In my last blog, I looked at the New 7 wonders of the World, which I thought were a good idea because only one of the seven ancient wonders still exists. That got me thinking about the ancient wonders themselves. What were they? Where were they? What would we see if we visited their locations today?
The seven ancient wonders of the world were the invention of the ancient Greeks, who were so impressed by the things they saw during their travels throughout the known world which they had conquered, that they saw fit to wax lyrically about them and tourists such as Antipater of Sadon and Philo of Byzantium became some of the world’s first travel writers. Each writer had their own list and the idea was to compile a sort of primitive travel guide to prospective Greeks eager for adventure.
The Great Pyramid of Giza
It’s quite telling that the only one of the ancient wonders which still exists is also the oldest. The Great Pyramid dates back to 2584BC when construction on it began. It was of course the work of the ancient Egyptians and is believed to have been a tomb built to honour the pharaoh Khufu. It was the tallest man-made structure in the world for 3,800 years and remains one of the world’s most iconic historic landmarks.
Where to go: At the time of writing, the political situation in Egypt remains unstable and non-essential travel is not recommended. However, when the time comes when it’s safe to travel again, book a Middle East cruise which calls at Port Said and you’ll be able to join an excursion to Giza.
Lighthouse of Alexandria
The second of the ancient wonders located in Egypt, the lighthouse was constructed on the island of Pharos in 280 BC by the Ptolemaic Kingdom to guide its sailors into port. Its exact height cannot be verified, though at somewhere between 393 and 450 feet it was one of the world’s tallest structures for centuries. It was ravaged by earthquakes between the years of 956 and 1323 and fell in to ruin.
Where to go: Though the lighthouse is long gone, it’s still possible to see it, in a way. That’s because much of the stone from it was used to build the Citadel of Qaitbay in the 15th century. The situation in Egypt is as noted above but if you book a Middle Eastern cruise which calls at the port of Alexandria, you’ll be able to visit the citadel.
Temple of Artemis, Ephesus
A Greek temple built to honour the goddess Artemis first built in 550BC, this wonder was so wonderful that it was rebuilt three times before its destruction in 401. The temple was constructed on the site of an existing building dating back to the Bronze Age, which had been destroyed by floods. The Greeks decided a new temple would be built on the site, which would become the first Temple of Artemis. It survived until 356BC, when the arsonist Herostratus set fire to its wooden roof beams. The third structure followed and lasted much longer until it was destroyed by the Goths in 268.
Where to go: The ancient city of Ephesus, in Turkey remains a popular excursion destination for cruisers calling at the port of Kusadasi. It’s an enthralling place to visit and many structures remain partially intact. Though the temple’s ancient history, you can still see some of the foundations of its third incarnation when you visit the site.
Statue of Zeus at Olympia
The Greeks sure knew how to build and the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, in the Temple of Zeus, was a masterful representation of the most famous of their gods. 43 feet tall (and that’s seated) it must’ve been quite a sight and was sculpted from ivory plates and gold panels in 435BC. It’s not entirely sure when the statue became lost, though historical accounts show it was disassembled and destroyed by fire.
Where to go: Book Mediterranean or Black Sea cruise and join a shore excursion to Olympia, where the ruins of the Temple of Zeus can be found.
Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
Dating back to around 351BC, this was a tomb built by the Greeks to honour the Persian governor Mausolus and his wife Antemisia of Caira. It was believed to be 148 feet high and its sides were covered by reliefs, with a different Greek sculptor being responsible for each side. It was one of the most enduring ancient wonders and lasted until 1494, when it was destroyed by earthquakes. As you may have guessed, it’s the origin of the term ‘mausoleum’.
Where to go: Book a Mediterranean cruise which calls at Bodrum in Turkey and you’ll be able to visit the site of the Mausoleum, where some of its remains can still be seen.
Colossus of Rhodes
The ancient wonder with the shortest lifespan, the Colossus was built by the Greeks between 292-280BC and perished in the Rhodes earthquake of 226BC. It was a bronze statue of the Greek titan Helios and was almost 100 feet high. In many artistic impressions it is seen straddling the island’s harbour and though this is a fanciful depiction and not possible considering the statue’s size, it’s an enduring image and influenced the famous scene of the bronze statue of Talos coming to life in the 1963 film Jason and the Argonauts.
Where to go: Book a Greek Isles cruise which calls at the island of Rhodes. One historical theory is that the statue was never in the harbour, and was in fact part of the Acropolis of Rhodes. So, perhaps your best bet would be to visit Monte Smith, where the ruins of the Acropolis lie.
Hanging Gardens of Babylon
A difficult one, this. No-one’s exactly sure where the Hanging Gardens were, and some historical commentators believe that they never even existed at all. The broad consensus is that they were built within the ancient city of Babylon, though no archaeological evidence has been found. There are certainly some detailed descriptions in existence but some historians believe that these concern Assyrian king Sennacherib’s garden, built in his capital city of Nineveh.
How to see it: Both of the mooted locations for the gardens lie in modern-day Iraq, so perhaps it’s not so bad that there’s nothing definite to see, as you won’t be able to book a cruise which visits the country.
By Simon Brotherton