Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

See the famous Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: Walk through the lush Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Climb the great Lighthouse at Alexandria. Stand before the immense statue of Zeus at Olympia. Marvel at the beauty of the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus...
The ancient Greeks loved to compile lists of the marvelous structures in their world. Though we think of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World as a single list today, there were actually a number of lists compiled by different Greek writers. Antipater of Sidon, and Philon of Byzantium, drew up two of the most well-known lists.
Many of the lists agreed on six of the seven items. The final place on some lists was awarded to the Walls of the City of Babylon. On others, the Palace of Cyrus, king of Persia took the seventh position. Finally, toward the 6th century A.D., the final item became the Lighthouse at Alexandria.
Since the it was Greeks who made the lists it is not unusal that many of the items on them were examples of Greek culture. The writers might have listed the Great Wall of China if then had known about it, or Stonehenge if they'd seen it, but these places were beyond the limits of their world.
It is a surprise to most people to learn that not all the Seven Wonders existed at the same time. Even if you lived in ancient times you would have still needed a time machine to see all seven. While the Great Pyramid of Egypt was built centuries before the rest and is still around today (it is the only "wonder" still intact) most of the others only survived a few hundred years or less. The Colossus of Rhodes stood only a little more than half a century before an earthquake toppled it. 

Khufu's Great Pyramid

The Great Pyramid and its surrounding complex soon after its completion (Copyright Lee Krystek, 2010)
It's 756 feet long on each side, 450 feet high and is composed of 2,300,000 blocks of stone, each averaging 2 1/2 tons in weight. Despite the makers' limited surveying tools, no side is more than 8 inches different in length than another, and the whole structure is perfectly oriented to the points of the compass. Even in the 19th century, it was the tallest building in the world and, at the age of 4,500 years, it is the only one of the famous "Seven Wonders of the Ancient World" that still stands. Even today it remains the most massive building on Earth. It is the Great Pyramid of Khufu, at Giza, Egypt.
Seven Quick Facts
Location: Giza, Egypt
Built: Around 2560 BC
Function: Tomb of Pharoah Khufu
Destroyed: Still stands today.
Size: Height 480 ft. (146m)
Made of: Mostly limestone
Other: Tallest building in the world till 1311 AD and again from 1647 to 1874.
Some of the earliest history of the Pyramid comes from a Greek the historian and traveler Herodotus of Halicanassus. He visited Egypt around 450 BC and included a description of the Great Pyramid in a history book he wrote. Herodotus was told by his Egyptian guides that it took twenty years for a force of 100,000 oppressed slaves to build the pyramid (with another 10 years to build a stone causeway that connected it to a temple in the valley below). Stones were lifted into position by the use of immense machines. The purpose of the structure, according to Herodotus's sources, was as a tomb for the Pharaoh Khufu (whom the Greeks referred to as Cheops).
Herodotus, a Greek from the democratic city of Athens, probably found the idea of a single man employing such staggering wealth and effort on his tomb an incredible act of egotism. He reported that even thousands of years later the Egyptians still hated Khufu for the burden he had placed on the people and could hardly bring themselves to speak his name.
The three large pyramids at Giza: From left to right, Menkaure, Khafre, Khufu. The far pyramid is the "Great Pyramid" and the largest structure on the site. The middle one may look larger, but only because it is built on higher ground.
However, Khufu's contemporary Egyptian subjects may have seen the great pyramid in a different light. To them the pharaoh was not just a king, but a living god who linked their lives with those of the immortals. The pyramid, as an eternal tomb for the pharaoh's body, may have offered the people reassurance of his continuing influence with the gods. The pyramid wasn't just a symbol of regal power, but a visible link between earth and heaven.
Indeed, many of the stories Herodotus relates to us are probably false. Engineers calculate that fewer men and less years were needed than Herodotus suggests to build the structure. It also seems unlikely that slaves or complicated machines were needed for the pyramid's construction. It isn't surprising that the Greek historian got it wrong, however. By the time he visited the site, the structure was already 20 centuries old, and much of the truth about it was shrouded in the mists of history.
Certainly the idea that it was a tomb for a Pharaoh, though, seems in line with Egyptian practices. For many centuries before and after the construction of the Great Pyramid, the Egyptians had interned their dead Pharaoh-Kings, whom they believed to be living Gods, in intricate tombs. Some were above-ground structures, like the pyramid, others were cut in the rock underground. All the dead leaders were outfitted with the many things it was believed they would need in the afterlife to come. Many were buried with untold treasures.
The Pyramid Complex

The Giza complex as it looked in 1904 from Eduard Spelterini's balloon.
If we were to visit the location of the great pyramid when it was just finished, it would look very different than we see it today. Originally, the pyramid itself was encased in highly polished white limestone with a smooth surface which is now gone. At the very top of the structure would have been a capstone, which is also now missing. Some sources suggest that the capstone might have been sheathed in gold. Between the white limestone and the golden cap the pyramid would have made an impressive sight shining in the bright Egyptian sun.
Around the base of the great pyramid were four smaller pyramids, three of which still stand today. On the east side of the pyramid stood a now missing Funerary temple. Running down the hill into the valley was a stone causeway, which linked the Funerary temple with a temple in the valley. Around the pyramid were six boat shaped pits that may have contained the hulls of vessels that belonged to the pharaoh. Parts of one of these have been found and reconstructed into a 147 foot long boat that today is enclosed next to the pyramid in its own museum.
The other two large pyramids at Giza, the Pyramid of Khafre (Khufu's son) and the Pyramid of Menkaure had not yet been built, so the Khufu's pyramid and its associated structures stood alone, though surrounded by the dwelling places and the graves of many of those that helped construct it.

A cross-section of the Great Pyramid showing the passageways. (Copyright Lee Krystek 1997)
Opening the Pyramid
Even in ancient times, thieves breaking into the sacred burial places were a major problem and Egyptian architects became adept at designing solutions to this problem. They built passageways that could be plugged with impassable granite blocks; created secret, hidden rooms and made decoy chambers. No matter how clever the designers became, however, robbers seemed to be even smarter and with almost no exceptions, each of the great tombs of the Egyptian Kings was plundered.
In 820 A.D. the Arab Caliph Abdullah Al Manum decided to make his own search for the treasure of Khufu. He gathered a gang of workmen and, unable to find the location of a reputed secret door, started burrowing into the side of the monument. After a hundred feet of hard going they were about to give up when they heard a heavy thud echo through the interior of the pyramid. Digging in the direction of the sound, they soon came upon a passageway that descended into the heart of the structure. On the floor lay a large block that had fallen from the ceiling, apparently causing the noise they had heard. Back at the beginning of the corridor they found the secret hinged door to the outside they had missed.
Working their way down the passage they soon found themselves deep in the natural stone below the pyramid. The corridor stopped descending and went horizontal for about 50 feet, then ended in a blank wall. A pit extended downward from there for about 30 feet, but it was empty. When the workmen examined the fallen block they noticed a large granite plug above it. Cutting through the softer stone around it they found another passageway that extended up into the heart of the pyramid. As they followed this corridor upward, they found several more granite blocks closing off the tunnel. In each case they cut around them by burrowing through the softer limestone of the walls. Finally, they found themselves in a low, horizontal passage that led to a small, square, empty room. This became known as the "Queen's Chamber," though it seems unlikely that it ever served that function.

