Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ancient World Wonders


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The historian Herodotus (484 – ca. 425 BCE), and the scholar Callimachus of Cyrene (ca. 305 – 240 BCE) at the Museum of Alexandria, made early lists of seven wonders but their writings have not survived, except as references. The seven wonders included:
  • Great Pyramid of Giza
  • Hanging Gardens of Babylon
  • Statue of Zeus at Olympia
  • Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
  • Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus
  • Colossus of Rhodes
  • Lighthouse of Alexandria
The earliest lists had the Ishtar Gate as the seventh wonder of the world instead of the Lighthouse of Alexandria.

The list known today was compiled in the Middle Ages—by which time many of the sites were no longer in existence. Today, the only ancient world wonder that still exists is the Great Pyramid of Giza.

1. Great Pyramid of Giza - Egypt.

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The Great Pyramid of Giza, in 2005. Built c. 2560 BC.

The Great Pyramid of Giza (also called the Pyramid of Khufu and the Pyramid of Cheops) is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza Necropolis bordering what is now El Giza, Egypt. It is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to remain largely intact. 

 The Great Pyramid of Giza.

Egyptologists believe that the pyramid was built as a tomb for fourth dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu (Cheops in Greek) and constructed over a 14 to 20-year period concluding around 2560 BC. Initially at 146.5 metres (480.6 ft), the Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years, the longest period of time ever held for such a record. 

The Great Pyramid of Giza.

Originally, the Great Pyramid was covered by casing stones that formed a smooth outer surface; what is seen today is the underlying core structure. Some of the casing stones that once covered the structure can still be seen around the base. 

Casing Stone.

There have been varying scientific and alternative theories about the Great Pyramid's construction techniques. Most accepted construction hypotheses are based on the idea that it was built by moving huge stones from a quarry and dragging and lifting them into place.

The entrance of the Pyramid.

There are three known chambers inside the Great Pyramid. The lowest chamber is cut into the bedrock upon which the pyramid was built and was unfinished. The so-called Queen's Chamber and King's Chamber are higher up within the pyramid structure. 

Map of Giza pyramid complex.

The Grand Gallery of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the only pyramid in Egypt known to contain both ascending and descending passages. The main part of the Giza complex is a setting of buildings that included two mortuary temples in honor of Khufu (one close to the pyramid and one near the Nile), three smaller pyramids for Khufu's wives, an even smaller "satellite" pyramid, a raised causeway connecting the two temples, and small mastaba tombs surrounding the pyramid for nobles.

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2. Hanging Gardens of Babylon - Iraq.

 Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are considered to be one of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. They were built in the ancient city-state of Babylon, near present-day Al Hillah, Babil, in Iraq. They are sometimes called the Hanging Gardens of Semiramis (in reference to the legendary Queen Semiramis).

A copy of a bas relief from the reign of Sennacherib, 
depicting royal gardens thought similar to the hanging gardens of babylon.

Gardens of Semiramis, 20th century interpretation.

The gardens were supposedly built by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II around 600 BC. He is reported to have constructed the gardens to please his homesick wife, Amytis of Media, who longed for the trees and fragrant plants of her homeland. The gardens were destroyed by several earthquakes after the 2nd century BC.

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A 16th-century hand-coloured engraving of the "Hanging Gardens of Babylon" 
by Dutch artist Martin Heemskerck, with the Tower of Babel in the background.

The lush Hanging Gardens are extensively documented by Greek historians such as Strabo and Diodorus Siculus. Through the ages, the location may have been confused with gardens that existed at Nineveh, since tablets from there clearly show gardens. Writings on these tablets describe the possible use of something similar to an Archimedes screw as a process of raising the water to the required height. Nebuchadnezzar II also used massive slabs of stone, which was unheard of in Babylon, to prevent the water from eroding the ground.

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3. Statue of Zeus at Olympia - Greece

A fanciful reconstruction of Phidias' statue of Zeus, in an engraving 
made by Philippe Galle in 1572, from a drawing by Maarten van Heemskerck.

