ArtLex Art Dictionary




TThe Seven Wonders of the Ancient World - Also known as the Seven Wonders of the World, the seven are:





see thumbnail to rightEl Giza, Egypt, Great Pyramid also known as "Pyramid of Cheops" or "Khufu's Pyramid" (tallest of the three pictured), 2600-2480 BCE, pyramidal tombs of bearing masonry (cut stone), 756 feet square in plan, and 481 feet (153 meters) high. The square of its height equals the area of each triangular face, as determined by Herodotus in 450 BCE. The base of the pyramid covers about 13 acres. The pyramids at Giza are descendants of earlier stepped designs which were built in superimposed layers. They are gigantic prisms unique in world architecture. To build the Great Pyramid it took an about 2,300,000 dressed stone blocks (averaging 2.5 tons each) more than any other structure ever built. Contemporary Egyptologists think the blocks were moved on log rollers and sledges, and then ramped into place. See a cross-section diagram showing the interior passages and chambers, death, Egyptian art, and pyramid.



Persia, The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, sixth century BCE. Accounts indicate that the garden was built by King Nebuchadnezzar II, who ruled the city for 43 years starting in 605 BCE, and that he built them to cheer up his homesick wife, Amyitis. Medes, the land she came from was green, rugged and mountainous, and she found the flat, sun-baked terrain of Mesopotamia depressing, so the king decided to recreate her homeland by building an artificial mountain with rooftop gardens. The Hanging Gardens weren't actually "hanging", but instead were "overhanging" as in the case of a terrace or balcony. The Greek geographer Strabo, who described the gardens in first century BCE, wrote, "It consists of vaulted terraces raised one above another, and resting upon cubic 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." (Another image.)



Phidias (Greek), Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Greece, c. 457 BCE, marble, height 40 feet, width 22 feet. Libon of Elis designed a new Temple of Zeus for Olympia on the Doric order, and completed construction in 456 BCE. Phidias, who had sculpted a forty-foot high statue of the goddess Athena for the Parthenon in Athens, was commisioned to sculpt the statue of Zeus seated on an elaborate throne at the western end of the temple. In his right hand Zeus held the figure of Nike, and in his left was a scepter "inlaid with every kind of metal . . ." surmounted by an eagle. Zeus's throne was made of gold, ebony, ivory, and inlaid with precious stones. Carved into the it were various gods and such mystical animals as the sphinx. The historian Strabo wrote, ". . . although the temple itself is very large, the sculptor is criticized for not having appreciated the correct proportions. He has depicted Zeus seated, but with the head almost touching the ceiling, so that we have the impression that if Zeus moved to stand up he would push the roof off the temple . . ." Others who visited the temple found the proportions effective in conveying the god's size and power. Filling nearly all the available space, the statue seemed even larger than it really was. In 392 CE, when the Olympics were abolished by Emperor Theodosius I of Rome, a Christian who saw the games as a pagan rite, the statue was moved by wealthy Greeks to the city of Constantinople, where it survived until destroyed by fire in 462 CE.



Ephesus, Turkey, The Temple of Artemis, 425 x 225 feet, double the size of the Parthenon. 127 columns (36 columns whose lower portions were carved with figures in high relief), height 60 feet. The building is thought to be the first completely constructed with marble. The temple also housed many works of art including four bronze statues of Amazon women. Construction took about 120 years. St. Paul came to the city to win converts to Christianity in 57 CE. By the time the great Temple of Artemis was destroyed during a raid by the Goths in 262 CE, both the city and the religion of Artemis were in decline. When the Roman Emperor Constantine rebuilt much of Ephesus a century later, he declined to restore the temple. Ephesus's bay where ships docked disappeared as silt from the river filled it and Ephesus declined in its importance. Eventually the remains of the city was miles from the sea. The remaining population used the ruins of the temple as a source of building materials. Much of the marble was pounded into powder to make lime for wall plaster. Today the site of the temple is a marshy field. See acropolis.



Bodrum, Turkey, The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, height 140 foot, square in plan, marble, profusely decorated with statues of mythology figures, warriors mounted on horseback, stone lions, thirty-six slim columns, nine per side. The roof, which comprised most of the final third of the height, was in the form of a stepped pyramid, on top of which was a sculpture of four massive horses pulling a chariot occupied by the king and queen for whom the tomb was built — Mausolus and Artemisia.

