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What are the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World in 7 Wonders?

7 Wonders has become a bit of a classic game over the past few years. It is one of the quintessential board games for the card drafting mechanic, the entire game is based on taking your hand, picking a card, and moving the rest on.

Today we are going to look at the theme in more detail. The seven wonders of the Ancient World are a really interesting basis (or the civilisations around them) for a game. What is more curious however is that the two-player competitive game 7 Wonders Duel has a grand total of 12 wonders in it. Obviously, there are only seven wonders in the Ancient World, so this is a bit odd. Before exploring those, however, I wanted to look at the seven wonders within 7 Wonders itself.

I have to admit, I know very little about the seven wonders, so am kind of looking forward to doing the reading for this article. For this article, we will look through the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World in alphabetical order. This means we will be looking at –

  • The Colossus at Rhodes
  • The Great Pyramid of Giza
  • The Hanging Gardens at Babylon
  • The Lighthouse at Alexandria
  • The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
  • The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
  • The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

For this article, I will be using screenshots of Google maps to show where the wonders were. These are obviously from Google maps, and I didn’t draw them myself.

Who said gaming couldn’t be educational, eh?

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

The Colossus at Rhodes

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I don’t think there is any single wonder that can be called the most unique out of all of the wonders; however, the Colossus at Rhodes is an unusual wonder. The Colossus stood at the front of Rhodes Harbour, built by Chares of Lindos in 280 BC. It was built to commemorate the victory of Rhodes over Cyprus 25 years earlier.

The personality of the Colossus is well known as it is of the patron god of Rhodes, Helios, the god of the Sun. He stood 33m tall, making it about the same height as an eleven story building, which was pretty tall back then. The rubbish thing about the Colossus at Rhodes is that it only stood for 52 years before an earthquake destroyed it.

By far the most interesting thing about the Colossus at Rhodes is the man who built it. There are apparently several different sources describing Chares of Lindos. The most popular story is that he killed himself before the Colossus was complete for one of two reasons.

The first reason is the romantic one – someone pointed out there was a tiny blemish in his statue, and feeling unable to live with the mistake he killed himself. The second reason is probably more likely – he was asked how much a 16m statue would cost. When he gave a price he was asked: “what if we wanted it twice the size”. He responded it would cost twice the amount.

Of course, if you double the size of a statue then you will need 8x the amount of resources. The story goes this bankrupted Chares and he killed himself.

Mathematics – it’s important.

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The location of the Colossus of Rhodes is obviously in the Greek municipality of Rhodes, which is just off the coast of modern-day Turkey.

The Great Pyramid of Giza

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The Great Pyramid of Giza is probably one of the most impressive feats of human engineering ever to have been created. Here are a few facts about it – it is the oldest of the seven wonders of the Ancient World by a significant amount dating back to 2560 BC. The pyramid was originally built as an elaborate tomb, and was the tallest manmade structure for over 3800 years. It originally stood at 146.5 metres tall, which is the same height as 4x Colossus’s standing on top of one another’s shoulders.

If they did so, they would be creating their own pyramid in a way…

What is most impressive about the Great Pyramid at Giza is that it was designed to last. It has now been standing for a very long time, and is the only one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World still standing today.

So, who was the man behind the Great Pyramid? It was the Pharaoh Khufu, which is why the pyramid is sometimes called the Pyramid of Khufu, of which there isn’t a huge amount known. The best source we have is Herodotus, who claims Khufu reigned for 63 years; however, this almost certainly isn’t correct as Herodotus wrote around 2000 years after Khufu died. I mean, how accurate is our data on 200 years ago, yet alone 2000, and we have computers to help us record it.

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The Great Pyramid of Giza is, needless to say, in Giza, Egypt. Currently, it stands 3.9 km away from the nearest McDonalds.

Why is this important? Well, it isn’t really, but it does show how times have changed.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

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Possibly the best name of the seven wonders, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were said to be in the ancient city of Babylon. Long since lost, Babylon is now suspected to have been located in the modern day city of Hillah, in the Babil province of Iraq.

Supposedly built by the Neo-Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II, somewhere between 605 and 562 BC, the origins and location of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon have been lost to legend over the past 2000 years. To this day they are the only one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World where we do not know the precise location. Instead, we know rough whereabouts, but not a huge amount else.

Nebuchadnezzar himself was an interesting bloke. He is a biblical character, appearing in the Book of Daniel, as a king whom Daniel predicts the fall of the empire of. The Book of Jeremiah also refers to Nebuchadnezzar in the Bible as “destroyer of nations”. According to the history books, Nebuchadnezzar became paranoid in later life, and only 25 years after his death his kingdom was actually overthrown by Cyrus the Great of Persia.

