THE SEVEN ANCIENT WONDERS
by Madeline, Siew May and Li Ling
Many of us may be familiar with what the “7 Wonders of the World”. They are wonderful and magnificent structures that represent a part of history. However, has anyone ever wondered what the original wonders of the world were? Surely there were structures built that were breathtaking and impressive during the ancient times. Let’s take a short trip back to the ancient world to discover the first 7 Wonders that graced the earth. Initially defined as themata, which meant “things to be seen” in Greek, the original 7 Wonders of the World consisted of: The Great Pyramids of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia Greece, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes and the Lighthouse at Alexandria Egypt. Seeing that the authors of these 7 Wonders were Greeks, most of the monuments that made the list were situated in Greece. Shows how much pride they took in their Greek architecture! Unfortunately, the only ancient wonder left standing today would be the Great Pyramid of Giza that many are so familiar with. Why did the Greeks come up with 7 wonders, not more not less? Well, the Greeks thought that the number 7 had a mystical significance. This could be because there were 7 known planets at that time (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn), together with the Sun and the Moon.
The Great PyramidS of Giza, Egypt
The Great Pyramid is rendered one of the oldest among the seven wonders and it is the only one left mostly intact. It is also one of the largest pyramids that exists. Located on the Giza plateau, the Great Pyramid were surrounded by four smaller pyramids, of which three that still exist, were named after the pharaohs: Menkaure, Khafre and Khufu. It is said that Greek historian Herodotus once paid a visit to this monument and apparently, inaccurately assumed that a pharaoh engaged in slavery and extortion of labor in order to get the pyramid built for wealth and power. Having become a tourist attraction, the Great Pyramid is currently the second largest source of revenue for the Egypt. As pyramids were believed to be built to keep the pharaohs intact even after their deaths, it shows how much respect and loyalty people in that time had for their kings. The pyramids' significance were also in that it preserved artifacts that allowed us to excavate and study today.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon is the only ancient wonder whose location has not been definitively established. In other words, its existence is in question. It was first described by Berossus, a Chaldaean priest in his book called “Babyloniaca”. The questioning of the garden’s existence is due to the lack of documentation in the chronicles of Babylonian history. Some believed that it was purely something mythical or a figment of imagination that was told in stories, while other sources suggest that they were built by biblical King Nebuchadnezzer II at around 600 BCE for his wife (a mark of true love?). Unlike what its name suggests, the Hanging Gardens did not actually hang at all. Instead, it consisted of rooftop gardens and a stimulated mountain. Over the years, these plants and trees would have likely given the effect of a dense mountainous landscape that appeared to be hanging mid-air.
If the Hanging Gardens did exist, it would certainly have been a beautiful and majestic sight. Just imagine the charming image of lush greenery and colourful flowers cascading above. Several archaeologists and historians believe that if the gardens did exist, it would probably have been destroyed by war and erosion. It was also hypothesized that it could have been destroyed by an earthquake. Even though the beautiful gardens could have been a myth all this time, the thought of such a spectacular structure existing is awe-inspiring.
Today, some have tried to find a befitting garden or landscape to be the modern take of this spectacular garden. Out of all the candidates, we have chosen the beautiful Villa d'Este in Tivoli, near Rome (source).
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Greece is a representation of the Greek God Zeus. It was built by renowned sculptor Phidias in the Temple of Zeus at the Sanctuary of Olympia at around 435 BC. The throne that Zeus was seated on was decorated with ebony, ivory, gold and precious stones. The seated statue occupied the whole aisle of the temple that it was situated at.It was said that if Zeus were to stand, he would “unroof the temple”. A miniature statue of Nike, the goddess of victory (So that’s what Nike actually means??) was on his right hand, while a scepter with an eagle was perched on his left. This reflects the importance of the deities and animals in the ROman's lives. Apparently, Caligula (who was once Rome's emperor) wanted it to be shipped to Rome so that he can replace the head of the statue with his. The statue must have been quite something for him to make such a request!
The eventual destruction of the statue remains debatable today. Some have suggested that it was destroyed a meteor, while others argued that it perished with the temple in the 5th Century BCE, in the great fire of Lauseion. Although this great statue was lost, an excavation in 1958 actually uncovered the workshop that was used to build it! This has led to many attempts by archaeologists to recreate the technique that produced such great work.
The statue of Zeus may not be around today, but we have decided on one modern take to represent this amazing statue. It is none other than the Golden Buddha in Bangkok, Thailand. It is currently the world’s heaviest gold statue, weighing at a whopping 5.5 tons! Another noteworthy statue would be the Spring Temple Buddha in Henan, China. It is the world’s tallest statue, standing at 128 metres in height. Surely these golden magnificences would make appropriate modern alternatives.
THE TEMPLE OF ARTEMIS AT EPHESUS
Constructed in the mid 6th century BCE, the Temple of Artemis was also known as ‘the Artemisium’’ or by the name of ‘Temple of Diana’, of which Diana was one of the Gods of Roman mythology. Based on multiple sources, the temple seemed to be a place of worship for people of varying religious religious beliefs, some of which were visitors. This structure was built in honour of the Greek goddess, Artemis, who was regarded as the Greek equivalent to Diana. One of the most worshiped statues of the temple bears resemblance Artemis. Yet again, we see how the importance of religion is reflected through their monuments, as well as how they are built in remembrance of significant figures.
