Humanity is a curious species. When talking about their conquests, most of the time we do referring to bloody and destructive war expeditions. But from time to time, mankind also produces works of stunning beauty, designed to last for centuries to remind us all that when we want to, we can use our efforts and talents to build wonders. More than anything else, it is these works that unequivocally identify us as humans. We represent to ourselves ... and also, if ever in the future comes to our blue planet any visitor will undoubtedly these wonders which constitute our main identity. Of all the works known for their beauty or their grandeur in antiquity, the most famous were seven. Hence the nickname "the seven wonders of the world." Unfortunately, today, with one exception, we are more than the descriptions made by the writers of the time. Our guide must be them and undertake an imaginary trip through time to see the wonders of our past.
The Pyramids of Giza in Egypt
The oldest of the wonders, and, interestingly, the only one that has come down to us, is the set of monumental pyramids of Giza in Egypt. We've all heard of them and know their appearance, and we know that they were the tombs of the Pharaohs. But we must approach more, and find out some interesting details. The Egyptians began building pyramids long ago, along the Old Empire: The oldest are about five thousand years! In fact, the oldest known is the Step Pyramid of Saqqara, tomb of Pharaoh Djoser, dating from 2750. C. The inventor of the pyramid architect was the grand vizier, and famous sage, Inhotep. After this first example, the Egyptians built pyramids continued well into the Middle Kingdom, which happened to use the underground tomb rather than the pyramids. However, the Old Kingdom we have been nothing less than eighty of them, spread over Lower Egypt.
Imagine now that we are present in the funeral cortege of Pharaoh Khufu. A light boat carried us down the Nile from the ancient capital, Memphis necropolis to its suburbs, the vast plain of Giza. There funerary constructions abound, it is the cemetery where they end all the inhabitants of the capital, nobles and villains. Our boat stops: in the bank awaits a procession of priests. Behind the temple built especially waiting for our king, where he will worship as a god (does not divine nature?). This is where the pharaoh's body is properly prepared and placed in the sarcophagus. Then a procession transports to it along a path to his burial funeral. We see the pyramids. His impressive mass stands on the horizon of the plain, leaving us speechless. It's all rock! Unusually heavy granite blocks, one meter in height, the rows are so tight that you can not enter or a knife between them. The rows of stones are painted, forming stripes of different colors, the tip is gold. All pyramids, absolutely all, have the same alignment: are facing north with accuracy. The sides of the pyramid are inclined awesome, 51 degrees, that when we get closer gives us the feeling that the pyramid "is falling" above. Nearby, the pyramids are smaller and (rectangular buildings sloping walls) for senior officials. We face the pyramid. Its dimensions are impressive: 146.59 m high, 230 m wide. Following up a bit by his side, penetrate inside. The fluctuating torchlight we discover the walls, perfectly smooth, as befits the burial of an incarnation of the god Ra. After depositing the sarcophagus in the burial chamber, the runner will be blinded and concealed, to prevent theft. The pyramid also contains a false burial chamber. Despite all these precautions, few Egyptian tombs remain intact until the arrival of the archaeologists. Grave robbers looting will over time most of the pyramids and tombs. When the archaeologist Flinders Petrie into the royal tombs of Abydos, one of the oldest in Egypt, you can only find an arm of the mummy of a queen. Of the three great pyramids, only the smallest, that of Mycerinus, remain intact. A famous controversy regarding the pyramids is the ratio of twice the length of its side and its height: the number "pi". Why would take so much trouble the ancient Egyptians to make their buildings as maintain a precise mathematical relationship? Personally I prefer to think that they did it because it was the safest way to get the slope of the pyramids were uniform, and that they would be perfectly regular. Indeed, if we think that probably served as wooden wheels to measure length, easily and accurately, we will see that one of these wheels, made of the same height as the stone blocks, the inclination was checked quickly: each new row stone was turned measure less. On this way, automatically, the relationship between Pi and side twice the height of the pyramid. Sounds logical, right? But this does not necessarily imply that the ancient Egyptians knew the number Pi, after all, it comes automatically because the measures were made based on wheels.