The Hanging Gardens were built as a palace for Nebuchadnezzar assuming they existed at all. There is some controversy as to whether they did actually exist by scholars. You can read the debate over on the Wikipedia page with all the arguments against its existence.

What this means is that (theoretically) there may only be six wonders of the Ancient World if the Hanging Gardens didn’t actually exist.

The Lighthouse of Alexandria

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Built between 280 and 247 BC, the Lighthouse of Alexandria was constructed by Ptolemy I Soter after the death of Alexander the Great. The Lighthouse, also known as the Pharos of Alexandria, supposedly took 12 years to build.

The reason behind why the Lighthouse of Alexandria was created is really quite a funny one. Rumour has it that the people of Pharos, off the coast of Alexandria, were “wreckers”. This means that when merchant ships got wrecked on rocks those who lived on the tiny island of Pharos would scavenge the shoreline for goods. These they would then keep or resell.

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The Lighthouse was built to keep the people at Pharos at bay. How do you stop people looting wrecked ships? Well, you build a massive beacon on their land to help guide the ships into the harbour. This is why the Greek word for Lighthouse is φάρος, which is pronounced fáros. Or…fáros pronounced very similarly to Pharos.

It survived several earthquakes and was patched up each time, however, a series of a few earthquakes in close succession had the locals abandon the Lighthouse in Alexandria around 1323 AD. The majority of the Lighthouse is now in the sea, and there are plans to turn it into an underwater museum.

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

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The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus is one of the quintessential Greek buildings to have ever been built, causing replicas of how it was to spring up all over the globe, including one on Washington DC.

The Mausoleum was the longest standing of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World after the Great Pyramid at Giza, which is still standing. It was first open in 351 BC, by Mausolus, and was finally destroyed in 1494 AD. I am starting to think that earthquakes really are the enemies of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, having destroyed several of the places on this list already.

The Mausoleum is believed to having been commissioned by both Mausolus and his wife, Artemisia II of Caria, before they both died, as a tomb. The story goes, however, that they both died before the Mausoleum was completed, and yet, out of respect for the patron, the workmen who worked on the Mausoleum completed the project. How true that is is somewhat open to debate.

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The Mausoleum stood for 1600 years, and stood overlooking Halicarnassus through the fall of the city to Alexander the Great, and even a series of pirate raids, before the earthquakes finally toppled it. Fun fact – it is often referred to as the Mausoleum of Mausolus; however, this is a tautology. Mausoleum literally translates as “dedicated to Mausolus”, making that the “building dedicated to Mausolus of Mausolus”.

Who was Mausolus? Well, he was a ruler of Caria, which was part of the Persian empire, between 377 to 353 BC. Generally speaking, he embraced Greek culture, hence the design of the Mausoleum, and, from what I can tell, he was well liked.

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia

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The Status of Zeus is kind of exactly what it sounds like. It was situated in the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, commissioned by the Eleians, who were the people who hosted and presided over the Olympic Games.

There isn’t a huge amount of information known about the Statue of Zeus or of the people who created it. What we do know is that it was very old, having been built around 435 BC, and designed by Phidias (a well known Greek sculptor at the time) who is himself credited with coming up with the classical Greek architecture style we all know and love today.

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Around 400 BC, the temple fell into disuse and no one knows for certain what happened to the statue. It may have been primarily looted, or taken apart bit by bit. It may have been destroyed with the sanctuary/temple. Alternatively, seeing most of the other Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it was probably destroyed by an earthquake. There is no evidence supporting that, I’m just starting to make the assumption that earthquakes hate the wonders.

There are only a few descriptions of the Status of Zeus that have survived, there is also a coin engraving, letting us know very roughly what it looked like. Since then artists and historians have managed to put potential replicas together. The general consensus is that the throne was wooden, acting as a truss for the statue, and the rest was made out of ebony, ivory, gold and precious stones, although it is difficult to understand how much of the description was hyperbole. It stood 13m tall, making it the shortest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

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Ahh, the final one of the Seven Wonders (7 Wonders) on the list – the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. This is actually one of my favourite wonders to play as in 7 Wonders. It was built and destroyed three times, with the final form being the one that is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

I won’t go through all of the history of the Temple of Artemis (there is a Wikipedia page for that), but suffice it to say that Ephesus had been around since the Bronze ages. The Second Temple was burned to the ground by an unknown felon, with the date of its destruction coinciding with the birth of Alexander the Great. Later on in his life, Alexander offered to rebuild the temple, but was refused (presumably because it was seen as a bad omen), with the citizens of Ephesus offering to rebuild it themselves. It then stood for over 600 years, before a raiding band of Goths raided the temple and destroyed it in 268 AD.

