Wonders of the Ancient World, part 2

Last week I gave a short history for three of the seven listed Wonders of the Ancient World. You can read that post here: Wonders of the Ancient World, part 1. Time to highlight the remaining four.


4. Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

It appears that the Temple to honor the Ephesian goddess of fertility Artemis was built three times. The first temple was built around 800 B.C. and contained a sacred stone, probably a meteorite, that had “fallen from Jupiter.” By the year 600 B.C. it had been rebuilt a couple of times, archeological evidence pointing to it being destroyed at least once by flooding.

Around 550 B.C. an architect named Chersiphron, financed by Croesus the king of Lydia, rebuilt the temple yet again, bigger and better so the tales go. On the night of July 21, 356 B.C. a man named Herostratus set fire to the temple in an attempt to immortalize his name. The roof caved in, the columns collapsed, and the statue of the goddess crashed to the ground. To dissuade those of a similar mind, the Ephesian authorities not only executed him, but attempted to condemn him to a legacy of obscurity by forbidding mention of his name under penalty of death. However, this did not stop Herostratus from achieving his goal as the ancient historian Theopompus recorded the event and its perpetrator in his Hellenics.

A new temple was commissioned and the architect was Scopas of Paros, one of the most famous sculptors of his day. By this point Ephesus was one of the greatest cities in Asia Minor and no expense was spared in the reconstruction. According to Pliny the Elder, a Roman historian, the new temple was a “wonderful monument of Grecian magnificence, and one that merits our genuine admiration.”

The great temple is thought to be the first building completely constructed with marble. Like its predecessor, the temple had 36 columns whose lower portions were carved with figures in high-relief. The temple also housed many works of art including four bronze statues of Amazon women. The Amazons, according to myth, took refuge at Ephesus from Heracles, the Greek demigod, and founded the city.

Pliny recorded the length of this new temple at 425 feet and the width at 225 feet. Some 127 columns, 60 feet in height, supported the roof. In comparison the Parthenon, the remains of which still stand on the Acropolis in Athens today, was only 230 feet long, 100 feet wide and had 58 columns. It reportedly took 120 years to complete, and stood until a series of invasions–the Goths in 268 A.D. and Roman Christians in 401 A.D.–finally destroyed it completely.

temple artemis

5. Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

It was built in 353 B.C. as a tomb of white marble for King Mausolus of Caria, who ruled with his sister Queen Artemisia in the city of Halicarnassus. Some think construction started before his death.

The mausoleum was built from bricks but covered with white Proconnesian marble.

  • Scopas, Bryaxis, Timotheus, and Leochares were responsible for the decoration on each side. They made brilliant reliefs of an Amazonomachy (a battle between Greek warriors and Amazons.)
  • Pausanias noted that the Romans considered the Mausoleum one of the great wonders of the world, and thereafter they called all their magnificent tombs mausolea.
  • The Knights of St John of Rhodes invaded the region and built Bodrum Castle. When they decided to fortify it in 1494, they used the stones of the Mausoleum. In 1522 rumors of a Turkish invasion caused the Crusaders to strengthen the castle at Halicarnassus (Bodrum) and most of the remaining portions of the tomb were broken up and used in the castle walls. Sections of polished marble from the tomb can still be seen there today.
Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

6. Colossus of Rhodes

Built by Chares of Lindus in 280 BC to celebrate the Rhodian victory over the Macedonians, and to thank the god Helios for protecting them. Chares supposedly used the bronze weapons that were abandoned by retreating Macedonians to sculpt the huge bronze image of Helios.

  • The Colossus took twelve years to complete.
  • From completion to destruction lies a time span of merely fifty-six years, yet the Colossus was so magnificent it earned a place as an Ancient Wonder.
  • “But even lying on the ground, it is a marvel,” said Pliny the Elder. The Colossus of Rhodes was not only a gigantic statue. It was a symbol of unity of the people who inhabited that beautiful Mediterranean island of Rhodes.
  • To build the statue, the workers cast the outer bronze skin parts. The base was made of white marble, and the feet and ankle of the statue were first fixed. The structure was gradually erected as the bronze form was fortified with an iron and stone framework. To reach the higher parts, an earth ramp was built around the statue and was later removed. When the Colossus was finished, it stood about 33 metres (110 ft) high. And when it fell, “few people can make their arms meet round the thumb,” wrote Pliny.
  • In AD 654, the Arabs invaded Rhodes. They disassembled the remains of the broken Colossus and sold them to a Jew from Syria. It is said that the fragments had to be transported to Syria on the backs of 900 camels.
Colossus of Rhodes

7. Lighthouse of Alexandria / Pharos of Alexandria

A tower built between 280 and 247 BC on the island of Pharos at AlexandriaEgypt. Its purpose was to guide sailors into the harbor at night.  Estimated at somewhere between 393 and 450 ft.  

  • The Pharaohs Ptolemy I and Ptolemy II utilized the skills of Sostratus the Cnidian, a wealthy Alexandrian courtier and diplomat, as architect of the Lighthouse.  
  • There are ancient claims that light from the lighthouse could be seen from up to 29 miles (47 km) away.
  • After the Muslims took over Egypt, the top of the Pharos became a mosque and the beacon was no longer in working order.
  • The lighthouse was badly damaged in the earthquake of 956, then again in 1303 and 1323.
Lighthouse of Alexandria: Pharos of Alexandria



Sharon Lathan

Sharon Lathan is the best-selling author of The Darcy Saga, a ten-volume sequel series to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

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Stephanie L

and no one cared about the history that they piecemealed off for pocket change. Just amazing isn’t it?

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