Essay, Research Paper
The famed Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is a collection of seven great temples, monuments, and tombs. The list of wonders is comprised of the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesos, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Pharos at Alexandria. Six of these marvels have long been destroyed, but their legacies shall live forever. (Carroll, 6-15)
The Great Pyramid of Giza was built for the Egyptian pharaoh Cheops around 2560 BC. It was the grandest of all pyramids built during Egypt?s Old Kingdom. (Clayton, 13)
Cheops? father, Sneferu, had many problems with his own pyramid. The first attempt at building was cut short when the half-completed pyramid collapsed after a heavy rain. On the second attempt, the architect lessened the angle at the top half of the pyramid, giving it a rhomboid shape. It was known as the Bent Pyramid. (Clayton, 16)
Learning from the mistakes made on his father?s tomb, Cheops? architects found the perfect angle needed to keep the pyramid stable as well as straight. Cheops? chief-of-works was his cousin, the Vizier Hemon.
Cheops and Hemon chose the site for the pyramid on a plateau in Giza just on the edge of the Libyan desert. Before any building could take place, the land first had to be leveled using a complex process involving water. After this, the sides of the tomb had to be precisely calculated to face the four cardinal points of the compass. Since the Egyptians had not yet discovered the compass, this was done by observing the stars. The Egyptians were so accurate with this process that ?the error of alignment on the four sides is only a matter of fractions of a degree.? The difference in lengths between the longest and shortest sides was less than 8 inches, quite incredible considering the primitive tools used by the Egyptians for measuring. (Clayton, 17-21)
The mystery of the Great Pyramid that still puzzles historians today is that no one knows how it was built. The most popular theory is that a large, winding ramp was gradually built around the pyramid as it got taller and taller. (Clayton, 22).
According to Herodotus, it took a workforce of 100,000 men twenty years to complete the Great Pyramid. However, all the hard work certainly paid off; the Great Pyramid is the only Wonder still standing today. ?The Arab proverb well sums up its impact: ?Man fears Time, yet Time fears the pyramids.?? (Clayton, 31, 37)
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are thought to have been built by King Nebuchadnezzar II between 580 and 560 BC, although their existence has never been officially proven. Nebuchadnezzar was an incredible builder. After his reconstruction of Babylon, it was known as the most regal city of ancient times. (Carroll, 11)
While there are several variations on the story of how and why Nebuchadnezzar built the Hanging Gardens, they all basically tell the same tale. Nebuchadnezzar?s wife was a foreigner and yearned for the mountainous landscape of her homeland. To make her happy, Nebuchadnezzar constructed huge stone steppes on which he planted the most beautiful and exotic garden of the time. They gardens were called ?hanging? because on the tiered walls they appeared to be floating in air. (Carroll, 11)
Marble banquet chambers were built on every terrace, and each was decorated with mosaics depicting tales of the gods. ?The buildings were surrounded by lawns, pavilions for music and dance, and swimming ponds in which the water was colored red, gold, or blue, according to the day of the week.? From the description, the palace apparently was the epitome of luxury.
According to legend, the Gardens were so beautiful that Nebuchadnezzar?s wife, who had so wanted to return to the forests and mountains of her own land, finally felt at home in Babylon. (Carroll, 11)
In the temple at Olympia stood another Wonder, an enormous statue of the Greek?s most important god Zeus. The temple of Zeus was constructed as a meeting point for the athletes of the Olympic games. They all gathered to worship Zeus before, during, and after the games. On the middle day of the Olympics, 100 oxen were sacrificed and burned outside the temple. (Clayton, 59-62)
It is believed that a small wooden or stone sculpture was worshipped at first, but ?the current taste of the fifth century BC demanded a much more impressive image.? The council in charge of the temple searched long and hard for a sculptor to create such an ?impressive image?. They decided on Pheidias, a citizen of Athens. Pheidias was already well known in Athens for his incredible sculpting ability. He had sculpted two masterpieces for the Acropolis of Athens, both gigantic figures of the goddess Athena. While working on these statues, he developed a new technique that made sculpting with gold and ivory faster and cheaper. He built a wooden frame that resembled the final sculpture and then covered it with thin plates of sculpted ivory and precious metals. Although the statue was hollow, the appearance on the outside was beautiful and powerful. Pheidias? statue of Zeus was so well done that people actually felt they were in the presence of the god. (Clayton, 63-64)
This is understandable, however, considering how massive the statue was. The base was 18 feet wide, 30 feet deep, and a meter high. The statue itself was 40 feet tall, about the size of a three-story building. (Clayton, 66)
450 years after its creation, the statue of Zeus continued to attract crowds of people who still believed in him. In 391, however, the Christian emperor Theodosius I ordered all pagan temples shut down. The Olympic games were no longer held and eventually no one came to see the statue anymore.
When the statue was well over 800 years old, it was moved to a palace in Constantinople. In 462, a terrible fire destroyed the palace and the statue with it.