The secret entrance missed by the Caliph's men when searching for treasure. (Courtesy Olaf Tausch and Wikipedia Creative Commons).
Back at the junction of the ascending and descending passageways, the workers noticed an open space in the ceiling. Climbing up they found themselves in a high-roofed, ascending passageway. This became known as the "Grand Gallery." At the top of the gallery was a low, horizontal passage that led to a large room, some 34 feet long, 17 feet wide, and 19 feet high. It became known as the "King's Chamber." In the center was a huge granite sarcophagus without a lid. Otherwise the room was completely empty.
The Missing Treasure
The Arabs, as if in revenge for the missing treasure, stripped the pyramid of its fine white limestone casing and used it for building in Cairo. They even attempted to disassemble the great pyramid itself, but after removing the top 30 feet of stone, they gave up on this impossible task.
So what happened to the treasure of King Khufu? Conventional wisdom says that, like so many other royal tombs, the pyramid was the victim of robbers in ancient times. If we believe the accounts of Manum's men, though, the granite plugs that blocked the passageways were still in place when they entered the tomb. How did the thieves get in and out?
In 1638 an English mathematician, John Greaves, visited the pyramid. He discovered a narrow shaft, hidden in the wall that connected the Grand Gallery with the descending passage. Both ends were tightly sealed and the bottom was blocked with debris. Some archaeologists have suggested this route was used by the last of the Pharaoh's men to exit the tomb after the granite plugs had been put in place and by the thieves to get inside. Given the small size of the passageway and the amount of debris it seems unlikely that the massive amount of treasure, including the huge missing sarcophagus lid, could have been removed this way, however.
Scientists have long argued about how this massive structure was built, but the most likely theory seems to be that the Egyptians built a huge ramp that allowed them to drag the blocks into position. Because a single straight ramp (as seen in the recent movie 10,000B.C.) would have to be over a half mile long to reach the top and would need to contain as much material as the pyramid itself, engineers have suggested that the ramp was in the shape of a spiral running around the outside of the pyramid. Alternately the Egyptians may have combined a straight ramp that ran part way up the pyramid with a spiral ramp to the very top levels. Blocks were probably dragged up the ramp by a team of men and put into their final position through the use of levers (For more information on the construction of the Great Pyramid, see our page How to Build a Pyramid).
French architect Jean-Pierre Houdin advanced the theory that a spiral ramp was used on the inside of the pyramid to move the stone blocks. According to Houdin a straight external ramp was used to get materials to the 140 foot level. From there workers dragged the stones through a set of gently rising tunnels just inside the outer walls. The last tunnel would exit on the monument's top. A 1986 microgravity survey of the pyramid discovered a peculiar anomaly: a less-dense structure in the form of a spiral within the pyramid that may turn out to be what is left of Houdin's tunnels.
A project management group that studied the problem of building the Great Pyramid estimated that the project, using material and methods available at the time, might have required less than ten years to complete: Two or three years site preparation, five years of actual construction and two years to remove the ramps and put on the finishing touches. This could have been done with an average work force of less than 14,000 laborers and a peak force of 40,000. By examining the ruins of dwellings and workshops in the area, archeologists have estimated between 4,000 and 5,000 of these men were full-time workers committed to the project through most of the construction.

Workers complete one of the smaller pyramids on the eastern side of the Great Pyramid (Copyright Lee Krystek, 1999).
Egyptian records indicate that the laborers, while being drafted against their will, were actually well cared for by ancient standards. Regulations have been found covering the maximum amount of work allowed per day, the wages received and holidays each worker was entitled to. Also, by scheduling most of the work to be done during annual flood periods, the Pharaoh could get a lot done without impacting the normal Egyptian economy.
Was the Pyramid a Tomb?
Some have suggested that the pyramid was never meant as a tomb, but as an astronomical observatory. The Roman author Proclus, in fact, states that before the pyramid was completed it did serve in this function. We can't put too much weight on Proclus words, though, remembering that when he advanced his theory the pyramid was already over 2000 years old.
Richard Proctor, an astronomer, did observe that the descending passage could have been used to observe the transits of certain stars. He also suggested that the grand gallery, when open at the top during construction, could have been used for mapping the sky.
Many strange (and some silly) theories have arisen over the years to explain the pyramid and its passageways. Most archaeologists, however, accept the theory that the great pyramid was just the largest of a tradition of tombs used for the Pharaohs of Egypt.

Khufu's pyramid as it appeared in 2005. (Courtesy Nina Aldin Thune and Creative Commons)
So what happened to Khufu's mummy and treasure? Nobody knows. Extensive explorations have found no other chambers or passageways. Still one must wonder if, perhaps in this one case, the King and his architects outsmarted both the ancient thieves and modern archaeologists and that somewhere in, or below, the last wonder of the ancient world, rests Khufu and his sacred gold.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Some stories indicate the Hanging Gardens towered hundreds of feet into the air, but archaeological explorations indicate a more modest, but still impressive, height. (Copyright Lee Krystek, 1998)
The city of Babylon, under King Nebuchadnezzar II, must have been a wonder to the ancient traveler's eyes. "In addition to its size," wrote Herodotus, a Greek historian in 450 BC, "Babylon surpasses in splendor any city in the known world."
Herodotus claimed the outer walls were 56 miles in length, 80 feet thick and 320 feet high. Wide enough, he said, to allow two four-horse chariots to pass each other. The city also had inner walls which were "not so thick as the first, but hardly less strong." Inside these double walls were fortresses and temples containing immense statues of solid gold. Rising above the city was the famous Tower of Babel, a temple to the god Marduk, that seemed to reach to the heavens.
Seven Quick Facts
Location: City State of Babylon (Modern Iraq)
Built: Around 600 BC
Function: Royal Gardens
Destroyed: Earthquake, 2nd Century BC
Size: Height probably 80 ft. (24m)
Made of: Mud brick waterproofed with lead.
Other: Only wonder whose archaeological remains cannot be verified.
While archaeological excavations have disputed some of Herodotus's claims (the outer walls seem to be only 10 miles long and not nearly as high) his narrative does give us a sense of how awesome the features of the city appeared to those ancients that visited it. Strangely, however, one of the city's most spectacular sites is not even mentioned by Herodotus: The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Gift for A Homesick Wife
Accounts indicate that the garden was built by King Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled the city for 43 years starting in 605 BC (There is an alternative story that the gardens were built by the Assyrian Queen Semiramis during her five year reign starting in 810 BC). This was the height of the city's power and influence and King Nebuchadnezzar is known to have constructed an astonishing array of temples, streets, palaces and walls.
According to accounts, the gardens were built to cheer up Nebuchadnezzar's homesick wife, Amyitis. Amyitis, daughter of the king of the Medes, was married to Nebuchadnezzar to create an alliance between the two nations. The land she came from, though, was green, rugged and mountainous, and she found the flat, sun-baked terrain of Mesopotamia depressing. The king decided to relieve her depression by recreating her homeland through the building of an artificial mountain with rooftop gardens.

