By N.P.S. Representative Sha She
Although, five continents around the world still hold a glimpse of the past, standing today in ruins. The original list of Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still intrigues historians to this day. It is believed that during the 3rd Century B.C.E. a list was constructed under the reign of Alexander The Great in The Great Library of Alexandria by a Greek Historian; Herodotus. Alexander the Great wanted a new era of impressive craftsmanship to show to the rest of the world, a “must see” list for those visiting or passing through. The monuments had to meet the following specifications; 1. They had to be monuments of an impressive size. 2. They had to be of great artistry. 3. They had to be of great feats of engineering. The reason for the list to be of seven specific monuments was seven was believed to be a sacred number, it could not be halved, nor divided. Three and seven were believed to be pure and sacred numbers. The first monument to make the list was already constructed long before Alexander the Great.
#1 The Great Pyramid at Giza-Just outside present day Caro.
The Great Pyramid was 5,000 years old at the time of Alexander the Great and he found a great connection to this monument of the past. It is believed to have been completed in 2560 B.C. It was and still is the biggest stone structure and miracle of engineering to this day. The impressive monument stands at 481 feet tall, with 2 1/2 million blocks interlocking, it is believed to weight 60 million tons and the base takes up an impressive 13 acres.
The monument was built for the Pharaoh Khufu (also known as the Pyramid of Khufu) as his tomb to ferry his soul to the afterlife. Khufu was the son of Snefru, the second ruler of the forth dynasty. The second pyramid was built by/for his son as well as the third. The great mystery of the Great Pyramid still stump historians and astronomers to this day; “How did this civilization align the pyramid points up with the stars without a compass?”
It is believed that the monument took 30 years to build and for a long time that the Pharaoh Khufu used slaves to build it. However, archeologists are now realizing with recent excavations that the slaves were no slaves at all. The men were proud to be apart of the construction of such a feat. All around the pyramid are heavily engraved tomb stones of men who were believed to be apart of the construction of the monument and wanted to be buried near this great site. The only proof found of Pharaoh Khufu was a small statue that was located hundreds of miles away in Southern Egypt. Was Pharaoh Khufu the actual ruler at the time of the Pyramids? Archeologists have found engravings that suggest extraterrestrial visitations during the time the pyramids were built. Were aliens the reason for such an impressive structure?
One may never know the true answers behind the Great Pyramid at Giza but what you can not deny is the sheer beauty and magnificence of engineering at such an “uncivilized” time in history. This pyramid alone draws millions of people each year to the site to stand between a lost civilization and the modern day. Does this make your “must see” list?
#2 Statue of Zeus at Olympia
The next monument on the list was dedicated to the Greek God Zeus for all his power and glory. It was the mark of an era of competition through the means of worship of the body. It is also said to be the birth place of our present day Olympics, Zeus being the father of the Olympics. Athletes traveled from all over the world to take part in the competition and a truce was declared for safe passage for anyone coming to the site. The Olympics games first started in 776 B.C. and held at a shrine of Zeus near Pelopponnesus. In 456 B.C. the new Temple of Zeus was completed by Libon of Elis.
A sculptor by the name of Phibias began construction of the statue of Zeus in 432 B.C. and it took 5 years to complete. This same sculptor also created the statue of Athena for the Parthenon in Athens. Known for his great works, Phibias, who was said to be able to speak to Zeus, created an elaborate jewel covered throne in which Zeus sat. The sculpture of Zeus stood 43 feet high and a whooping 22 foot across.
Phibias dedicated the statue to Zeus in a ceremony and prayed for his approval. Legend has it that after Phibias’s request a bolt of lightening from the heavens struck the Temple floor scarring it, Phibias took this as a sign of approval. However, historians believe that the bolt of lightening was an omen to Phibias of an unhappy god. Almost a year after his completion of the sculpture, Phibias was murdered by his compatriots, some say in jealousy others had claimed it was political intrigue. Whatever the case, for centuries after, it was believed that the sculpture housed supernatural powers.
Archeologists have recently excavated (1958) a site believed to be Phibias’s workshop and among the finds was a cup, inscribed in meticulous handwriting were the Greek words; “I belong to Phibias”. This find confirmed antique documentation of the sculptor’s work and workshop.
Five centuries after the sculpture of Zeus had been complete, Roman Emperor Caligula became obsessed with the statue and ordered a siege and it brought back to Rome. Hundreds of men showed up to the site ready to tear the sculpture down and get it ready to ship it back to Rome. However, the men weary of the supernatural powers welded by the statue, heard a loud and thunderous laugh from underneath it. All the workmen fled and swore they would never go back to the site.
