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Sevens Wonders of the Ancient World - List and Timeline

Sevens Wonders of the Ancient World - List and Timeline


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The amazing works of art and architecture known as the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World serve as a testament to the ingenuity, imagination and sheer hard work of which human beings are capable. They are also, however, reminders of the human capacity for disagreement, destruction and, possibly, embellishment. As soon as ancient writers compiled a list of “seven wonders,” it became fodder for debate over which achievements deserved inclusion. The original list comes from a work by Philo of Byzantium written in 225 B.C. called On The Seven Wonders. Ultimately, human hands joined with natural forces to destroy all but one of the wonders. Furthermore, it is possible that at least one of the wonders might not have existed at all. Still, all seven continue to inspire and be celebrated as the remarkable products of the creativity and skill of Earth’s early civilizations.

Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt

See more: 10 Awe-Inspiring Photos of the Ancient Egyptian Pyramids

The Great Pyramid, located at Giza on the west bank of the Nile River north of Cairo in Egypt, is the only wonder of the ancient world that has survived to the present day. It is part of a group of three pyramids–Khufu (Cheops), Khafra (Chephren) and Menkaura (Mycerimus)–that were built between 2700 B.C. and 2500 B.C. as royal tombs. The largest and most impressive is Khufu, known as “The Great Pyramid,” which covers 13 acres and is believed to contain more than 2 million stone blocks that weigh from two to 30 tons each. For more than 4,000 years, Khufu reigned as the tallest building in the world. In fact, it took modern man until the 19th century to build a taller structure. Amazingly, the nearly symmetrical Egyptian pyramids were built without the aid of modern tools or surveying equipment. So, how did Egyptians build the pyramids? Scientists believe that the Egyptians used log rollers and sledges to move the stones into place. The sloped walls, which were intended to mimic the rays of Ra, the sun god, were originally built as steps, and then filled in with limestone. The interior of the pyramids included narrow corridors and hidden chambers in an unsuccessful attempt to foil grave robbers. Although modern archeologists have found some great treasures among the ruins, they believe most of what the pyramids once contained was looted within 250 years of their completion.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

According to ancient Greek poets, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were built near the Euphrates River in modern-day Iraq by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II around 600 B.C. The gardens were said to have been planted as high as 75 feet in the air on a huge square brick terrace that was laid out in steps like a theater. The king allegedly built the towering gardens to ease his lover Amytis’ homesickness for the natural beauty of her home in Media (the northwestern part of modern-day Iran). Later writers described how people could walk underneath the beautiful gardens, which rested on tall stone columns. Modern scientists have deduced that for the gardens to survive they would have had to be irrigated using a system consisting of a pump, waterwheel and cisterns to carry water from the Euphrates many feet into the air. Though there are multiple accounts of the gardens in both Greek and Roman literature, none of them are firsthand, and no mention of the gardens has been found in Babylonian cuneiform inscriptions. As a result, most modern scholars believe that the existence of the gardens was part of an inspired and widely believed but still fictional tale.

Statue of Zeus at Olympia

See more: Striking Photos of Classical Greek Architecture

The famed statue of Zeus, the king of the gods in Greek Mythology, was crafted by the Athenian sculptor Phidias and completed and placed in the temple of Zeus at Olympia, site of the ancient Olympics, around the mid-fifth century B.C. The statue depicted the god of thunder seated bare-chested at a wooden throne. Holding up the thrones’ armrests were two carved sphinxes, mythical creatures with the head and chest of a woman, the body of lion and the wings of a bird. The statue of Zeus was richly decorated with gold and ivory. At 40 feet, it was so tall that its head nearly touched the top of the temple. According to legend, the sculptor Phidias asked Zeus for a sign of his approval after finishing the statue; soon after, the temple was struck by lightning. The Zeus statue graced the temple at Olympia for more than eight centuries before Christian priests persuaded the Roman emperor to close the temple in the fourth century A.D. At that time, the statue was moved to a temple in Constantinople, where it is believed to have been destroyed in a fire in the year 462.

Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

There was actually more than one Temple of Artemis: A series of several altars and temples was destroyed and then restored on the same site in Ephesus, a Greek port city on the west coast of modern-day Turkey. The most fabulous of these structures were two marble temples built around 550 B.C. and 350 B.C., respectively. “Apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on anything so grand,” the writer Antipater of Sidon wrote of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

The original Temple of Artemis was designed by the Cretan architect Chersiphron and his son Metagenes and decorated by some of the most celebrated artists of the ancient world. The building burned on July 21, 356 B.C., according to legend the same night that Alexander the Great was born. It was torched by a Greek citizen named Herostratus, who claimed he burned the marvel so that his name would be known to history. He was put to death and the government declared it illegal to utter his name.

About six years later, the building of the new Temple of Artemis was begun. The new building was surrounded by marble steps that led to a more than 400-foot-long terrace. Inside stood 127 60-foot marble columns and a statue of Artemis, the Greek Goddess of the hunt. Archeologists disagree as to whether the building had an open-air ceiling or was topped with wood tiles. The temple was largely destroyed by Ostrogoths in A.D. 262, and it was not until the 1860s that archeologists dug up the first of the ruins of the temple’s columns at the bottom of the Cayster River.

Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

Located in what is now southeastern Turkey, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was a tomb built by Artemisia for her husband, Mausolus, the king of Carnia in Asia Minor, after his death in 353 B.C. Mausolus was also Artemisia’s brother, and, according to legend, she was so grief-stricken at his passing that she mixed his ashes with water and drank them in addition to ordering the mausoleum’s construction. The massive mausoleum was made entirely of white marble and is thought to have been about 135 feet high. The building’s complicated design, consisting of three rectangular layers, may have been an attempt to reconcile Lycian, Greek and Egyptian architectural styles. The first layer was a 60-foot base of steps, followed by a middle layer of 36 Ionic columns and a stepped, pyramid-shaped roof. At the very top of the roof lay the tomb, decorated by the work of four sculptors, and a 20-foot marble rendition of a four-horse chariot. The mausoleum was largely destroyed in an earthquake in the 13th century and its remains were later used in the fortification of a castle. In 1846, pieces of one of the mausoleum’s friezes were extracted from the castle and now reside, along with other relics from the Halicarnassus site, in London’s British Museum.