The Hanging Gardens were said to have been built to please King Nebuchadnezzar's wife, Amyitis. (Copyright Lee Krystek, 2010)
The Hanging Gardens probably did not really "hang" in the sense of being suspended from cables or ropes. The name comes from an inexact translation of the Greek word kremastos, or the Latin word pensilis, which means not just "hanging", but "overhanging" as in the case of a terrace or balcony.
The Greek geographer Strabo, who described the gardens in first century BC, wrote, "It consists of vaulted terraces raised one above another, and resting upon cube-shaped pillars. These are hollow and filled with earth to allow trees of the largest size to be planted. The pillars, the vaults, and terraces are constructed of baked brick and asphalt."
"The ascent to the highest story is by stairs, and at their side are water engines, by means of which persons, appointed expressly for the purpose, are continually employed in raising water from the Euphrates into the garden."
The Water Problem
Strabo touches on what, to the ancients, was probably the most amazing part of the garden. Babylon rarely received rain and for the garden to survive, it would have had to been irrigated by using water from the nearby Euphrates River. That meant lifting the water far into the air so it could flow down through the terraces, watering the plants at each level. This was an immense task given the lack of modern engines and pressure pumps in the fifth century B.C.. One of the solutions the designers of the garden may have used to move the water, however, was a "chain pump."
VIDEO: A Gift Fit for A Queen: The Hanging Gardens
A chain pump is two large wheels, one above the other, connected by a chain. On the chain are hung buckets. Below the bottom wheel is a pool with the water source. As the wheel is turned, the buckets dip into the pool and pick up water. The chain then lifts them to the upper wheel, where the buckets are tipped and dumped into an upper pool. The chain then carries the empty buckets back down to be refilled.
The pool at the top of the gardens could then be released by gates into channels which acted as artificial streams to water the gardens. The pump wheel below was attached to a shaft and a handle. By turning the handle, slaves provided the power to run the contraption.
An alternate method of getting the water to the top of the gardens might have been a screw pump. This device looks like a trough with one end in the lower pool from which the water is taken with the other end overhanging an upper pool to which the water is being lifted. Fitting tightly into the trough is a long screw. As the screw is turned, water is caught between the blades of the screw and forced upwards. When it reaches the top, it falls into the upper pool.
Turning the screw can be done by a hand crank. A different design of screw pump mounts the screw inside a tube, which takes the place of the trough. In this case the tube and screw turn together to carry the water upward.
Screw pumps are very efficient ways of moving water and a number of engineers have speculated that they were used in the Hanging Gardens. Strabo even makes a reference in his narrative of the garden that might be taken as a description of such a pump. One problem with this theory, however, is that there seems to be little evidence that the screw pump was around before the Greek engineer Archimedes of Syracuse supposedly invented it around 250 B.C., more than 300 years later.

VIDEO: Screw pump vs. chain pump. Copyright Lee Krystek, 2011.
Garden Construction
Construction of the garden wasn't only complicated by getting the water up to the top, but also by having to avoid having the liquid ruining the foundations once it was released. Since stone was difficult to get on the Mesopotamian plain, most of the architecture in Babel utilized brick. The bricks were composed of clay mixed with chopped straw and baked in the sun. These were then joined with bitumen, a slimy substance, which acted as a mortar. Unfortunately, because of the materials they were made of, the bricks quickly dissolved when soaked with water. For most buildings in Babel this wasn't a problem because rain was so rare. However, the gardens were continually exposed to irrigation and the foundation had to be protected.
Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian, stated that the platforms on which the garden stood consisted of huge slabs of stone (otherwise unheard of in Babel), covered with layers of reed, asphalt and tiles. Over this was put "a covering with sheets of lead, that the wet which drenched through the earth might not rot the foundation. Upon all these was laid earth of a convenient depth, sufficient for the growth of the greatest trees. When the soil was laid even and smooth, it was planted with all sorts of trees, which both for greatness and beauty might delight the spectators."
How big were the gardens? Diodorus tells us they were about 400 feet wide by 400 feet long and more than 80 feet high. Other accounts indicate the height was equal to the outer city walls, walls that Herodotus said were 320 feet high.

An interpretation of the gardens by the 16th century Dutch artist Martin Heemskerck.
In any case the gardens were an amazing sight: A green, leafy, artificial mountain rising off the plain. But did it actually exist? Some historians argue that the gardens were only a fictional creation because they do not appear in a list of Babylonian monuments composed during the period. Either that or they were mixed up with another set of gardens built by King Sennacherib in the city of Nineveh around 700 B.C.. Is it possible that Greek scholars who wrote the accounts about the Babylon site several centuries later confused these two different locations? If the gardens really were in Babylon, can the remains be found to prove their existance?
Archaeological Search
These were probably some of the questions that occurred to German archaeologist Robert Koldewey in 1899. For centuries the ancient city of Babel had been nothing but a mound of muddy debris never explored by scientists. Though unlike many ancient locations, the city's position was well-known, nothing visible remained of its architecture. Koldewey dug on the Babel site for some fourteen years and unearthed many of its features including the outer walls, inner walls, foundation of the Tower of Babel, Nebuchadnezzar's palaces and the wide processional roadway which passed through the heart of the city.
While excavating the Southern Citadel, Koldewey discovered a basement with fourteen large rooms with stone arch ceilings. Ancient records indicated that only two locations in the city had made use of stone, the north wall of the Northern Citadel, and the Hanging Gardens. The north wall of the Northern Citadel had already been found and had, indeed, contained stone. This made Koldewey think that he had found the cellar of the gardens.
He continued exploring the area and discovered many of the features reported by Diodorus. Finally, a room was unearthed with three large, strange holes in the floor. Koldewey concluded this had been the location of the chain pumps that raised the water to the garden's roof.
The foundations that Koldewey discovered measured some 100 by 150 feet. This was smaller than the measurements described by ancient historians, but still impressive.
While Koldewey was convinced he'd found the gardens, some modern archaeologists call his discovery into question, arguing that this location is too far from the river to have been irrigated with the amount of water that would have been required. Also, tablets recently found at the site suggest that the location was used for administrative and storage purposes, not as a pleasure garden.

The ruins of the city of Babylon in 1932.
If they did exist, what happened to the gardens? There is a report that they were destroyed by an earthquake in the second century B.C.. If so, the jumbled remains, mostly made of mud-brick, probably slowly eroded away with the infrequent rains.
Whatever the fate of the gardens were, we can only wonder if Queen Amyitis was happy with her fantastic present, or if she continued to pine for the green mountains of her distant homeland. 

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia

The statue of Zeus in the temple at Olympia stood more than 40 feet high (Copyright Lee Krystek, 2011)
In ancient times one of the Greeks most mportant festivals, the Olympic Games, was held every four years in honor of the King of their gods, Zeus. Like our modern Olympics, athletes traveled from distant lands, including Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt and Sicily, to compete. The Olympics were first started in 776 B.C. and held at a shrine to Zeus located on the western coast of Greece in a region called Peloponnesus. The games helped to unify the Greek city-states and a sacred truce was declared. Safe passage was given to all traveling to the site, called Olympia, for the season of the games.
The Temple at Olympia
The site consisted of a stadium - where the competitions were actually done - and a sacred grove, or Altis, where a number of temples were located. The shrine to Zeus here was simple in the early years, but as time went by and the games increased in importance, it became obvious that a new, larger temple, one worthy of the King of the gods, was needed. Between 470 and 460 B.C., construction on a new temple was started. The designer was Libon of Elis and his masterpiece, The Temple of Zeus, was completed in 456 B.C..
Seven Quick Facts
Location: Peloponnesus (Modern Greece)
Built: Around 432 BC
Function: Shine to Greek God Zeus
Destroyed: Fire 5th Century A.D.
Size: Height around 40 ft. (12m)
Made of: Ivory and gold-plated plates on wooden frame.
Other: Remains of the workshop where it was built was found during an excavation in the 1950's
This temple followed a design used on many large Grecian temples. It was similar to the Parthenon in Athens and the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus. The temple was built on a raised, rectangular platform. Thirteen large columns supported the roof along the sides and six supported it on each end. A gently-peaked roof topped the building. The triangles, or "pediments," created by the sloped roof at the ends of the building were filled with sculpture. Under the pediments, just above the columns, was more sculpture depicting the twelve labors of Heracles, six on each end of the temple.
Though the temple was considered one of the best examples of the Doric design because of its style and the quality of the workmanship, it was decided the temple alone was too simple to be worthy of the King of the gods. To remedy this, a statue was commissioned for the interior. It would be a magnificent statue of Zeus that would become one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Another artist interpretation of the Statue of Zeus. (Copyright Lee Krystek, 1998)
A Statue Worthy of the King of the Gods
The sculptor chosen for this great task was a man named Phidias. He had already rendered a forty-foot high statue of the goddess Athena for the Parthenon in Athens and had also done much of the sculpture on the exterior of that temple. After his work in Athens was done, Phidias traveled to Olympia around 432 B.C. to start on what was to be considered his best work, the statue of Zeus. On arriving he set up a workshop to the west of the temple. He would take the next 12 years to complete the project.
According to accounts, the statue when finished was located at the western end of the temple. It was 22 feet wide and more than 40 feet tall. The figure of Zeus was seated on an elaborate throne. His head nearly grazed the roof. The historian Strabo wrote, "...although the temple itself is very large, the sculptor is criticized for not having appreciated the correct proportions. He has depicted Zeus seated, but with the head almost touching the ceiling, so that we have the impression that if Zeus moved to stand up he would unroof the temple..."

