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The Seven Wonders of the World (or the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) is a well known list of seven remarkable constructions of classical antiquity. It was based on guidebooks popular among the ancient Hellenic tourists. The most prominent of these, the versions by Antipater of Sidon and an observer identified as Philon of Byzantium, is composed of seven works located around the Mediterraneanmarker rim. In turn, this original list has inspired innumerable versions through the ages, often in keeping with the limited number of seven entries.


Alexander the Great's conquest of much of the known world in the 4th century BC gave Hellenistic travelers access to the civilizations of the Egyptians, Persians, and Babylonians. These visitors, smitten by the landmarks and marvels of the various lands, began to list down what they saw. As a way of organizing, a compendium of these places made it easier to remember. Indeed, in place of the contemporary usage of the word “wonder", the Greeks actually used the word theamata, which translates to "things to be seen" or "must-sees". Hence, the list was meant to be the Ancient World’s counterpart of a travel guidebook.

Each person had his own version of the list, but the best known and earliest surviving was from a poem by Greek-speaking epigrammist Antipater of Sidon from around 140 BC. He named seven sites on his list, but was primarily in praise of the Temple of Diana Patetus at Ephesus:

Another 2nd-century-BC observer, who claimed to be the mathematician Philon of Byzantium, wrote a short account entitled The Seven Sights of the World. However, the incomplete surviving manuscript only covered six of the supposedly seven places, which agreed with Antipater’s list.

Earlier and later lists by the historian Herodotus (484 BC–ca. 425 BC) and the architect Callimachus of Cyrenemarker (ca. 305–240 BC), housed at the Museum of Alexandriamarker, survived only as references.


It is thought that the limitation of the lists to seven entries was attributed to the special magical meaning of the number. Geographically, the list only covered the sculptural and architectural monuments of the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions, then thought to encompass the “known” world for the Greeks. Hence, extant sites beyond this realm were not considered as part of contemporary accounts.

The primary accounts, coming from Hellenistic writers, also heavily influenced the places included in the wonders list. Five of the seven entries are a celebration of Greek accomplishments in the arts and architecture (the exceptions being the Pyramids of Giza and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon). There is a reversal of the situation in modern times, however—with the exceptions of the Statue of Zeus and the Colossus of Rhodes, all the rest are now located in Middle Eastern/Muslim countries.

The Seven Ancient Wonders

Wonder Date of construction Builder Notable feature Date of destruction Cause of destruction
Great Pyramid of Gizamarker 2584-2561 BC Egyptians Built as the tomb of fourth dynasty Egyptian pharaoh Khufu. extant extant
Hanging Gardens of Babylon 605-562 BC Babylonians Diodorus Siculus described multi-levelled gardens reaching 22 meters (75 feet) high, complete with machinery for circulating water. Large trees grew on the roof. Built by Nebuchadnezzar II for his wife Amytis of Media. After 1st century BC Earthquake
Statue of Zeus at Olympiamarker 466-456 BC (Temple) 435 BC (Statue) Greeks Occupied the whole width of the aisle of the temple that was built to house it, and was 12 meters (40 feet) tall. 5th-6th centuries AD Fire
Temple of Artemismarker c. 550 BC Lydians, Persians, Greeks Dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis, it took 120 years to build. Herostratus burned it down to achieve lasting fame. Rebuilt by Alexander the Great only to be destroyed again by the Goths. It was rebuilt once again after, only to be closed in 391 and destroyed by a mob led by St John Chrysostom in 401. 356 BC (by Herostratus)

AD 262 (by the Goths)

