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Encyclopedia > Seven Wonders

The seven wonders of the world are usually taken to be the seven wonders of the ancient world, the name of a list of the most impressive achievements of ancient civilizations in the east of the Mediterranean world. This list is supposed to have been written by someone close to Alexander the Great, in order to emphasize the size of his empire: in fact, the seven wonders demarcate the territory Alexander had conquered.

The originator of the list is usually given as Antipater of Sidon, who listed the structures in a poem (around 140 BC):

"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 labour 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.'" (Antipater, Greek Anthology IX.58)

The historian Herodotus, the scholar Callimachus of Cyrene (ca 305240 BC) at the Museum of Alexandria, and the engineer Philon of Byzantium had made earlier lists but the writings have not survived, except as references. The Greek category was not "Wonders" but "theamata"— closer to "must-sees".


Five Sets of Seven Wonders

There are many conflicting sources regarding the Seven Wonders of the World, and for good reason. Each succeeding age has added new accomplishments and discoveries, giving us dozens of wonders to gaze in awe upon. Many consider there are five sets of World Wonders:

  1. Ancient Wonders of the World
  2. Medieval Wonders of the World
  3. Natural Wonders of the World
  4. Underwater Wonders of the World
  5. Modern Wonders of the World

Ancient Wonders

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, with the Pharos of Alexandria, is medieval in origin. Antipater's list had the walls of Babylon rather than the lighthouse. In chronological order, they are:

  1. Colossus of Rhodes - a huge statue of Helios, built ca 292280 BC, in present Greece.
  2. Hanging Gardens of Babylon - built by Nebuchadnezzar II, ca 8th6th century BC, in present Iraq.
  3. Mausoleum of Halicarnassus - tomb of Mausolus, the Persian satrap of Caria, built between ca 353 and 351 BC, at Halicarnassus, present Bodrum, Turkey.
  4. Pharos of Alexandria - lighthouse built ca 280 BC on the island of Pharos off Alexandria, by Sostratus of Cnidus, in present Egypt.
  5. Pyramids of Giza - serving as tombs for the Egyptian pharaohs Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure, in present Egypt. Built during Egypt's 4th dynasty (ca 2575–ca 2465 BC)
  6. Statue of Zeus - at Olympia, carved by the Greek sculptor Phidias, ca 430 BC in present Greece.
  7. Temple of Artemis - 356 BC, at Ephesus, present Turkey.

Two of each of the wonders were within the territories of today's Egypt, Greece, and Turkey, and one in Iraq. The only surviving wonder is the first built, the Pyramids of Giza. The wonder with the shortest life span was the Colossus of Rhodes, which kept its erect posture for only 56 years before being brought down by an earthquake. There is some controversy as to whether the Hanging Gardens of Babylon ever in fact existed.

Medieval Wonders

After the collapse of the great civilizations of antiquty, the memories of the destroyed ancient wonders faded. Scholars and philosophers reviewed and rewrote the lists of wonders, removing old ones and replacing them with "newly built" as tales of them spread. Over the centuries a consensus emerged in the form of the Seven Wonders of the Medieval Mind list:

  1. Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa
  2. Colosseum
  3. Great Wall of China
  4. Hagia Sophia
  5. Leaning Tower of Pisa
  6. Porcelain Tower of Nanjing (Nanjing, China)
  7. Stonehenge (United Kingdom)

Natural Wonders

Similar to other list of wonders, there is no consensus on a list of seven natural wonders of the world. One of the lists was compiled by CNN [1] (http://www.cnn.com/TRAVEL/DESTINATIONS/9711/natural.wonders/):

  1. Grand Canyon
  2. Great Barrier Reef
  3. Harbor of Rio de Janeiro
  4. Mount Everest
  5. Northern Lights
  6. Paricutín Volcano
  7. Victoria Falls

Underwater Wonders

Though the Underwater Wonders of the World are also all natural and not made by man; these wonders are either bodies of water, occur underwater, or are surrounded by water.

  1. Belize Barrier Reef
  2. Deep-Sea Vents
  3. Galapagos Islands
  4. Great Barrier Reef
  5. Lake Baikal
  6. Northern Red Sea
  7. Palau

Modern Wonders

Many people have since devised lists of wonders of the modern world. The most common list is:

  1. Channel Tunnel (United Kingdom and France)
  2. CN Tower (Toronto, Canada)
  3. Empire State Building (New York, USA)
  4. Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco, USA)
  5. Itaipu Dam (Brazil and Paraguay)
  6. Delta Works (The Netherlands)
  7. Panama Canal (Panama)

Additional Candidates

With so many conflicting sources regarding each of the five sets of Seven Wonders, one must consider the additional candidates for each list:

Ancient Candidates

After a lot more of the world was discovered by the western world, wonders new to the western world made their appearance on new lists of wonders:

Medieval Candidates

No additional Mediaval Wonders of the World are stated.

Natural Candidates

Underwater Candidates

No additional Underwater Wonders of the World are stated.

Modern Candidates

External links and references

  • "New 7 Wonders (http://www.new7wonders.com/)". NewOpenWorld Foundation - a global project on to vote (until February 2005) on wonders to be included in a modern list.
  • The World's Top 100 Wonders (http://www.hillmanwonders.com/) - a list of architectural, engineering and natural wonders by Howard Hillman, a renowned travel writer.
  • WonderClub.com (http://www.wonderclub.com/AllWorldWonders.html) - a "list of lists", with information about most wonders.

Further readings

  • Cox, Reg, and Neil Morris, "The Seven Wonders of the Modern World". Chelsea House Publications: Library. October, 2000. ISBN 079106048
  • Cox, Reg, Neil Morris, and James Field, "The Seven Wonders of the Medieval World". Chelsea House Publications: Library. October, 2000. ISBN 0791060470
  • D'Epiro, Peter, and Mary Desmond Pinkowish, "What Are the Seven Wonders of the World? and 100 Other Great Cultural Lists". Anchor. December 1, 1998. ISBN 0385490623
  • Morris, Neil, "The Seven Wonders of the Natural World". Chrysalis Books. December 30, 2002. ISBN 184138495X

  Results from FactBites:
Seven Wonders of the World - MSN Encarta (801 words)
Seven Wonders of the World, works of art and architecture regarded by ancient Greek and Roman observers as the most extraordinary structures of antiquity.
The Seven Wonders are most often listed in the order in which they were built.
The oldest of the seven wonders, the pyramids are the only one remaining nearly intact today.
Seven wonders of the world - by travel authority Howard Hillman (724 words)
Six of the seven wonders were built or inspired by Grecian culture.
Two of the ancient seven wonders are royal tombs (Pyramid of Khufu and Mausoleum at Halicarnassus).
Suppose all of the ancient seven wonders were around today in their prime conditions.
  More results at FactBites »



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