The Lincoln Memorial with its single large statue and columns probably is very much like the temple of Zeus except the statue of the King of the Gods was more than double the height of Lincoln.
Others who viewed that temple disagreed with Strabo and found the proportions very effective in conveying the god's size and power. By filling nearly all the available space, the statue was made to seem even larger than it really was.
Philo of Byzantium, who wrote about all of the wonders, was certainly impressed. "Whereas we just wonder at the other six wonders, we kneel in front of this one in reverence, because the execution of the skill is as incredible as the image of Zeus is holy…"
In 97 A.D. another visitor Dio Crysostomos declared the image was so powerful that, "If a man, with a heavy heart from grief and sorrow in life, will stand in front of the statue, he will forget all these."
In his right hand the statue held the figure of Nike (the goddess of victory) and in its left was a scepter "inlaid with every kind of metal..." which was topped with an eagle. Perhaps even more impressive than the statue itself was the throne made out of gold, ebony, ivory and inlaid with precious stones. Carved into the chair were figures of Greek gods and mystical animals, including the half man/half lion sphinx.
Construction of the Statue

An engraving made by Philippe Galle in 1572 was his interpretation of the statue and its associated temple.
The figure's skin was composed of ivory and the beard, hair and robe of gold. Construction was by a technique known as chryselephantine where gold-plated bronze and ivory sections were attached to a wooden frame. Because the weather in Olympia was so damp, the statue required care so that the humidity would not crack the ivory. It is said that for centuries the decedents of Phidias held the responsibility for this maintenance. To keep it in good shape the statue was constantly treated with olive oil kept in a special reservoir in the floor of the temple that also served as a reflecting pool. Light reflected off the pool from the doorway may also have had the effect of illuminating the statue.
The Greek traveler Pausanias recorded that when the statue was finally completed, Pheidias asked Zeus for a sign that the work was to his liking. The god replied by touching the temple with a thunderbolt that did no damage. According to the account a bronze hydria (water vessel) was placed at the spot where the thunderbolt hit the structure.
Besides the statue, there was little inside the temple. The Greeks preferred the interior of their shrines to be simple. The feeling it gave was probably very much like the Lincoln Memorial or Jefferson Memorial with their lofty marble columns and single, large statues. However with a height greater than 40 feet, the statue of Zesus was more than twice as tall as Lincoln's likeness at his memorial on the mall in Washington D.C..
Copies of the statue were made, but none survive, though pictures found on coins give researchers clues about its appearance.

A 1908 artist's conception of the temple at Olympia in Greece.
Despite his magnificent work at Olympia, Phidias ran into trouble when he returned home. He was a close friend with Pericles, who ruled the Athens. Enemies of Pericles, unable to strike at the ruler directly, attacked his friends instead. Phidias was accused of stealing gold meant for the statue of Athena. When that charge failed to stick, they claimed he had carved his image, and that of Pericles into the sculpture found on the Parthenon. This would have been improper in the Greeks' eyes and Phidias was thrown into jail where he died awaiting trial.
His masterpiece lived on, however. It was damaged in an earthquake in 170 B.C. and repaired. However, much of its grandeur was probably lost after Emperor Constantine decreed that gold be stripped from all pagan shrines after he converted to Christianity in the early fourth century A.D.. Then in 392 A.D. the Olympics were abolished by Emperor Theodosius I of Rome, a Christian who saw the games as a pagan rite. After that according to the Byzantine historian Georgios Kedrenos, the statue was moved by a wealthy Greek named Lausus to the city of Constantinople where it became part of his private collection of classical art. It is believed that the remains of the statue were destroyed by a fire that swept the city in 475 A.D.. However, other sources say the statue was still at the Olympic Temple when it burned down in 425 A.D..
Modern Excavations
The first archaeological work on the Olympia site was done by a group of French scientists in 1829. They were able to locate the outlines of the temple and found fragments of the sculpture showing the labors of Heracles. These pieces were shipped to Paris where they are still on display today at the Louvre.
The next expedition came from Germany in 1875 worked at Olympia for five summers. Over that period they were able to map out most of the buildings there, discovered more fragments of the temple's sculpture, and located the remains of the pool in the floor that contained the oil for the statue.
In the 1950's an excavation uncovered the workshop of Phidias which was discovered beneath an early Christian Church. Archaeologists found sculptor's tools, a pit for casting bronze, clay molds, modeling plaster and even a portion of one of the elephant's tusks which had supplied the ivory for the statue. Many of the clay molds, which had been used to shape the gold plates, bore serial numbers which must have been used to show the place of the plates in the design.

A 19th century expedition poses on the jumbled ruins of the Temple of Zeus.
Today the stadium at the site has been restored. Little is left of the temple, though, except a few jumbled columns on the ground. Of the statue, which was perhaps the most wonderful work at Olympia, all is now completely gone.

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

"I have seen the walls and Hanging Gardens of ancient Babylon, the statue of Olympian Zeus, the Colossus of Rhodes, the mighty work of the high Pyramids and the tomb of Mausolus. But when I saw the temple at Ephesus rising to the clouds, all these other wonders were put in the shade"- Philon of Byzantium (Copyright Lee Krystek, 2010)
1100 A.D.: A troop of Crusaders stops at a muddy little village in Asia Minor. Their leader looks around. Confused he dismounts. This place is not what he expected. He read in the ancient texts that this was a large seaport with many ships docked in its bay. It isn't. The sea is almost three miles away. The village is located in a swamp. There are no ships to be seen. The leader accosts a nearby man.
Seven Quick Facts
Location: Ephesus (Present day Turkey)
Built: Around 323 BC
Function: Temple to Goddess Artemis
Destroyed: 262 AD by Goths
Size: Length 425 ft. (129m)
Made of: Mostly marble
Other: Largest in a series of temples to Artemis on this site.
"Sir, is this the city of Ephesus?"
"It was called that once. Now it is named Ayasalouk."
"Well, where is your bay? Where are the trading ships? And where is the magnificent Greek temple that we have heard about?"
Now it is the man's turn to be confused. "Temple? What temple, Sir? We have no temple here..."
And so 800 years after its destruction, the magnificent Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, had been completely forgotten by the people of the town that had once held it in such pride.
And there is no doubt that the temple was indeed magnificent. "I have seen the walls and Hanging Gardens of ancient Babylon," wrote Philon of Byzantium, "the statue of Olympian Zeus, the Colossus of Rhodes, the mighty work of the high Pyramids and the tomb of Mausolus. But when I saw the temple at Ephesus rising to the clouds, all these other wonders were put in the shade."
An 18th century engraving of the goddess Artemis of Ephesus.
So what happened to this great temple? And what happened to the city that hosted it? What turned Ephesus from a busy port of trade to a few shacks in a swamp?
The Shrine to the Goddess Artemis
The first shrine to the Goddess Artemis was probably built around 800 B.C. on a marshy strip near the river at Ephesus. The Ephesus goddess Artemis, sometimes called Diana, is not quite the same figure as was worshiped in Greece. The Greek Artemis was the goddess of the hunt. The Ephesus Artemis was a goddess of fertility and was often pictured as draped with eggs or multiple breasts, symbols of fertility, from her waist to her shoulders.
That earliest temple contained a sacred stone, probably a meteorite, that had "fallen from Jupiter." The shrine was destroyed and rebuilt several times over the next few hundred years. By 600 B.C., the city of Ephesus had become a major port of trade and an architect named Chersiphron was engaged to build a new, larger temple. He designed it with high stone columns. Concerned that carts carrying the columns might get mired in the swampy ground around the site, Chersiphron laid the columns on their sides and had them rolled to where they would be erected.
This temple didn't last long. According to one story in 550 B.C., King Croesus of Lydia conquered Ephesus and the other Greek cities of Asia Minor and during the fighting, the temple was destroyed. An archeological examination of the site, however, suggests that a major flood hit the temple site at about the same time and may have been the actual cause of the destruction. In either case, the victorious Croesus proved himself a gracious new ruler by contributing generously to the building of a replacement temple.
This next temple dwarfed those that had come before it. The architect is thought to be a man named Theodorus. Theodorus's temple was 300 feet in length and 150 feet wide with an area four times the size of the previous temple. More than one hundred stone columns supported a massive roof. One unusual feature of the temple was that a number of columns had bases that were carved with figures in relief.
One of the column bases with carved figures preserved at the British Museum.
The new temple was the pride of Ephesus until 356 B.C. when tragedy struck. A young Ephesian named Herostratus, who would stop at nothing to have his name go down in history, set fire to the wooden roof of the building. He managed to burn the structure to the ground. The citizens of Ephesus were so appalled by this act that after torturing Herostratus to death, they issued a decree that anyone who even spoke of his name would be put to death.
One of the legends that grew up about the great fire was that the night that the temple burned was the very same night that Alexander the Great was born. According to the story, the goddess Artemis was so preoccupied with Alexander's safe birth she was unable to save her own temple from its fiery destruction.
Construction of the Great Temple
Shortly after the fire, a new temple was commissioned. The architect was Scopas of Paros, one of the most famous sculptors of his day. By this point Ephesus was one of the greatest cities in Asia Minor and no expense was spared in the reconstruction. According to Pliny the Elder, a Roman historian, the new temple was a "wonderful monument of Grecian magnificence, and one that merits our genuine admiration."
The temple was built in the same wet location as before. To prepare the ground, Pliny recorded that "layers of trodden charcoal were placed beneath, with fleeces covered with wool upon the top of them." Pliny also noted that one of the reasons the builders kept the temple on its original marshy location was that they reasoned it would help protect the structure from the earthquakes which plagued the region.