It is now nearly five thousand years to the present day, and humanity has not yet done anything like this. The smallest of the three pyramids of Giza multiplied several times the weight of most of the modern buildings, and the builders of our time and they would compose for the deal with those huge stone blocks, unwieldy to for more powerful cranes. When we think that the ancient Egyptians had no machinery, which moved the huge stones only with the physical effort of teams of dozens of workers, it seems a miracle. In fact, not even the Egyptians were able to overcome it: continue building pyramids for centuries, without ever match the splendor of the Giza pyramids, surprisingly, were among the first to be built. As a corollary, famous quote two statements: that of Abd-ul-Latif, who said "All things fear time, but time fears the pyramids" and that of Napoleon, who led an expedition to Egypt when he was Prime Consul, and uttered the famous words "From the top of these pyramids, twenty centuries look down on us." But we still have to make a visit to the Giza plateau, that of the Sphinx. This sculpture, depicting a lion with a human face (is believed to represent the pharaoh Khafra, at least, saw the typical overhead klaft, mantle worn by pharaohs) is contemporaneous with the pyramids, is 70 meters long and 20 tall. To build it, took a mound of limestone on the plains, who carved and completed with stone blocks. When I had a thousand years old, Pharaoh Tuthmosis IV between his legs made carve a scene depicting a dream in which the Sphinx gave him the throne in return for saving her to die buried under the desert sand. Another thousand-odd years later, in Roman times, a shrine was excavated within the Sphinx. And when the Sphinx was already over four thousand years, these modifications later became destructive rather than constructive: the first iconoclasts, and the Mamluks then mutilated the monuments, damaging his tearing eyes and nose. We see here a first example, although unfortunately not the last, which shows that between the capabilities of man is not only to build wonders, but also destroy them.
HANGING GARDENS OF BABYLON
We are now preparing to make a prodigious leap forward in time: no less than two thousand years must elapse before our trip takes us to the famous Babylon - called Babel in the Bible - on the Euphrates. Although the name of this town appears in the annals of history for two millennia, we see that all the buildings are new and recent: and the Assyrians destroyed it to the ground. But finally the Babylonians, with the help of the Medes and Scythians, completely defeated the Assyrians, and the city was splendidly rebuilt. It is the middle of the sixth century. C., and King Nebuchadnezzar II rules, the most famous of all the same name. In addition to a great warrior and conqueror, Nebuchadnezzar is also a great architect: the city is full of monumental constructions. But something is missing in this majestic city: everything is too flat, too straight. If we go up high enough, we will see the whole city at a glance.
This saddens Amytis, the wife of Nebuchadnezzar. She is a princess meda, and raised in mountains and hills lush with vegetation. This sadness upset the king. Is not the most famous builder of his time? Then orders bring big stones, bricks used for not normally resist moisture well. So, built a series of terraces on which deposits the necessary land and start planting trees, flowers, shrubs, etc.. It also builds a machine similar to a treadmill that will carry water from a well to the gardens to water them. In short, they are full of vegetation, and the tops of the trees you can see even from outside the city walls double. Nebuchadnezzar has created an apparent mountain covered with lush vegetation. On the hanging gardens there is also a legend, which places the date of its construction five centuries earlier, by the end of s. XI. C. According to this legend, is Shammuramat queen, Semiramis called by the Greeks, who built the gardens. Shammuramat governs the Assyrian empire as regent for her son Adadnirari III, since the death of King Shamsidad V, and also to build the Hanging Gardens, conquers India and Egypt. Ends his days by suicide because of pain that makes you discover a conspiracy hatched against him by his son. Something tragic ... unsurprisingly a legend, especially considering that it was the Greeks who collected it. In the year 539 a. C. the Persians conquered Babylon, and this causes its decline. The population is shrinking and, when Alexander the Great to visit the city (about 326. C.) part of it is in ruins. The final destruction takes place at 126-125 year. BC, date of birth Euhemerus conquered the city and the fire. Since then there are only ruins on the banks of the Euphrates.
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
Our journey takes us now to Hellenic lands, which look most of the wonders that we have yet to see. Classical Greece is the true beacon of civilization of his time, and not surprisingly, is where artists flourish and realize their most sublime works. We stop in the city of Ephesus, along the Ionian Sea near the mouth of the Little Meander. We continue to mid-sixth century BC. This city has long been a center of worship to the goddess Artemis, named after Diana by the Romans. It is the sovereign of the wild nature and wild animals, and is usually accompanied by a doe represent it and armed with bows and arrows. Since ancient times, there is a temple dedicated to the goddess. But in the seventh century. BC, the city was attacked by the Sumerians and even resisted, failed to prevent the temple caught fire and was destroyed.
