The Seven Wonders Of The World
The ancient Greeks loved to compile lists of the marvellous structures in their world. Though we think of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World as a single list today, there were actually a number of lists compiled by different Greek writers. Antipater of Sidon, and Philon of Byzantium, drew up two of the most well-known lists. Many of the lists agreed on six of the seven items.
The final place on some lists was aawarded to the Walls of the City of Babylon. On others, the Palace of Cyrus, king of Persia took the seventh position. Finally, toward the 6th century A.D., the final item became the Lighthouse at Alexandria. Since the it was Greeks who made the lists it is not unusual that many of the items on them were examples of Greek culture.
The writers might have listed the Great Wall of China if then had known about it, or Stonehenge if tthey’d seen it, but these places were beyond the limits of their world. It is a surprise to most people to learn that not all the Seven Wonders existed at the same time. Even if you lived in ancient times yyou would have still needed a time machine to see all seven.
While the Great Pyramids of Egypt was built centuries before the rest and is still around today (it is the only „wonder“ still intact) most of the others only survived a few hundred years or less. The Colossus of Rhodes stood only a little more than half a century before an earthquake toppled it.
The Temple of Artemis
The first shrine to the Goddess Artemis was probably built around 800 B.C. on a marshy strip near the river at Ephesus. The Ephesus Goddess Artemis, sometimes called Diana, is not the same figure as the Artemis worshipped in Greece. The Greek Artemis is the goddess of the hunt. TThe Ephesus Artemis was a goddess of fertility and was often pictured as draped with eggs, or multiple breasts, symbols of fertility, from her waist to her shoulders.
The shrine was destroyed and rebuilt several times over the next few hundred years. By 600 B.C., the city of Ephesus had become a major port of trade and an architect named Chersiphron was engaged to build a new large temple. He designed it with high stone columns. Concerned that carts carrying tthe columns might get marred in the swampy ground around the site, Chersiphron laid the columns on their sides and had them rolled to where they would be erected. This temple didn’t last long. In 550 B.C. King Croesus of Lydia conquered Ephesus and the other Greek cities of Asia Minor. During the fighting, the temple was destroyed. Croesus proved himself a gracious winner, though, by contributing generously to the building of a new temple. This was next to the last of the great temples to Artemis in Ephesus and it dwarfed those that had come before.
The architect is thought to be a man named Theodorus. Theodorus’s temple was 300 feet in length and 150 feet wide with an area four times the size of the temple before it. More than one hundred stone columns supported a massive roof. The new temple was the pride of Ephesus until 356 B.C. when a tragedy, by name of Herostratus, struck.
Herostratus was a young Ephesian who would stop at no cost to have his name go down in history. He managed this by burning the temple to the ground. The citizens of Ephesus were so appalled at this act they issued aa decree that anyone who spoke of Herostratus would be put to death. Shortly after this horrible deed, a new temple was commissioned.
The architect was Scopas of Paros, one of the most famous sculptors of his day. Ephesus was one of the greatest cities in Asia Minor at this point and no expense was spared in the construction. According to Piny the Elder, a Roman historian, the temple was a „wonderful monument of Grecian magnificence, and one that merits our genuine admiration.“ The temple was built in the same marshy place as before. To prepare the ground, Piny recorded that „layers of trodden charcoal were placed beneath, with fleeces covered with wool upon the top of them.“
The building is thought to be the first completely constructed with marble and one of its must unusual features were 36 columns whose lower portions were carved with figures in high-relief (above).
The temple also housed many works of art including four bronze statues of Amazon women. Piny 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 sstand on the acropolis in Athens today, was only 230 feet long, 100 feet wide and had 58 columns. According to Piny, construction took 120 years, though some experts suspect it may have only taken half that time.
We do know that when Alexander the Great came to Ephesus in 333 B.C., the temple was still under construction. He offered to finance the completion of the temple if the city would credit him as the builder. The city fathers didn’t want Alexander’s name carved on the temple, but didn’t want to tell him that. They finally gave the tactful response: „It is not fitting that one god should build a temple for another god“ and Alexander didn’t press the matter .
Piny reported that earthen ramps were employed to get the heavy stone beams perched on top of the columns. This method seemed to work well until one of the largest beams was put into position above the door. It went down crookedly and the architect could find no way to get it to lie flat. He was beside himself with worry about this until he had a dream one night in
which the Goddess herself appeared to him saying that he should not be concerned. She herself had moved the stone in the proper position. The next morning the architect found that the dream was true. During the night the beam had settled into its proper place.