Another artist's conception of the temple (Copyright Lee Krystek 1998)
The great temple is thought to be the first building completely constructed with marble. Like its predecessor, the temple had 36 columns whose lower portions were carved with figures in high-relief. The temple also housed many works of art including four bronze statues of Amazon women. The Amazons, according to myth, took refuge at Ephesus from Heracles, the Greek demigod, and founded the city.
Pliny recorded the length of this new temple at 425 feet and the width at 225 feet. Some 127 columns, 60 feet in height, supported the roof. In comparison the Parthenon, the remains of which still stand on the Acropolis in Athens today, was only 230 feet long, 100 feet wide and had 58 columns.
According to Pliny, construction took 120 years, though some experts suspect it may have only taken half that time. We do know that when Alexander the Great came to Ephesus in 333 B.C., the temple was still under construction. He offered to finance the completion of the temple if the city would credit him as the builder. The city fathers didn't want Alexander's name carved on the temple, but didn't want to tell him that. They finally gave the tactful response: "It is not fitting that one god should build a temple for another god" and Alexander didn't press the matter.
Pliny reported that earthen ramps were employed to get the heavy stone beams perched on top of the columns. This method seemed to work well until one of the largest beams was put into position above the door. It went down crookedly and the architect could find no way to get it to lie flat. He was beside himself with worry about this until he had a dream one night in which the Goddess herself appeared to him saying that he should not be concerned. She herself had moved the stone into the proper position. The next morning the architect found that the dream was true. During the night the beam had settled into its proper place.
Christianity Brings an End to Artemis Worship
The theater at Ephesus where a riot nearly started in 57 A.D. over St. Paul's evangelism in the city. (Licensed through Wikipedia Commons courtesy Norman Herr)
The city continued to prosper over the next few hundred years and was the destination for many pilgrims coming to view the temple. A souvenir business in miniature Artemis idols, perhaps similar to a statue of her in the temple, grew up around the shrine. It was one of these business proprietors, a man named Demetrius, that gave St. Paul a difficult time when he visited the city in 57 A.D.
St. Paul came to the city to win converts to the then new religion of Christianity. He was so successful that Demetrius feared the people would turn away from Artemis and he would lose his livelihood. He called others of his trade together with him and gave a rousing speech ending with "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" They then seized two of Paul's companions and a near riot followed during a meeting at the city theater. Eventually, however, the city was quieted, the men released and Paul left for Macedonia.
It was Paul's Christianity that won out in the end, though. By the time the great Temple of Artemis was destroyed during a raid by the Goths in 268 A.D., both the city and the religion of Artemis were in decline. The temple was rebuilt again, but in 391 it was closed by the Roman Emperor Theodosius the Great after he made Christianity the state religion. The temple itself was destroyed by a Christian mob in 401 and the stoned was recycled into other buildings. When the Roman Emperor Constantine rebuilt much of Ephesus a century later, he declined to restore the temple. He too had become a Christian and had little interest in pagan religions.
Video: The Holocaust at the Temple at Ephesus
Despite Constantine's efforts, Ephesus declined in its importance as a crossroads of trade. The bay where ships docked disappeared as silt from the river filled it. In the end what was left of the city was miles from the sea, and many of the inhabitants left the swampy lowland to live in the surrounding hills. Those that remained used the ruins of the temple as a source of building materials. Many of the fine sculptures were pounded into powder to make lime for wall plaster.
Excavations to Find the Remains
In 1863 the British Museum sent John Turtle Wood, an architect, to search for the temple. Wood met with many obstacles. The region was infested with bandits. Workers were hard to find. His budget was too small. Perhaps the biggest difficulty was that he had no idea where the temple was located. He searched for the temple for six years. Each year the British Museum threatened to cut off his funding unless he found something significant, and each year he convinced them to fund him for just one more season.
Wood kept returning to the site each year many despite hardships. During his first season he was thrown from a horse, breaking his collar bone. Two years later he was stabbed within an inch of his heart during an assassination attempt upon the British Consul in Smyrna.
Finally in 1869, at the bottom of a muddy twenty-foot deep test pit, his crew struck the base of the great temple. Wood then excavated the whole foundation removing 132,000 cubic yards of the swamp to leave a hole some 300 feet wide and 500 feet long. The remains of some of the sculptured portions of the temple were found and shipped to the British Museum where they can be viewed today.

The site of the temple today (Licensed through Wikipedia Commons courtesy Adam Carr)
In 1904 another British Museum expedition under the leadership of D.G. Hograth continued the excavation. Hograth found evidence of five temples on the site, each one constructed on top of the remains of another.
Today the site of the temple near the modern town of Selçuk is only a marshy field. A single column has been erected to remind visitors that once there stood in this place one of the wonders of the ancient world

