Dave's Wonders

From the Colossus to the Andromeda Galaxy and beyond…

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Category : Wonders Of The Ancient World

The Colossus Of Rhodes

The Colossus Of Rhodes was a statue of the Greek God Helios, erected in the city of Rhodes on the Greek island of Rhodes by Chares of Lindos between 292 and 280 BCE. The Colossus was constructed to celebrate Rhodes’ victory over the ruler of Cyprus, Antigonus I Monophthalmus, who unsuccessfully besieged Rhodes in 305 BCE. The great ediface stood over 30 metres(107 ft) in height which makes it one of the tallest statues of the ancient world.

Modern engineers have put forward a plausible hypothesis for the statue construction, based on the technology of those days and the accounts of Philo and Pliny who both saw and were able to describe the remains. The base pedestal was at least 18 metres(60 ft) in diameter and either circular or octagonal. The feet were carved into stone and covered with thin bronze plates riveted together. Eight forced iron bars set in a radiating horizontal position formed the ankles and turned up to follow the lines of the legs while becoming progressively smaller. Individually cast curved bronze plates 1500mm(60 inches) square with turned in edges were joined together by rivets through holes formed during casting to form a series of rings. The lower plates were 25mm(1 inch) in thickness to the knee and 3/4 inch thick from knee to abdomen, while the upper plates were 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick except where additional strength was required at joints such as the shoulder, neck, etc. The legs would need to be filled at least to the knees with stones for stabilty. Accounts described earthen mounds used to aid construction; however, to reach the top of the statue would have required a mound 91 metres(300 ft) in diameter, which exceeded the available land area, so modern engineers have proposed that the abandoned siege towers stripped down would have made efficient scaffolding.

The Colossus of Rhodes stood for only 56 years until Rhodes was hit by the 226 BCE Rhodes Earthquake, when significant damage was also done to large portions of the city including the harbour and commercial buildings, which were destroyed. The statue snapped at the knees and fell over on to the land. Ptolemy III offered to pay for the reconstruction of the statue, but the oracle of Delphi made the Rhodians afraid that they had offended Helios, and they declined to rebuild it. The remains lay on the ground as described by Strabo for over 800 years, and even broken, they were so impressive that many traveled to see them. Pliny the Elder remarked that few people could wrap their arms around the fallen thumb and that each of its fingers was larger than most statues.

Media reports in 1989 initially suggested that large stones found on the seabed off the coast of Rhodes might have been the remains of the Colossus; however this theory was later shown to be without merit. Another theory published in an article in 2008 by Ursula Vedder suggests that the Colossus was never in the port, but rather on a hill named Monte Smith, which overlooks the port area. The temple on top of Monte Smith has traditionally thought to have been devoted to Apollo, but according to Vedder, it would have been a Helios sanctuary. The enormous stone foundations at the temple site, the function of which is not definitively known by modern scholars, are proposed by Vedder to have been the supporting platform of the Colossus.

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus or also known as the Tomb Of Mausolus was a tomb built between 353 and 350 BCE at Halicarnassus for Mausolus, a satrap in the Persian Empire, and Artemisia II of Caria, his wife and sister.

In 623 BCE, Halicarnassus was the capital of a small regional kingdom in the coast of Asia Minor. In 377 BCE the ruler of the region, Hecatomnus of Milas, died and left the control of the kingdom to his son, Mausolus. Mausolus extended his territory as far as the southwest coast of Anatolia and he and Artemisia ruled from Halicarnassus over the surrounding territory for twenty-four years.

Mausolus chose Halicarnassus as a new capital that would be safe from capture and magnificent in appearence. He had his workmen deepen the city’s harbour and paved streets and squares on land. They also built houses for ordinary citizens and on one side of the Harbour they built a massive fortified palace for Mausolus positioned so as to have a clear view out to sea and inland to the hills. In 353 BCE, Mausolus died and his wife, broken-hearted, began the construction of the famous tomb so beautiful that it became one of the Seven Wonders of The Ancient World. A structure so famous, that Mausolus’ name is now the eponym for all stately tombs, mausoleum.

Artemisia spared no expense in the building of the tomb. She sent for the most talented artists of the time in Greece. The tomb itself was erected on a hill overlooking the city and sat in an enclosed courtyard. At the centre of the courtyard was a stone platform on which the tomb sat. A stairway flanked by stone lions led to the top of the platform, which bore along its outer walls many statues of gods and goddesses. At each corner, stone warriors mounted on horseback guarded the tomb. The marble tomb, positioned at the centre of the platform, one-third of the Mausoleum’s height which measured 45m (148ft) in total. This section was covered with low reliefs including famous tales like the battle of the centaurs with the lapiths and Greeks in combat with the Amazons, a race of warrior women. At the top of this section of the tomb thirty-six slim columns, ten per side, with each corner sharing one column between two sides; rose for another third of the height. Standing between each pair of columns was a statue and behind the columns was a solid block that carried the weight of the tombs massive roof. The roof which comprised of the final third of the height was pyramidal and on top was four massive horses pulling a chariot in which rode images of Mausolus and Artemisia.

