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Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
of the Ancient World
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In the history of art, the term "Seven Wonders of the World" usually refers to the "Seven Wonders of the Ancient World" - a list of exceptional works of architecture and sculpture created during the era of Classical Antiquity - as compiled by the Greek poet Antipater of Sidon (c.170-120 BCE). Other similar lists have been attributed to the historian Herodotus (484-425 BCE), the architect Callimachus of Cyrene (c.305240 BC) and the engineer Philo of Byzantium (280-220 BCE), but Antipater's selection is the best known. Being a native of Ancient Greece, it is perhaps not surprising that his list is heavily biased towards the achievements of Greek architecture and Greek sculpture, although Ancient Egyptian architecture should have been favoured with the inclusion of The Temple of Amon (1530-323 BCE), part of the Karnak complex, near luxor. This colossal temple could accomodate 10 typical European cathedrals. As it is, only the Pyramid of Giza and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were not created by Greeks.
Of the original seven choices, only one - the Great Pyramid of Giza, ironically the oldest of the ancient wonders - is still standing, although its dazzling white facing was removed for building purposes about 1300 CE. The location and fate of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon is not known, indeed it may never have existed; the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Colossus of Rhodes and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus collapsed due to earthquakes; while the Temple of Artemis and the Statue of Zeus were deliberately destroyed by fire. The Colossus of Rhodes was the second last to be built (c.280 BCE) but the first to be destroyed (in 226 BCE), so all seven monuments co-existed for no more than 60 years. NOTE: For later styles inspired by the classical sculpture and architecture of ancient Greece, see: Classicism in Art (800 onwards).
The Great Pyramid of Giza (also called the Pyramid of Cheops or the Pyramid of Khufu) is the oldest (and biggest) of the three pyramids in the Giza precinct. Egyptologists consider that the pyramid took roughly 20 years to erect, and at 146.5 metres (481 feet), it remained the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years. The pyramid has three known chambers and is the only example of Egyptian pyramid architecture known to contain both ascending and descending passageways.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon is the only one of the Seven Wonders whose location has not been archeologically confirmed. The creation of the Gardens - a series of landscaped terraces - is attributed to the Neo-Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II (ruled 605-562 BCE) - who is said to have built the Hanging Gardens for his wife, Queen Amytis, because she missed the green hills and valleys of her homeland - but no Babylonian text confirming this has survived. Moreover there is also no mention of Nebuchadnezzar's wife Amyitis, although a political marriage to a princess from Media or Persia would not have been unusual. This absence of information has caused other scholars like Stephanie Dalley to raise the possibility that the Gardens were those created by the Assyrian king Sennacherib (ruled 704681 BCE) in his capital of Nineveh on the River Tigris near present-day Mosul. See: Assyrian Art (1500-612 BCE) - compare with Hittite art (c.1600-1180 BCE).
The Temple of Artemis (sometimes called the Temple of Diana) was totally rebuilt three times before its eventual destruction by fire and vandalism in 401 CE. Only ruined foundations and fragments of sculpture remain. The first sanctuary dates back to the Bronze Age, during the golden era of Aegean art and Minoan art around the Eastern Mediterranean. In the 7th century BCE, the early sanctuary was destroyed by floods, and was rebuilt in marble about 550 BCE, by the Cretan architect Chersiphron. It was this masterpiece of Greek art, measuring roughly 130 metres (425 feet) in length and supported by pillars 18 metres (60 feet) high, that became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The temple took 10 years to complete. It was later destroyed by the arsonist Herostratus, and duly rebuilt.
This famous chryselephantine sculpture of Zeus at Olympia - some 13 metres (42 ft) in height - was sculpted by the Greek artist Phidias (488-431 BCE) around 435 BCE. Made from ivory plates and gold panels over a wooden framework, it depicted the god Zeus sitting on an elaborate cedar throne decorated with ivory and ebony, as well all gold and precious stones. No replica of the statue is known, and details of its shape and dimensions derive only from ancient Greek texts and representations on coins.
The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was constructed for Mausolus - a Provincial Governor in the Persian Empire - and his wife Artemisia II of Caria. Designed by the Greek architects Satyros and Pythius of Priene, it was 45 metres (148 ft) in height, and all four walls were decorated with relief sculpture, by Leochares, Bryaxis, Timotheus and Skopas of Paros. The tomb was destroyed by successive earthquakes during the late Middle Ages, between about 1150 and 1402.
A famous work of Hellenistic art, the Colossus of Rhodes was a statue of the Greek God of the sun Helios. It was built on the island of Rhodes by Chares of Lindos in 280 BCE, in order to celebrate victory over the ruler of Cyprus, Antigonus I. Mounted on a 15-metre (49-ft) high marble pedestal near the entrance to Mandraki harbour, the statue itself was over 30 metres (98 ft) tall, which made it one of the tallest statues of Antiquity. A combination of carving and precious metalwork, its feet were carved in stone and overlaid with thin bronze plates riveted together. The remainder of the statue was made using an iron structure covered with brass plates. The entire structure took 12 years to complete. The statue survived intact for 54 years until 226 BCE when the island was hit by a major earthquake, causing the statue to snap at the knees. According to reports, unfavourable omens prevented the rebuilding of the statue whose ruins remained in situ for over 800 years. Later, in 653 CE, according to the Chronicle of Theophanes the Confessor the statue was broken up and sold.
Also known as the Pharos of Alexandria, this navigational tower was commissioned by Ptolemy Lagides (367-283 BCE), a trusted Macedonian commander under Alexander the Great, who went on to become ruler of Egypt (as Ptolemy I 323283 BCE) and the founder of the Ptolemaic Dynasty. Construction of the lighthouse began in 280 and was completed some time during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (283-246 BCE). Built out of limestone blocks, it stood 120-137 metres (393-450 ft) in height, and was one of the tallest man-made structures in the ancient world for centuries. It consisted of three stages: a lower square section, a middle octagonal section, and a circular section on top. During the day a mirror was used to reflect sunlight; while a fire was lit at night. The stone blocks of the lighthouse were sealed together with molten lead, to enable it to withstand the waves. Badly damaged by earthquakes (956-1323) it became a ruin. In 1994, fragments of the lighthouse were discovered on the seabed of Alexandria's Eastern Harbour.
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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ANCIENT ART