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It was lost and rediscovered in 1869.

The history of the Temple of Artemis is probably the least interesting. The first temple was destroyed by a flood. The second was the fire. The third was destroyed by Goths. There is no single person attributed to the temple, but rather a community. This is kind of nice in a way – it shows that community will triumph where individuals may fail – however, that’s taking a fairly liberal reading.

Conclusion: The Seven Wonders in 7 Wonders

As a blogger, it is always enjoyable doing posts like this because you never know what you’ll uncover. You never know what you’ll find out and this has been a lot of fun. The classical world is always interesting, and even more so when you dig a bit further beneath the surface.

As I mentioned at the start of this article, the wonders in 7 Wonders: Duel are completely different, and at some point I would like to go through those just to understand what they are. It probably won’t be well over 2000 words like this article, but it should be enjoyable nonetheless.

So, what do you think? Most interestingly, what do you think of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World as a theme for a board game? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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12 Comments »

  1. Nice write-up. It’s always fun to do some educational research for an article. The 7 Wonders you mention are what the Greeks recorded, so there is some definite bias there. The game has additions for many of the other Wonders as well. Wonders like the Great Wall of China are purely amazing, just in scope. The Great Library (Library of Alexandria) is another one that always comes to mind, as an extremely sad historical moment. Unclear as what caused it to burn down, but the loss of knowledge would probably be like us losing the internet.

    To answer your question. Yea, I have an interest in history and have also played the Civilization computer game since the first one came out. Some of the ideas for the computer game came from the the boardgame “Civilization”. I wouldn’t be surprised if the 7 Wonders boardgame was inspired by one or the other.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Some of our game group have recently bought the expansions so it’ll be good to see what is in those – but I agree with you on both of the wonders. The Library is one I always stuck in until I looked up the “official” seven wonders on Google. I was surprised it wasn’t there.

      Oh 7 Wonders has to have been inspired by something like that – that being said the designer has designed a few games set in the ancient world, so maybe that’s where his interest comes from. It’d be interesting to see if he’s said anywhere.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Which expansions? I have most all of them, except Cities. Unfortunately we rarely have enough boardgamers at our house to get play those. Most people I talk to, say you really need a group of experienced 7 Wonders people to get the expansions played. But usually they are introducing the game, so they stick with mostly the basic game. I don’t know if I’ll ever get Tower of Babel played.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I believe they got Leaders and Cities, and I think Cities makes it 8 players as well (although you’d be able to confirm that). I know that pain – we still haven’t played the Scythe expansions but we are desperate to!

          Liked by 2 people

          • Leaders is pretty good. I can’t even remember what else we have used, as it mainly sits in the closet. It’s a little difficult to teach to non-boardgamers, as there are lots of variables and everyone is secretly holding their hand of cards.

            Liked by 1 person

        • Ahh sorry, Cities is the one you don’t have, my bad! We’re lucky in a way as we do usually have around 6-7 players so it works well. Makes it a pain when you want to play a two hour four player game though!

          Liked by 2 people

          • Hehe, problems all around! Not enough people, too many people! Oh when oh when will they design the perfect boardgame!? 😉

            I’ve also noticed that a lot of them have a sweet spot for number of players.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Agree with Faust, very well-written fun post on the topic. Curiously I wonder who compiled the list originally? Was there an also-ran list? How was it compiled? Ah, minutia. Like all lists someone would disagree I’m sure. But this was fun to read, thanks for posting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Apparently it comes from guidebooks often given to Hellenic sightseers from ancient times, and seven was believed to be a lucky number due to it being the five known planets plus the sun and the moon. So…basically…ancient travel agents haha.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Great post! Love some history with my board games.

    “The first temple was destroyed by a flood. The second was the fire. The third was destroyed by Goths. ”

    I know it’s (probably) not intentional, but I’m getting a strong Monty Python & the Holy Grail vibe from those sentences. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      • “I built this kingdom up from nothing. When I started, all I had was swamp! Other kings said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show ’em! It sank into the swamp, so I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. I built a third one. It burned down, fell over, and then it sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up! And that’s what you’re going to get, lad–the strongest castle on these islands!”

        Too bad they didn’t build a fourth one. 🙂

        Like

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