The statue of Artemis was constructed in a way that it appeared to have multiple breasts, which was supposedly symbolic of fertility, abundance and nature. However, this assertion of the spherical objects as female breasts could have been inaccurate - they could be representative of bull’s testicles or gourds, of which the latter is symbolic of fertility in Asia. The closed legs that tapered downwards to a pillar-like structure, which stood out from other conventional Greek statues. The Temple of Artemis was rebuilt before eventual destruction. It was first destroyed as a result of arson in 356 BCE by Herostratus, whose act of destruction was purely for the personal gain of fame - that said, he did not hold anything against Artemis herself or the temple. After being reconstructed by the Ephesians, the temple once again went through destruction in between 260 and 270 CE due to a raid by a group of Goths. Although unclear, it is contended that there could have been a possibility of the temple being rebuilt again and went on to the Christian era. Artefacts that surfaced during excavation are housed today at the British Museum, which depicts how even the smallest of fragments can be of essence in preserving history.
THE MAUSOLEUM AT HALICARNASSUS
The Mausoleum refers to any large-scale tomb and it is associated with all stately tombs today. It is one of the longest-standing monuments out of the seven wonders, second after the Great Pyramid. This monument was built between 353 and 350 BCE, in memory of Mausolus after his death, requested by his grieving sister Artemisia, who was the Queen then. It became one of the seven wonders because of the rich sculpting and intricate carvings of the monument, and was also rendered an “aesthetic triumph”. As a result, this also inspired modern buildings to be constructed after the Mausoleum. This includes Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance, as well as the City Hall in Los Angeles. Isn't it amazing how ancient art forms and landscapes can inspire modern societies today?
The Mausoleum stood strong for approximately 16 centuries and even survived through the time period where Alexander the Great took over the city, as well as pirate attacks during 58-62 BC. After which, it was eventually destroyed by a series of earthquakes that caused the columns and the grand bronze chariot to crumble.
The Colossus of Rhodes
The Colossus of Rhodes was located on the Island of Rhodes overlooking the harbour, and was built between 292 to 280 BC. Despite fanciful depictions that the legs of the statue stretched across the harbour entranced as depicted in many drawings, most believed that it stood with its legs together on a base. However, some argued that it would have blocked off the entire mouth of a bustling harbour, which was impossible.The male statue designed by Charles of Lindos was created in honour of the sun god, Helios, and to commemorate war victory over the ruler of Cyprus in 305 BC. It is said that the Rhodes sold the equipment left behind by the defeated Cyprus and used that money to build the Colossus. It was made of bronze plates attached to an iron framework and took 12 years to complete. Being one of the tallest statues in its time, it was a pity the colossus only stood for 56 years before being destroyed by an earthquake in 226 BC. Standing at approximately 110 feet, the Colossus of Rhodes has been compared to the Statue of Liberty which is about 111 feet tall. Some even call it the “Modern Colossus”.
There are plans to rebuild a new Colossus as government officials in Rhodes announced plans were in “the drawing board stage” in 2008. It is intended to become the planet’s largest light sculpture, instead of just being a replica. The reconstruction of the Colossus is largely due to economic reasons, although it also brings along the revival of historical and cultural significance. It would show that Greece can get back on its feet again through reviving the symbolism that the ancient Colossus Rhodes embodied.
The Lighthouse at Alexandria, Egypt
The Lighthouse at Alexandria in Egypt is famous for being the first ever lighthouse in the world. It is also known as the Pharos Lighthouse because it was built on the island of Pharos between 285 and 247 BCE. Not only was it the first of its kind, but it was also known as the tallest architectural structure of that time, other than the Great Pyramid. Construction of the lighthouse started in 290 BCE, and took about 20 years to complete. The design resembled 20th century skyscrapers and was covered with white marbles. The walls of Pharos were built to withstand the pounding of strong waves through the use of molten lead to hold its masonry together. As a result, it was the longest surviving building of the Seven Ancient Wonders, of course with the exception of the Great Pyramid of Giza. It is also that last of the Seven Wonders to be built!
Interestingly, the Pharos Lighthouse was said to be the only ancient wonder with practical application – to aid sailors when they neared the shore. The lighthouse served as the Pharos’ port’s landmark since the Egyptian coast was very flat and lacked navigational landmarks. This was the initial function of the Pharos, but it was later used as a lighthouse around the first century CE. The current existence of lighthouses clearly depict how the utility of historical monuments can withstand the test of time and even be of use in modern day society. Also, an amusing interpretation claimed that the Pharos could “set enemy ships ablaze” in the harbour. Although many scholars have refuted this claims due to limitation in technology at that time, recent research have shown how reflective mirrors in the lighthouse and the sun could have started fires.
Some say that the Jeweler’s Building located in Chicago, Illinois is the best modern representation of the Pharos Lighthouse today because it is the most similar to the original Pharos in height. Not only is it accurately similar to the original shape, but the proportions of the mid-section are also the closest to the original Pharos.
In 1994, some of the ruins of the lighthouse were revealed by satellite imaging and the French archaeologists have also discovered remains submerged underwater at Alexandria’s Eastern Harbor. Consequently in 2015, the Egypt Government has planned to work together with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to turn some of these ruins of ancient Alexandria into an underwater museum.
CONCLUSION: Significance to History
“Monuments and archaeological pieces serve as testimonies of man's greatness and establish a dialogue between civilizations showing the extent to which human beings are linked.” - Vicente Fox
From what we have found, it can be inferred that monuments were built as a way of commemorating and remembering individuals who were once significant to the particular era or civilization. They are also somewhat “puzzle pieces” of history that man today attempt to fix and explore. Even as civilisations come and go, pieces of their history and story will remain in the monuments that are left behind.