The Seven Wonders Of The Ancient World

At some point it was getting a bit ridiculous: get up early, run to see some ruins that weren’t there, jump on a bus, connect with another bus, arrive late at the next town and then do it again. And again. This is what our itinerary was like for the better part of last week. We made the mistake of ordering a Kids Discover pamphlet titled “7 Wonders of the World” and making our kids read it as part of their homeschooling. Unfortunately, our daughter decided that we must see as many of them as possible. “We’ve seen the pyramids and the lighthouse at Alexandria and we are planning to go to Rhodes,” she said as she browsed the pamphlet, before continuing. “You know…Bodrum is not that far from Rhodes and the Temple of Artemis is right next to Ephesus, which you said we were going to anyway.” Control of our itinerary was gradually slipping away from us and into the hands of our 12-year old daughter.

The Seven Wonders of the World is a well known list of remarkable constructions of classic antiquity. Alexander the Great’s conquest of much of the known world in the 4th century BC gave Hellenic people access to the great civilizations of Egypt, Persia and Babylon and a consensus formed from such writers as Antipater of Sidon, Philon, Herodotus and Pliny the Elder. The seven ancient wonders are the Great Pyramid at Giza (Egypt), The Hanging Gardens of Babylon (Iraq), The Lighthouse at Alexandria (Egypt), the Temple of Artemis (Turkey), the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (Turkey), the Statue of Zeus at Olympia (Greece), and the Colossus of Rhodes (Greece). Ironically, five of the seven wonders were celebrations of Greek or Hellenic culture (all except the Great Pyramid and Hanging Gardens) yet these days five of the seven are in Muslim lands (all except the Statue of Zeus and the Colossus of Rhodes).

The thing that you have to remember about the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World is that, with the exception of the Great Pyramids, they are gone. The Hanging Gardens, Alexandria Lighthouse and Colossus of Rhodes were toppled by an earthquake and fire did in the Statue of Zeus and the Temple of Artemis. There are a handful of other lists like the Seven Modern Wonders or the Seven Natural Wonders and even the recent internet vote for the New Seven Wonders, but we focused on the ancient list because it dovetailed so nicely with our itinerary. In Egypt, the Pyramids and the Lighthouse at Alexandria were easy to get to because they are near large cities. At Alexandria, we visited the site and our kids touched some of older stones of the Quaitbay Castle, allegedly from the Lighthouse. Having also touched the Great Pyramid, our daughter was now on a quest to touch at least a part of them all. (I should mention that we have no intention of going to Iraq to look for or touch the Hanging Gardens; six out of seven will have to do)

We arrived at the Rhodes harbor via ferry from Marmaris. After checking into our hotel, we went to the old harbor entrance that was supposedly the site of the Colossus and saw nothing but a small fortification and lighthouse. The Colossus was a copper statue of Helios, the sun god and was built in 226 BC. It was about 110 feet high and only stood for 60 years. We looked for pieces of copper in the shallow water; we’d later learned that the copper ruins lay around for almost 900 years before invading Arab armies looted it and sold the copper pieces to a Syrian merchant. We left Rhodes by the same route and made our way back to Marmaris, Turkey so that we could catch the last bus to Bodrum, the location of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. We arrived at our Bodrum hotel at around 9:00 pm and went right to sleep. We woke up early the next morning and marched over to the ruins of the Mausoleum. The site was predictably unimpressive and had a couple dozen column pieces scattered about the site. The structure was built in 351 BC for King Mausolus, which is where we get our name for mausoleum. There is a beautiful marble frieze from the mausoleum that, like many antiquities, sits in the British Museum. After the initial fire, crusaders looted the site to use for other purposes.

After 45 minutes at the site, we picked up our bags and jumped on the first of two buses to Selcuk, the site of the Temple of Artemis. At Selcuk, while rolling our bags away from the bus station and towards our hostel, we caught a glimpse of the lone remaining column from the ruined site. Checking my watch with my daughter, we realized that we had seen 3 of the 7 wonders within a 24 hour period. The site was also unimpressive but we had to visit so the kids could touch the remaining column. The temple was built in 550 BC and may have been the most beautiful of all the wonders. We headed back to the hostel so that we could get much needed naps. Five down and one to go. Within the next few weeks we’ll be visiting the site of the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the site of the first Olympic games. That is unless our daughter gets control of our itinerary again.


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