Thursday, July 17, 2008

Rats! I Missed Them!

When I was a young girl, I was determined that one day I would see each of the Seven Wonders of the World. Then, years later I discovered that it was impossible, because only one of the original seven was still in existence. Do you know what the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World are? And, do you know which one still stands?

Ancient Wonder #1: The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
The most reliable account indicates the gardens were built by King Nebuchadnezzar, who reigned over Babylon for 43 years, beginning in 605 BC. It is said he built them to cheer up his homesick wife, Amyitis. Though the gardens do not now exist, they have been described by the Greek geographer Strabo, as he saw them in the first century BC: "It consists of vaulted terraces raised one above another, and resting upon cube-shaped pillars. These are hollow and filled with earth to allow trees of the largest size to be planted. The pillars, the vaults and terraces are constructed of baked brick and asphalt. The ascent to the highest story is by stairs, and at their side are water engines, by means of which persons, appointed expressly for the purpose, are continually employed in raising water from the Euphrates into the garden."  

Ancient Wonder #2: Statue of Zeus at Olympia
The building holding this famous but now nonexistent statue was built in 450 BC by the architect Libon, and was as tall as a modern four-story building. The statue itself - carved by Phidias, who was considered the greatest Greek sculptor - filled most of those four stories, with its head nearly brushing the ceiling. It was made of ivory, and wore a robe and jewels made of gold. Even the throne on which the statue sat was made of cedarwood and inlaid with ebony, ivory, gold and jewels. Though some columns of the temple have been uncovered during modern archaeological digs, that is all that remains of the once impressive statue.

Ancient Wonder #3: Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
The Ephesus Artemis was goddess of fertitily, and her temple at Ephesus was most likely built near the river on marshy ground around 800 BC. It was said to be a magnificent temple, as seen in the high praise of Philon of Byzantium: "I have seen the walls and Hanging Gardens of ancient Babylon, the statue of Olympian Zeus, the Colossus of Rhodes, the mighty work of the high Pyramids and tomb of Mausolus. But when I saw the temple at Ephesus rising to the clouds, all the other wonders were put in the shade." It was destroyed and rebuilt many times over the ensuing years, getting larger and more grand with each new design. The final temple was 425 feet long and 225 feet wide, and had 127 columns soaring 60 feet high that supported the roof. Unfortunately, this final rebuilt Temple of Artemis was destroyed in 262 AD during a raid by the Goths.

Ancient Wonder #4: Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus
This was an opulent tomb for a king who "loved all things Greek."  In fact, the term mausoleum as we define it today has origins that trace back to this very place. It was the tomb of Maussollos, the king of Caria (in the Persian Empire) and Governor for the king of Persia, and was completed in 350 BC. It was situated on the coast of Halicarnassus, the capital of his territory, and built by his wife/sister Artemisia as her dedication to him. (It was customary in Caria at the time for married rulers to be siblings.) It was an enormous building, standing 135 feet high, with magnificent sculptural decoration. It stands today only in ruins.

Ancient Wonder #5: Colossus of Rhodes
Colossus of Rhodes is a massive statue that stood over 2000 years ago on the island of Rhodes, located on the southern tip of Asia Minor. Built as a celebration of freedom, it was a giant statue of Helios, the island's paton god. Constructed with an iron framework, and covered in melted down bronze taken from war machines left by the would-be conqueror, Demetrius, it stood 110 feet high, and was placed upon a fifty foot pedestal. It was nude, wore a spiked crown, shaded its eyes with its right hand, and held a cloak over its left hand. In fact, our own Statue of Liberty was similarly constructed, and is sometimes referred to as the "Modern Colossus." It is said that an earthquake collapsed the statue, after it had stood sentry at the Rhodian harbor entrance for about 56 years. 

Ancient Wonder #6: Lighthouse of Alexandria
Located on the ancient island of Pharos in the harbor of Alexandria, Greece, this lighthouse was one of the tallest structures on earth - a whopping 400 feet high. It was designed by the Greek architect Sostratus during the reign of King Ptolemy II. One of the last wonders to disappear, the Alexandria lighthouse guided sailors into the city harbor for 1500 years - with a mirror at the top reflecting sunlight by day, and a fire to guide them in by night. The word "pharos" came to mean "lighthouse" in French, Italian and Spanish, precisely due to the fame of this impressive structure. It was destroyed by earthquake in the 14th century AD.

Ancient Wonder #7: Great Pyramid at Giza
The Great Pyramid is the oldest and largest of three pyramids in the Giza necropolis, near present-day Cairo. It is the only remaining member of the original Seven Wonders of the World that is still intact. It was constructed over a period of 20 years - with completion around 2560 BC, and was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3800 years! It is believed to have been built as a tomb for Egyptian pharoah Khufu, and at completion it stood 280 Egyptian royal cubits tall - about 481 feet. Due to erosion, it now stands at about 455 feet tall.

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And there you go. Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but only one still stands. Well, I was born far too late to be lucky enough to see the first six before they met their demise. I still have a chance at seeing the Great Pyramid, though. That would truly be the trip of a lifetime...


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1 comment:

So, what's on your mind?