Colossus of Rhodes

The Colossus of Rhodes was an enormous bronze sculpture of the sun god Helios built by the Rhodians over 12 years in the third century B.C. The city was the target of a Macedonian siege early in the fourth century B.C. and, according to legend, the Rhodians sold the tools and equipment left behind by the Macedonians to pay for the Colossus. Designed by the sculptor Chares, the statue was, at 100 feet, the tallest of the ancient world. It was completed around 280 B.C. and stood for sixty years until it was toppled in an earthquake. It was never rebuilt. Hundreds of years later, Arabs invaded Rhodes and sold the remains of the statue as scrap metal. Because of this, archeologists do not know much about the exact location of the statue or what it looked like. Most believe that it depicted the sun god standing naked while he lifted a torch with one hand and held a spear in the other. It was once believed that the statue stood with one leg on each side of a harbor, but most scholars now agree that the statue’s legs were most likely built close together to support its immense weight.

Lighthouse of Alexandria

The Lighthouse of Alexandria was located on a small island called Pharos near the city of Alexandria. Designed by the Greek architect Sostratos and completed around 270 B.C. during the reign of Ptolemy II, the lighthouse helped to guide Nile River ships in and out of the city’s busy harbor. Archeologists have found ancient coins on which the lighthouse was depicted, and from them deduced that the structure had three tiers: a square level at the bottom, an octagonal level in the middle and a cylindrical top. Above that stood a 16-foot statue, most likely of Ptolemy II or Alexander the Great, for whom the city was named. Although estimates of the lighthouse’s height have ranged from 200 to 600 feet, most modern scholars believe it was about 380 feet tall. The lighthouse was gradually destroyed during a series of earthquakes from 956 to 1323. Some of its remains have since been discovered at the bottom of the Nile.

New 7 Wonders of the World

In 2007, the New 7 Wonders Foundation held a contest to name the “New 7 Wonders of the World.” Tens of millions of people voted for the UNESCO World Heritage Sites that made the list. They span four continents and attract thousands of tourists each year. They are:

  • The Great Wall of China (Built 220 BC to 1644 AD)
  • The Taj Mahal, India (Built 1632-1648 AD)
  • Petra, Jordan (Built 4 Century BC-2 Century AD)
  • The Colosseum in Rome, Italy (Built AD 72-82)
  • Christ the Redeemer statue, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Built 1926-1931)
  • Chichen Itza, Mexico (Built 5-13 century AD)
  • Machu Picchu, Peru (Build mid-15 century AD)

PLUS: The Many Places Claiming to Be the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’


Sevens Wonders of the Ancient World - List and Timeline - HISTORY

The Seven Wonders
O
f the Ancient World
By Bob Frost
HistoryAccess.com, 2008


The Great Pyramid of Giza (center) in Egypt is the only one of the seven ancient wonders still in existence. The airplane in this photo is a U.S. B-1 bomber on a training flight. Below, a similar photo, shot during the First World War era the plane is German.

T he origin of this list of wonders can be found in the writings of Herodotus, the Greek historian of the fifth century BCE who described a number of historic sites in the Mediterranean region including the pyramids and ancient Babylon. He was the first writer to report on such places with an eye to their historical resonance.

Various writers tweaked the grouping over the centuries, including Callimachus, Philo, and Antipater. Gradually the list was set in stone. Some early versions may have included a structure in Babylon called the Ishtar Gate, a formidable construction made of tile. The number seven was probably used because of its millennial-old, cross-cultural association with power and magic - for example, it appears many times in the Bible, most prominently in the creation story in Genesis and in the Book of the Revelation. The deepest roots of humanity's interest in the number seven can be found in the seven classical planets.

A list made today of ancient wonders might not be so Mediterranean-centric perhaps it would include Stonehenge in England and Olmec works in Mexico. However, the Great Wall of China wouldn't qualify - it took its present form during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE). Nor would the temple complex Angkor Wat make the cut. The structure, in Cambodia, was built around 1150 CE.

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World have inspired many knock-offs. For example, a list of Seven Wonders of the Natural World was compiled recently:

Mount Everest
Victoria Falls
The Grand Canyon
The Great Barrier Reef
The Northern Lights
Paricutin (an active volcano in Mexico)
The Rio de Janeiro Harbor

In 1991 the Times of London conducted a reader’s poll and listed the 10 leading vote-getters for "wonders of the modern world":

Sydney Opera House
U.S. Space Program
Concorde Airliner
Aswan Dam
Empire State Building
Golden Gate Bridge
Channel Tunnel (the Chunnel)
Disneyland/Disneyworld/Epcot
Panama Canal
Mount Rushmore

The Economist magazine on December 25, 1993, chose seven modern technological wonders:

Microchip
Birth Control Pill
Telephone
Jumbo Jet
Gullfaks C North Sea Oil Platform
Hydrogen Bomb
Man on the Moon

One might well ask, is the Gullfaks C North Sea Oil Platform as wonder-inducing as humans landing on the Moon? Perhaps its inclusion is an effort by the editors of The Economist to maintain their reputation for contrariness and/or puckishness.

Newsweek magazine, in April, 2006, picked Seven Wonders of the Modern World:

Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge (Japan)
Lakewood Church (Texas)
International Space Station (Skyward)
Sydney Opera House (Australia)
Taipei 101 (Taiwan the world's tallest building in 2006)
Palace of the Parliament (Romania)
South China Mall (China)

The New7Wonders Foundation conducted Internet polling in the 2000s for the "new seven wonders of the world." The selectees:

Chichen Itza (ancient Mayan city)
Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro
The Colosseum in Rome
The Great Wall of China
Machu Picchu in Peru (Inca ruins)
Petra, Jordan (ancient city)
Taj Mahal
Giza Pyramid Complex (an honorary addition)

For more information on the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World see "The Seven Wonders of the World: A History of the Modern Imagination" by John and Elizabeth Romer (1995 see also their DVD produced by The Learning Channel). Also see "Wonders of Antiquity" by Leonard Cottrell (1959).