The Mausoleum overlooked the city of Halicarnassus for many years. It was untouched when the city fell to Alexander the Great in 334 BCE and still undamaged after attacks by pirates in 62 and 58 BCE. It stood above the city’s ruins for sixteen centuries. Then a series of earthquakes shattered the columns and sent the bronze chariot crashing to the ground. By 1404 CE only the very base of the Mausoleum was still recognizable. Finally, what was left of the Mausoleum was briken down and used to fortify the walls in around 1522 when Crusaders feared a Turkish invasion.

Lighthouse Of Alexandria

The Lighthouse of Alexandria, also known as the Pharos of Alexandria, was a tower built between 280 and 247 BC on the island of Pharos at Alexandria, Egypt. Standing at an estimated height of 120–140 m (390–460 ft), it was for many centuries one of the tallest man-made structures making one of the Seven Wonders of The Ancient World.

Constructed from large blocks of a light-coloured stone, the lighthouse comprised of three stages: a lower square section with a central core, a middle octagonal section, and, at the top, a circular section. There was a mirror positioned at the apex of the tower which was used to reflect sunlight during the day. There was a fire lit at night to provide sufficient light. Studies show that there was a triton positioned on each of the structures four corners and that a statue of Poseidon stood at the top during the Roman period at least. A significant engineering feature worth noting is that the Pharos’ masonry blocks were interlocked and sealed together using molten lead, to withstand the pounding of the Mediterranean waves.

The enormous structure was built to guide mariners at night using fire and reflective mirrors and acted as a landmark by day. It was reported that the light could be seen from up to 29 miles away and legends claim that the light from the tower could burn enemy ships. Unfortunately, the lighthouse was badly damaged by an earthquake in 956 and was damaged to the extent that entry to the ruins became impossible after the earthquakes of 1303 and 1323. Gradually then, over the years, the last remaining rubble was built over and used during the construction of the Citadel of Qaitbay.

The Great Pyramid Of Giza

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza Necropolis in Egypt. This awesome structure is the oldest of the Seven Wonders Of The Ancient World dating back to around 2500 BCE and is the only Wonder to remain largely intact. The Great Pyramid was the world’s tallest man-made struture for nearly 4000 years and is believed to have been built for the fourth Dynasty Pharoah Khufu.

What is seen of the Great Pyramid today is mearly the underlying core structure however some of the casing stones that once formed the smooth outer surface of the pyrmaid can still be seen around the base. It is easy to imagine the beauty of this fear-inspiring strucure in Ancient times when it would have shone like a star in the Saharan sun.

There have been many theories as to the construction techniques used in the building of the Great Pyramid. It is widely accepted however, that it was built by moving huge stones from a quarry and dragging and lifting them into place. Khufu’s vizier, Hemon, is believed by some to be the architect of the Great Pyramid. The mass of the pyramid is estimated at 5.9 million tonnes. The volume, including an internal hillock, is roughly 2,500,000 cubic meters. Based on these estimates, building this in 20 years would involve installing approximately 800 tonnes of stone every day. Alternatively, looking at the construction from another angle, since the Great Pyramid consists of an estimated 2.3 million blocks, completing the building in 20 years would involve moving little more than 12 of the blocks in place each hour, day and night, during the 20 year period.

The Greeks believed that slave labour was used, but modern Egyptologists accept that it was built by many tens of thousands of skilled workers. They camped near the pyramids and worked for a salary or as a form of paying taxes until the construction was completed. Their cemeteries were discovered in 1990 by archaeologists Zahi Hawass and Mark Lehner. Verner posited that the labor was organized into a hierarchy, consisting of two gangs of 100,000 men, divided into five zaa or phyle of 20,000 men each, which may have been further divided according to the skills of the workers.

Today, the Great Pyramid is entered via Robbers’ Tunnel that was dug by workmen under the employment of Caliph al-Ma’mun in around 820 CE. The tunnel is cut straight through the masonry of the pyramid for approximately 27m, then turns sharply left to encounter the blocking stones in the Ascending Passage. However the workmen were able to dig alongside the Ascending Passage through the softer Limestone until they reached the Ascendung Passage.

There are three known chambers inside the Great Pyramid. The lowest chamber is cut into the bedrock upon which the pyramid was built and was unfinished. The Queens’s Chamber and King’s Chamber, as they are now known, are higher up in the structure. The Great Pyramid is the only Pyramid in Egypt known to have both ascending and descending passages, however, access is not permitted to the descending passage.

Every remarkable detail of the Great Pyramid Of Giza, from it’s massive size and impression on the landscape, to the advanced methods used during construction, contribute to this massive structure earning the right to be known as a Wonder Of The Ancient World.