The seven wonders of the Ancient world are a group of sculpture and architectural wonders that did not coexist. A group of wonders was first listed by the Greek historian Herodotus in his work History in 450 BCE. Various listings propose slightly different choices for the seven wonders, but often the seven wonders included the following:
- The pyramids of Egypt.
The three pyramids at Giza, estimated to have been completed in 2680 BCE, are located outside of the city we know as modern Cairo. The largest of the three pyramids is the pyramid of Khufu or Cheops, a king of the fourth dynasty. The pyramids of Egypt are the sole survivor of the seven wonders.
- The Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
Herodotus speaks of the splendors of Babylon, without mentioning the Hanging Gardens specifically, though they are recorded by the Greek geographer Strabo and the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus in the first century CE. In excavations of the Ancient city of Babel in 1899, German archaeologist Robert Koldewey found evidence that seemed to include the cellars and pumps for the gardens.
- The Statue of Zeus at Olympia.
In 456 BCE, Libon of Elis completed a Temple of Zeus. The sculptor Phidias was chosen to create the statue of Zeus. Considered Phidias' best work, the statue – reputed to be 40 feet (12 meters) high - was imitated both as a statue and with likenesses on coins. Three excavation teams, one from France in 1829, one from Germany in 1875, and one in the 1950s, found the outlines of the temple and Phidias’ workshop, but of the great statue itself, there was no sign. This was one of two statues to be designated among the seven wonders.
- The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.
There were a number of temples built to the Ephesan fertility goddess Artemis all on the same spot, including in 600 BCE by the architect Cherisphron, 550 BCE by the architect Theodorus, and one by the architect Scopas of Paros that was under construction when Alexander the Great visited Ephesus in 333 BCE. This last temple was destroyed by Goth invaders in 262 CE. John Turtle Wood, an architect sent by the British Museum in 1863, discovered the foundation of the temple site in 1869. D. G. Hograth, leading another British Museum excavation in 1904, found evidence of five temples that had all been built on the site.
- The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.
In 353 BCE, Mausolus, the ruler of Halicarnassus, died. As a tribute, Queen Artemisia decided to have a splendid tomb built for him. Although it survived the conquest of Alexander the Great in 334 BCE and pirate attacks in 62 and 58 BCE, a series of earthquakes beginning in the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries reduced it to its base. Bit by bit, the broken stones were used to fortify other buildings, and in 1522, with the rumor of a Turkish invasion, the remains were broken up and used to fortify the castle where the Crusaders took their stand. In 1846, Charles Thomas Newton of the British Museum excavated the site, discovering the statues of Mausolus and Artemisia.
- The Colossus at Rhodes.
Rhodes the city was the capital of Rhodes the island. Built in 408 BCE, it was a natural harbor. Mausolus of Halicarnassus conquered the island in 357 BCE, and it fell to the Persians in 340 BCE and was taken by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE.
Alexander’s successors fought over Rhodes, and when the attacker withdrew, the Rhodians celebrated their victory by erecting a statue of their patron, the god Helios. The statue, designed by Chares of Lindos and the other statue among the seven wonders, was created over the course of 12 years, beginning in 304 BCE. The Colossus was 110 ft (34 m) high and was mounted on a 50-foot (15-meter) pedestal. Fifty-six years after its completion, the Colossus was felled by an earthquake, and in the seventh century CE, it was broken up and sold as scrap metal. Contrary to popular belief, it did not stand spanning the harbor entrance.
- The Pharos (Lighthouse) of Alexandria.
In 290 BCE, Ptolemy Soter, ruler of Alexandria, Egypt after Alexander’s death, ordered the building of a lighthouse to guide ships into the harbor of the city. The world’s first lighthouse was completed 20 years later, and at the time was second in height only to the Great Pyramid. Designed by Sostrates of Knidos and built on the island of Pharos, the lighthouse soon came to be called by the island’s name. Apparently it suffered the same fate as some other of the seven wonders – felled by progressive damage from earthquakes in 365, 1303, and 1326 CE. In 1994, archaeological divers found the ruins in the waters off Alexandria.