The city continued to prosper over the next few hundred years and was the destination for many pilgrims coming to view the temple. A souvenir business in miniature Artemis idols, perhaps similar to a sstatue of her in the temple, grew up around the shrine. It was one of these business proprietors, a man named Demetrius, that gave St. Paul a difficult time when he visited the city in 57 A.D.
St. Paul came to the city to win converts to the then new religion of Christianity. He was so successful that Demetrius feared the people would turn away from Artemis and he would lose his livelihood. He called others of his trade together wwith him and gave a rousing speech ending with „Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!“ They then seized two of Paul’s companions and a near riot followed. Eventually the city was quieted, the men released, and Paul left for Macedonia. IIt was Paul’s Christianity that won out in the end, though.
By the time the great Temple of Artemis was destroyed during a raid by the Goths in 262 A.D., both the city and the religion of Artemis were in decline. When the Roman Emperor Constantine rebuilt much of Ephesus a century later, he declined to restore the temple. He had become a Christian and had little interest in pagan temples.
Despite Constantine’s efforts, Ephesus declined in its importance as a crossroads of trade. The bay where ships docked disappeared as silt from the river filled it. In the end what was left of the city was miles from the sea, and many of the inhabitants left swampy lowland to llive in the surrounding hills. Those that remained used the ruins of the temple as a source of building materials. Many of the fine sculptures were pounded into powder to make lime for wall plaster.
In 1863 the British Museum sent John Turtle Wood, an architect, to search for the temple. Wood met with many obstacles. The region was infested with bandits. Workers were hard to find. His budget was too small. Perhaps the biggest difficulty was that he had nno idea where the temple was located. He searched for the temple for six years. Each year the British Museum threatened to cut off his funding unless he found something significant, and each year he convinced them to fund him for just one more season.
Wood kept returning to the site each year many despite hardships. During his first season he was thrown from a horse, breaking his collar bone. Two years later he was stabbed within an inch of his heart during an assassination attempt upon the British Consul in Smyrna.
Finally in 1869, at the bottom of a muddy twenty-foot deep test pit, his crew struck the base of the great temple. Wood then excavated the whole foundation removing 132,000 cubic yards of the swamp to leave a hole some 300 feet wide and 500 feet long. The remains of some of the sculptured portions were found and shipped the to British Museum where they can be viewed even today.
In 1904 another British Museum expedition under the leadership of D.G. Hograth continued the excavation. Hograth found evidence of five temples on the site, each constructed on top of the other.
Today the site of the temple is aa marshy field. A single column is erect to remind visitors that once there stood in that place one of the wonders of the ancient world.
The Hanging Gardens Of Babylon
The ancient city of Babylon, under King Nebuchadnezzar II, must have been a wonder to the traveller’s eyes. „In addition to its size,“ wrote Herodotus, a historian in 450 BC, „Babylon surpasses in splendour any city in the known world.“ Herodotus claimed the outer walls were 56 miles in length, 80 feet thick and 320 feet high. Wide enough, he said, to allow a four-horse chariot to turn. The inner walls were „not so thick as the first, but hardly less strong.“
Inside the walls were fortresses and temples containing immense statues of solid gold. Rising above the city was the famous Tower of Babel, a temple to the god Marduk, that seemed to reach to the heavens. While archaeological examination has disputed some of Herodotus’s claims (the outer walls seem to be only 10 miles long and not nearly as high) his narrative does give us a sense of how awesome the features of the city appeared to those that visited it. Interestingly enough, though, one of the city’s mmost spectacular sites is not even mentioned by Herodotus: The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Accounts indicate that the garden was built by King Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled the city for 43 years starting in 605 BC (There is a less-reliable, alternative story that the gardens were built by the Assyrian Queen Semiramis during her five year reign starting in 810 BC). This was the height of the city’s power and influence and King Nebuchadnezzar constructed an astonishing array of temples, streets, palaces and walls.
According to accounts, the gardens were built to cheer up Nebuchadnezzar’s homesick wife, Amyitis. Amyitis, daughter of the king of the Medes, was married to Nebuchadnezzar to create an alliance between the nations. The land she came from, though, was green, rugged and mountainous, and she found the flat, sun-baked terrain of Mesopotamia depressing. The king decided to recreate her homeland by building an artificial mountain with rooftop gardens.