The Great Pyramid of Giza
Oldest and greatest of the seven wonders, the Great Pyramid of Giza (also known as the Pyramid of Khufu and the Pyramid of Cheops), near Cairo, Egypt, is the only one still standing.

It was the tallest man-made structure in the world for 38 centuries, from its construction circa 2560 BCE to the erection of the Lincoln Cathedral spire in England in about 1300 CE. The pyramid, built as the final resting place of Pharaoh Khufu (Cheops), is about 45 stories tall and covers 13 acres at the base. Scholars debate its construction techniques - ancient Egyptians didn’t know about such tools as the pulley or the block and tackle. One theory proposes the use of long ramps another possibility is a stone-moving lever with a short angled foot at one end. Slave labor probably was not used, according to the latest research - work on the structure was viewed as an honor and high calling.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
This wonder may only be a legend.

The luxury and refinement of Babylon were axiomatic in the ancient world. Babylon's royal gardens, supposedly built in the sixth century BCE, were said to include a forest of "hanging" plants - trees and flowers cultivated on stone terraces, above ground level, that hung down over walkways.

No reference to such gardens has been found in ancient Babylonian texts. Herodotus doesn't mention them, and archaeological evidence for them is not convincing. Still, it's somewhat possible that something akin to hanging gardens existed, given the relentless building activities of King Nebuchadnezzar, who reigned circa 605-562 BCE.

In the 1990s, visitors to Iraq were shown the supposed "site" of the gardens, a bunch of generic ruins.

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
In about 435 BCE, the sculptor Phidias erected a statue of a seated Zeus, king of the Greek gods, at a shrine at Olympia in southern Greece. (The home of Zeus was Mount Olympus, 175 miles north of the shrine.) Authors John and Elizabeth Romer regard this as "perhaps the greatest single wonder of the classical age." (The Great Pyramid in Egypt pre-dates the classical age.)

The statue of Zeus, three stories tall, made liberal use of ivory and gold, and glittered exotically in its shadowy Doric-columned temple. In the course of time, the work was stolen and borne to Constantinople (today’s Istanbul) where it was destroyed in a fire in 462 CE.

The sculptor Phidias (c.500-c.432 BCE) was one of the greatest artists of ancient times. His Zeus ranks with his Athena Parthenos among his finest creations. It’s pleasant to imagine a group of Greeks sitting around in a casual symposium in 432 BCE, drinking wine of a summer’s eve, debating, as Greeks were wont to do, which work of Phidias was best. (Symposium: syn -, "together" + posis, "a drinking.")

Today no sculpture from ancient Greece can be attributed with certainty to Phidias. The writer Edith Hamilton notes of ancient Greek work, "Little is left of all this wealth of great art: the sculptures, defaced and broken into bits, have crumbled away the buildings are fallen the paintings gone forever of the writings, all lost but a very few."

Scattered pieces on the Acropolis, traditionally thought to be made by Phidias, were likely made by his staff and students. In the 1950s, archaeologists excavating at Olympia made a wonderful discovery - a portion of an ancient drinking cup with the careful inscription "I belong to Phidias." This is probably all that remains in his hand.

An approximation of the Zeus shrine can be seen in Episode Nine of "I, Claudius."

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
Perhaps this building can be ranked with Chartres Cathedral in France on the short list of history's most beautiful structures erected to venerate heaven.

Artemis, daughter of Zeus in Greek myth, was worshiped by the citizens of Ephesus, a rich and powerful Grecian port in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). In the sixth century BCE, King Croesus of Lydia – the man who gave his name to wealth beyond the dreams of avarice – paid for a monument to Artemis. Fire destroyed this first temple in the fourth century BC it was rebuilt. The Romans re-named the building for their goddess Diana. The identity of the architect is not known.

The temple was large and rectangular, with graceful 60-foot Ionic columns and a courtyard open to the sky. The structure gleamed brightly when beheld from afar and seemed calming as one drew close and entered. Scholar Bluma L. Trell writes that it was "an expression of Greek Ionic soul" mixed with "Near Eastern oriental spirit." The building attracted the philosopher Heraclitus (c.535-c.475 BCE) who retreated there to meditate upon humanity and the nature of change.

Goths destroyed the temple in 262 CE. The ruins were excavated in the 1800s but there’s not much to see.

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
When the Persian ruler Mausolus died in the fourth century BCE in Asia Minor he was buried in a magnificent tomb in the city of Halicarnassus. The burial site of Mausolus became known as the Mausoleum.

The tomb was probably about 14 stories tall, made of white marble and decorated with sculpture. It endured for more than 1800 years, until the late 1400s, when the Knights of St. John recognized its value as a quarry and began hauling off the marble. The bones of Mausolus disappeared.

Mausolus lends his name to any large tomb structure. The world’s most beautiful mausoleum is the Taj Mahal, in Agra, India, built by Muslims in the 17th century - perhaps the loveliest building of the last 500 years. Other notable mausoleums are those of Napoleon, in Paris Ulysses S. Grant, in New York City Lenin, in Moscow Ho Chi Minh, in Hanoi and the Great Mausoleum of Forest Lawn Memorial Park, in Glendale, California, the site of final repose for many Hollywood celebrities.

The Colossus at Rhodes
The Colossus was a statue of Helios, Greek god of the sun, located on the island of Rhodes in the Aegean Sea.

Helios was a patron god in Rhodes, petitioned by the citizenry during their stand against the invader Demetrius I of Macedon in 305 BCE. The Rhodians won the war and erected the Colossus as a token of thanks for their deliverance, and perhaps as a celebration of their prowess. The sculptor, Chares of Lindos, used bronze, stone, and iron for the work. The statue, located near the harbor, kept a protective eye on ships of commerce, which carried grain, timber, pitch, resin, silver, bronze and other goods.