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

The Mausoleum at the ancient city of Halicarnassus was the tomb of the king, Mausolus. (Copyright Lee Krystek, 2011)
In 377 B.C., the city of Halicarnassus was the capitol of a small kingdom along the Mediterranean coast of Asia Minor. It was in that year the ruler of this land, Hecatomnus of Mylasa, died and left control of the kingdom to his son, Mausolus. Hecatomnus, a local satrap to the Persians, had been ambitious and had taken control of several of the neighboring cities and districts. Then Mausolus during his reign extended the territory even further so that it eventually included most of southwestern Asia Minor.
Mausolus, with his queen Artemisia, ruled over Halicarnassus and the surrounding territory for 24 years. Though he was descended from the local people, Mausolus spoke Greek and admired the Greek way of life and government. He founded many cities of Greek design along the coast and encouraged Greek democratic traditions.
Mausolus's Death
Seven Quick Facts
Location: Halicarnassus (Modern Bodrum, Turkey)
Built: Around 350 B.C.
Function: Tomb for the City King, Mausolus
Destroyed: Damaged by earthquakes in 13th century A.D. . Final destruction by Crusaders in 1522 A.D.
Size: 140 feet (43m) high.
Made of: White Marble
Other: Built in a mixture of Egyptian, Greek and Lycian styles
Then in 353 B.C. Mausolus died, leaving his queen Artemisia, who was also his sister, broken-hearted (It was the custom in Caria for rulers to marry their own sisters). As a tribute to him, she decided to build him the most splendid tomb in the known world. It became a structure so famous that Mausolus's name is now associated with all stately tombs throughout the world through the word mausoleum. The building, rich with statuary and carvings in relief, was so beautiful and unique it became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Artemisia decided that no expense was to be spared in the building of the tomb. She sent messengers to Greece to find the most talented artists of the time. These included architects Satyros and Pytheos who designed the overall shape of the tomb. Other famous sculptors invited to contribute to the project were Bryaxis, Leochares, Timotheus and Scopas of Paros (who was responsible for rebuilding the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, another of the wonders). According to the historian Pliny Bryaxis, Leochares, Timotheus and Scopas each took one side of the tomb to decorate. Joining these sculptors were also hundreds of other workmen and craftsmen. Together they finished the building in the styles of three different cultures: Egyptian, Greek and Lycian.
The tomb was erected on a hill overlooking the city. The whole structure sat in the center of an enclosed courtyard on a stone platform. A staircase, flanked by stone lions, led to the top of this platform. Along the outer wall of the courtyard were many statues depicting gods and goddesses. At each corner stone warriors, mounted on horseback, guarded the tomb.

A map of the city of Halicarnassus drawn by the archeologist J D Barbié du Bocage in 1802 showing the tomb in the middle of the city.
At the center of the platform was the tomb itself. Made mostly of marble, the structure rose as a square, tapering block to about one-third of the Mausoleum's 140 foot height. This section was covered with relief sculpture showing action scenes from Greek myth/history. One part showed the battle of the Centaurs with the Lapiths. Another depicted Greeks in combat with the Amazons, a race of warrior women. On top of this section of the tomb thirty-six slim columns rose for another third of the height. Standing in between each column was another statue. Behind the columns was a solid block that carried the weight of the tomb's massive roof.
The roof, which comprised most of the final third of the height, was in the form of a stepped pyramid with 24 levels. Perched on top was the tomb's penultimate work of sculpture craved by Pytheos: Four massive horses pulling a chariot in which images of Mausolus and Artemisia rode.
The City in Crisis
Soon after construction of the tomb started Artemisia found herself in a crisis. Rhodes, an island in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Asia Minor, had been conquered by Mausolus. When the Rhodians heard of his death, they rebelled and sent a fleet of ships to capture the city of Halicarnassus. Knowing that the Rhodian fleet was on the way, Artemisa hid her own ships at a secret location at the east end of the city's harbor. After troops from the Rhodian fleet disembarked to attack, Artemisia's fleet made a surprise raid, captured the Rhodian fleet, and towed it out to sea.
Video: In Honor of the King: The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
Artemisa put her own soldiers on the invading ships and sailed them back to Rhodes. Fooled into thinking that the returning ships were their own victorious navy, the Rhodians failed to put up a defense and the city was easily captured, quelling the rebellion.
Artemisa lived for only two years after the death of her husband. Both would be buried in the yet unfinished tomb. According to Pliny, the craftsmen decided to stay and finish the work after their patron died "considering that it was at once a memorial of their own fame and of the sculptor's art."
The Mausoleum overlooked the city of Halicarnassus for many centuries. It was untouched when the city fell to Alexander the Great in 334 B.C. and was still undamaged after attacks by pirates in 62 and 58 B.C.. It stood above the city ruins for some 17 centuries. Then a series of earthquakes in the 13th century shattered the columns and sent the stone chariot crashing to the ground. By 1404 A.D. only the very base of the Mausoleum was still recognizable.
Destruction by the Crusaders
Crusaders, who had little respect for ancient culture, occupied the city from the thirteen century onward and recycled much of the building stone into their own structures. In 1522 rumors of a Turkish invasion caused Crusaders to strengthen the castle at Halicarnassus (which was by then known as Bodrum) and some of the remaining portions of the tomb were broken up and used within the castle walls. Indeed, sections of polished marble from the tomb can still be seen there today.
Another interpretation of the Mausoleum. Copyright Lee Krystek, 1998
At this time a party of knights entered the base of the monument and discovered the room containing a great coffin. Deciding it was too late to open it that day, the party returned the next morning to find the tomb, and any treasure it may have contained, plundered. The bodies of Mausolus and Artemisia were missing, too. The Knights claimed that Moslem villagers were responsible for the theft, but it is more likely that some of the Crusaders themselves plundered the graves.
Before grounding much of the remaining sculpture of the Mausoleum into lime for plaster, the Knights removed several of the best works and mounted them in the Bodrum castle. There they stayed for three centuries. At that time the British ambassador obtained several of the statutes from the castle, which now reside in the British Museum.
Remains Located by Charles Newton
In 1846 the Museum sent the archaeologist Charles Thomas Newton to search for more remains of the Mausoleum. He had a difficult job. He didn't know the exact location of the tomb, and the cost of buying up all the small parcels of land in the area to look for it would have been astronomical. Instead, Newton studied the accounts of ancient writers like Pliny to obtain the approximate size and location of the memorial, then bought a plot of land in the most likely location. Digging down, Newton explored the surrounding area through tunnels he dug under the surrounding plots. He was able to locate some walls, a staircase, and finally three of the corners of the foundation. With this knowledge, Newton was able to figure out which additional plots of land he needed to buy.

Marble from the tomb can still be seen in Bodrum Castle even today. (Released into public domain by Horvat)
Newton then excavated the site and found sections of the reliefs that decorated the wall of the building and portions of the stepped roof. Also, a broken stone chariot wheel from the sculpture on the roof, some seven feet in diameter, was discovered. Finally, he found two statues which he believed were the ones of Mausolus and Artemisia which had stood at the pinnacle of the building. Ironically, the earthquake the toppled them to the ground saved them. They were hidden under sediment and thus avoided the fate of being pulverized into mortar for the Crusaders castle.
Today these works of art stand in the Mausoleum Room at the British Museum. There the images of Mausolus and his queen forever watch over the few broken remains of the beautiful tomb she built for him. 

The Colossus of Rhodes
Historians believe the Colossus of Rhodes stood at the harbor entrance of the ancient port city. (Copyright LeeKrystek, 2011)
Travelers to the New York City harbor see a marvelous sight. Standing on a small island in the harbor is an immense statue of a robed woman, holding a book and lifting a torch to the sky. The statue measures almost one-hundred and twenty feet from foot to crown. It is sometimes referred to as the "Modern Colossus," but more often called the Statue of Liberty.
This awe-inspiring statue was a gift from France to America and is easily recognized by people around the world. What many visitors to this shrine to freedom don't know is that the statue, the "Modern Colossus," is the echo of another statue, the original colossus, that stood over two thousand years ago at the entrance to another busy harbor on the Island of Rhodes. Like the Statue of Liberty, this colossus was also built as a celebration of freedom. This amazing statue, standing the same height from toe to head as the modern colossus, was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The Island of Rhodes
The island of Rhodes was an important economic center in the ancient world. It is located off the southwestern tip of Asia Minor where the Aegean Sea meets the Mediterranean. The capitol city, also named Rhodes, was built in 408 B.C. and was designed to take advantage of the island's best natural harbor on the northern coast.
Seven Quick Facts
Location: Island of Rhodes (Modern Greece)
Built: Between 292 - 280 BC
Function: Commemorate War Victory
Destroyed: 226 BC by an earthquake
Size: Height without 50 foot pedestal was 110 ft. (30m)
Made of: Bronze plates attached to iron framework
Other: Made in the shape of the island's patron god Helios
In 357 B.C. the island was conquered by Mausolus of Halicarnassus (whose tomb is one of the other Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) but fell into Persian hands in 340 BC and was finally captured by Alexander the Great in 332 BC. When Alexander died of a fever at an early age, his generals fought bitterly among themselves for control of Alexander's vast kingdom. Three of them, Ptolemy, Seleucus, and Antigous, succeeded in dividing the kingdom among themselves. The Rhodians supported Ptolemy (who wound up ruling Egypt) in this struggle. This angered Antigous who in 305 BC sent his son Demetrius to capture and punish the city of Rhodes.
The War with Demetrius
The war was long and painful. Demetrius brought an army of 40,000 men. This was more than the entire population of Rhodes. He also augmented his force by using Aegean pirates.

