Friday, June 3, 2011

Seven Wonders of the World

Historically, humans are inclined to competeastonish, and outdo. Truthfully, these sometimes-childish tendencies have led to some pretty impressive things. Today, we’ll explore some of the oldest and grandest examples: the Seven Wonders of the World.

The Colossus of Rhodes is perhaps the youngest of the seven, built around 290BCE in Rhodes, Greece. At over 100ft tall, the statue resembled a considerably more naked Statue of Liberty.  Though shaped like the immortal Titan-god Helios, the Colossus stood only about 56 years and fell in a 226BC earthquake.

The Temple of Artemis similarly honored the moon goddess. This enormous temple was built in Ephesus (now Turkey) around 550BCE. It was destroyed by a flood in the seventh century, reconstructed, and destroyed again in 356BCE by the arsonist Herostratus in his effort to achieve everlasting infamy. After a final rebuilding around 323BCE, the temple decayed over the next 600 years thanks to raiders and mobs.

The Statue of Zeus honored the father of the Greek pantheon at his temple in Olympia. Over 40ft tall, Zeus was made of ivory and gold-plated bronze and seated on cedar throne inlaid with precious stones and metals. The statue was incinerated in the 3rd century, either in Constantinople where it was transported or when the temple itself burned in 425AD.

The Lighthouse of Alexandria towered between 400-450ft on the island of Pharos in Alexandria, Egypt. According to ancient claims, its light – created by torches and reflective mirrors – could be seen almost 30 miles away; legends hold the light could be focused on enemy ships to set them ablaze. A series of earthquakes toppled the lighthouse in the 12th or 13th century.

The Tomb of Mausolus was built around 350BCE to house the bodies of Mausolus – who ruled Caria (now south-west Turkey) – and his sister/wife. The overly ornate structure was over 150ft, with elaborate stone reliefs on every wall; we still use the word mausoleum to describe over-the-top tombs. Eventually, the original structure was damaged by flood, and the rebuilt mausoleum succumbed to earthquakes by 13th century.

King Nebuchadnezzar II supposedly built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon for his homesick queen around 600BCE. Often pictured with reliefs, vaulted terraces, and winding staircases, the garden contained beautiful plants from across ancient civilization. Though some doubt the gardens really existed, many believe in this legendary display of affection.

Finally, we’ve come to the oldest – and only remaining – wonder: the Pyramid of Giza. The pyramid – largest of all Egyptian pyramids at its original 480ft tall – was likely built as a tomb for Pharaoh Khufu and his queen around 2575BCE. There is still debate over whether slaves or skilled laborers put together its over 2.3 million limestone bricks.

Although most of the wonders are gone, the awe and mystery they inspire live on. In 2008, plans began to build a new Colossus of Rhodes as a highly innovative light sculpture. I don’t know about you, but I’m eagerly awaiting this new wonder – and any other wonders yet to come.

Source: 123