The Colossus was said to resemble Alexander the Great. It was the largest statue of its time, measuring about 110 feet tall. (The Statue of Liberty is 152 feet tall not counting the base.) According to legend, the Colossus straddled the Rhodian harbor, with ships passing between its legs, but that's impossible – the span of such legs would have been a quarter-mile.

An earthquake in about 226 BCE caused the Colossus to break at the knees, and an oracle forbade the Rhodians from erecting a replacement. Rhodes was plundered by Islamic invaders in 654 CE and the remnants of the statue disappeared.

Today "colossus" can be applied to any very large statue, including the Statue of Liberty, upon which is inscribed a poem titled "The New Colossus" written by Emma Lazarus in 1883. The poet misunderstands the size and role of the Colossus at Rhodes - she notes unfavorably its "conquering limbs astride from land to land" and calls it "brazen." The Statue of Liberty has a different mission, Lazarus writes: "From her beacon-hand/Glows world-wide welcome."

The Pharos at Alexandria
The city of Alexandria, Egypt, was founded by Alexander the Great in the fourth century BCE to handle the grain trade. The port needed a lighthouse, so, in about 280 BCE, Alexandrians built a marvelous 40-story structure of limestone and granite, naming it "Pharos" after the small island upon which it stood. The man who paid for it may have been Sostratus of Cnidus, a wealthy merchant interested in safe passage for his vessels. The name of the architect is not known.

The Pharos had a beacon the source for this light was a fire at the base of the structure, or possibly the rays of the sun, or both, intensified and reflected by large mirrors at the structure's top. These bronze mirrors are ancestors of the glass mirrors in today's telescopes. The Egyptian workers who created the Pharos mirrors were surely among the most respected craftsmen in town one can imagine them, or their slaves, burnishing the massive smooth discs by the hour.

Earthquakes damaged the Pharos over the centuries and by 1400 CE the structure was rubble. In 1995 an archaeological team discovered a few remains (see "Treasures of the Sunken City" produced by Nova and PBS). The word "pharos" lives on as a synonym (albeit rarely used) for a lighthouse or guiding light.


Hanging Gardens Of Babylon

Illustration depicting the fabled Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Claimed to have been constructed by the Babylonians near the Euphrates River in what we now know as Iraq, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon had outer walls that were 56 miles long, 80 feet thick, and 320 feet high, although archeological finds have never corroborated this.The upkeep alone would have been incredible, involving an irrigation system made up of a pump, waterwheel, and cisterns in order to bring water up from the river up into the air.

Built in 600 BCE, allegedly as a way for King Nebuchadnezzar II to assuage his wife’s homesickness for her native Media (what is now the northwestern part of Iraq and south east Turkey), it was likely destroyed by an earthquake after the first century BCE. With no certain location known for these massive gardens, modern scholars are uncertain as to whether they actually existed.


Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

From pyramids to temples, our ancestors knew how to get things done.

More than 2,000 years ago, travelers would write about incredible sights they had seen on their journeys. Over time, seven of those places made history as the "wonders of the ancient world." Check them out here.

The Pyramids of Giza

Massive tombs of Egyptian pharaohs, the pyramids are the only ancient wonders still standing today. The tallest of the three is called the Great Pyramid.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Legend has it that this garden paradise was planted on an artificial mountain and construct to please the wife of King Nebuchadnezzar II, but many experts say it never really existed.

Temple of Artemis

Built to honor Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt, this temple was said to have housed many works of art.

Statue of Zeus

This 40-foot (12-meter) statue depicted the king of the Greek gods.

Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

This elaborate tomb was built for King Mausolus and admired for its architectural beauty and splendor.

Colossus of Rhodes

A 110-foot (33.5-meter) statue honored the Greek sun god Helios.

Lighthouse of Alexandria

Towering over the Mediterranean coast for more than 1,500 years, the world's first lighthouse used mirrors to reflect sunlight for miles out to sea.

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Influence

Arts and architecture

The seven wonders on Antipater's list won praises for their notable features, ranging from superlatives of the highest or largest of their types, to the artistry with which they were executed. Their architectural and artistic features were imitated throughout the Hellenistic world and beyond.

The Greek influence in Roman culture, and the revival of Greco-Roman artistic styles during the Renaissance caught the imagination of European artists and travellers. [15] Paintings and sculptures alluding to Antipater's list were made, while adventurers flocked to the actual sites to personally witness the wonders. Legends circulated to further complement the superlatives of the wonders.

Modern lists

Of Antipater's wonders, the only one that has survived to the present day is the Great Pyramid of Giza. Its brilliant white stone facing had survived intact until around 1300 AD, when local communities removed most of the stonework for building materials. The existence of the Hanging Gardens has not been proven, although theories abound. [16] Records and archaeology confirm the existence of the other five wonders. The Temple of Artemis and the Statue of Zeus were destroyed by fire, while the Lighthouse of Alexandria, Colossus, and tomb of Mausolus were destroyed by earthquakes. Among the artifacts to have survived are sculptures from the tomb of Mausolus and the Temple of Artemis in the British Museum in London.

Still, the listing of seven of the most marvellous architectural and artistic human achievements continued beyond the Ancient Greek times to the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and to the modern age. The Roman poet Martial and the Christian bishop Gregory of Tours had their versions. [1] Reflecting the rise of Christianity and the factor of time, nature and the hand of man overcoming Antipater's seven wonders, Roman and Christian sites began to figure on the list, including the Colosseum, Noah's Ark and Solomon's Temple. [1] [3] In the 6th century, a list of seven wonders was compiled by St. Gregory of Tours: the list [17] included the Temple of Solomon, the Pharos of Alexandria and Noah's Ark.

Modern historians, working on the premise that the original Seven Ancient Wonders List was limited in its geographic scope, also had their versions to encompass sites beyond the Hellenistic realm—from the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World to the Seven Wonders of the World. Indeed, the "seven wonders" label has spawned innumerable versions among international organizations, publications and individuals based on different themes—works of nature, engineering masterpieces, constructions of the Middle Ages, etc. Its purpose has also changed from just a simple travel guidebook or a compendium of curious places, to lists of sites to defend or to preserve.


Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: History and Reconstructions

Credit: JR. Casals

Introduction –

From the historical perspective, the list of Seven Wonders of the Ancient World comes to us from an incomplete manuscript known as the Seven Sights of the World (which incidentally only listed six monuments), possibly authored by Philo of Byzantium in circa 225 BC. The text mentioned the theamata (roughly ‘things to be seen’ in Greek) of the world, which basically translated to the incredible sights of the time. Interestingly enough, there were other ancient writers who referenced or even made their own lists of ‘sights to see’, including Herodotus, Callimachus of Cyrene, Diodorus Siculus, and Antipater of Sidon.

To that end, according to Herodotus, the Egyptian Labyrinth was worthy of inclusion as a wonder before the pyramids. Antipater, on the other hand, included the Walls of Babylon in place of the Lighthouse of Alexandria. However, in this article, we will only cover the ‘traditional’ Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – as mostly compiled by Philo. So without further ado, let us take a gander at the fascinating history and visual reconstructions (conveyed by images and animations) of these incredible man-made Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

1) The Great Pyramid at Giza (circa 2560 BC) –

The Great Pyramid of Giza from Ancient Egypt has always demanded awe and recognition from us ‘mortals’, and rightly so. The incredible architectural specimen was built in around 2560 BC and held the record for the world’s tallest structure for a whopping 3,800 years with its then-impressive height of 481 ft (146.5 m). G generally believed to be constructed as a mortuary monument for Khufu (or Cheops in Greek), who was the second Pharaoh from the Fourth Dynasty, the gargantuan structure is not only the oldest but ironically also the only surviving monument from the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. As for its architectural history, the Great Pyramid was probably completed in 20 years, and as such was a part of Khufu’s necropolis complex that also consisted of large temples and smaller pyramids. Later on, the compound was expanded with the inclusion of the two other big pyramids of Khufu’s successors – Khafre and Menkaure and the extended spatial scope is now known as the Giza pyramid complex (which had a huge wall enclosure that was known as the Wall of Crows).

As for the mind-boggling figures associated with the Great Pyramid itself, this first among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World rises to a height of around 455 ft – the tad reduced scale being due to soil erosion and the loss of the pyramidion, which was the uppermost capstone of the structure. In spite of the slight reduction in dimensions, the monumental giant has a base area of around 570,000 sq ft (equivalent to almost 10 American football fields) and a gargantuan volume of 88 million cubic ft (or 2.5 million cubic m) that accounts for an extraordinary 5.9 million tons of mass. This massive scope was achieved by the use of a whopping 2.3 million stone blocks (ranging from 2 to 30 tons) – that comes to an average of 800 tons of stones being installed each day, with 12 stones being precisely placed every hour! Few of these stones (especially, the ones used in the inner chambers) weigh more than 50 tons, and yet they were transported to the site from Aswan, which over 500 miles away.

In a short film made by the Smithsonian Channel, Jacquelyn Williamson, a Harvard University Egyptologist, gives us details on how the ancient craftsmen and artisans carved and finished the humongous blocks of limestone that are also known as ‘casing stones’ for the Great Pyramid of Giza. These slanting yet flat-topped blocks were primarily used for the external facades of the monumental structure. And, according to the documentary, the stone surfaces were almost polished to perfection with a range of abrasives like sandstone, brick, and fine sand – in a process not only requiring time and effort but also refined skills of craftsmanship. Credit: Jean-Philippe Laurent

The end result of such high levels of polishing yielded immaculately smooth surfaces that were incredibly shiny beyond reckoning. And, considering that there were limited pollution and smog circa 2500 BC (as opposed to our contemporary times), the Great Pyramid of Giza must have been an otherworldly magnificent spectacle during the time of its completion – with ethereal, glass-like facades basking in the glory of the effulgent sun. Quite poetically and rather aptly, the Ancient Egyptians called the Great Pyramid of Giza by the name of ‘Ikhet‘, which simply translates to ‘Glorious Light’.

2) Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (circa 7th century BC) –

Source: Wilstar

Possibly the second oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World in terms of origin, the Temple of Artemis was initially established as a sanctuary during the Bronze Age, in what is now İzmir Province, Turkey. The sanctuary was destroyed by a flood (some time in 7th century BC) and its remnants were rebuilt into a massive temple by circa 550 BC, under the directions of the Cretan architect Chersiphron of Knossos and his son Metagenes (according to Strabo). This temple, however, was intentionally set to fire in an act of arson.

However, the structure was rebuilt for the second time, and this magnificent iteration was counted among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In the words of Antipater of Sidon, the 2nd century BC Greek poet, who is also considered as one of the compilers of the list of ancient wonders –

I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the colossus of the Sun, and the huge labor of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, “Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.

Credit: Rocío Espín Piñar

The Ionic Temple of Artemis possibly survived until the 3rd century AD and was heavily damaged during the disastrous Gothic invasion. The roving Goths crossed Anatolia and were faced by only 7,000 Greek defenders under Roman rule at the famed narrow pass of Thermopylae (not to be confused with the earlier Battle of Thermopylae that pitted the Greeks against the Persians), though the outcome of this encounter is lost to the rigors of history. As for the Temple of Artemis, remarkably enough, it was once again rebuilt in the early 5th century but was ultimately destroyed by a band of Christians.

3) Hanging Gardens of Babylon (possibly circa 7th – 6th century BC) –

Credit: MondoWorks

Myth, history, and magnificence – the Hanging Gardens of Babylon tread the fine line between all these avenues to emerge as one of Herodotus’ Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. And while the name itself evokes a reverie of a colossal construction with lush greenery complemented by the kaleidoscopic bevy of flowers and herbs, unfortunately, there is very little archaeological evidence to support the presumed massive scale of these ‘hanging’ gardens from ancient Mesopotamia.