An engraving by Martin Heemskerck in 16th-century helped to establish the inaccurate harbor spanning pose in people's minds.
The city was protected by a strong, tall wall and the attackers were forced to use siege towers to try and climb over it. Siege towers were wooden structures that could be moved up to a defender's walls to allow the attackers to climb over them. While some were designed to be rolled up on land, Demetrius used a giant tower mounted on top of six ships lashed together to make his attack. This tower, though, was turned over and smashed when a storm suddenly approached, causing the battle to be won by the Rhodians.
Demetrius had a second super tower built and called it the Helepolis which translates to "Taker of Cities." This massive structure stood almost 150 feet high and some 75 feet square at the base and weight 160 tons. It was equipped with many catapults and skinned with wood and leather to protect the troops inside from archers. It even carried water tanks that could be used to fight fires started by flaming arrows. This tower was mounted on iron wheels and it could be rolled up to the walls under the power of 200 soldiers turning a large capstan.
When Demetrius attacked the city, the defenders stopped the war machine by flooding a ditch outside the walls and miring the heavy monster in the mud. By then almost a year had gone by and a fleet of ships from Egypt arrived to assist Rhodes. Demetrius withdrew quickly, leaving the great siege tower where it was. He signed a peace treaty and called his siege a victory as Rhodes agreed to remain neutral in his war against Ptolemy.
Statue Commemorates Victory

Another artist's conception of the statue with a slightly different pose (Copyright Lee Krystek, 1998)
The people of Rhodes saw the end of conflict differently, however. To celebrate their victory and freedom, the people of Rhodes decided to build a giant statue of their patron god Helios. They melted down bronze from the many war machines Demetrius left behind for the exterior of the figure and the super siege tower became the scaffolding for the project. Although some reportedly place the start of construction as early as 304 BC it is more likely the work started in 292 BC. According to Pliny, a historian who lived several centuries after the Colossus was built, construction took 12 years.
The statue was one hundred and ten feet high and stood upon a fifty-foot pedestal near the harbor entrance perhaps on a breakwater. Although the statue has sometimes been popularly depicted with its legs spanning the harbor entrance so that ships could pass beneath, it was actually posed in a more traditional Greek manner. Historians believe the figure was nude or semi-nude with a cloak over its left arm or shoulder. Some think it was wearing a spiked crown, shading its eyes from the rising sun with its right hand, or possibly using that hand to hold a torch aloft in a pose similar to one later given to the Statue of Liberty.
No ancient account mentions the harbor-spanning pose and it seems unlikely the Greeks would have depicted one of their gods in such an awkward manner. In addition, such a pose would mean shutting down the harbor during the construction, something not economically feasible.
When the statue was finished it was dedicated with a poem: To you, o Sun, the people of Dorian Rhodes set up this bronze statue reaching to Olympus, when they had pacified the waves of war and crowned their city with the spoils taken from the enemy. Not only over the seas but also on land did they kindle the lovely torch of freedom and independence. For to the descendants of Herakles belongs dominion over sea and land.
Colossus To Be Rebuilt?
Plans to rebuild the Colossus of Rhodes has been discussed a number of times in the last fifty years. The most recent proposal came in 2008. East German artist Gert Hof hopes to construct a new version of the statue to Helios. However, he does not wish to make it an exact replica. Instead it will stand up to three times as tall as the original and allow people to enter it. At night it will tell "stories" using an innovative light show.
Engineering the Statue
The statue was constructed of bronze plates over an iron framework (very similar to the Statue of Liberty which is copper over a steel frame). According to the book of Pilon of Byzantium, 15 tons of bronze were used and 9 tons of iron, though these numbers seem low to modern architects. The Statue of Liberty, roughly of the same size, weighs 225 tons. The Colossus, which relied on weaker materials, must have weighed at least as much and probably more.
Ancient accounts tell us that inside the statue were several stone columns which acted as the main support. Iron beams were driven into the stone and connected with the bronze outer skin. Each bronze plate had to be carefully cast then hammered into the right shape for its location in the figure, then hoisted into position and riveted to the surrounding plates and the iron frame.
Some stories say that a massive earthen ramp was used to access the statue during construction. Modern engineers, however, calculate that such a ramp running all the way to the top of the statue would have been too massive to be practical. This lends credence to stories that the wood from the Helepolis seige engine was reused to build a scaffolding around the statue while it was being assembled.
The architect of this great construction was Chares of Lindos, a Rhodian sculptor who was a patriot and fought in defense of the city. Chares had been involved with large scale statues before. His teacher, Lysippus, had constructed a 60-foot high likeness of Zeus. Chares probably started by making smaller versions of the statue, maybe three feet high, then used these as a guide to shaping each of the bronze plates of the skin.
It is believed Chares did not live to see his project finished. There are several legends that he committed suicide. In one tale he has almost finished the statue when someone points out a small flaw in the construction. The sculptor is so ashamed of it he kills himself.

Comparing the Statue of Liberty with the Colossus: Though the bodies are the same size, Liberty stands higher because of the taller pedestal.
In another version the city fathers decide to double the height of the statue. Chares only doubles his fee, forgetting that doubling the height will mean an eightfold increase in the amount of materials needed. This drives him into bankruptcy and suicide.
There is no evidence that either of these tales is true, however.
Collapse of the Colossus
The Colossus stood proudly at the harbor entrance for some fifty-six years. Each morning the sun must have caught its polished bronze surface and made the god's figure shine. Then an earthquake hit Rhodes in 226 BC and the statue collapsed. Huge pieces of the figure lay along the harbor for centuries.
A computer simulation suggests that the shaking of the earthquake made the rivets holding the bronze plates together break. At first only a few weak ones gave way, but when they failed the remaining stress was transferred to the surviving rivets, which then also failed in with a cascading effect. Though some accounts related that the statue fell over and broke apart when it hit the ground, it is more likely pieces, starting with the arms, dropped away. The legs and ankles might have even remained in position following the quake.
"Even as it lies," wrote Pliny, "it excites our wonder and admiration. Few men can clasp the thumb in their arms, and its fingers are larger than most statues. Where the limbs are broken asunder, vast caverns are seen yawning in the interior. Within it, too, are to be seen large masses of rock, by the weight of which the artist steadied it while erecting it."
It is said that the Egyptian king, Ptolemy III, offered to pay for its reconstruction, but the people of Rhodes refused his help. They had consulted the oracle of Delphi and feared that somehow the statue had offended the god Helios, who used the earthquake to throw it down.
In the seventh century A.D., the Arabs conquered Rhodes and broke the remains of the Colossus up into smaller pieces and sold it as scrap metal. Legend says it took 900 camels to carry away the pieces. A sad end for what must have been a majestic work of art.
Video: The Destruction of the Great Colossus

