Have you ever wondered about the Seven Wonders of the World? There are actually multiple lists of "wonders" that have been created over time. The most famous include the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the New Seven Wonders of the World chosen in 2007. But what are these lists exactly, and what are the key differences between them? Keep reading to learn more!
The Concept Behind the Seven Wonders
The idea of identifying the most wondrous man-made structures and monuments around the world originated in ancient Greece. According to records, the poet Antipater of Sidon and the writer Philon of Byzantium both compiled lists of seven must-see sights during the 2nd century BCE. These became known as the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The concept of naming these wonders was to highlight incredible feats of architecture, engineering, and artistic creativity for the ancient world. People would travel far and wide to catch a glimpse of these celebrated sites if they had the means. The list also helped spread information about cultures like the Egyptians, Greeks, and Babylonians throughout the Mediterranean world.
Of course, travel was much more difficult thousands of years ago. But imagining these astounding creations fueled the human imagination. What would it be like to stand before the towering Statue of Zeus at Olympia or sail into the Great Harbor of Alexandria to see the Lighthouse guiding ships to shore? Even hearing descriptions of these places evoked a sense of awe.
The idea of naming the Seven Wonders became popular again in the modern era. With easier access to global travel, people became fascinated with identifying a new list of wonders that highlighted incredible achievements from around the world.
The Original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World were all man-made structures located around the Mediterranean basin. This area was considered the center of Western civilization back then. According to the Greeks, these sites were the most majestic monuments of antiquity.
The original Seven Wonders included:
The Great Pyramid of Giza - Built around 2560 BCE, this pyramid is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids located at the Giza complex just outside Cairo, Egypt. It remains substantially intact today and is the only wonder of the ancient world still standing.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon - This lush, green oasis was likely built around 600 BCE by King Nebuchadnezzar II to please his wife. Its exact location remains a mystery, but some believe it existed in the ancient city of Babylon near present-day Hillah, Iraq.
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia - This massive gold and ivory statue depicting the Greek god Zeus on his elaborate throne was sculpted by Phidias around 435 BCE. It resided in a temple at the sacred site of Olympia, Greece until its eventual destruction.
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus - A temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis, it was completed around 550 BCE. The enormous structure had over 100 marble columns and displayed many works of art. It was located at Ephesus, near present-day Selçuk, Turkey.
The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus - This towering tomb was built between 353-350 BCE in the city of Halicarnassus to hold the remains of Mausolus, a local satrap. The structure's name is where we get the word "mausoleum." The ruins existed in modern Bodrum, Turkey.
The Colossus of Rhodes - This massive statue of the Greek sun god Helios was erected in 280 BCE to celebrate Rhodes' victory over an invading army. The bronze statue stood over 100 feet tall in Rhodes' harbor until an earthquake destroyed it.
The Lighthouse of Alexandria - Built on the island of Pharos near Alexandria, Egypt around 280 BCE, this nearly 400 foot tall lighthouse guided ships into the Great Harbor. It was damaged by earthquakes and lay in ruins by the 14th century CE.
Sadly, none of the ancient wonders survive intact today except the Great Pyramid of Giza. But learning about these lost monuments gives us a window into the ambitions, creativity, and engineering capabilities of ancient civilizations. Their legacy lives on by inspiring the modern list.
The Campaign for the New 7 Wonders of the World
Flash forward to 2001, when the New7Wonders Foundation launched a campaign to identify a new list of wonders from around the world through modern voting. This effort was led by Swiss filmmaker and museum curator Bernard Weber.
The global voting campaign started in 2007 to give people a chance to participate in choosing the New 7 Wonders of the World. To be considered, the sites had to meet certain criteria:
- Existing landmarks or monuments only - nothing planned or under construction.
- Built or created by humans, not natural sites.
- Architectural and artistic significance that has stood the test of time.
Over 200 sites were nominated through the Internet and by mail. These were narrowed down to a list of 21 finalists that represented the most voted and endorsed candidates. Anyone could vote for free through the Internet or by making a phone call for a small fee.
The campaign generated major worldwide interest. Over 100 million votes were cast by people from all over the planet. Ongoing voting updates were announced, fueling public curiosity.
On July 7, 2007 (07/07/07), the New 7 Wonders were unveiled during a glamorous event in Lisbon, Portugal. Millions watched the live broadcast awaiting the results.
The New 7 Wonders of the World
The New 7 Wonders represent remarkable cultural sites and monuments from nations across the globe. Here are the modern winners:
The Great Wall of China - Built over centuries starting in the 7th century BCE, this ancient fortification spans over 13,000 miles across northern China. It was constructed to protect Chinese states and empires against invasions from northern nomadic groups. The incredible architecture and massive scale make it a true wonder.
Petra - This archaeological site in Jordan features amazing rock-cut architecture carved into rose colored sandstone cliffs. Petra was the capital of the Nabatean Kingdom dating back to around 300 BCE. Walking through its iconic Siq gorge leads to the famous Al-Khazneh (The Treasury) structure, revealing the city's ruins.
The Colosseum - This amphitheater in Rome is a prime example of Roman engineering and architecture. Built in the 1st century CE, the elliptical structure could hold tens of thousands of spectators for gladiator contests, public spectacles, reenactments, and more. Though damaged by earthquakes and stone-robbers, the Colosseum still stands as an iconic landmark.