But now almost all Ionia has passed into the hands of the king of Lydia: Croesus. Yes, the same who invented these strange new metal discs called "creseidas" that are supposed to go to take the place of currency. Nobody knows where they will stop these modern inventions ... but Croesus is a protector of scholars and artists, the same Aesop has been through her court, and intends to build a new temple to Artemis, better than the last. This is carried out a public subscription, all citizens will donate some money to the temple again. Finally the temple stands. Has 127 columns impressive 20 meters high, something extraordinary for its time, and has sculptures of Scopas. This temple illuminates the city of Ephesus for two centuries. However, tragedy strikes: in 356 a. C., Pastor Eróstrato destroys the temple afire, by pure desire for fame. Definitely got what he wanted, as evidenced by the us to remember your name. But perhaps got more than that: to demonstrate to all men that for every Escopas Eróstrato there, and that man-made wonders should be protected from man himself. This story has a postscript: when about twenty years later, Alexander the Great took the city of Ephesus and lived there for a while, he heard the story of the temple of Artemis and discovered that it had been destroyed the same night in which he was born. Apparently this was coincidence that led him to rebuild the temple, during the time he was in Ephesus restoring a democratic government. Once completed, the new temple (which is number three in our account) featured a portrait of Alexander himself, painted by Apelles, the most famous Greek painter. Although the temple of Artemis no never recovered its former splendor, at least its former fame earned him a speedy reconstruction.
The statue of Zeus in Olympia
Our journey now a century jump forward in time, but in return will visit not only distance, just a few miles to Olympia in Elis, religious center of ancient Greece where people worship the chief of all the gods: Zeus . Here, under Mount Olympus (one of many that exist in Greece with that name), is held every four years, the most famous of the festivities in honor of Zeus: the Olympics. We are in the 450 to. C., and is finished building the impressive Temple of Zeus, for whom there is no means: the best sculptors of Greece working on it. The two pediments represent preparations for athletic competition of Pelops and Oenomaus for the hand of Hippodamia, and the battle between Lapiths and Centaurs at the wedding of Pirithous. These pediments, metopes with, will be considered not only the most important sculptural severe style, but the most remarkable series of Greek classical art sculptures along with the Parthenon. Its author, who does not know the name, is known as the Master of Olympia.
But we still have to see the best of the temple: the statue of Zeus. For this procedure has been called nothing less than the most famous of all the sculptors of ancient Greece: Phidias. His style, his plasticismo, for its balance in the choice of subjects in the composition and the ranking of the effects of chiaroscuro, essential for its representation, without details of the human body, with its majestic and noble serenity, and its harmony of forms, gets to be the embodiment of the ideals of Greek art. Phidias put to work representing the god sitting on a throne. The huge statue could not be more striking to see: Phidias crisoelefantina technique used, consisting of chiseling on ivory and gold add above, representing the flesh and the clothing of the character. And besides all this, the throne is decorated with various paintings. Phidias used over a year to carry out the statue, which gives an idea of its size and its detail and quality. Unlike the two previous wonders, this is going to last for quite some time: a thousand years, until the earthquakes that occur in the sixth century. C. destroy the temple mostly.
The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus
We go back a century to jump forward in time, and arrived at the year 352 a. C. The wonders of the world, which already numbered four, only three are again, just because Eróstrato consummate his infamous work destroying the temple of Artemis, just four years ago. But the relief will come soon: a new wonder is built, giving the coincidence between the two, it looks like the work of a beneficent magic determined to make up for the loss.