AD 391 (by mob led by St John Chrysostom)
Arson by Herostratus, Plundering
Mausoleum of Halicarnassusmarker 351 BC Carians, Persians, Greeks Stood approximately 45 meters (135 feet) tall with each of the four sides adorned with sculptural reliefs. Origin of the word mausoleum, a tomb built for Mausolus, a satrap in the Persian Empire by AD 1494 Damaged by an earthquake and eventually disassembled by European Crusaders.
Colossus of Rhodesmarker 292-280 BC Greeks A giant statue of the Greek god Helios, c. 35m (110 ft) tall. Toppled by an earthquake in 226 BC, with the bronze scrap removed in AD 654. Earthquake
Lighthouse of Alexandriamarker c. 280 BC Hellenistic Egypt Between 115 and 135 meters (383 - 440 ft) it was among the tallest structures on Earth for many centuries. The island that it was built on, Pharos, eventually spawned the Latin word for lighthouse, again Pharos. AD 1303-1480 Earthquake

Other versions

The existence of the seven wonders as travel destinations had only been possible within a narrow timeframe in history. The Colossus of Rhodes was the last of the seven to be completed, after 280 BC, but the first to be destroyed, by an earthquake in 226/225 BC. Hence, all seven existed at the same time for a period of less than 60 years. Few travelers were able to personally witness all the seven wonders, with most settling on secondary sources to complete their lists, including Philon of Byzantium.

There were also several variations of the seven entries to have survived to contemporary times. Indeed, Antipater had an earlier version which replaced Lighthouse of Alexandria with the Walls of Babylon. Lists which preceded the construction of Colossus of Rhodes completed their seven entries with the inclusion of the Ishtar Gatemarker.


Arts and architecture

The seven wonders on Antipater’s list won praises for their notable features, ranging from superlatives of the highest or largest of their types, to the artistry with which they were executed. Their architectural and artistic features were imitated throughout the Hellenistic world and beyond.

The Greek influence in Roman culture, and the revival of Greco-Roman artistic styles during the Renaissance caught the imagination of European artists and travellers. Paintings and sculptures alluding to Antipater’s list were made, while adventurers flocked to the actual sites to personally witness the wonders. Legends circulated to further complement the superlatives of the wonders.

Modern lists

Of Antipater’s wonders, the only one that has survived to the present day is the Great Pyramid of Giza. The existence of the Hanging Gardens has not been proven, although theories abound. Records and archaeology confirm the existence of the other five wonders. The Temple of Artemis and the Statue of Zeus were destroyed by fire, while the Lighthouse of Alexandria, Colossus, and tomb of Mausolus were destroyed by earthquakes. Among the artifacts to have survived are sculptures from the tomb of Mausolus and the Temple of Artemis in the British Museummarker in Londonmarker.

Still, the listing of seven of the most marvellous architectural and artistic human achievements continued beyond the Ancient Greek times to the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and to the modern age. The Roman poet Martial and the Christian bishop Gregory of Tours had their versions. Reflecting the rise of Christianity and the factor of time, nature and the hand of man overcoming Antipater’s seven wonders, Roman and Christian sites began to figure on the list, including the Colosseummarker, Noah's Ark and Solomon's Templemarker. Modern historians, working on the premise that the original Seven Ancient Wonders List was limited in its geographic scope, also had their versions to encompass sites beyond the Hellenistic realm—from the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World to the Seven Wonders of the World. Indeed, the “seven wonders” label has spawned innumerable versions among international organizations, publications and individuals based on different themes—works of nature, engineering masterpieces, constructions of the Middle Ages, etc. Its purpose has also changed from just a simple travel guidebook or a compendium of curious places to list of sites that entail preservation and protection.

See also


  1. Anon. (1993)The Oxford Illustrated Encyclopedia First Edition Oxford:Oxford University

Further reading

  • D'Epiro, Peter, and Mary Desmond Pinkowish, "What Are the Seven Wonders of the World? and 100 Other Great Cultural Lists". Anchor. December 1, 1998. ISBN 0-385-49062-3
  • "The Seven Wonders of the World, a History of Modern Imagination" written by John & Elizabeth Romer in 1995
  • "The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World" edited by Peter Clayton and Martin Price in 1988

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