A frustrated Emperor, Caligula had a dream in which he was seated next to Zeus on his jewel studded throne. The next day, Caligula was murdered by his palace guards, it is believed to be Zeus’s revenge. Another 800 years went by with the statue still standing tall. When in 391 A.D. under the guise of a new Christian Emperor, it was ordered the statue be torn down and any symbolism of the pagan religion be abolished. It is believed that the Emperor used Zeus’s likeness to improve the model of Jesus.
#3 Parthenon in Athens – The Temple of Artemis, known as modern day Turkey
In the 19th Century archeologists found evidence of a female fertility cult. Mr. Woods had begun the dig until he fell ill and his wife; Mrs. Woods took over. Historians believe it was meant for a woman to find. During excavation, a marble floor to a great and sacred temple was found. Ancient writings record an extraterrestrial visitor/intruder to this hollowed site, the largest of a series of temples.
In the second century B.C.E. it is believed a meteorite slammed into the sea port of Ephesus. Ancient writings depict “War-like Race of Women” know as the Amazons. Artifacts from the site are of figures of females in battle dress. Dating back to 7th Century B.C. offerings were made to the site in the form of jewelry, fertility symbols, as well as offerings from distant lands. It was believed this site was dedicated to the Grand Mother of Humanity, The Goddess Artemis, and even The Greek Goddess Diana-Mother of the Earth.
It is believed the Temple was very lavish with a hierarchy of Priests, Priestess, all the way down to workers. The Temple columns were 60 feet tall, 20 – 30 feet apart and would be as large as our modern day football field or approximately 425 feet in length. It was believed the Temple on the bay could not be missed and could be seen 5 to 7 miles from the shore.
It is said by historians that there was also a dark side to the site in which animal sacrifices were made. Pigs, cows, goats, and sheep were among the bones uncovered at the site. Disturbing as it may be, at one point in history there were human sacrifices and potentially one child sacrifice made. Speculations have been made that an arson by the name of Karostratus set fire to the Temple in 356 B.C. However, historians believe nature had taken its toll on the Temple and that a great lightening storm came through and set the Temple on fire. Marble if heated to a degree high enough could turn to chalk.
Questions arose as to why the Great Mother/The Goddess Artemis didn’t rescue her Temple before it was destroyed. It was believed that The Goddess was attending the birth of Alexander the Great the very night the fire destroyed the Temple.
An entire century went by after the collapse of the Temple and a group of historians got together to rebuild the temple to the exact specifications as the first with the hope to reincarnate the Temple back to the list of the Seven Wonders. Six hundred years went by before the second Temple would fall. During the decline of the Roman Empire, the Temple had been ordered to be torn down and salvaged. A storm came through that fateful night and each and every ship carrying a piece/part of the Temple, to take back to Rome, had been sunk. Divers to this day continue to look for the pieces of history buried deep below the sea.
#4 The Tomb of Love – Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. In modern day Turkey
The Temple/Mausoleum was built on the Mediterranean Coast in a small kingdom of Asia Minor known as Caria. King Hecatomnus had died and left control of his kingdom to his son; Mausolus and daughter; Artemisia, who later became Mausolus’s queen. Mausolus had proven to be a great warrior by taking control of several neighboring cities. Together as King and Queen, the two ruled for 24 years as lovers and completely devoted to each other.
King Mausolus was said to be a great leader, not wanting crime or poverty in his kingdom and wanted to be seen as a god. However, other historians believed he caused great decent with his extreme taxation and several attempts had been made on his life. King Mausolus believed in all things grand and began construction on a tomb for him and his queen Artemisia that was very lavish with attention to great detail.
It is believed the base of the Temple that housed the remains of the king and queen was done in Persian style. The second story of the Temple was said to reflect Greek influence since he was obsessed with the Greek way of life and government, he even spoke Greek. The third and final story to the Temple was said to be in an Egyptian Style and had a pyramid at the top of the Temple. Adorned on the outside of the Temple were 250 statues/marble sculptures placed in tiers. Unfortunately, only fragments of some of these survive today.
King Mausolus would never see the Temple complete, he died in 353 B.C.E. Artemisia Queen of Caria, heart-broken from her loss was said to have contrived a very lavish funeral for her king, no expense spared. Spices and wines were brought from all over, to the King’s cremation and it is believed that the queen drank the mixture of the spices, wine, and the cremations so that her King would live on through her.
Gruesome animal sacrifices were said to take place near the temple on a massive scale, hundreds of animals were slaughtered in honor of the king. Queen Artemisia only lived two years after the death of her husband/brother. At the time of her death, it is believed that the royal treasury was completely empty but workers continued on the temple in honor of their love and devotion to each other and their kingdom.
The Mausoleum (King Mausolus inspired our present name of crypts) was said to have withstood 1000 years before the weather and an earthquake eventually took its toll. And 19 hundred years later, the Knights of the Templar were amazed at what still stood of the massive Temple. Eventually, the crusaders demolished the Tomb and hauled the limestone with scenes of fighting on them back to the Castle of Saint Peter. Where it is said, pieces of this era still stand today.
