The Seven Wonders of the World (or the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) is a widely known list of seven remarkable constructions of antiquity. It was based on guide-books popular among Hellenic sightseers and includes only works located around the Mediterranean rim. Later lists include those for the medieval world and the modern world.
The original Seven Wonders of the World consists of: The Great Pyramid of Giza (the most ancient as well as the only surviving structure), the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria.
The notion of "Seven Wonders" can be traced to a Hellenistic recognition of trans-cultural human achievement that found expression throughout the Hellenistic world. For thousands of years, the Seven Wonders of the World have inspired humankind as representative works symbolic of the great civilizations of antiquity. In terms of innovative design, elaborate construction, technological mastery, and symbolic meaning, the Seven Wonders have not only showcased the high points of diverse civilizations, but tied humankind together in the common pursuit of intellectual excellence and self-expression.
The historian Herodotus and the scholar Callimachus of Cyrene (c. 305 – 240 B.C.E.) made early lists of "seven wonders," but these writings have not survived, except as references. The earliest extant version of a list of seven wonders was compiled by Antipater of Sidon, who described the structures in a poem around 140 B.C.E.:
I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the Colossus of the Sun, and the huge labor of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, "Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand" (Greek Anthology IX.58).
A later list, under various titles such as De septem orbis spactaculis and traditionally, though incorrectly, attributed to the engineer Philo of Byzantium, may date as late as the fifth century C.E., although the author writes as if the Colossus of Rhodes, destroyed by an earthquake in 224 B.C.E., were still standing.
The basic characteristics of each of the Seven Wonders are given in the table below:
|Wonder||Date of construction||Builder||Notable features||Date of destruction||Cause of destruction|
|Great Pyramid of Giza||2650 – 2500 B.C.E.||Egyptians||Built as the tomb of Fourth dynasty Egyptian pharaoh Khufu.||Still standing||-|
|Hanging Gardens of Babylon||600 B.C.E.||Babylonians||Herodotus claimed the outer walls were 56 miles in length, 80 feet thick and 320 feet high (although some archaeological findings suggest otherwise).||After first century B.C.E.||Earthquake|
|Temple of Artemis at Ephesus||550 B.C.E.||Lydians, Persians, Greeks||Dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis, the temple was begun by Croesus of Lydia and took 120 years to build. It was destroyed by arson in 356 B.C.E., rebuilt and destroyed during a raid by the Goths in 262, rebuilt again and finally demolished by a mob led by St. John Chrysostom.||356 B.C.E. and 401 C.E.||Arson and later demolition|
|Statue of Zeus at Olympia||435 B.C.E.||Greeks||Occupied the whole width of the aisle of the temple that was built to house it, and was 40 feet tall.||fifth and sixth centuries C.E.||Fire|
|Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus||351 B.C.E.||Persians, Greeks||Stood approximately 135 feet tall with each of the four sides adorned with sculptural reliefs. Origin of the word mausoleum.||by 1494 C.E.||Earthquake|
|Colossus of Rhodes||292 – 280 B.C.E.||Hellenistic Greece||A giant statue of the Greek god Helios roughly the same size as today's Statue of Liberty in New York.||224 B.C.E.||Earthquake|
|Lighthouse of Alexandria||Third century B.C.E.||Hellenistic Egypt||Between 383 feet to 440 feet tall it was among the tallest man-made structures on Earth for many centuries.||1303 – 1480 C.E.||Earthquake|
The Greek category to describe what people call "wonders" today was "theamata," which translates more like "must-sees." Even as early as 1600 B.C.E., tourist graffiti was scrawled on monuments in the Egyptian Valley of the Kings. The mature list was compiled in the Middle Ages—by which time most of the sites were no longer in existence. Since the list came mostly from ancient Greek writings, only sites that would have been known and visited by the ancient Greeks were included. Sites from eastern Asia, the Americas, Africa, and northern Europe were thus omitted. Antipater's earlier list replaced the Lighthouse of Alexandria with the Babylon's famous Ishtar Gate.
It was not until the sixth century C.E. that the list above was used. Of these wonders, the only one that has survived to the present day is the Great Pyramid of Giza. One of wonders, the Temple of Artemis, was destroyed intentionally, first by arson and finally by a mob led by the Christian bishop St. John Chrysostom. The Statue of Zeus was destroyed by fire. Four of the wonders were destroyed by earthquakes—the Hanging Gardens, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Mausoleum of Maussollos. (The existence of the Hanging Gardens, however, has not been definitively proven.) There are sculptures from the Mausoleum of Maussollos and the Temple of Artemis in the British Museum in London.
