Sunday, October 14, 2007

Lost Forever - Ancient Wonders


A magnificent garden paradise said to have been built in the 7th century B.C. in the middle of the arid Mesopotamian desert, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were testimony to one man's ability to, against all the laws of nature, create a botanical oasis of beauty amid a bleak desert landscape. King Nebuchadnezzar II created the gardens as a sign of love for his wife homesick Amyitis, who, according to legend, longed for the forests and roses of her homeland. 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 the 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 means not just "hanging" but "overhanging," as in the case of a terrace or balcony. The gardens were terraced and surrounded by the city walls, with a moat of water outside the walls to repel invading armies.

When Alexander's soldiers reached the fertile land of Mesopotamia and saw Babylon, they were impressed. When they later returned to their rugged homeland, they had stories to tell about the amazing gardens and palm trees at Mesopotamia.

It wasn't until the twentieth century that some of the mysteries surrounding the Hanging Gardens were revealed. Archaeologists are still struggling to gather enough evidence before reaching the final conclusions about the location of the Gardens, their irrigation system, and their true appearance.


Originally, Colossus stood over 2,000 years ago at the Islands of Rhodes. It is located off of the southwestern tip is Asia Minor, where the Agean Sea meets the Mediterranean Sea. The capitol city, Rhodes, was built in 408 B.C.
In 357 B.C the island which was conquered by Mausolus of Halicarnassus (one of the other seven wonders) fell to the Persians in 340 B.C. and was finally captured by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C. When Alexander died at an early age people could not decide who would reign. Three people: Ptolemy, Seleucus, and Antigous divided the kingdom between themselves. Antigous sent his son Semetrious to capture and punish Rhodes. The war was very long and painful. The city was protected by a strong wall. The attackers were forced to use siege towers and try to climb over it. Diameters had a second tower built. The second tower stood 150 feet high and 70 feet square at the base. It carried water tanks that were used to fight fires. The tower was mounted on iron wheels, and could be rolled. When Demetrious attacked the city, defenders stopped the machine by flooding a ditch outside the wall and moving the heavy machine in the mud.
To celebrate their freedom, the Rhodians built a giant statue of their patriot God Helious. Colossus was a Latin word, meaning any statue that is larger than life size.

Salvador Dali's painting of Colossus

Colossus was built in 304 B.C. and it took twelve years to build it. The statue was 110 feet high and stood on the pedestal. Colossus was posed in a traditional Greek manner: nude, wearing a spiky crown, with his eyes shaded from the bright sun with his right hand while holding a cloak over his left hand.

Out of all of the wonders, Colossus was the one that stood the least amount of time. It stood for only 56 years, but in brief time won fame throughout the entire civilized world.
The statue stood for only 56 years until Rhodes was hit by an earthquake in 224 BC. The statue snapped at the knees and fell over onto the land. Ptolemy III offered to pay for the reconstruction of the statue, but an oracle made the Rhodians afraid that they offended Helios, and they declined to rebuild it. The remains lay on the ground for over 800 years, and even broken, they were so impressive that many travelled to see them.

In the 7th century (A.D.) the Arabs conquered Rhodes and broke up Colossus, and sold it as scrap metal. It took 900 camels to take away the statue. It was a sad ending for what was a majestic work of art.


The Statue of Zeus at Olympia was carved by the famed Classical sculptor Phidias (5th century BC) circa 435 BC in Olympia, Greece.
They built the temple to house the statue of Zeus, made of ivory and gold over wooden frame. The statue was 22 feet by 40 feet tall. Zeus, placed on a throne, almost touched the ceiling. "It seems that if Zeus were to stand up," the geographer Strabo noted early in the 1st century BC, "he would unroof the temple."

Zeus was carved from ivory (technically the ivory was soaked in a liquid that made it softer, so it was probably both carved and shaped as necessary) then covered with gold plating (thus chryselephantine) and was seated on a magnificent throne of cedarwood, inlaid with ivory, gold, ebony, and precious stones.

In Zeus' right hand there was a small statue of Nike, the goddess of victory, and in his left hand, a shining sceptre on which an eagle perched. Visitors like the Roman general Aemilius Paulus, the victor over Macedon, were moved to awe by the godlike majesty and splendor that Phidias had captured.

The circumstances of its eventual destruction are a source of debate: some scholars argue that it perished with the temple in the 5th century AD, others argue that it was carried off to Constantinople, where it was destroyed in the great fire of the Lauseion.


The Temple of Artemis (Diana) was the largest temple of ancient times and was the first building made entirely of marble except for its tile covered wooden roof. It was built about 550 B.C., although the foundation of the building dates back to the 7th century B.C. Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo, the god of truth and love.
It took 120 years to make the temple. It stood in the Greek city of Aphasias, on the west coast which we all know as Turkey.

The temple was decorated with bronze statues sculpted only by the most skilled artists of their time: Phidias, Polycleitus, Kresilas, and Phradmon. Built on a platform measuring 430 feet by 259 feet, the rectangular temple was larger than the Parthenon in Athens that measured 366 by 170 feet. The huge roof was supported by over 120 elaborately carved columns. Each column consisted of about 12 cylindrical blocks of marble that were raised into place with pulleys and placed on top of one another to form a column. There was also a room that sheltered a magnificent statue of Artemis. She was the goddess of the forest and the goddess of fertility.

On the night of 21 July, 356 B.C. , a man named Herostratus burned the temple to the ground in order to have his name immortalized in history. The Ephesians, outraged, announced that Herostratus' name never be recorded. That same night Alexander the Great was born. Eventually the temple was rebuilt by Alexander the Great who conquered Ephesus. The reconstructed temple lasted for many years but was looted by Goths and then flooded. By A.D. 262 the temple was destroyed beyond repair. If you go to the site today you will find that one column is still standing and traces of the foundation and road can still be seen.


Alexander the Great had seventeen cities named after him. Most of them are no longer around except for Alexandria, Egypt. This city is where the Lighthouse of Alexandria stood. Alexander died in 323 B. C. The city was completed by Ptolemy Soter, the new ruler of Egypt.
Ptolemy I, started building the lighthouse in 290 B.C. It was completed 20 years later and was the first lighthouse of the world. It was also the tallest building with the exception of the Great Pyramid.
It was built on island of Pharos in Alexandria.

Constructed from large blocks of light-colored stone, the tower was made up of three stages: a lower square section with a central core, a middle octagonal section, and, at the top, a circular section.

At its apex was positioned a mirror which reflected sunlight during the day; a fire was lit at night. Extant Roman coins struck by the Alexandrian mint show that a statue of a Triton was positioned on each of the building's 4 corners. A statue of Poseidon stood atop the tower during the Roman period.

Legends tell of the light from the Pharos being used to burn enemy ships before they could reach shore, however this is highly unlikely due to the relatively poor quality of optics and reflective technology in the time period in which the building existed.

Only slightly less impressive - and probably more accurate - is the claim that the light from the lighthouse could be seen up to 35 miles (56 km) from shore.

Pharos later became the etymological origin of the word 'lighthouse' in many Romance languages, such as French (phare), Italian (faro), Portuguese (farol), Spanish (faro) and Romanian (far).

The Pharos guided sailors into the city harbor for 1,500 years and was the last of the six lost wonders to disappear. Earthquakes toppled it in the 14th century A.D.

A reconstruction of the Lighthouse of Alexandria in the "Window of the World" Cultural Park in Changsha, China.