Given the nigh-mythical status of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, we hark back to one particular legend that talks about how Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar I may have constructed the gardens in 6th century BC, as a gift to his queen Amytis. Beyond the gargantuan nature of this ‘gift, it was the thought that counted – since Amytis came from Media, the area roughly corresponding to the northwestern part of present-day Iran, and she was apparently homesick for the verdant valleys and multifarious fauna of her native land. The king thus came up with the solution of creating a blooming ‘wonder’ for his wife in the very heartland of Mesopotamia – Babylon. Credit: JR. Casals

Now from the historical angle, some of these legends were first described by Berossus (apparently in his book Babyloniaca ), a Chaldaean priest who lived in the late 4th century BC. Subsequently, many ancient Greek authors also went on to provide written descriptions of this ancient wonder sometimes quoting Berossus’ work and at other times paraphrasing other ancient sources. For example, Diodorus Siculus (the author of the famed Bibliotheca historica ) possibly consulted the 4th century BC texts of Ctesias of Cnidus, and then made this description in 1st century BC –

There was also, beside the acropolis, the Hanging Garden, as it is called, which was built, not by Semiramis, but by a later Syrian king to please one of his concubines for she, they say, being a Persian by race and longing for the meadows of her mountains, asked the king to imitate, through the artifice of a planted garden, the distinctive landscape of Persia. The park extended four plethra on each side, and since the approach to the garden sloped like a hillside and the several parts of the structure rose from one another tier on tier, the appearance of the whole resembled that of a theater. When the ascending terraces had been built, there had been constructed beneath them galleries which carried the entire weight of the planted garden and rose little by little one above the other along the approach and the uppermost gallery, which was fifty cubits high, bore the highest surface of the park, which was made level with the circuit wall of the battlements of the city.

Furthermore, the walls, which had been constructed at great expense, were twenty-two feet thick, while the passageway between each two walls was ten feet wide. The roof above these beams had first a layer of reeds laid in great quantities of bitumen, over this two courses of baked brick bonded by cement, and as a third layer of covering of lead, to the end that the moisture from the soil might not penetrate beneath. On all this again earth had been piled to a depth sufficient for the roots of the largest trees and the ground, when leveled off, was thickly planted with trees of every kind that, by their great size or other charms, could give pleasure to the beholder. And since the galleries, each projecting beyond another, all received the light, they contained many royal lodgings of every description and there was one gallery which contained openings leading from the topmost surface and machines for supplying the gardens with water, the machines raising the water in great abundance from the river, although no one outside could see it being done. Now this park, as I have said, was a later construction.

Keeping these constructional conjectures aside, archaeologists have actually come across a palatial complex inside Babylon that had its fair share of vaults and wells. But the location of this seemingly monumental structure is not close to the banks of the Euphrates, which rather contradicts the descriptions of ancient Greek authors. On the other hand, researchers have also discovered ruins of 82-ft wide wall overlays by the banks of the river, which alludes to the possibility of a substantially large structure that was built during the ancient times. Unfortunately, in any case, none of these ruins directly point to the actual existence of the incredible Hanging Gardens of Babylon – the most enigmatic of all the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

4) Statue of Zeus at Olympia (circa 435 BC) –

Source: OrangeSmile

Awe-inspiring in its collective visual ‘power’, as opposed to just the size, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, was a testament of the incredible sculptural prowess of the ancient Greeks. Built under the supervision of master sculptor and architect Phidias, the very same who previously oversaw the construction of the imposing statue of Athena inside the Parthenon, the seated Statue of Zeus was possibly finished by circa 435 BC, inside the massive temple perimeters at the sanctuary of Olympia.

The magnificent piece of art, counted among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was around 40 ft tall and its chryselephantine form (composed of gold and ivory panels laid over a wooden core) was bedecked with a bevy of precious materials, including silver, ebony, copper, glass, enamel, and an assortment of jewels. Unsurprisingly, the temple structure itself matched the ostentatious nature of the statue, with the precinct being the largest Greek temple at the time, measuring 210 x 91 ft in the area with facades comprising a total of 78 massive Doric columns. Source: UN Museum / Copyright: Lee Krystek

Interestingly enough, this incredible architectural endeavor was undertaken to elevate the status of Olympia and its sacred games, especially to counter the growing influence of rival games being held at other places in ancient Greece, like Delphi and Corinth. To that end, the dedication of the precinct and the statue to Zeus was purely intentional, since the deity was regarded as the King of the Greek Gods, who embodied the various aspects of the sky, weather, law and order, destiny and fate, and kingship.

However, by circa 5th century AD, the temple fell into disuse – coinciding with the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire that overtook the Classical pagan religions. The fate of the statue at this time is not entirely known, although some sources suggest that it was taken to Constantinople. Unfortunately, the chryselephantine Zeus possibly didn’t survive the great fire at the Palace of Lausus in circa 475 AD.

5) Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (circa 353 BC) –

Source: Wilstar

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (or Μαυσωλεῖον τῆς Ἁλικαρνασσοῦ in Greek) was a grandiosely constructed tomb for Mausolus and his wife Artemisia II of Caria, between 353 and 350 BC, at what is now present-day Bodrum in Turkey. Mausolus, while himself being a native of Caria, was a satrap (governor) of the Persian Empire. He was also a great admirer of the Greek culture – so much so that the entire Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was designed by Greek architects Satyros and Pythius of Priene, while also boasting sculptural reliefs from other eminent ancient Greek artists.

To that end, the project was undertaken under the patronage of Mausolus’ heartbroken wife (and sister) Artemisia after the satrap’s death, thus in many ways mirrors the story of Shah Jahan and Taj Mahal – which incidentally is counted among the new seven wonders of the world. Reverting to the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the soaring edifice was guarded by a stone enclosure and the entire complex sat atop a platform overlooking the city.

In essence, it was the magnificence of the finished structure (which rose to over 148 ft) that prompted Antipater of Sidon to designate it as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Unfortunately enough, this breathtaking architectural specimen was the last of the six destroyed ancient wonders which met its ravaged fate brought on by successive earthquakes from 12th to 15th centuries. And in an interesting etymological note, the very word ‘mausoleum’ is derived from this ancient wonder dedicated to the Anatolian ruler Mausolus.

