The second in a two-part post about the Seven Wonders of the World both Ancient and Modern.
When I first learned that there were two lists that existed regarding the Seven Wonders of the World, I was shocked. But honestly, as I have studied and written about the Ancient list and, it makes complete sense. Out of the first Seven Wonders, only one of them(The Great Pyramid of Giza) is still standing; the rest are in complete ruin. Some of them- like the Temple of Artemis or the Colossus of Rhodes -only lasted for a brief time before their destruction(intentional and natural).
One of them(the Hanging Gardens of Babylon) is a complete mystery to the point that many even wonder if it ever even existed! Even more, the most popularized list was made in Second Century BCE by Antipater of Sidon, over 2,000 years ago when the ‘known world’ was small by our standards. This is shown in the fact that of the original Seven Wonders of the World, five of them had Greek origins and the other two from Babylon and Egypt weren’t too far from the rest in terms of the world’s size. So it makes complete sense why a second list was created in order to honor the intelligence and skill of humanity that has been created since then.
Seven Modern Wonders
As for how this second list was created? According to Britannica, in the year 2000 a Swiss foundation decided they wanted to choose Seven New Wonders of the World. They accepted any additions given from around the world(millions and millions of votes were sent in, as it turns out) and in 2007 finally released their list of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. What struck me when I first looked at this list was how different it was compared to the previous list. Yes, for obvious reasons there are no repeats(though I do admit to being shocked at first that The Great Pyramid of Giza was not on this list too), but it is also incredibly spread out. The first list consisted of Wonders within lands that bordered the Mediterranean Sea(Greek, Anatolia Persia, Egypt, Babylonia in the Arabian Peninsula), but with this list, only two of them are within lands that border that same Sea.
In fact, they are spread throughout the entire globe across four continents(one could even argue five if you consider the Arabian Peninsula as part of Africa more than Europe or Asia). There are no repeating countries or styles really on this list, every single entry existing in different countries and art types. What also surprised me is that, though this list was created this century, pretty much every single one of these Wonders are not what one would consider ‘Modern’- the youngest of them having been created about a century ago with the oldest being 2,200 years old. Yet, they are all worthy of being on this list and every single one of them is still standing now, even despite many of their ages.
1. The Great Wall of China
This one is a given- in fact I was incredibly shocked to see that it was not a part of the first list of Seven Wonders until I did more research. In fact, though parts of the Great Wall of China were first started during the Spring and Autumn Period(770-476 BCE), it wouldn’t be until the start of the Qin Dynasty(221-206 BCE) that it really became a Great Wall. Considering that Antipater of Sidon was writing his Seven Wonders report in the Second Century BCE and that he and most other writers of such lists were focusing on the area touching the Mediterranean Sea and that China was seen as a distant and rarely interacted with land, it makes perfect sense that this Wonder was not on the original list.
Before the Qin Dynasty, China was going through what is known as the Warring States Period(481/403-221 BCE) where the Country of China was split into different states which constantly fought one another: the Zhao, Yan, Qi, Wei, Han, Chu, and Qin. It was the Qin state that finally managed to gain power, unifying China into the basics of what we know it as in history. In order to defend his new country, Emperor Qin Shi Huang decided that the different wall boundaries that they had needed to be joined together and added to in order to protect the newly unified nation.
What is interesting about the Great Wall of China is that it exists mostly in the North/Northwest/Northeast of China with various different levels and layers in order to keep enemies from the main population of the country. The Wall is 13,170 miles(21,196 kilometers) long. Those enemies were often Northern Nomadic tribes from Inner Mongolia. The First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, was the mastermind behind the entire operation, determined to protect the nation that he just conquered and unified from outside threats. For centuries afterwards, the Great Wall he had built protected China from outside forces, standing tall even as China went through governmental issue after governmental issue.
During the Han Dynasty(206 BCE-220 CE), the Great Wall was often added to and repaired in order so that China could stay protected. Of course, some things cannot be stopped, such as the Mongols. From 1271 to 1368, the Mongols invaded and took over China, creating the Yuan Dynasty. For obvious reasons, they did not repair and build up the Great Wall that had kept them out for so long and now technically divided their country. It wasn’t until afterwards with the Ming Dynasty(1368-1644) that the Chinese people regained control of their government and set out to repair and even rebuild the Great Wall in a large century long project in the hopes that it would stop a Northern Invasion from happening ever again. It is what was built and repaired of the Great Wall during this dynasty that still exists now centuries later.