Chichen Itza - Located on Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, this pre-Columbian city was built by the Maya people between the 7th and 10th centuries CE. The stepped pyramid temple known as El Castillo features an astronomical observatory and grand ballcourt. Chichen Itza highlights Mayan ingenuity through architecture built without metal tools.
Machu Picchu - This Incan citadel sits high in the Andes Mountains of Peru. Built in the 15th century, it was abandoned less than 100 years later during the Spanish conquest. The site's sophisticated stonework set amidst breathtaking scenery makes it a stunning wonder. Machu Picchu was voted one of the new wonders, despite being a natural site.
Christ the Redeemer - This famous statue of Jesus stands 98 feet tall overlooking Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Built between 1922 and 1931, it sits atop Mount Corcovado and has become an iconic symbol of Rio and Brazilian Christianity. The striking Art Deco-style sculpture gazes over the massive city with arms outstretched.
The Taj Mahal - This immense mausoleum was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan to hold the tomb of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. It was built between 1632 and 1653 and features dazzling white marble and intricate Islamic artistry. The Taj Mahal remains one of the most beautiful examples of Mughal architecture in India.
All of the New 7 Wonders still exist today as celebrated destinations and heritage sites (with some requiring conservation efforts). The campaign brought global attention to these landmarks and helped boost tourism. Some criticized the selection process, but the final list offers real diversity.
Comparing the Two Lists of 7 Wonders
So what are some of the key differences between the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the New 7 Wonders of the World?
Type of Sites - The ancient wonders only included man-made structures and monuments. The new wonders feature both cultural sites and a natural wonder, Machu Picchu.
Location - The ancient wonders were all concentrated around the Mediterranean. The new wonders are spread across Asia, Europe, South America, North America, and the Middle East.
Survival - Only one ancient wonder still stands, while all of the new wonders exist intact and can be visited.
Era - The original list highlighted ancient architectural feats prior to the 4th century BCE. The new list focuses on more recent wonders from the last 2000 years.
Selection Method - The ancient wonders were chosen by ancient Greek historians. The new wonders were elected through a global participatory campaign.
Types of Construction - The ancient wonders included temples, statues, tombs, pyramids, and lighthouses. The new wonders have more variety, including forts, archaeological sites, and modern statues along with ancient temples and pyramids.
So in summary, the new list of wonders is much more diverse and representative of cultures across the world. The ancient wonders give us a snapshot of the Mediterranean world and remarkable achievements more than 2000 years ago. The new wonders demonstrate more recent cultural sites and monuments that humanity has managed to preserve despite the passage of time.
Other Notable Wonders Lists
The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the New 7 Wonders are certainly the most famous, but they aren't the only lists of wonders. Here are a few other noteworthy compilations:
The Seven Natural Wonders of the World - Highlighting awe-inspiring sites from nature, this list includes: Mount Everest, Victoria Falls, Harbor of Rio de Janeiro, Paricutin volcano, Northern Lights, Grand Canyon, and the Great Barrier Reef.
The Seven Underwater Wonders of the World - Focusing on amazing underwater sites, this list includes: the Great Barrier Reef, Belize Barrier Reef, Red Sea Coral Reef, Coral Sea Wall, the Channel Islands, Galápagos Islands, and Lake Baikal.
The New 7 Wonders Cities - A campaign in 2014 chose the following cities as wonders: Beirut, Doha, Durban, Havana, Kuala Lumpur, La Paz, and Vigan.
The 7 Industrial Wonders of the World - Highlighting modern engineering marvels, this list includes: the Channel Tunnel, CN Tower, Empire State Building, Golden Gate Bridge, Itaipu Dam, Delta Works, and the Panama Canal.
There are no definitive lists, but these compilations all try to capture a group of the world's most superlative natural sites, cities, and engineering achievements. The wide variety of wonders showcases how humanity's ingenuity, artistic expression, and capabilities continue to evolve over time.
Why We Need Wonders
What is the purpose behind making these wonder lists? They can seem like just another top 10 list, but I think these compilations serve a greater purpose.
Identifying wonders gives us a chance to celebrate our shared human culture. It highlights incredible feats that push the boundaries of our imagination. These lists can also encourage appreciation and protection for some of the world's most precious sites and monuments.
Plus, having an established selection of top wonders fuels people's sense of adventure. It provides inspiration for intrepid travelers who want to experience these places first-hand and check them off their bucket lists. The wonders remind us how incredible our world is, and how much awe it has to offer.
Of course, some criticize these lists as being too subjective or narrow in their focus. But I believe the various wonders demonstrate our ongoing desire to identify places and creations that exhibit the pinnacles of human achievement. They remind us to continue reaching higher and dreaming big.
The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the New 7 Wonders of the World provide snapshots into two different eras of history. Though the lists differ, both remind us of humanity's enormous creativity, vision, and capability to build projects that seem impossible.
The original ancient wonders give us a window into the Mediterranean world over two thousand years ago. The new wonders represent a more global, contemporary list identified through modern means. While the rankings may be subjective, they give us a set of sites that inspire awe and appreciation for what humans can accomplish.
Hopefully this overview gave you a better understanding of the various wonders lists and what sets them apart. What other sites or monuments do you think also deserve wonder status? Let me know in the comments! And if you ever have the chance to visit any of these spectacular places in person, seize it! The wanderlust is real.