Even though no copies of the statue exist, from the written histories and descriptions alone it is considered the greatest work of classical sculpture. (Clayton, 76-77)
The temple of Artemis at Ephesos was considered to be one of the most beautiful examples of architecture in ancient Greece. ?It was a vast gleaming marble building in a great courtyard open to the skies to be viewed from afar.? The huge temple occupied over 80,000 square feet of ground and was surrounded by groves and large lawns. It was supported by 127 columns and covered by a large stone slab that was sculpted with scenes of gods and goddesses. (Carroll, 9)
Although it was the most beautiful building in Greece, the temple was known more for the incredible array of popular people that visited it. During his conquests, Alexander the Great came to see the temple. He told the citizens that he would finance the rest of the building of the temple if they inscribed his name inside. One diplomatic citizen told him, ?It is not fitting that one god should build a temple for another god.? Flattered, Alexander went on his way. (Clayton, 82-83)
The temple was also famous for its law of asylum, or protecting people who needed help. Xerxes, the king of Persia, sent his children there after he was defeated by the Greeks. Alexander the Great had two people claiming asylum dragged from the temple and stoned to death. One of the Ptolemy brothers from Egypt fled there with his wife, but they were both murdered. Marc Antony killed Cleopatra?s sister, who had fled to the temple, in order to insure the throne went to Cleopatra, and thus, himself. (Clayton, 83-84)
The temple remained an important cultural center for 800 years until it was destroyed in 260 AD by the invading Goths, never to be rebuilt again. (Carroll, 9)
The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was the largest tomb ever built in the ancient world. It was built for King Maussollos of Caria around 550 BC by his wife Artemisia, who was also his sister. After his death, Artemisia wanted to build him the largest tomb ever. (Carroll, 12)
The Mausoleum was rectangular with sides of 120 and 100 feet. A tower was constructed over the main burial chamber that reached 140 feet at its top. At the very tip of the tower was placed a sculpture of the royal couple driving a chariot. The actual building consisted of three main parts: a base of about 60 feet in height, a colonnade of 36 columns, and a pyramid-shaped roof. (Clayton, 103)
The queen requested the services of four of the greatest artists of the time. Each artist was assigned one side of the building: Brayaxis had the north; Timotheus, the south; Leochares, the west; and the great Scopas, the east. The beauty and quality of the sculptured decorations by these artists are what gave the building its popularity. (Carroll, 12)
The building stood intact up until the 13th century when an earthquake brought the columns and roof crashing down. However, the remaining parts were destroyed in 1494 when the Knights of St. John decided to refortify their castle with the square stones of the Mausoleum. This continued for a period of 28 years until, at last, every stone had been removed from the Mausoleum and the underground burial chamber was opened and looted. Although only a few sculptures were discovered still intact, the amazing beauty of them is what made the Mausoleum a Wonder of the World. (Clayton, 104-107)
The Colossus of Rhodes was an enormous statue built on the Isle of Rhodes. Demetrius I, the ?Besieger?, laid siege to Rhodes for a whole year. Demetrius was so impressed by the bravery of the Rhodians that he left all his siege engines outside their walls. The Rhodians sold the equipment and made plans for the construction of a large statue dedicated to the Greek sun god, Helios. With the money they made, the Rhodians bought 200 tons of bronze. They hired the famous sculptor Chares of Lindos to create the 110-foot statue. (Carroll, 14)
Neither the appearance nor the location of the Colossus is known for sure. His face can be seen on the Rhodian coins but the position his body was in is unknown as well. Chares made a framework for the Colossus out of iron and square blocks of stone. This was placed on a base of white marble. Unlike other bronze statues in which the artist models the statue and then casts it in parts, the Colossus was cast right on its base. As Philo says, ??the ankles had to be cast upon the feet and, as when a house is built, the whole work had to rise upon itself.? This form of sculpting is much more difficult and time consuming. The Colossus held a large torch in one hand that served as a beacon for ships. A spiral staircase was built inside the statue and people could climb all the way up to the head. Chares was so attached to his masterpiece that, according to legend, after someone criticized a finer point in its construction, he committed suicide on the spot. (Clayton, 130-131)
The statue took 12 years to build, from 292 to 280 BC and stood for nearly 50 years before an earthquake caused the great Colossus to break at the knees and topple over. Ptolemy III offered to rebuild the Colossus but the Rhodians refused because an oracle forbid them to erect it again. It lay on the ground for 900 years. (Carroll, 14)
The Arabs plundered Rhodes in 654 and shipped the broken pieces to Asia Minor. There it was sold to a Jew from Emesa who reportedly moved the fragments to Syria on the backs of 900 camels. After that, the Colossus was never seen again. (Clayton, 137)
The last of the Wonders is the Pharos at Alexandria. The Pharos was a huge lighthouse built on the island of Pharos just off the coast of Alexandria. The architect of the Pharos was Sostratus of Cnidus who lived in Alexandria in 280 BC. A legend says that he was betrothed to a woman from another land who was scheduled to come to Alexandria. On the night of her arrival, a strong wind blew the ship off course and, because there was no beacon, was lost at sea. Sostratus decided to create a tower that would spare all others from such tragedy. Being close friends with the pharaoh Ptolemy II, he was given unlimited funds. Sostratus began construction of the first lighthouse in history. (Carroll, 10)
The Pharos was built from white marble and was 440 feet tall. It was built in three sections, the bottom a square block, the middle an eight-sided tower, and the top a circular turret with large windows that faced the sea. Through these windows, the light of a huge flame provided a beacon for ships for almost a thousand years until it was destroyed during the Middle Ages by an earthquake. (Carroll, 10)
Through countless histories and legends, historians eager to picture each building and statue as it appeared to the ancient people that built them have chronicled the origins and life spans of these wonders. Hopefully, with modern techniques, all the questions we still have can be answered and we can truly see why these seven creations were considered wonders of the world.