They were successful for centuries until 1644 when the Great Wall was breached by the Manchurians(Northeast of China and Inner Mongolia), leading to the last national dynasty, the Qing Dynasty(1644-1911). The Great Wall was not repaired again until modern times so that it could be opened as a tourist attraction for people all around the world to visit and explore. What is interesting is that, though the wall was not fool-proof, it is still remarkable that is held strong for so long, keeping invaders out again and again save for a few times it was broken within Chinese History. It is a marvel of human ingenuity; a structure made for protection and defense that still amazes humankind even today.
2. Taj Mahal, India
This stunning structure was built from 1632 to 1648 CE under the direction of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. At its core, this structure holds a love story as the Emperor built it for his deceased wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The structure is surrounded by acres of beautiful gardens and is made to look like a Mosque. It is filled with Arabic script, architecture, and art; the main architect of it all was Ustad-Ahmad Lahori. It is made out of marble and precious gems and it’s main dome is 240 feet(73 meters) tall and serves as a tomb for the Emperor and his wife. The structure took 20 years to build and has Indian, Persian, and Islamic styles throughout it.
Shah Jahan’s father had died in 1627, leaving the man in a struggle for the throne with his brothers. It was in 1628 that he won the throne and was crowned Emperor. He had three wives in total, but Mumtaz Mahal was his favorite and somehow managed to bear him fourteen children, passing away after giving birth to the fourteenth one. In honor and grief, he had this Mausoleum built for her. Shah Jahan actually planned to build a second Mausoleum facing the Taj Mahal for himself, yet his son Aurangzeb(his third son with Mumtaz Mahal) ousted his father and claimed the throne for himself in 1658, leaving his father in jail until his death in 1666, the second Mausoleum never started.
But, he was instead placed within the Taj Mahal next to his wife so at least they were able to be together in death. Over the centuries, the Taj Mahal was neglected, especially when the Mughal’s lost power in the Eighteenth Century. It was the British viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, who decided to restore the Mausoleum to its proper state and majesty. Nowadays, it is an incredibly popular tourist attraction for many around the world to visit, standing as an example for the power of love even amidst political issues.
3. Petra, Jordan
When one first reads the name of this Wonder, they may feel baffled. Many have not even heard of it or have even forgotten it. But, the second one glances at a picture of it, they are awed and amazed. This entire monument is carved and built out of the stone surrounding it and is a great mystery for one to study and research. This was a Nabataean city within the nowadays country of Jordan. It has a clear Greek style to its structure and is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. This was more than likely a stop on the trading paths of the Arabian Peninsula for traveling caravans.
It is a carved city, really, filled with beauty, religion, and technological advancements of the day. Its pretty much a lost and abandoned city built during the Second Century CE. Once the Capital city of the Nabataean Empire from 400 BCE to 106 CE, it was abandoned as the Nabataean Empire dissolved and the Roman Empire took over the area. As trade by sea became more common, such ancient paths of travel and trade fell into decline until it was eventually completely abandoned and forgotten. It was only rediscovered in the Nineteenth Century and is often a topic of interest for historians. So much of the city is undiscovered, leading to many excavations of the place. I’m amazed every time I see pictures of it and can’t wait to hear more about the history that has been found within it as excavation continues.
4. Colosseum of Rome, Italy
This is a structure(originally called the Flavian Amphitheatre) that many think of instantly when they remember the Roman Empire. This structure’s construction was started in 72 CE under the Emperor Vespasian, but was finished eight years later by the Emperor Titus. In 82 CE, Emperor Domitian added the highest level. It is 187 feet(57 meters) tall, 616 feet(188 meters) long, and 511 feet(156 meters) wide. Interestingly enough, it was built on the remains of the tyrannical Emperor Nero’s private land as a place for the public to gather and enjoy themselves. Many see it as the Ancient version of a sports stadium what with it being a place for entertainment, battles, and excitement. We’ve all learned about this place growing up when we learned about the Roman Empire; students of history are often reminded of the phrase ‘bread and circuses’ which pretty much means that if you keep your people fed and entertained, they will not rise up and rebel against you. This place pretty much coined that term and idea for popular use.