6) The Lighthouse of Alexandria (circa 280 BC) –

Screenshot of ancient Alexandria (reconstruction) from Assassins Creed: Origins by Ubisoft Studios

One of the rare instances of Greek architecture that went beyond human scale to ‘godly’ dimensions, the Lighthouse of Alexandria (also known as the Pharos of Alexandria) constructed by the Ptolemaic Kingdom (possibly by Ptolemy I Soter, circa 280 BC), may have been the tallest structure in the ancient world, with some accounts mentioning its height to soar up to an incredible 492 ft. Unfortunately, since the building is not extant, we have to revert to its lowest possible height in accordance with other literary sources – which was still impressive at 377 ft (or 115 m).

As Judith McKenzie, from Faculty of Oriental Studies in the University of Oxford, made it clear –

The Arab descriptions of the lighthouse are remarkably consistent, although it was repaired several times especially after earthquake damage. The height they give varies only fifteen per cent from c 103 to 118 m [338 to 387 ft], on a base c. 30 by 30 m [98 by 98 ft] square…the Arab authors indicate a tower with three tapering tiers, which they describe as square, octagonal and circular, with a substantial ramp.

Now in terms of design, the Lighthouse of Alexandria built from light-hued stone blocks was vertically divided into three components – the lowermost (and broadest) square section with four huge facades, the thinner middle section with an octagonal plan, and the upper-most slimmest section with a circular plan. The functionality of the enormous structure was related to this upper level, with a mirror being installed atop it that reflected sunlight during the daytime, while a fire was lit during the night. Copyright: Ubisoft Entertainment SA

And given the sheer volume of the facades, the arranged stone-blocks of the ancient lighthouse were supposedly reinforced with molten lead so as to withstand the force from the incoming sea waves. Given such advanced engineering credentials, it comes as no surprise that the Lighthouse of Alexandria was considered among one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

7) Colossus of Rhodes (circa 280 BC) –

Source: GreekReporter

The Colossus of Rhodes was originally a massive statue of the Greek god Helios, erected possibly by the harbor of ancient Rhodes (on the island which bears the same name in our modern times). It probably rose to a height of around 109 ft (or 70 cubits, 33 m) and was made by the local sculptor Chares of Lindos in circa 280 BC to commemorate the victory of Rhodes over forces of Cyprus that besieged the city in 305 BC. Interestingly enough, contemporary sources talked about how much of the bronze and iron used for the colossal statue was actually repurposed from the abandoned siege tower and weapons left behind by the unsuccessful Cypriot army.

A poem from the Greek Anthology reads –

O 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.

Source: Pinterest

On an unfortunate note, while the Colossus of Rhodes was counted among the last of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (in terms of construction), the statue only stood for a period of 54 years – thus becoming the first to be destroyed. It was heavily damaged, along with various sections of the harbor, when the city was hit by an earthquake in 226 BC. And while the Ptolemaic ruler offered to rebuild the structure (since Rhodes was under the control of the Ptolemaic Kingdom), the native Rhodians declined since they perceived the calamity as a form of divine punishment. There is also an anecdote (from The Chronicle of Theophanes the Confessor – an Eastern Roman monk ) about how the Arabs, on briefly taking control of Rhodes in 653 AD, dismantled the remnants of the brass statue and transported the sections on 900 camels, which were to be made into coins.

*Note – The article was updated on 17th April, 2020.

Video Credits Pertaining to the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World:

Great Pyramid at Giza – Danila Loginov

Hanging Gardens of Babylon – omixmax (Sourced from Lumion 3D)

Mausoleum at Halicarnassus – xtheatroN (Sourced from Total War: Rome 2)

Lighthouse of Alexandria – Ancient Vine

And in case we have not attributed or misattributed any image, artwork or photograph, we apologize in advance. Please let us know via the ‘Contact Us’ link, provided both above the top bar and at the bottom bar of the page.


The history behind the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

It is not known with certainty who made the first selection of the monuments, but it is suspected that it was the poet Callimachus of Cyrene, author of the book, “A Collection of Wonders around the World.”

Antipater of Sidon, currently considered as the principal source, leaves us a description of these emblematic places:

I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the Colossus of the Sun, and the huge labor of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, ‘Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.’

We also find Gregory of Nazianzus, the Theologian, who in his treatise “Seven spectacles of the world” describes:

The Egyptian Thebes, with its multiple temples the walls of Babylon, which protected a coveted city, the sepulcher of Mausolus the collection of pyramids, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Capitol of Rome and the monument of Adrian.

During the Middle Ages we find texts which mentioned thirty wonders, like the text which is read in the Codex Vaticanus 989 (from the year 1300). In the Renaissance, the classical influence sustained the number seven, defended by Angelo Poliziano in the 15th Century.

In the 19th Century a collection of books was published in France, which received the name of “Library of wonders,” among which “Wonders of architecture” (1865) by André Lefèvre stands out, which included Celtic, Mycenaean, Jewish, Assyrian, Persian, and Indian buildings: from the monoliths of Carnac, through the Lion Gate or Thebes, to the temples of Shiva.


Contents

The Greek conquest of much of the western world in the 4th century BC gave Hellenistic travellers access to the civilizations of the Egyptians, Persians, and Babylonians. [1] Impressed and captivated by the landmarks and marvels of the various lands, these travellers began to list what they saw to remember them. [2] [3]

Instead of "wonders", the ancient Greeks spoke of "theamata" (θεάματα), which means "sights", in other words "things to be seen" (Τὰ ἑπτὰ θεάματα τῆς οἰκουμένης [γῆς] Tà heptà theámata tēs oikoumenēs [gēs]). Later, the word for "wonder" ("thaumata" θαύματα, "wonders") was used. [4] Hence, the list was meant to be the Ancient World's counterpart of a travel guidebook. [1]

The first reference to a list of seven such monuments was given by Diodorus Siculus. [5] [6] The epigrammist Antipater of Sidon, [7] who lived around or before 100 BC, [8] gave a list of seven "wonders", including six of the present list (substituting the walls of Babylon for the Lighthouse of Alexandria): [9]

I have gazed on the walls of impregnable Babylon along which chariots may race, and on the Zeus by the banks of the Alpheus, I have seen the hanging gardens, and the Colossus of the Helios, the great man-made mountains of the lofty pyramids, and the gigantic tomb of Mausolus but when I saw the sacred house of Artemis that towers to the clouds, the others were placed in the shade, for the sun himself has never looked upon its equal outside Olympus.