We at Halicarnassus in Caria, a state of Asia Minor. This is an important city, even has a factory of those strange metal discs invented by Croesus that serve as currency. The city looks magnificent: Mausolus has managed to take her zenith. But now the city is in mourning, for Mausolus just died. What grave, grave be enough for a king? His widow Artemis decides to no expense spared, and suddenly, it's as if the whole city knew he would never live a day as great as that of Mausolus, preparing to demonstrate their recognition making it the most special burial history, therefore, it will name the "mausoleum" to be built in the future. Are underway works: Satyrs and Piteos architects build a rectangular podium, on it, stands a colonnade of Ionic order, on this, a step pyramid. And on top, a statue depicting a chariot. The group reached the dizzying height of 50 meters. But that's not all, the best Greek sculptors of the era sculpt statues and reliefs: Briaxis, Timothy, and the famous Scopas Leucastes (which has nothing to do, except the name, the sculptor of the temple of Artemis). But this wonder, will be the least durable of all. Just sixteen years later, in 334 a. BC, Alexander the Great destroyed the city. He, to order rebuild the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, now shows his face destructor. And although shortly after Egyptian kings conquer the Caria and Halicarnassus rebuilt city that remain to this day (now called Bodrum), the mausoleum we will only legend.
The Lighthouse of Alexandria
Now let's jump forward in his seventies, and travel back to Egypt. The year is 280. BC, and since Alexander freed from Persian rule this state, the ties between Greeks and Egyptians have narrowed: So your king Ptolemy II, is of Greek origin. This fusion of Egyptian and Greek has special relevance in the capital, Alexandria. Founded by Alexander the Great in 332. BC, this thriving city has become the most important center of Hellenic culture.
But this time the wonder is not going to be a temple, or any other kind of building, but a tower. To guide the many ships that constantly come to Alexandria, the king has decided to build a tower that identifies the location of the city from afar. To have chosen this small island of Pharos, opposite the port. The architect of Cnidus Sostratus directs the work, which as they progress, they acquire a more impressive. When completed, the tower is more than 120 meters. At its top is equipped with metal mirrors to signal its position reflecting sunlight, and at night, in the absence of light, light a bonfire. This wonder will last quite: some 1600 years, until in the fourteenth century earthquakes demolish. Again, as the Mausoleum, the name of this wonder - it really is "the Tower of Lights" - appoint all subsequent constructions made in order to show the way to the boats.
The Colossus of Rhodes
Without traveling just in time (just about three years forward to 277. C.) we will witness the construction of the last of the wonders. This will leave the Asia Minor and we will go into the Aegean. There, just 18 kilometers from the coast, the most important find of the Sporades islands: Rhodes. It is important because their city of the same name, is the capital of the Dodecanese archipelago of twenty islands. The geographical location of Rhodes is privileged to trade with Greece, Asia Minor and even Egypt, and because of that it has become the most important commercial center of the Eastern Mediterranean.
It is therefore not surprising that some power of the time Rhodes has ambitions to take over and try to take it, as Macedonia. Their king, Demetrius I Poliarcetes, is known for his expertise in the art of war, especially in sieges, therefore, that in future the military will cover the art of besieging fortresses as "Poliarcética". Demetrio attacks then Rhodes. However, the city resists the ravages of this fearsome warrior, who finally withdrew. To celebrate this victory, the city decided to raise a monument memorable Helios, the sun god, in the harbor. Directs Cares works of Lindos, a pupil of Lysippus. The statue is growing, first iron frame and to him the bronze plaques. Finally, when the statue is completed measures no less than 32 meters high. His fame will attract travelers from all over the ancient world to see. With Colossus, became the world's wonders five that rose on the face of the earth, that number was not surpassed but was decreasing. Fifty-six years after its construction, in 223 a. BC, an earthquake toppled the Colossus. The inhabitants of Rhodes, on the advice of an oracle, decided to leave his remains lie where they fell. And so, for nearly nine years until in 654 d. C. Muslims seized the bronze as booty in a raid. Colossus legend handed, of course, to enlarge its proportions. During the Renaissance the Colossus was "discovered" by the humanists, like the rest of Greek art and its magnificence was being circulated that highlighted its size was such that the boats passed between her legs. But the myth does not need Colossus: will spend a whopping two thousand years until the man make another colossal statue is an overrun, which says it all.
It has been more than two millennia. All the wonders that were still standing were falling, mainly victims of earthquakes. All but one, curiously the oldest: the pyramids of Giza. They, the ones that have been able to overcome time, remind us how we can create greatness when humans leave aside our disputes and coordinate our energies.
Note: In future posts I will present more detailed information on each one of the Wonders of the Ancient World and the Wonders of the Modern World and other natural wonders of our overexploited and wonderful world.
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