Monday, September 24, 2007

Seven Wonders: Introduction

The one thing we do know about the Seven Wonders is what they are. So here's the list:

The Colossus of Rhodes
The Great Pyramid of Giza
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
The Lighthouse of Alexandria
The Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

Origin of the List

But is this the list? Apparently Herodotus and Callimachus of Cyrene made lists of seven wonders, but we don't have their lists, only references to them. The earliest list is apparently in a poem by Antipater of Sidon around 140 BC (by which time two of them had already been destroyed), and he has The Ishtar Gate of Babylon rather than The Lighthouse of Alexandria (still standing at that time). The Lighthouse got put in later. So what is it a list of in the first place; why have a list of wonders?


Essentially the list is one of "sights"; a "Things to see before you die" tour if you like. It is, of course, a Hellenic[1] list; specifically a list originating from Ionia in modern day Turkey. Looking at them in order of closeness to this centre we have the Colossus and the Temple of Artemis as Greek Wonders, the Mausoleum as a nearby Persian/Lydian/Greek Wonder; then the Statue of Zeus for the Greeks in Greece. All these are on or near trade routes easily reached by ships in the Aegean. Further afield we have the Pyramids and the Lighthouse for Egypt[2]; a long way away but still on the trade routes and easily reached by sea. Finally, at the far end of world[3] we have the Persian[4] Hanging Gardens; you can go there but it's a long way and a once in a lifetime trip.

[1] Greek
[2] The Lighthouse was built by the Ptolemies, a Hellenic dynasty founded by Ptolemy Sotor, one of Alexander the Great's generals. Was the replacement of the Ishtar Gate with the Lighthouse more Helleno-centric chauvinism? If I find out before I write it up I'll let you know.
[3] Or not, after Alexander
[4] Or Babylonian or Chaldean, but to the Greeks, all the Eastern Empires were Persians (or Medes)
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