Back when the real world was a ‘thing’ and cyberspace was thousands of years off, folk used to visit amazing places and wonder at the tremendous things other people had built there. When they wanted to go on holiday, it was no good dialing up TripAdvisor or even flipping the pages of National Geographic for a glimpse at some highlights they might take in along the way. People in the ancient world had to turn to more scholarly advice.
So it was that a 2nd-century-BCE Greek poet known as Antipater of Sidon put together his own list of must-sees. Although this early listicle has undergone various updates over the centuries, Antipater’s highlights remain the definitive ‘Wonders of the Ancient World’ as they have become known. But most of the seven are at best in disrepair, if not gone altogether. As a purist, then, you may well consult Antipater’s list, but if you base your holiday plans on it you’re likely to be disappointed.
Instead, consult your regular travel advisory website for hints on what to see out and about, and enjoy here – in the safety of the online world – these seven animated reconstructions of those ancient wonders.
1. Colossus of Rhodes
The Colossus was 104ft tall and dangled himself over Mandraki Harbour on 49ft pedestals allowing ships to pass between his legs. As if this wasn’t statement enough, the Rhodians built him from the melted-down remains of the recently-defeated Cypriot army arsenal. Probably took a bit longer than the superhero-like regeneration in the video. Anyway, five hundred years later, the big guy was finally felled by an earthquake – and later sold for the scrap metal from which he was built.
2. Great Pyramid of Giza
These days, there’s a new Tallest Building Ever almost every week. But the Great Pyramid of Giza held the record for almost four thousand years. While it’s the only one of the seven wonders that’s still recognizable today, it was also the first to be constructed, and it’s starting to show its age. Thank Ra for digital facelifts!
3. Hanging Gardens of Babylon
There’s some speculation over whether this entry actually existed. It certainly would’ve been a doozie to build, with its 65ft water feature and epic terraces. But then, construction of the Great Pyramid was no picnic either. Anyway, if the Hanging Gardens were real, they were spectacular – and intended as a gift from Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar to his wife, Amytis, who was homesick for the verdant mountains of the Median Empire.
4. Lighthouse of Alexandria
Lighthouses don’t get enough love these days. Okay, so this particular example, featuring a lit fire at the top of its tower to warn boats of the rocky shore, may seem technologically-dated now. But what a massive and complex structure for a simple working building, huh?
5. Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
You know you made a wonderful building when they name a whole genre after you. The bar-setting Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was built by Mausolus using all his favorite ideas from Greek and Egyptian architecture to create a resting place that would have been an imposing presence on the peninsular of Bodrum, Turkey, today if it hadn’t gradually crumbled under pressure from numerous earthquakes.
6. Statue of Zeus
Wood always seems like such a pleasant idea for a building material. Unfortunately, the Elean culture’s proto-Scandi statue of Zeus has not stood the test of time – or, more accurately, the test of fire. Its wooden frame and throne were done for by 426CE inferno, with its gold and ivory-plate details now missing, presumed pilfered.
7. Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
Say what you will about this tribute to the Greek goddess of chastity, it was certainly provocative. In fact, it provoked its own destruction three times: Herostratus was first, in an act of attention-seeking arson; then the Goths, who were just in a destroying sort of mood while in town; and finally the Christians, who left behind a column and the foundations which can still be visited by 21st century tourists.