Phidias, the sculptor who made Statue of Zeus.
 
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia was made by the Greek sculptor Phidias, circa 432 BC on the site where it was erected in the Temple of Zeus, Olympia, Greece. It was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

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Roman Seated Zeus, marble and bronze (restored), 
following the type established by Phidias (Hermitage Museum).

The seated statue, some 12 metres (43 feet) tall, occupied half of the width of the aisle of the temple built to house it. "It seems that if Zeus were to stand up," the geographer Strabo noted early in the 1st century BC, "he would unroof the temple." The Zeus was a chryselephantine sculpture, made of ivory and gold-plated bronze. No copy in marble or bronze has survived, though there are recognizable but approximate versions on coins of nearby Elis and on Roman coins and engraved gems.

Coin of Elis illustrating the Olympian Zeus (Nordisk familjebok).

A very detailed description of the sculpture and its throne was recorded by the traveler Pausanias, in the 2nd century AD. The sculpture was wreathed with shoots of olive worked in gold and seated on a magnificent throne of cedarwood, inlaid with ivory, gold, ebony and precious stones.

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia.

In Zeus' right hand there was a small statue of crowned Nike, goddess of victory, also chryselephantine, and in his left hand, a sceptre inlaid with gold, on which an eagle perched. Plutarch, in his Life of the Roman general Aemilius Paulus, records that the victor over Macedon, when he beheld the statue, “was moved to his soul, as if he had seen the god in person,” while the 1st century AD Greek orator Dio Chrysostom declared that a single glimpse of the statue would make a man forget all his earthly troubles.

Statue of Zeus at Olympia.

According to Suetonius, the Roman Emperor Caligula "gave orders that such statues of the gods as were especially famous for their sanctity or for their artistic merit, including that of Zeus at Olympia, should be brought from Greece, in order to remove their heads and put his own in their place." Caligula was assassinated in AD 41. In Rome other interpretations were placed on the phenomenon: according to Suetonius, Caligula's "approaching murder was foretold by many prodigies. The statue of Jupiter at Olympia, which he had ordered to be taken to pieces and moved to Rome, suddenly uttered such a peal of laughter that the scaffolding collapsed and the workmen took to their heels."


Statue of Zeus at Olympia.

The circumstances of its eventual destruction are a source of debate: the 11th-century Byzantine historian Georgios Kedrenos recorded the tradition that it was carried off to Constantinople, where it was destroyed in the great fire of the Lauseion, in AD 475. Others argue that it perished with the temple when it burned in 425. According to Lucian of Samosata in the later 2nd century, "they have laid hands on your person at Olympia, my lord High-Thunderer, and you had not the energy to wake the dogs or call in the neighbours; surely they might have come to the rescue and caught the fellows before they had finished packing up the swag.

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4. The Colossus of Rhodes - Greece

Colossus of Rhodes, imagined in a 16th-century engraving by Martin Heemskerck, 
part of his series of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The Colossus of Rhodes was a statue of the Greek god Helios, erected in the city of Rhodes on the Greek island of Rhodes by Chares of Lindos between 292 and 280 BC. It is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was constructed to celebrate Rhodes' victory over the ruler of Cyprus, Antigonus I Monophthalmus, who unsuccessfully besieged Rhodes in 305 BC. Before its destruction, the Colossus of Rhodes stood over 30 meters (107 ft) high, making it one of the tallest statues of the ancient world.

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The Colossus of Rhodes.

Alexander the Great died at the early age of 32 in 323 BC without having had time to put into place any plans for his succession. Fighting broke out among his generals, the Diadochi, with four of them eventually dividing Ptolemy, and when Ptolemy eventually took control of Egypt, Rhodes and Ptolemaic Egypt formed an alliance which controlled much of the trade in the eastern Mediterranean. up much of his empire in the Mediterranean area. 

Drawing of Colossus of Rhodes, illustrated in the 
Grolier Society's 1911 Book of Knowledge.

