Seven wonders

The Seven Wonders of the World: a list made by the ancient Greeks.

Because Greeks did sight-seeing too. What, you thought they just stayed at home and wrote long philosophical tracts wearing floaty white dresses? Travelling isn’t all about conquering the known world, you know.

It’s about seeing wonders.

They chose seven because seven is the perfect expression of enough. Plenty. Completeness.

So: if you were some Greek young blood going on his first grand tour, you’d make sure you included the pyramid at Giza, Khufu’s ancient tomb built in around 2560BC, at 481 feet the largest man-made structure for more than 3,800 years.

Compulsory were Nebuchadnezzar II’s sensuous hanging gardens of Babylon, providing of course they actually existed. But hundreds of thousands of Ancient Greek tourists can’t be wrong, surely?

The statue of Zeus at Olympia was a must, taking up half the width of the temple’s aisle and standing 39 feet high, a wooden frame clad in ivory and dressed in gold leaf. “It seems that if Zeus were to stand up,”wrote Strabo, an early geographer “he would unroof the temple.”

On to the Temple of Ephesus, a sixty-foot high gorgeous structure with 127 columns, rebuilt by Alexander, filled with splendid works of Greek art and sculpture; and the towering tomb of Persian governor Mausolus and his sister/wife/successor, Artemesia, which would have sat near Bodrum in Turkey these days.

There’s the overt power-statement of the colossus of Rhodes, of course. I have to wonder how Ancient Greek women tourists felt about the 107-foot iron figure forged from metal garnered from the weapons of  soldiers. Representations often show the statue standing astride the harbour entrance, the ultimate representation of male dominion. .

And finally a rather wonderful lighthouse, which knocked Giza’s pyramid off its perch as Highest Man Made Thing around 247BC. What a very Greek solution to the lawless wreckers on the island Pharos, who would vanquish any ship which was wrecked off its coastline. A perfect power statement warding ships away.

Seven structures to take your breath away. Seven places at which to marvel; to record in your travel journals.

So many lists of wonders have been made since. But I like the Greeks’ one. I mourn that most of these places lie in rubble under the ground or at the bottom of harbours, some even having to fight for their own existence using just a few old dusty Greek texts as weaponry.

And this weekend,fellow blogger and superlative challenger Side View asked the question: what would your seven wonders be?

What, indeed. Great architectural wonders of today – they don’t always have the impact of the old Greek dependables, do they? I look up at The Shard, London’s jagged shiv which rents its skyline and there is somehow a lack of rounded completeness, a neediness born of the horrors brought by the 20th and 21st century. Yet in its way it makes a similar statement to that old Colossus astride the harbour.

I would not write my own list: no, I would plead with someone to write it for me.

Yes: I would beg, borrow, steal or bribe the opinion of an architect whose opinion I value. His nickname is MTM: his wife an author,  and chance chronicler of his passion. This post is typical both of their relationship and his passion for monumental man-made structural statements.

His visit to Brazil had him scoping some of the strangest -and strangely beautiful – structures. Oh yes: if I was off to see the seven great structures of the world, I’d ask him to write the list.

And yours would be?

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47 thoughts on “Seven wonders

  1. Spidey sure gave us a tricky one this time! I like your post though and your take on the wonders – never would I have thought of the Greeks as tourists 🙂

      1. So right hey. The other night I was watching a show on TV set in Victorian times and they mentioned how quick it was to get to Australia – only 3 months, wow amazing! And before that? Ouch.

      1. YES I’m still thinking – I’m thinking of dragging my old job into it – going there today to wrap up some business so I’ll have some time to think if it’ll work.

      2. Probably until I open the treats, ha ha. Personally I think they have been a bit neglected since I left. I mean, I used to rock up at 6:30am everyday, talk to them and feed them and check them out/feel ’em up. But now they still get looked after but the attention they get is less and less. Damnit, I wish I could bring them all home with me

  2. I like the post, even though I tend to think of wonders as something more permanent…like wonders of nature. I remember being a bitty thing and hearing of the wonders of the world and then hearing that they were gone. My childhood intelligence squinted with the thought…”Well, they couldn’t have been much in the way of wonders if they didn’t last.”