Many lists of "wonders of the world" are said to have existed during the Middle Ages, although it is unlikely that these lists originated at that time. These lists go by names such as "Wonders of the Middle Ages" (implying no specific limitation to seven), "Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages," "Medieval Mind," and "Architectural Wonders of the Middle Ages." The lists are more properly seen as a continuing type or genre in the Seven Wonders tradition than a specific list.
Typically representative of the such lists is the following:
Other sites that have been mentioned include:
Many lists have been made of the greatest structures built during modern times or of the greatest wonders existing today. Some of the most notable lists are presented below.
The American Society of Civil Engineers compiled a list of wonders of the modern world:
|Wonder||Date Started||Date Finished||Locations|
|Channel Tunnel||December 1, 1987||May 6, 1994||Strait of Dover, between the United Kingdom and France|
|CN Tower||February 6, 1973||June 26, 1976, tallest land structure in the world until September 12, 2007. Surpassed by Burj Dubai||Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
|Empire State Building||January 22, 1930||May 1, 1931||New York, NY, U.S.|
|Golden Gate Bridge||January 5, 1933||May 27, 1937||Golden Gate Strait, north of San Francisco, California, U.S.|
|Itaipu Dam||January 1970||May 5, 1984||Paraná River, between Brazil and Paraguay|
|Delta Works||1950||May 10, 1997||Netherlands|
|Panama Canal||January 1, 1880||January 7, 1914||Isthmus of Panama|
In 2001, an initiative was started by the Swiss corporation New7Wonders Foundation to choose the New Seven Wonders of the World from a selection of 200 existing monuments for profit. Twenty-one finalists were announced January 1, 2006. Egypt was not happy with the fact that the only original wonder would have to compete with the likes of the Statue of Liberty, the Sydney Opera House, and other landmarks; and called the project absurd. To solve this, Giza was named an honorary Candidate. The results were announced on July 7 2007 in Benfica's stadium in a big ceremony in Lisbon, Portugal, and are:
|Wonder||Date of construction||Location|
|Great Wall of China||Fifth century B.C.E. – sixteenth century CE||China|
|Petra||Sixth century B.C.E.||Jordan|
|Christ the Redeemer||Opened October 12, 1931||Brazil|
|Machu Picchu||c. 1450||Peru|
|Chichen Itza||c. 600||Mexico|
|Roman Colosseum||Completed 80 C.E.||Italy|
|Taj Mahal||Completed c. 1648||India|
|Great Pyramid (Honorary Candidate)||Completed c. 2560 B.C.E.||Egypt|
In November 2006, the American national newspaper, USA Today, in cooperation with the American television show, Good Morning America, revealed a list of New Seven Wonders as chosen by six judges. The wonders were announced one per day over a week on Good Morning America. An eighth wonder was chosen on November 24 from viewer feedback.
|1||Potala Palace||Lhasa, Tibet, China|
|2||Old City of Jerusalem||Jerusalem, Israel|
|3||Polar ice caps||Polar regions|
|4||Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument||Hawaii, United States|
|6||Maya ruins||Yucatán Peninsula, México|
|7||Great Migration of Serengeti and Masai Mara||Tanzania and Kenya|
|8||Grand Canyon (viewer-chosen eighth wonder)||Arizona, United States|
Similar to the other lists of wonders, there is no consensus on a list of seven natural wonders of the world, as there has been debate over how large the list should be. One of the many lists was compiled by CNN:
The Seven Underwater Wonders of the World was a list drawn up by CEDAM International, an American-based non-profit group for divers, dedicated to ocean preservation and research. In 1989, CEDAM brought together a panel of marine scientists, including Dr. Eugenie Clark, to pick underwater areas which they considered to be worthy of protection. The results were announced at The National Aquarium in Washington DC by actor Lloyd Bridges, who played in a TV show titled Sea Hunt:
British author Deborah Cadbury wrote Seven Wonders of the Industrial World, a book telling the stories of seven great feats of engineering of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In 2003 the BBC made a seven-part documentary series on the book, with each episode dramatising the construction one of the wonders. The seven industrial wonders are:
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