In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Seven Wonders of the World

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • The Origins of the Seven Wonders

Architecture Planning and Preservation Seven Wonders of the World
by
Jennifer Tobin
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 March 2024
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 March 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190922467-0095

Introduction

Since the time of its creation in the Hellenistic period, the idea of the Seven Wonders has captured the imagination of various societies up to the modern age. The “canonical” list of monuments (the Pyramids of Giza, Babylon [including the Hanging Gardens and the Walls], the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, and the Colossus of Rhodes) was created in the sixteenth century by Dutch artist Maerten van Heemskerck, whose highly imaginative renderings of these monuments were subsequently reproduced as etchings and disseminated across Europe. Their popularity guaranteed that Heemskerck’s list became the accepted slate of the Seven Wonders. Throughout its history, however, the list was never static, with personal taste, political agenda, or religious allegiance often dictating the inclusion or omission of certain monuments. At least twenty-five different lists of Seven Wonders are known from the Hellenistic period to the Renaissance, with some thirty different monuments appearing at one time or another. Each of these earned its status as a wonder due to its great size, beauty, wealth of materials, or miraculous engineering.

General Overviews

These books introduce the Seven Wonders to a general audience. Adam and Blanc 1989, Clayton and Price 2002, and Romer and Romer 2005 devote a chapter to each of the monuments found on Heemskerck’s list, while Brodersen 2007 and Dawid 1968 follow the same format but omit the Lighthouse of Alexandria in favor of separate chapters devoted to each of the Babylonian monuments. All provide a short discussion on the possible origins of the list and its general history. Also useful is the short discussion in Rowland 2016.

  • Adam, Jean-Pierre, and Nicole Blanc. Les sept merveilles du monde. Paris: Perrin, 1989.

    In French. General handbook designed for a popular audience, but a comprehensive treatment of the monuments.

  • Brodersen, Kai. Die Sieben Weltwunder: Legendäre Kunst- und Bauwerke der Antike. Munich: C.H. Beck, 2007.

    In German. Short, scholarly treatment of the Seven Wonders, with special attention to the ancient testimonia.

  • Clayton, Peter A., and Martin J. Price, eds. The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. London and New York: Routledge, 2002.

    Best choice for undergraduates. Each of the chapters is devoted to a different monument and is authored by a specialist in the field.

  • Dawid, Maria. Weltwunder der Antike: Baukunst und Plastik. Innsbruck, Germany: Penguin-Verlag, 1968.

    In German. Well illustrated and useful for the discussion of the monuments not on Heemskerck’s list.

  • Romer, John, and Elizabeth Romer. The Seven Wonders of the World: A History of the Modern Imagination. New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 2005.

    Designed for a popular audience, with an emphasis on the monuments and their reception during the Renaissance and later.

  • Rowland, Ingrid. “Three Seaside Wonders: Pharos, Mausoleum and Colossus.” In A Companion to Greek Architecture. Edited by Margaret M. Miles, 440–453. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2016.

    Brief overview of the list of the Seven Wonders, followed by a discussion of three monuments.

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