The Seven Wonders of the World

All that's left of the Temple of Zeus

The other day I saw some attraction characterized as the Eighth Wonder of the World.  It was a Las Vegas casino or a minature golf course or something, I can’t remember.  It occurred to me that either some people are easily impressed, or standards for the seven wonders that rank above it must have been lowered.

Long ago — two millennia ago — the original Seven Wonders were a sort of bucket list for travelers in the area of the Mediterranean.  They were man-made marvels extolled by poets and historians; the list was sort of the official version of your present-day acquaintance who says, “Oh, you’re going to England?  You MUST see Stonehenge.”

Unfortunately, it’s hard to know how wonderful the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World were, because all but one of them are gone.  The Great Pyramid of Cheops at Giza (Egypt) is still standing, and held the record of tallest structure for over 4,000 years.  The Hanging Gardens of Babylon (Iraq) no longer exist, if they ever did.  Many modern scholars think they were just a legend, the invention of poets.

The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (Turkey) was a massive tomb built for a ruler named Mausolus, who died in 353 B.C.  It was a tribute from his wife and sister, who happened to be the same person.  Bits of it are now on display in London’s British Museum.  (When you’re in England, you MUST go there.)

Earthquakes destroyed The Lighthouse of Alexandria (Egypt), also known as the Pharos.  Standing near the mouth of the Nile, the lighthouse was about 380 feet tall, and its light was said to be visible from 30 or 40 miles away.

I have been to the sites of the other three ancient wonders, and can report that they aren’t much to look at anymore.  The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (Turkey), once considered the most spectacular of all seven, is now some scatttered stones covered with weeds.  There is also a nearby museum that has artifacts found at the site.  One that I recall was a statue of Artemis that depicted her as having several dozen breasts.  (It would have been impossible for her to find a bra that fit comfortably.)

The Greek island of Rhodes is a fascinating destination because of all the layers of history there; for a brief time it was famous for The Colossus of Rhodes.  A statue representing the sun god Helios, the Colossus is sometimes pictured as straddling the entrance to the harbor — but it didn’t.  It was a, uh, colossal statue by ancient standards, standing a little over 100 feet high.  (To give you an idea, the Statue of Liberty in New York is about 150 feet, not counting the pedestal.)  Currently the entrance to Rhodes features two columns that are maybe 30 feet high.  Each has a statue of a deer on it, and let me anticipate your question:  I have no idea why.

Finally, The Statue of Zeus at Olympia (Greece) sat in a temple for 800 years or so, serving as a gathering place during the Olympic games.  The statue, made of ivory and gold-plated bronze, was destroyed by fire in A.D. 462.  What’s left of the temple looks a lot like the Temple of Artemis:  rubble and weeds.  The area is very scenic, though, with a couple of small rivers nearby and mountains in the distance.

So… if you were to compile a list of current wonders of the world, what would you include?  You don’t have to name seven, necessarily; I’m just wondering what you think are the wonders of our time.

12 responses to “The Seven Wonders of the World

  1. Dear Tom. In the future, please compose a more difficult quiz. 1. Wrigley Field. 2. Fenway Park. 3. The 405. 4. Jacobs Field AKA Progressive Park, Cleveland, Ohio. 5. The ruins of the castle on shores of Loch Ness. I think it is called Urquarht or something like that. 6. The Rose Bowl. 7. The Collusus of Rhodes. I am building a life size replica at my house. Watch the tourist come!

    • Ron, your inclusion of several ballparks reminds me that when the Astrodome in Houston was built, it was frequently called “The Eighth Wonder of the World”. It has subsequently joined most of the other ancient wonders as a reminder of the passage of time.

  2. The monoliths on Easter Island (if we consider the last 1000 years current), St. Peter’s Basilica, the Palace of Versailles, the Three Gorges Dam (an environmental disaster, but quite an engineering feat), the Golden Gate Bridge (or just about any suspension bridge), Brazilia, and the Alamo (you can take the Texan out of Texas, but….)

    • As far as I’m concerned, anything that is still more or less intact qualifies. All of the ones you named are certainly worthy, Herb (well, I haven’t been to Brazil yet, so can’t say for sure on that one). By the “still intact” rule, I’d include the Great Wall of China, too.

  3. How about the Duomo in Florence, Italy? Michelangelo is entombed in Santa Croce in such a way that when the Rapture comes he wants the first thing he sees to be Brunelleschi’s Dome. That’s a pretty solid vote for a wonder, don’t you think?

  4. It isn’t visual, but it seems as though the Internet ought to have one of the early numbers among wonders.

    • You may remember Woody Allen’s movie “Take the Money and Run”. Desperate to find work, his character was being interviewed for a job for which he was clearly not qualified. The interviewer asked if he had any experience with computers. Woody said that he did. The interviewer asked where. “My grandmother has a computer in her living room.” At the time, that line got a huge laugh because computers were bigger than cars; it was absurd to think that anyone would have a computer in her home.

      Audiences seeing that scene now wouldn’t get the joke because technology has become so present. We take it for granted that everyone has a computer — at least one, maybe more. The internet truly is a wonder; the challenge is finding a place to stand, so to speak, to see the enormity of the change it has made in life on earth.

  5. Donald Trump’s hair.

  6. With all humility, I must declare myself the winner here (and, yes, everything is a competition). The Ancients based their “Wonders of the World” upon aesthetics and marvels in engineering. Therefore, is there a better example of engineering genius and artistic beauty than that which was brought to the world via the internal combustion engine? Truly a game changer. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…the CAR!

    1. 2005 Bugatti Veyron (1000 BHP / top speed 267 MPH)
    2. 1961 E-Type Jag (universally considered most beautiful car ever built)
    3. 1967 Corvette Stingray (’nuff said)
    4. Aston Martin DB5 (Swann, Phil Swann)
    5. 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Coupe
    6. Rolls-Royce Phantom
    7. Talladega Super Speedway

    • I didn’t see that one coming, Phil, but you’re right about the internal combustion engine having a profound impact on the world. Whether it qualifies as being among the Seven Wonders of the World depends on context, I suppose. The open road is one thing; but at 6 p.m. in Midtown Manhattan or on I-405 in Los Angeles, all of the autos you mentioned just become an attractive place to sit.

  7. Oh, but what a place to sit.

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