Another 2nd century BC writer, who, perhaps dubiously, identified himself as Philo of Byzantium, wrote a short account entitled The Seven Sights of the World. [3] The surviving manuscript is incomplete, missing its latter pages, but from the text of the preamble we can conclude that the list of seven sights exactly matches Antipater's (the preamble mentions the location Halicarnassus, but the pages describing the seventh wonder, presumably the Mausoleum, are missing). [10]

The Colossus of Rhodes was the last of the seven to be completed, after 280 BC, and the first to be destroyed, by an earthquake in 226/225 BC. As such, all seven wonders existed at the same time for a period of less than 60 years.

The list covered only the sculptural and architectural monuments of the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions, [11] which then comprised the known world for the Greeks. Hence, extant sites beyond this realm were not considered as part of contemporary accounts. [1]

The primary accounts, coming from Hellenistic writers, also heavily influenced the places included in the wonders list. Five of the seven entries are a celebration of Greek accomplishments in the arts and architecture (the exceptions being the Pyramids of Giza and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon).

Arts and architecture

The seven wonders on Antipater's list won praises for their notable features, ranging from superlatives of the highest or largest of their types, to the artistry with which they were executed. Their architectural and artistic features were imitated throughout the Hellenistic world and beyond.

The Greek influence in Roman culture, and the revival of Greco-Roman artistic styles during the Renaissance caught the imagination of European artists and travellers. [16] Paintings and sculptures alluding to Antipater's list were made, while significant numbers of adventurers travelled to the actual sites to personally witness the wonders. Legends circulated to further complement the superlatives of the wonders.

Modern lists

Of Antipater's wonders, the only one that has survived to the present day is the Great Pyramid of Giza. Its brilliant white stone facing had survived intact until around 1300 AD, when local communities removed most of the stonework for building materials. The existence of the Hanging Gardens has not been proven, though theories abound. [17] Records and archaeology confirm the existence of the other five wonders. The Temple of Artemis and the Statue of Zeus were destroyed by fire, while the Lighthouse of Alexandria, Colossus, and tomb of Mausolus were destroyed by earthquakes. Among the surviving artefacts are sculptures from the tomb of Mausolus and the Temple of Artemis, currently kept in the British Museum in London.

The listing of seven of the most marvellous architectural and artistic human achievements continued beyond the Ancient Greek times to the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and to the modern age. The Roman poet Martial and the Christian bishop Gregory of Tours had their versions. [1] Reflecting the rise of Christianity and the factor of time, nature and the hand of man overcoming Antipater's seven wonders, Roman and Christian sites began to figure on the list, including the Colosseum, Noah's Ark and Solomon's Temple. [1] [3] In the 6th century, a list of seven wonders was compiled by St. Gregory of Tours: the list [18] included the Temple of Solomon, the Pharos of Alexandria and Noah's Ark.

Modern historians, working on the premise that the original Seven Ancient Wonders List was limited in its geographic scope, also had their versions to encompass sites beyond the Hellenistic realm—from the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World to the Seven Wonders of the World. The "seven wonders" label has spawned innumerable versions among international organizations, publications and individuals based on different themes—works of nature, engineering masterpieces, constructions of the Middle Ages, etc. Its purpose has also changed from just a simple travel guidebook or a compendium of curious places to a list of sites to defend or preserve.


The lighthouse of Alexandria

Built during the 3rd century BC under Ptolemy I and inaugurated under the son of Ptolemy II, the lighthouse of Alexandria was described by many travelers until the 14th century, when it was destroyed by a more violent earthquake than the others . It was long attributed to the architect Sostrate of Cnidus, but nowadays it seems that this person, very rich and close to the king, was only the sponsor of the summit statue. It is actually the only name found on the vestiges of the lighthouse, which is why it is so often associated with this monument.

Many different stories but the descriptions of the monument are relatively identical, especially for its general form. We can therefore estimate that it resembles this description, namely: From a height of more than 130m, it consisted of 3 perfectly distinct parts. The lower part was square, the second octagonal, and the third, much shorter, cylindrical. At the top was a statue whose representation is still subject to discussion today.

Alexandria was founded in 331 BC by Alexander the Great during his conquest of the Persian Empire. In Egypt he was welcomed as a liberator. At the time of his death, in 323 BC, he was one of his generals, Ptolemy, who took the office of satrap of Egypt (a satrap, a governor), but soon succeeded in taking the king's crown. He is the founder of the Lagide (or Ptolemaic) dynasty which will end in -30 under Cleopatra during the conquest of Egypt by the Roman Emperor Octave-Auguste. During these three centuries Alexandria was the most important city in the Hellenistic world, from the commercial, intellectual and artistic point of view.

There were several underwater excavation campaigns on the site. The first of these took place in 1968 by the British archaeologist Honor Frost, and they enabled us to judge the archaeological interest of the site. Others took place but did not go on until 1994 when Mr Jean-Yves Empereur took over the excavations carried out under the aegis of the French Institute of Eastern Archeology and under the auspices of the Center d'études alexandrines which he directed. Various excavation campaigns made it possible to extract important archaeological material from the waters, including a very beautiful statue of Ptolemy, known as the Colossus of Ptolemy.


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Carrie is the owner & operator of Homeschool Giveaways. She has been homeschooling for over a decade and has successfully graduated her first homeschooler. She has two girls and works side by side at home with her awesome husband. She has been saved by grace, fails daily, but continues to strive toward the prize of the high calling of being a daughter of the Most High God.


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