The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World were a collection of remarkable constructions listed by various Greek authors, including Antipater of Sidon and Philo of Byzantium. The classic list featured seven wonders located in the Eastern Mediterranean.
1. Great Pyramid of Giza
Built between 2584 BC and 2561 BC, the Great Pyramid of Giza is the only surviving ancient wonder. It is 230.4 metres wide at its base and 146.5 metres tall, and is the largest of three that sit beside the city of Giza, around 12 miles from Cairo. It was the tallest man-made structure for more than 3,800 years, until the completion of Lincoln Cathedral around the year 1300.
The modern alternative? Modern pyramids include the glass entrance to the Louvre in Paris, the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, California, and the 30-storey Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas. The world’s tallest pyramid-shaped structure is the colossal Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea – dubbed the “Hotel of Doom” – at 330 metres tall. It is followed closely by The Shard in London (309.6m).
2. Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
The Temple of Artemis was reckoned by Antipater of Sidon, the Greek poet, to be the finest of the ancient wonders. He wrote: “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’.” After being destroyed twice, by floods and arson, the third – and greatest – incarnation began in 323BC. It survived until 268AD, when it was damaged or destroyed during a Goth raid. The site of the temple was rediscovered in 1869, and fragments of it can be found in the British Museum. Ephesus was given World Heritage Site status in 2014.
The modern alternative? Among the world’s most striking modern temples are Chiang Rai’s impossibly intricate Wat Rong Khun, opened in 1997; Harmandir Sahib, or the “Golden Temple”, completed in Amritsar in 1604; Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto; the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (its full name – Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família – is a bit of a mouthful); and the Lotus Temple in New Delhi, a place of worship of the Bahá’í faith built in 1986, which has won numerous architectural awards.
5. Statue of Zeus at Olympia
This giant seated representation of the Greek god Zeus was built by the sculptor Phidias around 435BC in the Temple of Zeus at the sanctuary of Olympia. It consisted of a wooden framework covered with ivory plates and gold panels, while the throne was decorated with ebony, ivory, gold and precious stones. It was mentioned by the Roman historian Suetonius (apparently Caligula gave orders for it to be shipped to Rome so its head could be replaced with a sculpture of his own). The statue may have been destroyed when the Temple of Zeus was lost to fire in 425. Alternatively, it was taken to Constantinople (now Istanbul), where it burnt with the Palace of Lausus in 475. Phidias’s workshop was rediscovered at Olympia in the 1950s.
The modern alternative? The Golden Buddha in Bangkok, the world’s heaviest solid gold statue at 5.5 tons, is one option. Or how about the world’s tallest statue: the Spring Temple Buddha in Henan, China, at 128 metres tall?
6. Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
Built between 353BC and 350BC, this tomb – for Mausolus, a Persian satrap (a provincial governor) – was 45 metres in height and covered in ornate reliefs by four different Greek sculptors. It stood at Halicarnassus, near modern-day Bodrum, Turkey, until it was destroyed by successive earthquakes between the 12th and 15th centuries. Since its construction, the word “mausoleum” has come to represent any above-ground tomb.
The modern alternative? The most famous mausoleum in the world is the Taj Mahal, built in 1643 on the Yamuna River near Agra to house the body of Mumtaz Mahal, the favourite wife of the Mughal emporer Shah Jahan. For something eerie, there’s Lenin’s Mausoleum in Red Square, Moscow – the leader’s embalmed body is still on public display.
7. Colossus of Rhodes
This statue to the Greek god of the sun, Helios, once stood at the entrance to the harbour at Rhodes, on the Greek island of the same name. It was built in 280BC to mark victory over the ruler of Cyprus, Antigonus I Monophthalmus, but survived for just 54 years, when it was destroyed by an earthquake. It was more than 30 metres tall and made of bronze and iron with a marble pedestal.
The modern alternative? Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro is an obvious choice. It is of similar height, not far from the sea, and suitably impressive.