Mausolus, with his queen, ruled over Halicarnassus from 377 BCE to his death in 353 BCE. Artemisia was so broken-hearted by her husband's death, she decided to build a great tomb for him. It became a structure so famous that its name became the word for a fine tomb. Artemisia spared no expense in the building this tomb. She involved the most talented artists of the period, chief among whom was Scopas, the man who oversaw the rebuilding of the Temple to Artemis at Ephesus. Such famous sculptors such as Bryaxis, Leochares and Timotheus joined him along with hundreds of other craftsmen. Artemisa lived for only two years after the death of her husband. Both were buried in the unfinished tomb, but craftsmen finished the work after their patron died "considering that it was at once a memorial of their own fame and of the sculptor's art," as Pliny put it. The Mausoleum remained largely intact until the first of several earthquakes brought it down in about the twelth century CE. By the fifteenth century only the very base of the ediface could be seen. In subsequent centuries, it was further plundered, and much of its marble recycled. The British Museum has several of its statues now in its "Mausoleum Room."



see thumbnail to rightCharles of Liondos, The Colossus of Rhodes, Greek, c. 292 - 280 BCE, bronze, as painted by M. Larrinaga. This statue of a Helios the sun-god was over 100 feet tall (30 m), it stood beside (not astride, as it is shown in this and other depictions) the entrance to the harbor at the Greek island of Rhodes. It commemorated a victorious defense of the island in 304 BCE. Its sculptor, Charles of Liondos finished the statue after twelve years of work. In c. 225 BCE the Colossus fell in a strong earthquake, having broken at its knees. But the fallen figure remained until 653 CE, when it was broken up by Arab raiders and sold as scrap to a dealer in Syria. It was said that the fragments had to be transported to Syria on the backs of 900 camels. See colossus, Greek art, and mythology.




Alexandria, Egypt, The Pharos Lighthouse, 3rd century, BCE, height c. 500 feet, constructed in three sections, the lowest part was square in plan, built of marble blocks with lead mortar, enclosing a helical ramp that permited carts to bring materials to the top in horse-drawn carts. This picture of the Pharos Lighthouse is a Roman mosaic. The center part was a tower octagonal in plan, on which the uppermost part — a cylinder was surmounted by an open cupola in which the fire burned to provide the light. A large curved mirror, probably made of polished metal, was used to project the fire's light into a beam. A staircase and dumbwater led from the first part up to the cupola; and atop the cupola, stood a statue of Poseidon, god of the sea.

The city of Alexandria had been founded by the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great in 332 BCE, and was completed by his son Ptolemy Soter. In 290 BCE, needing a symbol of greatness for its bustling harbor, Ptolemy authorized Sostrates of Knidos to design a tower from which a bright light would shine on the island of Pharos. When it was completed twenty years later, it was the first lighthouse in the world and, with the exception of the Great Pyramid, the tallest building in existence.

The Pharos Lighthouse stood for about 1500 years, but was damaged and ruined by earthquakes in 365 CE and 1303, falling completely in 1326.




Some candidates for "Wonders" that might have been included on the original list but weren't:


Persia, The Tower of Babel.




see thumbnail to rightEngland, Stonehenge, c. 2,500-1,500 BCE, stone, 162 inches high, and located 330 feet above sea level on the chalk downland of Salisbury Plain, about 80 miles west of London near the town of Amesbury. Large stones (megaliths) stand upright, and, originally, horizontal stones were balanced upon them. Numerous such structures have survived from Stone Age France and England, and Stonehenge may be the most noted example. About half of the original monument is missing, but enough remains to provide an idea of what it was once like. It was built in three phases. The first phase saw the digging of the "henge" that encloses the main area in about 2800 BCE, and the first arrangement of stones erected c. 2100 BCE. Once on site, a "sarsen stone" was prepared to accommodate stone lintels along its top surface. It was then dragged until the end was over the opening of the hole. Great levers were inserted under the stone and it was raised until gravity made it slide into the hole. At this point, the stone stood on about a 30° angle from the ground. Ropes were attached to the top and teams of men pulled from the other side to raise it into the full upright position. It was secured by filling the hole at its base with small, round packing stones. At this point, the lintels were lowered into place and secured vertically by mortice and tenon joints and horizontally by tongue and groove joints. It was begun by people of the late Neolithic period and completed by a Celtic people called Beaker Folk for their use of pottery drinking vessels, began to use metal implements and to live in a more communal fashion than their ancestors. The popular story has been that Stonehenge was built by the Druids, but they were Celts present during the much later time of Roman occupation.

El Giza, Egypt, The Great Sphinx, 2500 BCE, 4th Dynasty. See Egyptian art and sphinx.


Rome, The Coliseum


Alexandria, The Catacombs


China, The Great Wall.


Nanking, The Porcelain Tower.


Constantinople, The Mosque of San Sophia.


Pisa, The Leaning Tower.



Also see monument, monumental.




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