Historically, there were seven “Wonders of the Ancient World” on record, each representing an important part of civilization, culture, or history. These particular landmarks—each being an incredible feat of engineering from the era of classical antiquity—were inspirational for their time, yet few would survive long enough to see the modern era.
Let’s look at these seven wonders and see how they’re holding up today.
Great Pyramid of Giza
The Great Pyramid of Giza (constructed around 2560 BCE) is without a doubt the oldest yet best-preserved of all the world’s Ancient Wonders. The Great Pyramid was known in ancient times as “Khufu’s Horizon” due to its supposed function as a tomb for the Fourth Dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu. And although much of the pyramid’s exact history has been lost to time, the structure itself has held up remarkably well.
Visitors to El Giza, Egypt, can still tour the Giza pyramid complex and get an up-close look at this ancient marvel for themselves. Plus, the pyramid is less than a mile away from the Great Sphinx of Giza, so tourists can get a great two-for-one bonus for their time.
Colossus of Rhodes
The Colossus of Rhodes, formerly located on the Greek island of Rhodes, was a mighty statue depicting the Greek sun god Helios. Erected in 280 BCE, the Colossus was certainly colossal for its time: The statue stood nearly as tall as the modern-day Statue of Liberty from foot to crown, making it the tallest statue created in the ancient world.
Unfortunately, old Helios stood for only 50-odd years before being destroyed in a catastrophic earthquake, and its pieces littered the island of Rhodes for years before eventually being collected and melted down. As of today, nothing remains of the Colossus—though plans are in the works to restore the monument to its former glory.
Hanging Gardens of Babylon
An incredibly iconic location from classical antiquity, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon bears a unique distinction among the other Ancient Wonders: They may not have been real. Some historians believe they existed right there in Babylon (located in modern-day Iraq). Others believe they existed... but not in Babylon. Still others doubt that they ever existed in the first place, as there is little historical proof that researchers can use to verify.
What historians do agree on, though, is that the concept of the hanging gardens had a massive influence on ancient culture. In fact, it’s believed that the only reason wealthy citizens began keeping private gardens for pleasure was because they were inspired by depictions—real or not—of the Hanging Gardens.
Lighthouse of Alexandria
Built near the harbor of Alexandria in Egypt (circa 300 BCE), the Lighthouse of Alexandria was a massive monument that stood over 100 meters — nearly three times as tall as the Colossus of Rhodes! The Lighthouse was built to guide ships into the port city of Alexandria, which had become a thriving hub for trade.
Unfortunately, there’s plenty of discrepancy and confusion about what the Lighthouse actually looked like. Historians can’t seem to agree, as reports from the time were conflicting: Was it colored white? Did it have a flame burning on top? Did it use mirrors to signal to ships? How tall was it? (Its height is technically in dispute, but we know this much: It was tall.)
But these questions are all academic, as the Lighthouse of Alexandria no longer exists. It suffered the same fate as the Colossus, getting destroyed in powerful earthquakes.
Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
Formerly located in what is modern-day Turkey, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was a tomb built for the ruler of Caria, Mausolus, circa 350 BCE. It was built by engineers who added some flair to the structure, combining elements from Greek, Egyptian and far-East architecture.
Though less-known than some of the other Ancient Wonders, many of us know this structure by association. The English term “mausoleum” comes from this very building, today meaning any large and elaborate funeral monument.
Of course, like many others, the Mausoleum would get damaged and eventually destroyed by earthquakes. It no longer exists today—but pieces of it can still be seen at the British Museum in London.
Statue of Zeus at Olympia
Have you ever seen a drawing, painting, or carving of the Greek god Zeus? If so, you’re seeing a representation based off of the ancient Statue of Zeus at Olympia. This statue of Zeus—made of ivory and gold—was built around 430 BCE in the sanctuary temple at Olympia.
It was a large, proud statue, designed for extravagance. In Greek mythology, temples were thought to be the dwelling places of gods, so the statue of a deity placed inside a temple was far more important than the temple itself. And though the Statue of Zeus was supposedly an awe-inspiring sight, it would get lost to time just like the other Ancient Wonders (although the exact cause of its destruction is still unknown).
Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
The greatest temple ever designed in the ancient Mediterranean world, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was a majestic sight. Bigger than even the Parthenon, the Temple of Artemis was truly a marvel of engineering. The designer of the Temple knew how dangerous earthquakes could be—and deliberately built the Temple on marshy ground to help absorb any potential shocks.
However, the Temple of Artemis wouldn’t survive to the modern day. The Temple was set ablaze by noted arsonist of the time Herostratus, and though it was rebuilt and stood for several hundred more years, it was destroyed by Gothic invaders, Christian mobs and others. Today, only a single column of the ancient temple remains.