The wonders of the world… I’ll bet that the very first image to come to your mind right now is that of the pyramids of Egypt. They’re iconic, they’re massive in scale, and they’re absolutely ancient. They’re also the only monuments on the list of ancient wonders of the world that still exist today. The 7 wonders of the world (now known as the 7 ancient wonders of the world) have been a hallmark in popular culture for a long time.
But the original list was made by a pair of ancient historians named Herodotus and Callimachus of Cyrene, two different people from different times who both worked at the Museum of Alexandria, one of the first museums in history, and they decided to compile a list of the known monuments that existed at that time. The Greeks didn’t know much about the outside world, so the list we got was pretty limited. Imagine what they would have come up with if they were able to go to Asian or maybe even the Americas.
How do the new wonders of the world, many of which are still around today, hold up in comparison to all this? Let’s dig into the 7 old vs 7 new wonders of the world…with an added bonus at the end!
15. Statue Of Liberty
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” These are the words that everyone hears when they think of the Statue of Liberty. In the late 1880s to the 1920s, this was the statue that immigrants to the United States first saw when they made their final approach by sea. It was a sign that they were finally going to land in the United States and be able to live the American Dream.
The symbolism of the Statue of Liberty cannot be overstated. If there is any single symbol of both freedom and the United States, the Statue of Liberty would fit the bill perfectly. It more than the fits the definition of a modern wonder of the world.
14. Colossus of Rhodes
The Colossus of Rhodes was a massive ancient statue that was built in the Greek island of Rhodes in 280 BC. It was built to celebrate the victory that Rhodes had over someone who tried to invade them. The colossus, Antigonus I Monophthalmus built some oversized siege engines that collapsed under their own weight. It was a massive statue. Possibly the biggest that was ever built at the time. Towering over 108 feet (33 meters) and was speculated to have stood over the harbor (meaning ships would have to pass beneath his leg). He was equal in size to Lady Liberty, but sadly didn’t last as long.
Just 54 years after he was built, an earthquake hit Rhodes that completely destroyed the colossus. Lady Liberty has at least faired better, as she is 131 years old and still standing.
“We’re going all the way to Timbaktu.” That’s a phrase that used Timbaktu as a metaphor for a far away and exotic place. Most people don’t realize that Timbuktu is a very real place with a very real, fascinating history. Once upon a time in the 13th century, it was the center of learning in Africa, and a center of trade for the entire North African region. The kingdom of Mali that existed at the time was so rich that a king from there had so much gold that wherever he went, the price of gold crashed because of his splurges. While the isolation of the mid-Sahara prevented it from becoming an intellectual powerhouse similar to Alexandria, the influence it had has earned the entire city a place as one of the new wonders of the world.
12. Great Pyramid of Giza
This HAD to be on this list. The Great Pyramid of Giza is the most well-known and iconic building that was ever built. Everyone the world over knows it. It was built as a tomb for the ancient Pharaoh Khufu and it took around 20 years to make. It was also the tallest building in the world for thousands of years, a record that will never be broken. It is in Africa, just as Timbaktu is. Both still exist, and both aren’t what they used to be (the pyramids were originally covered in white lime and shone like beacons for miles around). The pyramids are still well known, but Timbuktu has long since went into obscurity, even if the city still exists and still had quite a few good places to visit.
So the winner of this round goes to the Pyramid.
11. Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
In 350 BC, in Halicarnassus (now Bodrum, Turkey) there was a tomb built for a rich satrap, Mauslous, and his sister-wife Artemisia II of Caria. I say sister-wife because it’s exactly what you think it is…the man married his own sister. Take what you will of that. I mean it was 350 BC after all. If you’re living in a time before Tinder and online dating, your options are a lot more limited. The place was noted as being one of the biggest and most elaborate tombs to have ever been built, spanning 148 feet (45 meters) in height and it was adorned by the biggest sculptures of the era.
It was also one of the longest lasting of the 7 original wonders of the world. As we know the pyramids are the only ones surviving today, but the Mausoleum was destroyed by an earthquake in the 15th century, making it the 2nd longest lasting one, since the rest were gone in antiquity. Not a bad run, I’d say. Also it is the reason why a mausoleum is the name for an aboveground tomb.