#5 The Colossus at Rhodes
This mighty bronze statue was believed to be the symbols of prosperity, a proud civilization, and a represent a very grateful people. The statue was claimed to be of “unprecedented proportions”. The statue was dedicated to the Sun God; Helios. Much like our present day Statue of Liberty (in fact, it is said to be of the same size and stature), The Colossus of Rhodes was said to be an amazing and enormous statue of its era, a statement of sorts. It is said that the amount of bronze used for the statue taxed the resources of the entire world.
The sculpture was said to be 110 ft. high of a naked man, facing the East, holding a torch and a spear. It is said that one of the thighs measured 11 feet across and a man could not wrap his arms around a finger of Helios. It was believed to have been built and placed in 280 B.C.E. archeologists have unearthed coins depicting the glamorous statue. At one point, historians believed the legs straddled the Harbor in order for ships on the trading routes to easily find refuge.
However, archaeologist claim evidence from the site, show that the statue’s legs were together and off to the side of the harbor. In 1599, Julius Caesar had commented on the Colossus of Rhodes and its legend but doubt grew that it ever existed. However, stones found near the Fort, date back to the time of Colossus and may have been the base of the statue itself.
The Colossus at Rhodes is said to have had a brief period of life, 56 years before a massive earthquake broke the figure off at the knees. When it fell, it fell into many more pieces and the people of Rhodes left Helios on the ground. It is claimed that an Oracle predicted the demise and warned; once it has fallen, it should not be rebuilt. For 900 years the statue laid in ruins on dry land, not in the sea as originally believed, if he had indeed straddled the harbor. In 654 B.C.E. it is believed, during the Arab invasion the bronze was seized and melted down to make coins, religious artifacts, tools, and jewelry.
#6 The Hanging Gardens of Babylon – Known as modern Iraq
In 6th Century B.C.E., The Hanging Gardens of Babylon was said to be; “Paradise in the Dessert” or “Gardens of Pleasure”. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon was said to be the most magnificent city in the entire world. It is believed the city was 12 miles long, with a wall 10 feet thick, and 300 foot high in some places encasing the entire city.
King Nebuchadnezzar was said to have built the massive gardens for his wife; Queen Amyitis who was home sick. Original translations claimed it had been called the Hanging Gardens but some historians believed the translation was misrepresented and suppose to reflect “Terrace Gardens” or “Overhanging Gardens”. It is believed the Gardens were 30 stories high with terraces, which billowed beautiful plants, flowers, and trees. Writers, poets, and eye witnesses tried for centuries to describe the sheer magnificence of what they saw.
It wasn’t until 1899 a man named Robert Koldewey began archaeological digs around the sites believed to have been of King Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. Amazingly, Mr. Koldewey spent 14 years digging and found various sites of interest.
On one particular dig, Mr. Koldewey found a shaft or storage facility he believed to be the holding tanks for the water to the Gardens. Ancient Greek texts speak of the 1st century explain a special device called the “Archenemies’ Screw” know to pump water from the Euphrates for agricultural purposes. Could this device have been used and the help of the Greeks enlisted to please the King’s wife?
#7 The Pharos’s Lighthouse – Port of Alexandria, present day Egypt
It is said the massive lighthouse was built in 290-270 B.C. for the main purpose of helping weary travelers make it to shore and the port safely. All around the port were jagged rocks that could ripe open the sides of ships and sink them in seconds. The sea was another obstacle and could be treacherous and the area was known as a death trap. Many ships and lives were lost before the Pharos’s Lighthouse was built. The port was a main hub in Alexandria for traders, wealth and venture.
When the lighthouse was built it was the tallest structure in the world and the first and only lighthouse in existence with the exception of the Great Pyramid. The lighthouse was said to be 30 stories high, made of white marble, and had a landing on the top of it. By day, the sunlight bounced off the mirrors to guide the ships in. By night, a massive flame was said to have been lit to guide ships safely to the port.
Ancient writers and historians claim the light could be seen 30 miles from shore. One writer claimed, the beam was so intense it could incinerate a ship that was 20 miles off the coast. In the 14th Century it is believed a massive earthquake collapsed the lighthouse into the sea.
Divers/tourists are able to look at remnants of the lighthouse. It is believed the military fortress that stands there to this day, was built over the top of the foundation of the lighthouse and perhaps an even older building. As a tourist would you take a dive to check out what is left of the Pharos Lighthouse?
It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from; the history of our cultures still intrigue us to this day. It is these miraculous structures that prove to us; we as humans are capable of many major feats. We can be destructive but we can all pull together to create beauty, hope and inspiration. Just look at what we have accomplished centuries ago!
A & E (Director). (1997). Ancient Mysteries. [Television Series].
[The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World].
A & E Television Networks.