The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

February 19, 2024

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Sunset view of the Pyramid of Giza in Cairo, Egypt

When Ancient Greek travelers began exploring the world, they created lists of the impressive structures they came across. In time, these must-see landmarks were reduced to seven wonders. However, there was much dispute over which landmarks should be included on the list, and travelers had their own versions based on the ones they’d visited.

The first seven wonders lists were compiled by Herodotus in the fifth century BCE and Callimachus of Cyrene in the third century BCE. Unfortunately, we don’t know what was on them because they no longer exist. The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World we recognize today are based on the lists of Antipater of Sidon, which was created in the second century BCE, and Philo of Byzantium, which was created in the third century BCE.

What are the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World?

Ancient WonderDate of ConstructionDate of destruction
Great Pyramid of Giza2584–2561 BCStill in existence
Hanging Gardens of Babylonc. 600 BC (evident)After the 1st century AD
Statue of Zeus at Olympia435 BC5th–6th centuries AD
Temple of Artemis at Ephesusc. 550 BC and again in 323 BC356 BC (by Herostratus)AD 262 (by the Ostrogoths)
Colossus of Rhodes292–280 BC226 BC
Mausoleum at Halicarnassus351 BC12th–15th century AD
Lighthouse of Alexandriac. 280 BCAD 1303–1480

Great Pyramid of Giza

Looking at one of the sides of the Great Pyramid of Giza
The Great Pyramid of Giza served as the tomb of Pharaoh Khufu

The Great Pyramid of Giza, also known as “Khufu”, is located in Egypt, just north of Cairo. The pyramid is a monumental tomb that was built for the fourth-century pharaoh Khufu. It took 20 years and more than 2.3 million stone blocks to build the pyramid, which covers 13 acres and weighs more than five million tons. Today, the Great Pyramid stands 451 feet tall, but when it was originally built, it was even more impressive, with a height of 482 feet.

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the largest of a group of three pyramids. The other two are the tombs of Khufu’s son, Khafra, and grandson, Menkaura.

While most of the Great Pyramid’s facade has gone, it is still in existence — unlike the other six Ancient Wonders.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Depiction of Hanging Gardens of Babylon from 1679 book Turris Babel, by Athanasius Kircher
Hanging Gardens of Babylon, according to Athanasius Kircher’s book Turris Babel
Image credit: Athanasius Kircher, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

According to ancient Greek and Roman literature, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon was a series of gardens planted on top of a 75-foot tall square terrace near the Euphrates River in what is today known as Iraq. The gardens are said to have contained foliage, flowers, fruit, and waterfalls.

Ancient sources state that the gardens were built by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II around 600 BC for his wife Amtis of Media, who was homesick for the green landscape of her homeland (now northwest Iran).

The gardens were impressive not only for their size but for the fact that they were self-watering. It is thought that this was done via an elaborate tunnel and pulley system that was used to bring groundwater to the top of the gardens.

Some historians dispute the existence of the gardens because they are not mentioned in any ancient Babylonian inscriptions.

Statue of Zeus At Olympia

Engraving of the Temple of Zeus which housed the renowned statue of Zeus
Vintage engraving of the Temple of Zeus, Olympia

Created in the fifth century BCE by famous Athenian sculptor Phidias, the Statue of Zeus was a 40-foot-tall statue of the king of the gods located in the temple of Zeus in western Greece

Zeus was depicted sitting on a gem-encrusted throne made of gold and ivory, holding an eagle-topped scepter in his left hand and a sculpture of Nike, the goddess of victory, in his right. The statue was so large that jokes were made about Zeus hitting his head on the temple ceiling if he were to stand up.

A reservoir containing oil was positioned in front of the statue to balance the humidity levels inside the temple and help keep it in good condition. The Statue of Zeus survived in the temple for more than 800 years. Unfortunately, though, it was destroyed by fire when it was moved to Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) in the fifth century AD.

Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

Hungarian postage stamp from 1980 featuring the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
1980 Hungarian postage stamp commemorating the Temple of Artemis

The Temple of Artemis was a Greek temple located near the Ancient Greek city of Ephesus (now western Turkey). 

The temple was created to honor Artemis, the Greek goddess of hunting and wild animals. It was built by the Cretan architect Chersiphron and his son Metagenes and decorated by some of the Ancient World’s most celebrated artists.

The structure was destroyed multiple times: once by a flood in the seventh century BCE, a second time by fame-seeking arsonist Herostratus in 365 BCE, and again by the Ostrogoths in 262 AD, after which it was never rebuilt.

Colossus of Rhodes

Black and white drawing of the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
Vintage illustration of the Colossus of Rhodes

The Colossus of Rhodes was an enormous bronze statue of the Greek god Helius, which stood over one of Rhode’s harbors from about 292 BC to 224 BC. Archaeologists do not know what its exact location was or what it looked like because its remains were stolen by Arabs when they invaded the island in 654 AD.

The 100-foot-tall sculpture was designed by sculptor Chares of Lindos and was said to have taken 12 years to build. Originally, it was believed that the statue had one leg on either side of the harbor, but due to its immense weight, it is now thought that its legs would have had to have been close together in order to support it.

Just 50 years after being built, the Colossus of Rhodes was destroyed by an earthquake. However, it still attracted visitors, with people coming to see the ruins over a period of 800 years.

Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

Black and white illustration of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
Vintage illustration of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

The Mausoleum in Halicarnassus, now known as Bodrum in Türkiye, was built by Artemisia II (the king of Caria’s wife and sister), who commissioned it after his passing in 353 BCE. Artemisia herself died before it was finished, but the architects and sculptors decided to finish it as a monument to their art as well as a tomb for Caria’s rulers.

Standing approximately 135 feet high, the gigantic building that housed the tomb and the tomb itself was made entirely of white marble and decorated with artwork and intricate carvings by famous Greek sculptors Bryaxis, Leochares, Scopas, and Timotheus. The complicated structure, consisting of a layer of steps, a layer of columns, and a roof on which the tomb (a four-horse chariot) rested, was designed by Greek architects Satyrus and Pythis of Priene.

An earthquake destroyed the Mausoleum centuries later, making it the Ancient World’s second-longest surviving wonder after the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Lighthouse of Alexandria

Computer-generated image of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
Computer-generated image of the Lighthouse of Alexandria

The Lighthouse of Alexandria was built on the island of Pharos in Egypt’s Alexandria Harbor. Designed by Greek architect Sostratos of Cnidus, the lighthouse was built in three stages and consisted of a square base, an octagonal middle, and a cylindrical top, which may have supported a colossal statue of the god Helios, Alexander the Great, or Ptolemy II.

If its estimated height of 360 feet is correct, it would have been the second-tallest building of its time (after the Great Pyramid). A remarkable feat of engineering, the Lighthouse of Alexandria is what all subsequent lighthouses have been based on. 

By the 14th century AD, the lighthouse had been destroyed by a series of earthquakes. However, some of its ruins have been preserved, as they were used to build the Citadel of Qaitbay.

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