10. Taj Mahal
Two hundred years after the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was destroyed, the new Mausoleum of the modern world was built. The Taj Mahal was built in India from 1632 to 1653. Commissioned by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, and designed by the architect Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, it was described as ‘a tear on the face of eternity’. It’s a beautiful way to describe the building that was built as a tomb for Shah Jahan’s favorite wife. The tomb still exists in pristine condition and is a marvel to look at. But like the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, it was a resting place for someone, but unlike the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus it still exists completely intact today, while Halicarnassus has long since been destroyed by time and disaster.
But unlike Halicarnassus, it hasn’t been around long enough for it to beat its record. We’ll need another 1200 years or so before that record gets broken. Only time will tell.
9. Lighthouse of Alexandria
The Lighthouse of Alexandria is another ancient wonder of the world that served as a literal shining beacon for the people of Alexandria. Built during the Ptolemaic Era of Ancient Egypt, it served a function to help guide ships travelling to the great city of Alexandria during the ancient era. It also was the third longest surviving wonder of the world as it remained in use from 280 BC until 1303, making it the longest lasting lighthouse in history. It was hit by two earthquakes, once in 956 and another in 1323 AD, and then became so damaged that it was not considered worth repairing at the time. Its stones were used to build the Citadel of Qaitbay, which still exists today and is intact. So while the lighthouse itself no longer exists, if you visit the Citadel, which is now a museum, the stones that form part of the structure are the original stones that made up the Lighthouse of Alexandria. So in some ways, it is still with us in spirit.
8. CN Tower
The CN tower in Toronto was constructed in 1975 and was the world’s tallest free standing structure until Burj Khalifa overtook that record in 2007. Like the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the CN tower was intended as a beacon of light of sorts… but instead of shining literal light, it broadcast radio and TV signals all over the region, as well as providing ample cellphone service for the entire city of Toronto, the largest city in Canada.
Obviously the tower is still around, and it has been hailed as a modern wonder of the world by many groups. It hasn’t lasted as long as the Lighthouse, nor has its utility gotten close to as much mileage, but the impact it has had cannot be understated.
So who’s the winner? I give it to the Lighthouse of Alexandria, because it has served its function far longer while I’m not sure if the CN tower will be really useful 100 years from now.
7. Statue of Zeus
The Statue of Zeus was a giant seated figure that was built by the Greek sculptor Phidias circa 435 BC and it was housed in the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, Greece. The seated statue was 43 feet (13 meters) tall and was so massive that if Zeus became animated and stood up from his throne, his head would literally have gone through the roof of the Temple. The statue itself was made of a wooden substructure and covered in panels of ivory and gold, and was elaborately decorated.
It had survived for more than 900 years before it was destroyed in a fire. The fire was caused by neglect, since in 391 AD Roman emperor Theodosius I, who was a Christian, had banned all pagan cults and temples, meaning it decayed and fell into disrepair until it was lost in a fire around 475 or 425 AD (records vary). Still, that’s a pretty good run for a statue of an ancient god.
6. Christ the Redeemer
If you watch any movie that features Rio de Janeiro, you know what Christ the Redeemer is. It is a massive statue of Jesus Christ overlooking the city of Rio de Janeiro (which is famous for some rather unchristian activities) with his arms spread out in a welcoming and protective gesture towards the city. The statue itself is over 98 feet (30 meters) tall without counting its 26-foot (8 meter) pedestal and is made of reinforced concrete and soapstone.
It was built from 1922 to 1931 before it was unveiled to the world. At night the statue is rigged for it to shine all over the city, visible for miles around. It has been considered a modern wonder of the world for a few years now.
So which one wins? Christ the Redeemer, or the Statue of Zeus? I don’t know, it depends on what religion you are, but on one hand, Zeus was seated on the throne, which is an activity that requires no effort, but Christ the Redeemer is standing atop a mountain and overlooking an entire city, a much more challenging and glamorous activity, so bonus points go to Christ the Redeemer.
