Trivium Pursuit

Seven Wonders of the Ancient World as Discussed in Ancient Primary Sources

1. Great Pyramid of Giza

2. Hanging Gardens of Babylon

3. Statue of Zeus at Olympia

4. Temple of Artemis [Diana] at Ephesus

5. Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus

6. Colossus of Rhodes

7. Lighthouse of Alexandria

Josephus, Against Apion, 1.19-20

I will now relate what hath been written concerning us in the Chaldean histories, which records have a great agreement with our books in holier things also. Berosus shall be witness to what I say: he was by birth a Chaldean, well known by the learned, on account of his publication of the Chaldean books of astronomy and philosophy among the Greeks. This Berosus, therefore, following the most ancient records of that nation, gives us a history of the deluge of waters that then happened, and of the destruction of mankind thereby, and agrees with Moses’s narration thereof. He also gives us an account of that ark wherein Noah, the origin of our race, was preserved, when it was brought to the highest part of the Armenian mountains; after which he gives us a catalogue of the posterity of Noah, and adds the years of their chronology, and at length comes down to Nabolassar, who was king of Babylon, and of the Chaldeans. And when he was relating the acts of this king, he describes to us how he sent his son Nabuchodonosor [Nebuchadnezzar] against Egypt, and against our land, with a great army, upon his being informed that they had revolted from him; and how, by that means, he subdued them all, and set our temple that was at Jerusalem on fire; nay, and removed our people entirely out of their own country, and transferred them to Babylon; when it so happened that our city was desolate during the interval of seventy years, until the days of Cyrus king of Persia. He then says, “That this Babylonian king conquered Egypt, and Syria, and Phoenicia, and Arabia, and exceeded in his exploits all that had reigned before him in Babylon and Chaldea.” A little after which Berosus subjoins what follows in his History of Ancient Times. I will set down Berosus’s own accounts, which are these: “When Nabolassar, father of Nabuchodonosor, heard that the governor whom he had set over Egypt, and over the parts of Celesyria and Phoenicia, had revolted from him, he was not able to bear it any longer; but committing certain parts of his army to his son Nabuchodonosor, who was then but young, he sent him against the rebel: Nabuchodonosor joined battle with him, and conquered him, and reduced the country under his dominion again. Now it so fell out that his father Nabolassar fell into a distemper at this time, and died in the city of Babylon, after he had reigned twenty-nine years. But as he understood, in a little time, that his father Nabolassar was dead, he set the affairs of Egypt and the other countries in order, and committed the captives he had taken from the Jews, and Phoenicians, and Syrians, and of the nations belonging to Egypt, to some of his friends, that they might conduct that part of the forces that had on heavy armor, with the rest of his baggage, to Babylonia; while he went in haste, having but a few with him, over the desert to Babylon; whither, when he was come, he found the public affairs had been managed by the Chaldeans, and that the principal person among them had preserved the kingdom for him. Accordingly, he now entirely obtained all his father’s dominions. He then came, and ordered the captives to be placed as colonies in the most proper places of Babylonia; but for himself, he adorned the temple of Belus, and the other temples, after an elegant manner, out of the spoils he had taken in this war. He also rebuilt the old city, and added another to it on the outside, and so far restored Babylon, that none who should besiege it afterwards might have it in their power to divert the river, so as to facilitate an entrance into it; and this he did by building three walls about the inner city, and three about the outer. Some of these walls he built of burnt brick and bitumen, and some of brick only. So when he had thus fortified the city with walls, after an excellent manner, and had adorned the gates magnificently, he added a new palace to that which his father had dwelt in, and this close by it also, and that more eminent in its height, and in its great splendor. It would perhaps require too long a narration, if any one were to describe it. However, as prodigiously large and as magnificent as it was, it was finished in fifteen days. Now in this palace he erected very high walks, supported by stone pillars, and by planting what was called a pensile paradise, and replenishing it with all sorts of trees, he rendered the prospect an exact resemblance of a mountainous country. This he did to please his queen, because she had been brought up in Media, and was fond of a mountainous situation.”

