Centuries have passed since the birth of nature’s children, Adam and Eve. Great rulers emerged, kingdoms fell and voyages were made as humans strived eagerly to explore the unknown. To portray their greatness or in love, they built some really magnificent monuments, now known as Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, that have attracted everyone far and wide.
These were so beautiful that it is saddening we cannot see them anymore as most were destroyed, either by future rulers or fell to the ground due to natural calamities. The Pyramids of Giza, the oldest of these, are the only ones still standing tall and proud.
Who decided which of these oldest monuments were worthy enough to be wonders of the Ancient World? Popular opinion states that Philo, a mathematician, and a 3rd Century B.C. resident of Alexandria and Antipater of Sidon, a Greek poet of the 2nd Century, B.C. have created this popular list.
Let’s have a look at these seven magnificent wonders of the past and the stamps and coins they appear on:
The Great Pyramids of Giza
King Sneferu (2686-2667 B.C.) is credited with the creation of the world’s first Pyramids, thus providing the shape and base for The Great Pyramids of Giza. He built three pyramids out of which “The Pyramid at Medum” and “The Bent Pyramid” were glorious failures. The third was the world’s first successful pyramid- “The Red Pyramid” made of red limestone blocks.
These pyramids included aboveground burial chambers, a mortuary temple and a causeway leading down to a valley temple. There have been varying theories about its construction but it is most widely accepted that it was built by moving huge stones from a quarry and dragging and lifting them into place. The Pyramids of Giza were erected on a rocky plateau on the West Bank of the Nile in northern Egypt and were connected, by covered causeways, to mortuary temples in the valley below the plateau. These temples had landing stages which were linked to the Nile by a canal. Let’s know a little more about these:
KHUFU (2575-2566 B.C.)
The largest of the three Pyramids of Giza, known as “The Great Pyramid” was built over a 20 year period by one hundred thousand people working day and night at the structure for three months of monsoon every year. The length of each side at the base is 755 feet (230.4 m). The faces rise at an angle of 51º 52’ and their original height was 481 feet (147 m). (They currently rise 451 feet [138 m].) It was constructed using around 2,300,000 limestone blocks, each weighing an average of 2.5 tons. Some blocks weigh as much as 16 tons.
KHAFRE (2558-2532 B.C.)
Khafre’s pyramid appears taller than his father’s, but this is an illusion; it is built on higher ground and was in fact, shorter than the Great Pyramid. His pyramid retains some of its original limestone casing thus making it possible to imagine how the original pyramid might have looked like. He also built the “Sphinx” 66 feet high and 240 feet long. It represents Ra-Harakhte, the Sun God, as he rises in the east at dawn but the face of the Sphinx is a portrait of Khafre himself.
MENKAURA (2532-2503 B.C.)
Khafre’s son Menkaura built the third pyramid with a height of 228 feet. The lower layers consist of red granite from Aswan and the upper courses were originally made of gleaming white limestone.
Let’s know more about the above stamps, coins, and notes on the Great Pyramids of Giza:
STAMPS: Many countries have issued stamps on this wonder in varying sizes, shapes and colors. Bhutan also issued a Disney stamp on this to encourage children to learn a little more about these ancient wonders.
Hanging Gardens of Babylon
Even though their existence is widely contested, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were the most beautiful of ancient wonders. Presumed to be 400 feet long and wide, it was created by King Nebuchadnezzar II for his homesick Medan wife- Amytis.
It was named ‘Hanging’ gardens based on the Greek word ‘Pensilis’ meaning “overhanging”. Sort of a stepped pyramid, it had luscious gardens of flowers and fruits on top where exotic animals were presumed to roam. Even though Babylon never received enough rain the gardens were always irrigated by bringing water from the nearby Euphrates River by unknown methods.
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
Located near the ancient city of Ephesus, Turkey, the Temple of Artemis was built thrice before its final destruction in 401 A.D. leaving only foundations and sculptural fragments of it. It was built to honor the Greek goddess Artemis- goddess of the moon and the hunt, by King Croesus of Lydia.
Designed and built by Cherisiphron and his son Metagenes, architects from Crete, it was located at commercial crossroads and attracted numerous visitors of varying beliefs. It is because of this that elements of worship of other deities, such as Cybele were also incorporated here. In fact, the cult statue within the temple was reminiscent of this Near-Eastern goddess, featuring several breasts (a symbol of fertility), and portrayed in statuary with legs closed, tapering as a pillar or a sarcophagus (quite unlike Classical Greek statues). The interior of the temple featured sculptures of Amazon warriors (who had hidden from pursuant Greek gods at Ephesus) by some of the most well respected Greek sculptors, such as Polyclitus and Phidias.
