Saturday, October 28, 2006

Apple #203: Wonders of the World

Last night, a friend said, "What are the seven wonders of the world, anyway?"

I said there were seven ancient wonders and seven modern wonders, and I started to list what I could remember -- the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Colossus of Rhodes -- and he suggested the Golden Gate Bridge as one of the modern wonders.

Surely, he said, Niagara Falls ought to be in there somewhere. But was there a separate list for the natural wonders versus the man-made wonders?

Clearly, it was time for the Apple Lady to step in.

As we suspected, there are actually many lists of wonders of the world. Herodotus was the first known person to come up with such an idea, as a way to celebrate the best of human structures that express a reverence for religion, art, mythology, science, or political dominance.

Ever since Herodotus, people have been coming up with lists of wonders all over the place. I'll start with the Ancient Wonders and give a couple other lists after that.


Listed chronologically, in order of their construction:

Great Pyramid of Giza
  • in Memphis, Egypt
  • built as a tomb for the Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu around 2560 BC
  • the oldest and only surviving structure of the Ancient Wonders
  • was originally 481 feet high and for 43 centuries, was the tallest structure on Earth
  • each side is 751 feet long
  • consists of about 2 million blocks of stone
  • interior sarcophagus is aligned with the directions of the compass

Hanging Gardens of Babylon
  • legendary palace and gardens along the Euphrates River, about 50 km south of Baghdad
  • built by King Nebuchadnezzar II, supposedly to please his wife who was from greener lands
  • built around 600 BC, and the foundation of the palace was only recently discovered
  • little is now known about the gardens
  • the plants grew above ground, even above eye-level and were irrigated with sloping channels, while grass grew green underfoot
  • all of this was accomplished in the desert-like conditions of Mesopotamia

One rendition of what the Hanging Gardens might have looked like. You can see more renditions at Joseph Berrigan's page.

Statue of Zeus at Olympia
  • enormous statue of the ruler of the Greek gods, seated on his throne
  • carved in honor of the Athenian Olympic games by renowned sculptor Pheidias
  • Pheidias started working on the statue in 440 BC
  • it was built starting with a metal frame over which were laid sheets of metal and ivory and gold
  • the statue is 40 feet high, or about four stories, and the base is 20 feet wide
  • the legs of the throne were decorated with sphinxes, Zeus' garments were inlaid with animals and lilies, and an eagle perched atop his sceptre
  • copies and reconstructions have since been attempted, but none managed to parallel the original work

Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
  • in Ephesus, which is about 50 km south of Izmir, in Turkey
  • built in honor of the Greek goddess of hunting and nature
  • foundation was constructed in the 7th century BC, but the rest of the structure was built around 550 BC
  • it was made of marble, with 127 Ionic columns aligned around the outside
  • the terrace alone was 260 feet by 430 feet
  • it housed many statues, including four bronze statues of Amazon women
  • though the temple had been burned, it was still standing and the locus of a very strong religious group still devoted to Artemis when Paul visited Ephesus in the 1st century AD

Mausoleum at Helicarnassus
  • Helicarnassus is now Bodrum, on the coast of the Aegean Sea in southwest Turkey
  • built in honor of King Maussollos, who was a local governor of Caria, one of Persia's outposts
  • the structure of Maussollos' tomb (hence, mausoleum) and was originally planned by his wife, who was also his sister, Artemisia
  • it was completed around 350 BC, three years after Maussollos had died, and one year after Artemisia had died
  • it was 120 feet by 100 feet at the base, and rose to a total height of 140 feet
  • on the surrounding podium and on top of the roof were all sorts of life-sized statues of people, lions, horses pulling chariots, and free-standing sculptures

One depiction of what the Mausoleum might have looked like
(from a page on the subject from the Netherlands)

