Ancient history is the study of life from the beginning of recorded human history in the old world to the early middle ages in Europe. This was the time when humans excelled in architecture. Let's take a look at some of the wonders that existed during this time.
THE GREAT PYRAMID OF GIZA
Also Known As: The Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops
Date of Construction: Between 2584 and 2561BC
Creators: The Egyptian King Khufu's vizier, Hemon or Hemiunu is believed to be the chief architect
Features: It is believed that the Great Pyramid was built as a tomb for the fourth dynasty Egyptian pharaoh Khufu. Originally, the Pyramid was covered by casing stones that formed a smooth outer surface, however, what remains today is only the underlying core structure. It is believed that this structure was built by physically moving huge stones from a quarry and lifting them into place. This Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years. The Pyramid is known for its three chambers. The lowest chamber is cut into the bedrock upon which the pyramid was built. The Queen's and King's Chamber are higher up within the pyramid structure.
- The Pyramid is so large that it is visible from the moon.
- It is the only surviving structure of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
- It is believed that at the time of its construction, the Pyramid was 146.6mts tall.
- The temperature inside the Pyramid is at a constant 20 degrees Celsius.
Also Known As: Hanging Gardens of Semiramis
Location: Babylon, 75kms southwest of Baghdad, Iraq
Date of Construction: 562BC
Creators: The Hanging Gardens were designed by King Nebuchadnezzar II for his homesick wife
Cause of Destruction: Earthquakes after 2BC
Features: The Hanging Gardens were multi-levelled, starting at a height of 75ft. They were quadrangular and consisted of arched vaults located on checkered, cube-like foundations. The plants here were cultivated above ground level and the roots of trees were fixed on an upper terrace rather than on the ground. The whole structure was supported on stone columns. Streams of water emerged from elevated sources and irrigated the whole garden, keeping the area moist and evergreen. The Hanging Gardens also had temples that housed solid gold statues of gods and goddesses.
- The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are said to have contained exotic plants and animals that were imported from across the world.
- The Hanging Gardens have been extensively documented by Greek historians like Strabo and Diodorus Siculus.
STATUE OF ZEUS AT OLYMPIA
Location: Olympia, Greece
Date of Construction: Between 470 and 460BC
Creators: The temple and statue were designed by Greek designer Phidias
Cause of Destruction: Earthquakes, landslides, floods and a fire destroyed the temple structure in between the 5th and 6th Century. The statue was destroyed by a fire in the 6th Century.
Features: The temple was built on a raised, rectangular platform to house the statue of Zeus. 13 large columns supported the roof along the sides and six supported it on each end. A gently-peaked roof topped the building. The seated statue of Zeus was 39ft tall and occupied the whole width of the aisle of the temple. The statue was made with ivory and was gold and bronze-plated. The sculpture was wreathed with olive shoots made of gold wire. It was seated on a magnificent throne of cedar wood that had inlay work with ivory, gold, ebony and precious stones.
- The statue was the smallest of all the Seven Wonders of Ancient World.
- Phidias, the designer, was accused of carving his own image in the statue and was left to die in a jail.
TEMPLE OF ARTEMIS
Also Known As: Temple of Diana
Location: Ephesus, which is present-day Turkey
Date of Construction: 550BC
Creators: Highly skilled workmen from Lydia (Turkey), Persia and Greece
Cause of Destruction: A young man named Herostratus burnt it down to achieve lasting fame. It was rebuilt by Alexander the Great only to be destroyed again by the Goths. It was rebuilt once again to be destroyed by a mob led by St John Chrysostom in 401.
Features: The Temple of Artemis was 377ft long and 180ft wide and made entirely of marble. Its cella (chamber) was enclosed within 127 columns, each of which was 60ft tall. The temple housed many fine works of art. The sculptures in the temple were done by renowned Greek sculptors like Polyclitus, Pheidias, Cresilas and Phradmon. Several paintings and gilded columns of gold and silver were part of the temple.
- It took 120 years to build the temple.
- It was destroyed and rebuilt thrice.
MAUSOLEUM OF HALICARNASSUS
Location: Bodrum in Turkey
Date of Construction: Between 353 and 350BC
Creators: The tomb was built by Queen Artemisia as a tribute to King Mausolus’ sister
Cause of Destruction: In 1400AD, a series of earthquakes gradually led to the collapseof this mausoleum. It lies in ruins today.
Features: The Mausoleum of Halicarnuss was approximately 135ft tall with each of the four sides bearing sculptural work. The tomb was erected on a hill overlooking the city and the whole structure sat on a stone platform in an enclosed courtyard. A stairway flanked by stone lions led to the top of the platform where the outer walls had statues of Greek gods and goddess. On top of this section of the tomb were 36 slim columns with a statue between every column.
- The marble tomb was as high as a modern 14-storey building.
- No one knows what happened to the bodies of King Mausolus and his queen.
- All the artistic treasures were lost with them too.
- The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus stood intact for 17 centuries.
- Since then, the word 'mausoleum' has come to be used generically for any grand tomb
COLOSSUS OF RHODES
Location: Rhodes, Greek Islands
Date of Construction: Between 292 and 280BC
Creators: Local Greek artisans
Cause of Destruction: An earthquake in 114BC destroyed the structure.
Features: The Colossus of Rhodes was over 30mts tall, making it one of the tallest statues of the ancient world. It was placed at the breakwater (entrance) of the harbour city. The upper portions of the Colossus were built using a large earthen ramp. The feet were carved in stone and later covered with thin bronze plates riveted together. Eight forged iron bars were set in a horizontal position to form the ankles and turned up to follow the lines of the legs. The entire statue was made of bronze and iron.
- It took 12 years to make this statue.
LIGHTHOUSE OF ALEXANDRIA
Also Known As: The Pharos of Alexandria
Location: Island of Pharos at Alexandria, Egypt
Date of Construction: Between 280 and 247BC
Creators: The tower was commissioned by Alexander the Great to guide sailors into the harbour at night and was built by Egyptian workers under the guidance of Sostratus of Cnidus
Cause of Destruction: Earthquakes in 956, 1303 and 1323 destroyed it completely
Features: Pharos was a small island off the coast of Alexandria. It was linked to the mainland by a man made connection named the Heptastadion, which formed one side of the city's harbour. The lighthouse was constructed here using large blocks of light-coloured stone. The tower had three sections - a square lower section, which was the central core, a middle octagonal section and a top circular section. At the centre of the circular section was a mirror that reflected sunlight during the day and where a fire was lit at night.
- Legend has it that Sostratus was forbidden from putting his name on this piece of work but he left the following inscription on the walls nonetheless, "Sostratus of Cnidus, son of Dexiphanes, to the Gods protecting those upon the sea."