The Great Lighthouse at Alexandria

The great lighthouse at Alexandria, Egypt, stood on the island of Pharos. (Copyright Lee Krystek, 2011)
In the fall of 1994 a team of archaeological divers donned scuba equipment and entered the waters off of Alexandria, Egypt. Working beneath the surface, they searched the bottom of the sea for artifacts. Large underwater blocks of stone and remnants of sculpture were marked with floating masts so that an electronic distance measurement station on shore could obtain their exact positions. Global positioning satellites were then used to further fix the locations. The information was then fed into computers to create a detailed database of the sea floor.
Ironically, these scientists were using some of the most high-tech devices available at the end of the 20th century to try and sort out the ruins of one of the most advanced technological achievements of the 3rd century, B.C.. It was the Pharos, the great lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Seven Quick Facts
Location: Alexandria, Egypt.
Built: Around 290 - 270 BC
Function: Guide Ships to Alexandria's Harbor.
Destroyed: 1303 AD by earthquake.
Size: Height 450 ft. (140m)
Made of: Stone faced with white marble blocks with lead mortar.
Other: Said to be the only ancient wonder with a practical application.
Alexander the Great
The story of the Pharos starts with the founding of the city of Alexandria by the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great in 332 B.C.. Alexander started at least 17 cities named Alexandria at different locations in his vast domain. Most of them disappeared, but Alexandria in Egypt thrived for many centuries and is prosperous even today.
Alexander the Great chose the location of his new city carefully. Instead of building it on the Nile delta, he selected a site some twenty miles to the west, so that the silt and mud carried by the river would not block the city harbor. South of the city was the marshy Lake Mareotis. After a canal was constructed between the lake and the Nile, the city had two harbors: one for Nile River traffic, and the other for Mediterranean Sea trade. Both harbors would remain deep and clear and the activity they allowed made the city very wealthy.
A modern lighthouse often is designed as just a single, slim column, unlike the Pharos.
Alexander died in 323 B.C. and the city was completed by Ptolemy Soter, the new ruler of Egypt. Under Ptolemy the city became rich and prosperous. However, it needed both a symbol and a mechanism to guide the many trade ships into its busy harbor. Ptolemy authorized the building of the Pharos in 290 B.C., and when it was completed some twenty years later, it was the first lighthouse in the world and the tallest building in existence, with the exception of the Great Pyramid. The construction cost was said to have been 800 talents, an amount equal today to about three million dollars.
Construction of the Lighthouse
The lighthouse's designer is believed to be Sostratus of Knidos (or Cnidus), though some sources argue he only provided the financing for the project. Proud of his work, Sostratus desired to have his name carved into the foundation. Ptolemy II, the son who ruled Egypt after his father, refused this request, wanting only his own name to be on the building. A clever man, Sostratus supposedly had the inscription:
chiseled into the foundation, then covered it with plaster. Into the plaster was carved Ptolemy's name. As the years went by (and after both the death of Sostratus and Ptolemy) the plaster aged and chipped away, revealing Sostratus' dedication.
The lighthouse was built on the island of Pharos and soon the building itself acquired that name. The connection of the name with the function became so strong that the word "Pharos" became the root of the word "lighthouse" in the French, Italian, Spanish and Romanian languages.
Video: A Climb Up the Pharos Lighthouse
There are two detailed descriptions made of the lighthouse in the 10th century A.D. by Moorish travelers Idrisi and Yusuf Ibn al-Shaikh. According to their accounts, the building was 300 cubits high. Because the cubit measurement varied from place to place, however, this could mean that the Pharos stood anywhere from 450 (140m) to 600 (183m) feet in height, although the lower figure is much more likely.
The design was unlike the slim single column of most modern lighthouses, but more like the structure of an early twentieth century skyscraper. There were three stages, each built on top of one other. The building material was stone faced with white marble blocks cemented together with lead mortar. The lowest level of the building, which sat on a 20 foot (6m) high stone platform, was probably about 240 feet (73m) in height and 100 feet (30m) square at the base, shaped like a massive box. The door to this section of the building wasn't at the bottom of the structure, but part way up and reached by a 600 foot (183m) long ramp supported by massive arches. Inside this portion of the structure was a large spiral ramp that allowed materials to be pulled to the top in animal-drawn carts.
On top of that first section was an eight-sided tower which was probably about 115 feet (35m) in height. On top of the tower was a cylinder that extended up another 60 feet (18m) to an open cupola where the fire that provided the light burned. On the roof of the cupola was a large statue, probably of the god of the sea, Poseidon.
The Mirror

A depiction of the lighthouse by the 16th-century Dutch artist Maarten van Heemskerck
The interior of the upper two sections had a shaft with a dumbwaiter that was used to transport fuel up to the fire. Staircases allowed visitors and the keepers to climb to the beacon chamber. There, according to reports, a large curved mirror, perhaps made of polished bronze, was used to project the fire's light into a beam. It was said ships could detect the light from the tower at night or the smoke from the fire during the day up to one-hundred miles away.
There are stories that this mirror could be used as a weapon to concentrate the sun and set enemy ships ablaze as they approached. Another tale says that it was possible to use the mirror to magnify the image of the city of Constantinople, which was located far across the sea, and observe what was going on there. Both of these stories seem implausible, however.
The structure was said to be liberally decorated with statuary including four likenesses of the god Triton on each of the four corners of the roof of the lowest level. Materials recently salvaged from the sea by archeologists, including the stone torso of a woman, seem to support these stories.
The lighthouse was apparently a tourist attraction. Food was sold to visitors at the observation platform at the top of the first level. A smaller balcony provided an outlook from the top of the eight-sided tower for those that wanted to make the additional climb. The view from there must have been impressive as it was probably 300 feet above the sea. There were few places in the ancient world where a person could ascend a man-made tower to get such a perspective.

An ancient coin with the likeness of the Pharos on it.
How then did the world's first lighthouse wind up on the floor of the Mediterranean Sea? Most accounts indicate that it, like many other ancient buildings, was the victim of earthquakes. It stood for over 1,500 years, apparently surviving a tsunami that hit eastern Mediterranean in 365 AD with minor damage. After that, however, tremors might have been responsible for cracks that appeared in the structure at the end of the10th century and required a restoration that lowered the height of the building by about 70 feet. Then in 1303 A.D., a major earthquake shook the region that put the Pharos permanently out of business. Egyptian records indicate the final collapse occurred in 1375, though ruins remained on the site for some time until 1480 when much of the building's stone was used to construct a fortress on the island that still stands today.
There is also an unlikely tale that part of the lighthouse was demolished through trickery. In 850 A.D. it is said that the Emperor of Constantinople, a rival port, devised a clever plot to get rid of the Pharos. He spread rumors that there was a fabulous teasure buried under the lighthouse. When the Caliph at Cairo, who controlled Alexandria at this time heard these rumors, he ordered that the tower be pulled down to get at the treasure. It was only after the great mirror had been destroyed and the top two portions of the tower removed that the Caliph realized he'd been deceived. He tried to rebuild the tower, but couldn't, so he turned it into a mosque instead.
As colorful as this story is there does not seem to be much truth in it. Visitors in 1115 A.D. reported the Pharos intact and still operating as a lighthouse.
The Pharos at night. Copyright Lee Krystek, 1998.
Did the divers actually find the remains of Pharos in the bottom of the harbor? Some of the larger blocks of stone found certainly seem to have come from a huge building. Statues were located that may have stood at the base of the Pharos. Interestingly enough, much of the material found seems to be from earlier eras than the lighthouse. Scientists speculate that these may have been recycled in the construction of the Pharos from an even older building.
The area is now an underwater archaeological park. Tourists with diving gear can swim about the remains of the great Pharos lighthouse while they wonder what it would have been like to climb to its ancient heights a thousand years ago.


1 comment:

  1. I think that the Great Pyramid ws built to be a water pump! I think that The Great Pyramid was built using water locks and barges. There is a good video series showing how this was done at: www.thepump.org