Men, Gladiators, and animals were involved in the games themselves over the centuries as a show of the might and power of the Roman Empire. This Colosseum was pretty much the center of Rome’s culture and remained in use for half a millennia, the last games occurring in the 6th century CE. Since then, time and history has taken its toll, the Colosseum crumbling due to age as well as the actions of people and nature. It was often a place for looting and vandalism and was even used as a quarry like many of the entries on the previous list. But it was often still used by Rome(with the interesting shift from a place of pagan things to a center for Christianity), never allowing it to be forgotten. It was restored in the Nineteenth Century and is now an incredibly popular tourist attraction, used on advertisements for Rome and Italy all the time.
5. Christ the Redeemer Statue, Rio, Brazil
Completed in 1931 after five years of construction, this statue(called ‘Christ the Redeemer’) is 98 feet(30 meters) tall with an arm span of 92 feet(28 meters). It has become a symbol of Rio, a symbol of the country of Brazil, really, over time. Interestingly enough, due to its more recent construction, it is made of reinforced concrete with many triangle shaped soapstone tiles as well. As for how this statue came to be? In the mid-Nineteenth Century, Vincentian priest Pedro Maria Boss wanted to place a Christian Monument on top of the mountain in honor of the Princess Regent of Brazil, Isabel.
Her plans for such a monument did not happen, though, and it was decades later that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Rio suggested that they place a statue of Christ upon the mountaintop. It was the Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa and Brazilian artist Carlos Oswald that designed the statue. Additionally, it was the French Sculptor Paul Landowski that mainly designed the head and hands. It is often repaired and has been updated with escalators and elevators for the tourists so they don’t have to climb up the steps of the mountainside to reach the statue. On the statue’s 75th anniversary, it was dedicated to ‘Our Lady of Aparecida’ who is the patron saint of Brazil. It is an iconic symbol around the world and is often flooded by visitors who wish to see it up close.
6. Chichén Itzá, Mexico
Like other entries on this list, this one is an ancient city as well. In fact, it was one of the most important city-states of Ancient America. The Pyramid is surrounded by dozens of Mayan Ruins for one to see and explore. Built nearly 1,000 years ago around 400 CE, it was used by both the Mayans as a city and important religious center, oftentimes even acting as the practical Capital of the area. Later on in the Tenth Century, the Toltec’s moved to the area and began living there too. It’s really mostly a collection of Temples and ritualistic places with residences surrounding it.
The city was a popular place of residence, but fell into disrepair and decay around 1440 CE due to political shifts and wasn’t rediscovered until the Nineteenth Century. Much still has to be excavated in the area, with various buildings and roadways being discovered throughout the area. Cenote’s(underground pools of water common in Mexico) nearby have been explored, turning up artifacts of gold and precious gems as well as remains of skeletons more than likely used in human sacrifice. It is a fascinating place to study and learn more about as excavation continues on the site.
7. Machu Picchu, Peru
This stone residence rests high in the mountains of the nation of Peru and is a place of wonder and amazement at an elevation of 7,710 feet(2,350 meters). It was created by the Incan Empire and was built in the Fifteenth Century as a palace for the Incan ruler more than likely. The Incan’s only lived there for a short time as the Spanish Conquistadors arrived a century later, leaving them in control of the country instead. Fortunately, the place was not destroyed and remained mostly untouched by mankind until it was “rediscovered” in the Twentieth Century by Yale University professor Hiram Bingham with the help of local resident Melchor Artaega(though it is believed that German adventurer Augusto Berns may have visited it in 1867 and that locals nearby had even been using the terraces for agriculture when he arrived).
It is filled with around 200 structures and held mostly religious purposes, with even a Temple within the site. Machu Picchu fits so naturally into the countryside that it’s almost like it is meant to be there. I absolutely love seeing pictures of the layered terraces that served as the city’s place for agriculture and am blown away every time I see pictures of the site. It is seemingly in the middle of nowhere, 50 miles(80 kilometers) from Cuzco, Peru. Like other entries on this list, Machu Picchu is an incredibly popular tourist destination, despite the long climb to get there(there has been talk of creating a cable car system in order to alleviate the travel and decrease ware and damage by travelers on the mountaintop). But it is well worth the struggle and time.