  3. This was something lovely to find in my inbox after a night of thrashing sleepless in bed. Poor MTM’s head may swell to the size of the giant eyeball, but we have come up with a way for him to fulfill your wish. I will message you today with more particulars.

    Thank you. Few people know how hard it is for me to watch my husband’s exuberance be molded and twisted and not-quite-appreciated in real life.

  4. Dear Kate, I don’t know about seven, but here’s one I’d pick right off the bat–Chartres Cathedral for it’s testimony in stone to the faith of a people and its sitting like a ancient galleon amidst a sea of grass. Peace.

  5. I chuckled at your reference to Andra and MTMs previous post…I recall that one, too, as one that really blended their two personalities. Much fun! I will be checking back to see what others offer as their best of the best. I’m entirely too easy a sell in what is jawdropping and worthy of such a prestigious new list. Whatever has last impressed me always seems to trump the previous. I find a trip to the Grand Canyon a religious experience. And then there’s Yosemite. We have so many wondrous sights in our beautiful world. I hope we can take some lessons from the ancients and do a better job with preservation. Lovely post…made me smile. Debra

  6. Seven Wonders would be so hard to choose, I want to be awestruck, my breath taken away. I still marvel at the mere fact we have so many ancient buildings around, many not breathtaking, but marvel that I can walk where history trod. That to me is a wonder.

  7. Fabulous post, response to Side View, and challenge to us all. Hmmm? So many structures amaze me. Leave me in awe. At the moment, with nary a cloud in the sky, I know I will soon run out for some errands. As I leave my little road here on the Cutoff, I will briefly turn onto the old remnant of fabled Route 66. There, before my wondering eyes, will appear the majestic and ever-changing skyline of the City of Chicago. A wonder, indeed.

  8. That is interesting challenge. Architecturally, I’m at a loss so I look forward to reading what MTM selects. In Monday’s New York Times there was a piece about an eyesore approaching completion in Brooklyn, the Barclays Center:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/28/nyregion/building-with-weathering-steel-both-rugged-and-rusty.html?pagewanted=all

    Definitely not a structure worthy of the list. We also have One World Trade Center, currently under construction on the site of the previous World Trade Center here in lower Manhattan. I’ve been watching its progress every day when I walk to the subway station on my way home from The Grind. It seems to be a cousin to The Shard, but with an infinitely more painful pedigree when one recalls the tragedy that was 9/11.

  9. i recognize that photo and have gazed at that very pyramid-like structure while browsing borough market.

    your post makes me think back to an ongoing thread of questions i’ve had running in my mind while traveling this year that are related to the notion of “what stays” (or perhaps better put: “what remains?”) and are there structures/artifacts/architectural feats that will be constructed today whose longevity will awe our ancestors the way that the “Seven Wonders” are meant to — and often succeed in — reducing us to simple utterances of… wow.

    and here i think of nature’s handiwork in the form of the grand canyon in the states, as well as the ancient paintings in chauvet cave (featured in werner herzog’s film “cave of forgotten dreams.” things that stupefy…

  10. Kate, didn’t they recently come up with a new seven wonders? It may be something I dreamed about, if I’m honest, but I do recall something in the back of my mind… haven’t the foggiest what they were though… I think I’ll go and investigate this a little further!

  11. I haven’t seen seven yet, but the structure that humbled me down to my toes? The Battistero di San Giovanni at Pisa. The tipsy bell tower was amusing, but the acoustically perfect interior of the baptistry? The ability to call out the notes of a chord and hear one’s own voice swirling around in harmony? Nearly twenty years later I can still hear it.

    Piazza dei Miracoli, indeed.

  12. Topping my list would be one of Earth’s natural wonders: 1) the Grand Canyon; (2) Rio de Janeiro’s statue of Christ in Brazil; (3) Amazon Rain Forest; (4) The Great Wall of China; (5) Machu Picchu, Peru; (6) The Taj Mahal, India; and(7) the beautiful blue waters under the Seven Mile Bridge as you had to The Keys in Florida.

    Thanks, Kate, for providing some excellent sites I’d love to see.

  13. It’s hard to choose between the man made and the natural but surely somewhere you feel safe and at peace is the greatest wonder of them all? Home is beautiful feeling wherever the place is. 🙂

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