It was first set ablaze on July 21, 356 BCE by Herostratus and later reconstructed after the death of Alexander the Great (who curiously had been born on July 21, 356 BCE). It was destroyed again in 262 CE by the Goths; very little remains of the temple today. As for the site at Ephesus, only a lonely reconstructed column stands today, a poignant reminder of the grandiose and gleaming temple whose religious and architectural significance made it one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
In the olden times, there were many temples dedicated to Zeus but none matched the statue and temple of Zeus at Olympia. It not only represented the pinnacle of Classical sculptural design but also showcased the brilliant engineering required to construct such a massive chunk of marble and gold. One of the two masterpieces of the Greek sculptor Phidias, it was a massive statue almost 40 feet high plated with gold and ivory.
The statue was built in honor of the Olympic Games started by Zeus. The games began as early as 776 BCE and were held every four years. Unlike the modern Olympic Games, these were held as a religious celebration.
On Zeus’s statue’s outstretched right hand was a statue of Nike (Victory) and in his left hand was a scepter on which an eagle was perched. The statue took 8 years to construct and was known for its divine majesty and goodness that it expressed. The discovery in the 1950s of the remains of Phidias’ workshop at Olympia confirmed the statue’s date of about 430 BCE. The temple was destroyed in 426 CE, and the statue, of which no accurate copies survive, may have been destroyed then or in a fire at Constantinople (now Istanbul) about 50 years later.
Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
The term mausoleum, since the Roman era, has meant any large-scale tomb where the remains of our deceased lie. This monument was the grandiose tomb of Maussollos, the King of Caria (a province in the Persian Empire) and a Governor for the King of Persia in the mid-4th century BCE. It was built by Maussollos’ wife/sister Artemisia on the coast of Halicarnassus, the capital city of his territory. Hailed for its opulence and architectural splendor, the tomb was a dedication from a grieving widow to her beloved husband.
When Maussollos died in 353 BCE, Artemisia made sure that the construction was completed with no expense spared. She commissioned famous Greek sculptors such as Bryaxis and Timotheus to create fantastic reliefs, enlisted Greek architect and sculptor Scopas to oversee construction and hired hundreds of workers to complete it. When completed in 350 BCE, it measured over 130 feet high.
The monument was almost square, with a total periphery of 411 feet (125 meters). It was bounded by 36 columns, and the top formed a 24-step pyramid surmounted by a four-horse marble chariot. Fragments of the Mausoleum’s sculpture that are preserved in the British Museum include a frieze of battling Greeks and Amazons and a statue 10 feet (3 meters) high, possibly of Maussollos. The Mausoleum was probably destroyed by an earthquake between the 11th and the 15th century CE, and the stones were reused in local buildings.
Colossus of Rhodes
When Alexander the Great died unexpectedly in 323 BCE, the administration of his empire and its future were uncertain. Eventually, three of his generals took control and, as a result of several wars, divided the empire into three regions. Rhodes sided with one general, Ptolemy, who eventually controlled Egypt. Together, they forged a fruitful relationship, as well as control of trade in the eastern Mediterranean. One of the other generals, Antigonus, became riled at this and tried to convince Rhodes to side with him. Rhodes, of course, balked at this. Antigonus then called on his son Demetrius to invade Rhodes in 305 BCE. Despite an army of 40,000 men and 200 warships, Demetrius was unable to break through Rhodes’ impressive defenses and the relief troops that Ptolemy had sent in.
As a result of this decisive victory, it was determined that a commemorative statue would be erected to honor Helios, the patron god of Rhodes in Mandraki Harbour. This would prove rather uncomplicated for Rhodes, as Demetrius had left behind all of the equipment he and his army had used in his invasion attempts, and thus the Rhodians were able to finance the construction of the statue with the sale of the goods.
The people of Rhodes called on Greek sculptor Chares of Lindos in 294 BCE to cast a giant bronze sculptural depiction of Helios. The statue, which took 12 years to build (294–282 BCE), was toppled by an earthquake about 225/226 BCE. The fallen Colossus was left in place until 654 CE when Arabian forces raided Rhodes and had the statue was broken up and the bronze sold for scrap. It is generally agreed that it was forged around towers of stone blocks, standing 110 feet high. Helios stood on a 50-foot tall marble base, positioned at the entrance to Rhodes’ harbor. The finished statue would have likely depicted Helios standing with his legs together (though this theory differs from others), holding a torch in his right hand, and a spear in his left hand.
The Lighthouse of Alexandria
The Pharos at Alexandria was constructed at the beginning of the 3rd century BCE. Begun by Ptolemy Soter, the ruler of the Egyptian region after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE, it was impressive in its construction and scale, and legends claim that its light (a reflective mirror) was visible in the harbor from 35 miles away.
Alexandria lacked any real landmarks that would aid ships in navigation there. Thus, the lighthouse was constructed on the tiny harbor island of Pharos as an aid to sailors. Later on, it would become a defensive monument as well. Designed by the Greek architect Sostratus of Cnidus, it was constructed of a light-colored stone that was reinforced with molten lead to protect the walls from crashing ocean waves. It stood in three levels: a lower square level with a strong core to provide support, an octagon-shaped center level, and a circular level on top. At the peak of the lighthouse was a mirror that reflected the light of the sun at day, and a fire was lit each evening. It stood and remained in use until two earthquakes, in 1303 and 1323 CE, reduced it to rubble.