Antigonus I Monophthalmus was upset by this turn of events. In 305 BC he had his son Demetrius Poliorcetes, also a general, invade Rhodes with an army of 40,000; however, the city was well defended, and Demetrius—whose name "Poliorcetes" signifies the "besieger of cities"—had to start construction of a number of massive siege towers in order to gain access to the walls. The first was mounted on six ships, but these capsized in a storm before they could be used. He tried again with a larger, land-based tower named Helepolis, but the Rhodian defenders stopped this by flooding the land in front of the walls so that the rolling tower could not move.

The Colossus of Rhodes depicted in 1880.

In 304 BC a relief force of ships sent by Ptolemy arrived, and Demetrius's army abandoned the siege, leaving most of their siege equipment. To celebrate their victory, the Rhodians sold the equipment left behind for 300 talents and decided to use the money to build a colossal statue of their patron god, Helios. Construction was left to the direction of Chares, a native of Lindos in Rhodes, who had been involved with large-scale statues before. His teacher, the sculptor Lysippos, had constructed a 22 meter (70 ft) high bronze statue of Zeus at Tarentum.

The Colossus of Rhodes.

The statue stood for only 56 years until Rhodes was hit by the 226 BC Rhodes earthquake, when significant damage was also done to large portions of the city, including the harbor and commercial buildings, which were destroyed. The statue snapped at the knees and fell over on to the land. Ptolemy III offered to pay for the reconstruction of the statue, but the oracle of Delphi made the Rhodians afraid that they had offended Helios, and they declined to rebuild it.

 
Entrance to the old Harbor of Rhodes.

The remains lay on the ground as described by Strabo (xiv.2.5) for over 800 years, and even broken, they were so impressive that many traveled to see them. Pliny the Elder remarked that few people could wrap their arms around the fallen thumb and that each of its fingers was larger than most statues.

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5. Lighthouse of Alexandria - Egypt.

Drawing by archaeologist Hermann Thiersch (1909).

The Lighthouse of Alexandria, also known as the Pharos of Alexandria, was a tower built between 280 and 247 BC on the island of Pharos at Alexandria, Egypt. Its purpose was to guide sailors into the harbour at night time. With a height variously estimated at between 393 and 450 ft (120 and 140 m), it was for many centuries among the tallest manmade structures on Earth. It was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Three-dimensional reconstruction based on a comprehensive 2006 study.

The lighthouse was completed in the 3rd century BC. After Alexander the Great died unexpectedly at age 32, Ptolemy Soter announced himself king in 305 BC, and commissioned its construction shortly thereafter. The building was finished during his son Ptolemy Philadelphos's reign.

Replica of the Lighthouse of Alexandria.

Legend holds that Ptolemy forbade Sostratus to put his name on his work. But the architect left the following inscription on the base's walls nonetheless:
"Sostratus of Cnidus, son of Dexiphanes, to the Gods protecting those upon the sea" (original Greek inscription: "ΣΟΣΤΡΑΤΟΣ ΔΕΞΙΦΑΝΟΥ ΚΝΙΔΙΟΣ ΘΕΟΙΣ ΣΩΤΕΡΣΙΝ ΥΠΕΡ ΤΩΝ ΠΛΩΙΖΟΜΕΝΩΝ")
These words were hidden under a layer of plaster, on top of which was chiseled another inscription honoring Ptolemy the king as builder of the Pharos. After centuries the plaster wore away, revealing the name of Sostratus.

The Pharos of Abusir, an ancient funerary monument thought to be modelled 
after the Pharos at Alexandria, with which it is approximately contemporaneous.

The lighthouse was badly damaged in the earthquake of 956, then again in 1303 and 1323. The fullest description of it comes from the Arab traveller Abou Haggag Youssef Ibn el-Andaloussi, who visited the structure in 1165 AD. There are ancient claims the light from the lighthouse could be seen from up to 29 miles (47 km) away. Unconfirmed legends claim the light from Pharos could burn enemy ships before they reached shore.

