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What Are the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World?

Giza Pyramids of Egypt
Nader Elhareedi/Shutterstock

Both the ancient and the modern world have their own seven wonders. The seven wonders of the ancient world have been called that for centuries, which is why a modern collection of wonders were chosen in 2007.

The Birth of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

The original list of ancient wonders was found in a list from 225 B.C., written by Philo of Byzantium. Being wonderous creations by human hands, it’s no wonder they made it onto a list such as this. Unfortunately, all but one of these original wonders have been destroyed. A few remnants of others have been discovered.

The missing ancient wonders could be another reason why it was decided to choose new wonders for our modern world, ones that people may still be able to visit and be in awe of.

As to why there are seven wonders, instead of 10 or 20, it seems that seven has always been an auspicious, or lucky, number. This can be traced back to the bible and the story of creation—seven days to get everything created and take a break. Other religions have had seven gods or seven heavens, all showing the number as something positive.

Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the one ancient wonder of the world you that you can visit. It’s an awe-inspiring sight—standing 479 feet tall. The giant pyramid was built sometime between 2589 and 2566 BCE, during the reign of King Khufu. It’s believed to have taken over 20 years to build.

Many people believe that aliens came to the Earth and built the pyramids. This is partly because they want to believe in life on other planets, but also because it seems impossible for ancient civilizations to build such massive structures. However, when you consider how long they took to build one giant pyramid, you can understand that it’s possible. Consider all of the things people have invented during your lifetime that may seem impossible!

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Illustration of hanging gardens by Robert von. Spalart
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By modern times, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were no more. Today, all historians have to go by are ancient writing describing the gardens. Plenty of speculation exists, nonetheless, about where they were located and what they really looked like. There’s also a description written in ancient texts of an irrigation system that kept the plants of this once impressive garden watered.

Archeologists are believed to have found remains of what may have been the Hanging Gardens, located near the palace at Babylon. Still, there’s no way to know for sure if the structures they found belonging to the elaborate piece of architecture.

Statue of Zeus at Olympia

The statue of Zeus at Olympia stood 40 feet tall. A sculptor from Greece named Phidias created the Greek god. It was constructed sometime in 430 BCE.

While a temple was built around this massive sculpture, in Greece, it was the god who was worshiped in the temples. That made the statue the critical part of this place of worship and wonder. It was constructed from a combination of gold and ivory, overtop a wooden core.

The original temple Zeus stood in was destroyed by an earthquake. Where Zeus ended up is left up to mixed theories, including the idea that the statue was destroyed in a fire.

Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

illustration of temple of artemis
en:User:Slof [Public domain]
Some ruins are left of the Temple of Artemis, but it is not much to see aside from some column fragments. The Artemisium, as it is sometimes referred to, is rubble in western Turkey now. It stood twice, originally built around 550 BCE, and then again in 356 BCE, after Herostratus burned it down.

Before it was destroyed a second time, in 262 CE, by invading Goths, it measured around 350 by 180 feet in size. Once it was destroyed this second time, it was never reconstructed again.

Copies still exist of the Artemis statue that was housed in the temple, but the original was destroyed with its home.

Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was a tomb located in Bodrum, Turkey. Within lay the ruler of Caria, Mausolus. The name Mausoleum, which is now used for many structures housing the dead, came from Mausolus and his resting place.

Built of marble and adorned by many eye-catching sculptures, the mausoleum was a sight to behold—and that’s why it became one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was built around 350 BC and destroyed in the fifteenth century CE. Some of it was taken out by an earthquake, while other parts were pillaged for the building of Bodrum Castle.

You can still see some ruins where the mausoleum once stood. Many of the sculptures that adorned the wonderous building are on display at the British Museum in London.

Colossus of Rhodes

The Colossus of Rhodes statue was a depiction of the Greek sun-god Helios. It originally stood in the ancient Greek city called Rhodes. The sculpture was created by a sculptor named Chares, from Lyndus. It was constructed between 294 and 282 BCE and took 12 years to finish. It was made of bronze reinforced with iron. It’s believed that the statue reached 105 feet in height.

While it’s been written that the statue straddled the entrance to the island harbor, it’s believed that’s an impossibility. There’s no way to know due to the destruction of the statue around 225 BCE by an earthquake, and later in 654 CE, broken up for scrap by Arabian forces who had raided Rhodes.

Lighthouse of Alexandria

illustration of the lighthouse of alexandria by Magdalena van de Pasee
Magdalena van de Pasee [Public domain]
Now the site of the citadel of Qāʾit Bāy, the Lighthouse of Alexandria once stood on the bank of Pharos Island. It’s believed to have stood at about 350 feet and was made of a square portion, octagonal portion, and a cylindrical top. A spiral ramp led to the fire at the top. Like the lighthouses we know now, it was a beacon to keep ships from running ashore.

However long the build took, the lighthouse was finished around 280 BCE. It stood until the twelfth century, before becoming ruins.

It’s believed that statuary may have been around the lighthouse. Archaeologist Jean-Yves Empereur discovered not only masonry blocks in 1994 but also some statuary that included a possible representation of Ptolemy II. When this statue and others were found, a plan for a breakwater was abandoned by the Egyptian government to leave these remains untouched.

Based upon these finds, the Egyptian government abandoned the idea of a breakwater and planned instead an underwater park where divers could view the many statues, stone sphinxes, and remains of the lighthouse.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow has been a professional writer for almost two decades. Yvonne has worked for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and much more as a writer and editor. She's also a published poet and a short story writer. Read Full Bio »