs, meticulous and elaborate construction, as well as the symbolic meaning behind each wonder has led humankind to a whole new level of never ending pursuit for excellence and self-expression. Below are a few examples of how some wonders were considered... well, wonders.

Statue of Zeus. By Bgabel. [GFDL or CC], via Wikimedia Commons

Statue of Zeus. By Bgabel. [GFDL or CC], via Wikimedia Commons

On Symbolism

Did you know that the Olympic Games was held in the honour of the King of the Ancient Greeks’ god, Zeus? A sculptor named Phidias took 12 years of his life to complete the statue, which stood more than 40 feet high. It is considered magnificent as it is presumed to be a statue worthy of the king of the gods

On being Meticulous & Elaborate construction

Arguably the most well-known one in the list of Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The oldest, and the only one whose structure is mostly intact in the list. It is a meticulous and elaborate work, standing at 138.8m, and took 20 years to finish construction. One hundred thousand people were employed to work on this huge construction.

The Great Pyramids of Giza. Photo by Nina-no [CC], via Wikimedia Commons.

The Great Pyramids of Giza. Photo by Nina-no [CC], via Wikimedia Commons.

In simple terms, the creation of the lists has a great impact on how humankind recognizes, acknowledges and admires the antiquity the ancient times had left - which will further inspire humankind to create beauty in their own form one way or another.

References

http://www.ancient.eu/The_Seven_Wonders/

http://www.unmuseum.org/wonders.htm

http://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/seven-wonders-of-the-ancient-world

http://www.unmuseum.org/7wonders/modern_wonders.htm

http://edition.cnn.com/TRAVEL/DESTINATIONS/9711/natural.wonders/

https://new7wonders.com/

http://www.ce.memphis.edu/1101/interesting_stuff/7wonders.html

http://www.historyaccess.com/sevenwondersofth.html

http://www.7wonders.org/ancient-world-wonders/

http://www.touropia.com/seven-wonders-of-the-ancient-world/

http://tracingthepast.com/index.php?p=1_10_Seven-Wonders-Of-The-World

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/journey-to-the-seven-wonders-2757692/?no-ist=&page=1

http://www.infoplease.com/world/buildings-structures/seven-new-wonders.html

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Seven_Wonders_of_the_World