A mosaic depicting the Pharos of Alexandria, from Olbia, Libya c. 4th century AD.

Constructed from large blocks of light-coloured stone, the tower was made up of three stages: a lower square section with a central core, a middle octagonal section, and, at the top, a circular section. At its apex was positioned a mirror which reflected sunlight during the day; a fire was lit at night. 

Replica constructed in 2005 at the Window of the World Cultural Park,
in Changsha, Shenzhen, China.

Extant Roman coins struck by the Alexandrian mint show that a statue of a triton was positioned on each of the building's four corners. A statue of Poseidon stood atop the tower during the Roman period. The Pharos' masonry blocks were interlocked, sealed together using molten lead, to withstand the pounding of the waves.

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The two earthquakes in 1303 and 1323 damaged the lighthouse to the extent that the Arab traveler Ibn Battuta reported no longer being able to enter the ruin. Even the stubby remnant disappeared in 1480, when the then-Sultan of Egypt, Qaitbay, built a mediæval fort on the former location of the building using some of the fallen stone.

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6. Mausoleum at Halicarnassus - Turkey.

 Fanciful interpretation of the Mausoleum, from a 1572 engraving by Marten Heemskerk.

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus or Tomb of Mausolus  was a tomb built between 353 and 350 BC at Halicarnassus (present Bodrum, Turkey) for Mausolus, a satrap in the Persian Empire, and Artemisia II of Caria, his wife and sister. The structure was designed by the Greek architects Satyros and Pythis. 

Scale model of the Mausoleum at Miniatürk, Istanbul.
 
It stood approximately 45 m (148 ft) in height, and each of the four sides was adorned with sculptural reliefs created by each one of four Greek sculptors — Leochares, Bryaxis, Scopas of Paros and Timotheus. The finished structure was considered to be such an aesthetic triumph that Antipater of Sidon identified it as one of his Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The word mausoleum has now come to be used generically for any grand tomb.

Reconstruction of the Mausoleum in the British Museum.

Artemisia spared no expense in building the tomb. She sent messengers to Greece to find the most talented artists of the time. These included Scopas, the man who had supervised the rebuilding of the temple of Artemis at Ephesus. The famous sculptors were (in the Vitruvius order) Leochares, Bryaxis, Scopas and Timotheus, as well as hundreds of other craftsmen.

The design of the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne 
was inspired by that of the Mausoleum.

The tomb was erected on a hill overlooking the city. The whole structure sat in an enclosed courtyard. At the center of the courtyard was a stone platform on which the tomb sat. A stairway flanked by stone lions led to the top of the platform, which bore along its outer walls many statues of gods and goddess. At each corner, stone warriors mounted on horseback guarded the tomb. At the center of the platform, the marble tomb rose as a square tapering block to one-third of the Mausoleum's 45 m (148 ft) height. This section was covered with bas-reliefs showing action scenes, including the battle of the centaurs with the lapiths and Greeks in combat with the Amazons, a race of warrior women.

The Masonic House of the Temple of the Scottish Rite, Washington, DC, 
John Russell Pope, architect, 1911-15, another scholarly version.
 
On the top of this section of the tomb thirty-six slim columns, ten per side, with each corner sharing one column between two sides; rose for another third of the height. Standing between each [pair of] column[s] was a statue. Behind the columns was a solid cella-like block that carried the weight of the tomb's massive roof. The roof, which comprised most of the final third of the height, was pyramidal. Perched on the top was a quadriga: four massive horses pulling a chariot in which rode images of Mausolus and Artemisia.

 
Lion from the Tomb of Maussollos at Halicarnassus. 

This lion is among the few free-standing sculptures 
from the Mausoleum at the British Museum.