The Hanging Gardens probably did not really „hang“ in the sense of being suspended from cables or ropes. The name comes from an inexact translation of the Greek
word kremastos or the Latin word pensilis, which mean not just „hanging“, but „overhanging“ as in the case of a terrace or balcony.
The Greek geographer Strabo, who described the gardens in first century BC, wrote, „It consists of vaulted terraces raised one above another, and resting upon cube-shaped pillars. These are hollow and filled with earth to allow trees of the largest size to be planted. The pillars, the vaults, and terraces are constructed of baked brick and asphalt.“ <
Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian, stated that the platforms on which the garden stood consisted of huge slabs of stone (otherwise unheard of in Babel), covered with layers of reed, asphalt and tiles. Over this was put „a covering with sheets of lead, that the wet which drenched through the earth might not rot the foundation. Upon all these was laid earth of a convenient depth, sufficient for the growth of the greatest trees. When the soil was laid even aand smooth, it was planted with all sorts of trees, which both for greatness and beauty might delight the spectators.“
How big were the gardens? Diodorus tells us it was about 400 feet wide by 400 feet long and more tthan 80 feet high. Other accounts indicate the height was equal to the outer city walls. Walls that Herodotus said were 320 feet high. In any case the gardens were an amazing sight: A green, leafy, artificial mountain rising off the plain. But did it actually exist? After all, Herodotus never mentions it.
This was one of the questions that occurred to German archaeologist Robert Koldewey in 1899. For centuries before that the ancient city of Babel was nothing but a mound of muddy debris. Though unlike many ancient locations, the city’s position was well-known, nothing visible remained of its architecture. Koldewey dug on the Babel site for some fourteen years and unearthed many of its features including the outer wwalls, inner walls, foundation of the Tower of Babel, Nebuchadnezzar’s palaces and the wide processional roadway which passed through the heart of the city.
While excavating the Southern Citadel, Koldewey discovered a basement with fourteen large rooms with stone arch ceilings. Ancient records indicated that only two locations in the city had made use of stone, the north wall of the Northern Citadel, and the Hanging Gardens.
The north wall of the Northern Citadel had already been found and had, iindeed, contained stone. This made it seem likely that Koldewey had found the cellar of the gardens. He continued exploring the area and discovered many of the features reported by Diodorus. Finally a room was unearthed with three large, strange holes in the floor. Koldewey concluded this had been the location of the chain pumps that raised the water to the garden’s roof.
The foundations that Koldewey discovered measured some 100 by 150 feet. Smaller than the measurements described by ancient historians, but still impressive.
One can only wonder if Queen Amyitis was happy with her fantastic present, or if she continued to pine for the green mountains of her homeland.
The Maussoleum at Halicarnassus
In 377 B.C., the city of Halicarnassus was the capitol of a small kingdom along the Mediterranean coast of Asia Minor. It was in that year the ruler of this land, Hecatomnus of Mylasa, died and left control of the kingdom to his son, Mausolus. Hecatomnus, a local satrap to the Persians, had been ambitious and had taken control of several of the neighbouring cities and districts. Mausolus in his time, extended the territory even further so that it finally included most of southwestern Asia Minor. <
Mausolus, with his queen Artemisia, ruled over Halicarnassus and the surrounding territory for 24 years. Mausolus, though he was descended from the local people, spoke Greek and admired the Greek way of life and government. He founded many cities of Greek design along the coast and encouraged Greek democratic traditions.
Then in 353 B.C. Mausolus died, leaving his queen Artemisia, who was also his sister (It was the custom in Caria for rulers to marry their own sisters), broken-hearted. As a tribute to him, she decided to build him the most splendid tomb in the known world. It became a structure so famous that Mausolus’s name is now associated with all stately tombs through our modern word mausoleum. The building was also so beautiful and unique it became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Soon after construction of the tomb started Artemisia found herself in a crisis. Rhodes, an island in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Asia Minor, had been conquered by Mausolus. When the Rhodians heard of his death they rebelled and sent a fleet of ships to capture the city of Halicarnassus. Knowing that the Rhodian fleet was on the way, Artemisa hid her oown ships at a secret location at the east end of the city’s harbour.
After troops from the Rhodian fleet disembarked to attack, Artemisia’s fleet made a surprise raid, captured the Rhodian fleet, and towed it out to sea. Artemisa put her own soldiers on the invading ships and sailed them back to Rhodes. Fooled into thinking that the returning ships were their own victorious navy, the Rhodians failed to put up a defense and the city was easily captured quelling the rebellion.
The Mausoleum overlooked the city ...
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