5. Temple of Artemis
The Temple of Artemis, also known as the Artemision or the Temple of Diana, was a Greek temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis. This original wonder of the world holds some serious distinction as one of the few (if not only) original wonder that only became a wonder AFTER the first version was actually destroyed by Herostratus, a pathetic nobody who wanted to become famous by doing something absolutely horrific. So he burned down the first Temple and he was executed for it, and then they banned anyone from even mentioning his name.
But the weird thing is, they rebuilt their temple. Like the 6 million dollar man, they built it bigger, stronger and better than before. And it became one of the most beautiful temples in the ancient world, and it remained until 401 when it was destroyed by another disaster. It was rebuilt 3 more times and it lasted for another 950 years. Which in modern terms would be like a building built in 967 AD that has been destroyed today.
In Eastern Kyoto, one of the oldest Japanese cities still around, there is one of the most beautiful examples of Japanese architecture ever made. It is a Buddhist temple that was built in the early Heian period, built around 778 AD by Sakanoue no Tauramaro, a shogun of the era. It was built with not just Buddhism in mind, but plenty of other traditional Japanese gods as well, including one dedicated to Okuninushi, the god of love. The temple was put on the UNESCO World Heritage site list and was a finalist on the list of 7 new wonders of the world.
The best part of this one is that not only is this still around, it still serves its original purpose today and it has actually been around for almost 1240 years, far more than many of the ancient wonders of the world. This makes it a notch above the Temple of Artemis.
3. Hanging Gardens of Babylon
Now we’re heading to speculative territory. I say this because unlike the rest of the ancient wonders of the world, we have exactly zero real evidence that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon really existed. While they were mentioned numerous times in antiquity, going as far back as 290 BC by a Babylonian priest Berossus (who was quoted by Josephus centuries later), but no existing literature really exists from Babylonian times of its existence, and no archaeological evidence exists of it at all. It’s speculated that the Hanging Gardens weren’t really in Babylon, but in Ninevah, which was much further north to Babylon, closer to Mosul in modern Iraq, for there IS evidence.
Until we get more information on the Hanging Gardens of Nineveh (which doesn’t sound as catchy as the Hanging gardens of Babylon) we’re going to focus on the original story.
So as it goes, sometime around the 580s or so, the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II had built a massive hanging garden for his wife, who missed the greenery of her native land in the rather drab surroundings of Ancient Iraq. I guess he was also going for husband of the year since he’s the only one on our list who built something for his wife to enjoy while she was actually alive. It was alleged that it was a massive pyramid of mud bricks that had flowing plant life going down its slopes and was irrigated by a complex system of water ways. It must have been a pretty marvellous piece of engineering for its day.
2. Itaipu Dam
Speaking of water and watering stuff. The Itaipu Dam is honestly one of the finest and most important pieces of hydroelectric engineering ever built. In 1994, the American Society of Civil Engineers called it one of the modern seven wonders of the world due to just how massive and well built it was. It spans thousands of feet in length and it’s an important source of power that the entire nation of Paraguay is dependent on it. If you want to black out an entire nation, just shut down the dam. That’s how big it is and how much power it provides. Best part is because it’s all hydroelectricity, there’s no pollution involved, which means the beautiful jungle that surrounds it won’t be affected by its presence.
Just by the sheer scale of the thing and what it took to even BUILD it makes it remarkable. At any rate, the winner of this round goes to the Dam. While the hanging gardens were awesome, we don’t know if they really existed yet (they probably did, but in Nineveh, not Babylon), and they were ornamental and didn’t last very long obviously. This dam has already done far more for humanity than the gardens ever could.
1. Angkor Wat
This is the bonus round. In Cambodia, sometime at the end of the 12th century when the Khmer king Suryavarman II decided to build a temple to Vishnu the Hindu goddess, this was created. But he completely broke from all old traditions of previous kings in temple building, which started by making the temple dedicated to Vishnu in the first place, and he oriented the statue towards the west instead of the east as was traditionally done. No one knows why he decided to do this so differently.
But what everyone now knows is that the Angkor Wat is the symbol of Cambodia and is one of the most spectacular buildings in Southeast Asia. It is one of the most elaborately decorated temples in the world, with extensive galleries, bas-reliefs and that extremely unique Southeast Asian design that is unmatched anywhere else in the world.
Just thought I’d give it a mention, since it’s so breathtaking.
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