The mausoleum was untouched by many years. It survived the invasion of Alexander the Great in 334 BC and pirate’s attacks in 62 BC. For 16 centuries the tomb remained in good condition. But an earthquake damaged the roof and several columns. At the beginning of the XV century during crusades the Knights of St. John from Malta invaded the region and they used the stones of the Mausoleum to build the great castle of Bodrum where many of the statues that ornamented the tomb were carried. In 1522 almost all blocks of the ancient wonder had been disassembled and used to construct other buildings. Today some sections of polished marble from the Mausoleum can still be seen in the Bodrum castle.

The Mausoleum site in ruins, as it is today.

In the XIX century many statues were carried from the castle to the British Museum. In 1852 Charles Thomas Newton a British archeologist searched the location of the mausoleum. He found a staircase and three corners of the foundation as well as sections of the reliefs and the roof. Finally he found the statues of Mausolus and Artemisia. Today most works of art found in these excavations can be seen in the Mausoleum Room in the British Museum.

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 Some modern buildings were inspired by the Mausoleum like the Grant´s Tomb in New York, Los Angeles City Hall, the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, the House of the Temple in Washington DC, the Indiana War Memorial or the St. George’s Church Bloombury in London.

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7. Temple of Artemis - Turkey.

The Temple of Artemis, as imagined in this hand-coloured 
engraving by Martin Heemskerck (1498 - 1574).

The Temple of Artemis, also known as the Temple of Diana (Roman form), was a Greek temple dedicated to a goddess Greeks identified as Artemis. It was sited at Ephesus (the modern town of Selçuk in present-day Turkey), and was completely rebuilt at least three times until its eventual destruction or decay. 

Model of Temple of Artemis, Miniatürk Park, Istanbul, Turkey.

The Temple of Artemis was located near the ancient city of Ephesus, about 50 km south from the modern port city of İzmir, in Turkey. Today the site lies on the edge of the modern town of Selçuk.

Synthesizing Artemis of Ephesus: an 18th-century engraving of a Roman 
marble copy of a Greek replica of a lost Geometric period xoanon.

The first temple or shrine (temenos) antedated the Ionic immigration by many years, and dates to the Bronze Age. Callimachus, in his Hymn to Artemis, attributed it to the Amazons. In the seventh century the old temple was destroyed by a flood. Its reconstruction began around 550 BC, under the Cretan architect Chersiphron Metagenes, at the expense of Croesus of Lydia: the project took some 120 years to complete, only to be destroyed in an act of arson by the infamous Herostratus. It was again rebuilt, and became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The Lady of Ephesus, 1st century AD (Ephesus Archaeological Museum).

Ephesian Artemis is a distinctive form of the goddess known as Artemis in Greek religion. In Greek cult and myth, Artemis is the twin of Apollo, a virgin huntress who supplanted the Titan Selene as goddess of the Moon. At Ephesus, a goddess whom the Greeks associated with Artemis was venerated in an archaic, certainly pre-Hellenic cult image that was carved of wood and kept decorated with jewelry.

Traditional many-breasted interpretation in a 16th-century 
fountain of Diana Efesina, Villa d'Este

Robert Fleischer identified as decorations of the primitive xoanon the changeable features that since Minucius Felix and Jerome's Christian attacks on pagan popular religion had been read as many breasts or "eggs" — denoting her fertility (others interpret the objects to represent the testicles of sacrificed bulls that would have been strung on the image, with similar meaning). Most similar to Near-Eastern and Egyptian deities, and least similar to Greek ones, her body and legs are enclosed within a tapering pillar-like term, from which her feet protrude.

Drum from the base of a column from the fourth-century rebuilding (British Museum)

The Temple of Artemis was located at an economically robust region, drawing merchants and travellers from all over Asia Minor. The temple was influenced by many beliefs, and can be seen as a symbol of faith for many different peoples. The site also drew pilgrims, peasants, and artisans. The Ephesians worshiped Cybele, and incorporated many of their beliefs into the worship of Artemis. Artemisian Cybele became quite contrasted from her Roman counterpart, Diana.

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Today the site of the temple, which lies just outside Selçuk, is marked by a single column constructed of dissociated fragments discovered on the site.

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