Colossus of Rhodes
  • built at the harbor around the Island of Rhodes, in the Mediterranean
  • enormous statue of Helios the sun-god
  • took 12 years to build, and was finished in 282 BC
  • it has long been described as standing astride the harbor, with one foot on either side, but given the width of the harbor, this is highly unlikely to have been the case
  • the base was made of marble, an iron and stone framework rose up from there, and was overlaid in bronze
  • the dimensions were such that "few people can make their arms meet around the thumb"
  • an earthquake in 226 BC weakened the statue at the knee, and it fell over

Lighthouse of Alexandria
  • built by the Ptolemy rulers of Egypt shortly after the death of Alexander the Great
  • located off the coast of Alexandria, on the island of Pharos
  • the word Pharos is the root word of lighthouse
  • the lighthouse stood about 40 stories high and contained and internal shaft where fuel was lifted to keep the nighttime fire burning
  • during the day, an enormous mirror was used to reflect sunlight and direct ships
  • a statue of Poseidon, Greek god of the sea, stood atop the whole thing
  • the last of the non-existent Ancient Wonders to crumble
  • a series of earthquakes proved its undoing in 956, 1303, and 1323 AD

This model of the Lighthouse gives you an idea of the structure's massive scale (from a U of Texas course Intro to Greece)


There are lots of different lists of natural wonders. Some list only 7, some list far more. Some, though they restrict their list to 7, have different items on their list. I've decided to go with this list, which was compiled primarily by CNN:

  • Grand Canyon in Arizona
  • Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia
  • Mount Everest in Nepal
  • Northern lights
  • Paricutin Volcano in Mexico
  • Rio de Janeiro harbor
  • Victoria Falls on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe

I know it's a postcard, but it's the best image I found that helps me to understand why a harbor is on this list. And yes, all that water is one harbor. That statue, called Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer), is on other lists of man-made wonders.


This list, too, appears in many and various forms. The one repeated most often was compiled by the American Society of Civil Engineers. I detect a bit of a bias towards the United States -- where's the Eiffel Tower, for example -- and towards engineering -- somehow, I doubt that the North Sea Protection Works is especially pleasing to the eye.

  • Channel tunnel between France & England
  • CN Tower in Toronto, Canada
  • Empire State Building in New York
  • Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA
  • Itaipu Hydroelectric Dam on the border of Brazil & Paraguay
  • North Sea Protection Works (good pictures of this at Wikipedia)
  • Panama Canal

The Itaipu dam provides more hydroelectric power than can be generated by 10 nuclear power plants. 28% of Brazil's electricity and 78% of Paraguay's electricity is generated by this dam alone. To build it, engineers had to move 50 million tons of dirt and rock and then shift the course of the seventh largest river in the world.
(Photo by Rab & Jo)

There are also lists of forgotten wonders, wonders of the medieval mind, forgotten wonders of the medieval mind (but if they're forgotten wonders of the mind, how did we wind up with a list of them?), and so on. Niagara Falls, by the way, are included on the Forgotten Wonders of the Natural World list.

All these lists lead me to think that you or I could make a list of wonders, and if we told enough people about our list, we might get everybody to think we were being Very Official about our Seven Wonders of the World's Bathrooms or whatever topic we chose.

In fact, a preservation foundation are trying to put together a new list of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and they're taking votes! The New Wonders will be announced in Lisbon, Portugal, on July 7, 2007 (07-07-07).

Alaa Ashmawy's Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
Wonder Club, Complete Listing of World Wonders
123World, Seven Wonders of the World and More
Wikipedia, Seven Wonders of the World


  1. I dig the apple lady - today's posting reminds me of teaching 6th graders...they were all sweaty & curious & shocked that folks from back in the day could build such impressive stuff.

  2. Good blog, Apfeldame!

  3. Hey, thanks for the Apple Reader Love!
    Blogger has been giving me problems with posting lately, so I hope you've been able to see the completed entry with pictures, and not just the interim thing.
    --your Apfeldame, ja.

  4. pls.give some more natural and art beauties.thank you


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