The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is a list with the most popular and majestic buildings which fascinated cultures of the ancient times. Of all these Wonders only one has made it to us, that is the Great Pyramid of Giza, while the Colossus of Rhodes, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Statue of Zeus, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus and the Temple of Artemis have sadly disappeared from this planet. Even the last Wonder, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon have gone, but of this specific one it is not even assured its has ever existed for real.
Below: a fantastical reconstruction of the Colossus of Rhodes. The ships never sailed underneath it since the construction was “only” 32 m tall (105 ft)
Of these Wonders many descriptions arrived to us, thanks to the tales and poems from trips to these places and where the sources were mainly coming from the Greek world. The list with the wonders, a historical classification which had wide diffusion, did not appear in modern times if not before the Renaissance and the rediscovery of the classical aesthetic.
Below: illustration of the Statue of Zeus in Olympia
Around the end of the IV century BC with Alexander the Great, Greece had conquered most of the developed populations, including Egyptians, Persians, Babylonians. Stupefied by the greatness of the constructions found, some Greeks started to take note of that world that was becoming part of their land. The first lists of wonders appeared in Greece around the 1st century BC.
Below: the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus. Picture shared via Wikipedia – licence CC BY-SA 3.0
In the first texts the ancient Greeks talked about “Theamata”, translatable in “view” or “things to see” (Tà heptà theámata tēs oikoumenēs [gēs]); the word wonder came afterwards. The first written reference to the Seven Wonders come from the poet Antipater of Sidon, 140 BC circa. his poem described it as:
“I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the Colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, ‘Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand”.
Below: hypothetical reconstructionof the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
According to the modern historiography it was the Lighthouse of Alexandria the last wonder to be completed, specifically in 280 BC, while the Colossus of Rhodes the very first one to be destroyed, in 226 BC.
Below: illustration of the Lighthouse of Alexandria
The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World existed altogether at the same time just for a total of 54 years
The Colossus was demolished by an earthquake yet it remained visible on the harbour of Rhodes for the following centuries up until 653, when the Arabs destroyed it and chopped it into blocks.
Below: graphic showing the Hanging Gardens of Babylon
Of these wonders not much is left and only the Great Pyramid , the most ancient one amongst them all, has arrived all the way to us with a shape probably very similar to the one it must have had in ancient times. Earthquakes and fire destroyed the buildings from which often the materials were re-utilised for creating new structures.
– the Temple of Artemis was destroyed by the Goths in 263 and its materials used to create Hagia Sophia in Istanbul
– the Lighthouse of Alexandria fell down in two earthquakes in 1303 and 1323
– the Statue of Zeus was destroyed in a fire not in Olympia but in Constantinople in 475, where it had been carried by the eunuch Lausus
– the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was destroyed in a series of earthquakes between the 12th and the 15th century and today, besides some remains on-site, there are the statues of the horses, kept at the British Museum di Londra
– the Colossus of Rhodes was demolished by an earthquake in 226 BC
– the Hanging Gardens of Babylon are the mythical construction of the list, and it is believed that they went destroyed in the 1st century AD.
Source: all Wikipedia pages about the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World