This is what Berosus relates concerning the forementioned king, as he relates many other things about him also in the third book of his Chaldean History; wherein he complains of the Grecian writers for supposing, without any foundation, that Babylon was built by Semiramis, queen of Assyria, and for her false pretense to those wonderful edifices thereto buildings at Babylon, do no way contradict those ancient and relating, as if they were her own workmanship; as indeed in these affairs the Chaldean History cannot but be the most credible. Moreover, we meet with a confirmation of what Berosus says in the archives of the Phoenicians, concerning this king Nabuchodonosor, that he conquered all Syria and Phoenicia; in which case Philostratus agrees with the others in that history which he composed, where he mentions the siege of Tyre; as does Megasthenes also, in the fourth book of his Indian History, wherein he pretends to prove that the forementioned king of the Babylonians was superior to Hercules in strength and the greatness of his exploits; for he says that he conquered a great part of Libya, and conquered Iberia also. Now as to what I have said before about the temple at Jerusalem, that it was fought against by the Babylonians, and burnt by them, but was opened again when Cyrus had taken the kingdom of Asia, shall now be demonstrated from what Berosus adds further upon that head; for thus he says in his third book: “Nabuchodonosor, after he had begun to build the forementioned wall, fell sick, and departed this life, when he had reigned forty-three years; whereupon his son Evilmerodach obtained the kingdom. He governed public affairs after an illegal and impure manner, and had a plot laid against him by Neriglissoor, his sister’s husband, and was slain by him when he had reigned but two years. After he was slain, Neriglissoor, the person who plotted against him, succeeded him in the kingdom, and reigned four years; his son Laborosoarchod obtained the kingdom, though he was but a child, and kept it nine mouths; but by reason of the very ill temper and ill practices he exhibited to the world, a plot was laid against him also by his friends, and he was tormented to death. After his death, the conspirators got together, and by common consent put the crown upon the head of Nabonnedus, a man of Babylon, and one who belonged to that insurrection. In his reign it was that the walls of the city of Babylon were curiously built with burnt brick and bitumen; but when he was come to the seventeenth year of his reign, Cyrus came out of Persia with a great army; and having already conquered all the rest of Asia, he came hastily to Babylonia. When Nabonnedus perceived he was coming to attack him, he met him with his forces, and joining battle with him was beaten, and fled away with a few of his troops with him, and was shut up within the city Borsippus. Hereupon Cyrus took Babylon, and gave order that the outer walls of the city should be demolished, because the city had proved very troublesome to him, and cost him a great deal of pains to take it. He then marched away to Borsippus, to besiege Nabonnedus; but as Nabonnedus did not sustain the siege, but delivered himself into his hands, he was at first kindly used by Cyrus, who gave him Carmania, as a place for him to inhabit in, but sent him out of Babylonia. Accordingly Nabonnedus spent the rest of his time in that country, and there died.”

Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods, 2.27

There is a remark of Timæus which, like many of his, shows ingenuity; after saying in his history that the temple of the Ephesian Diana had been burnt down on the same night that Alexander was born, he added that that was by no means to be wondered at, since Diana wishing to be present at the delivery of Olympias had been absent from her home.

Cicero, On Divination, 1.23

Everybody knows that on the same night in which Olympias was delivered of Alexander the temple of Diana at Ephesus was burned, and that the magi began to cry out as day was breaking: ‘Asia’s deadly curse was born last night.

Plutarch, Alexander

Alexander was born the sixth of Hecatombaeon, which month the Macedonians call Lous, the same day that the temple of Diana at Ephesus was burnt; which Hegesias of Magnesia makes the occasion of a conceit, frigid enough to have stopped the conflagration. The temple, he says, took fire and was burnt while its mistress was absent, assisting at the birth of Alexander. And all the Eastern soothsayers who happened to be then at Ephesus, looking upon the ruin of this temple to be the forerunner of some other calamity, ran about the town, beating their faces, and crying that this day had brought forth something that would prove fatal and destructive to all Asia.

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights, 2.6

Epicurus too in a similar way defined the greatest pleasure as the removal and absence of all pain, in these words: “The utmost height of pleasure is the removal of all that pains.” Again Virgil on the same principle called the Stygian pool “unlovely.” For just as he expressed abhorrence of the “unpraised” man by the denial of praise, so he abhorred the “unlovable” by the denial of love. Another defense of inlaudatus is this: laudare in early Latin means “to name” and “cite.” Thus in civil actions they use laudare of an authority, when he is cited. Conversely, the inlaudatus is the same as the inlaudabilis, namely, one who is worthy neither of mention nor remembrance, and is never to be named; as, for example, in days gone by the common council of Asia decreed that no one should ever mention the name of the man who had burned the temple of Diana at Ephesus.

Cicero, Tuscalan Disputations, 3.31

Here some people talk of moderate grief … Take the case of Artemisia, the wife of Mausolus, King of Caria, who made that noble sepulchre at Halicarnassus; while she lived, she lived in grief, and died of it, being worn out by it, for that opinion was always recent with her: but you cannot call that recent which has already begun to decay through time

Strabo, Ancient Geography, 14.2.16-17

Then to Halicarnassus, the royal residence of the dynasts of Caria, which was formerly called Zephyra. Here is the tomb of Mausolus, one of the Seven Wonders, a monument erected by Artemisia in honor of her husband. … This city, too, met a reverse when it was forcibly seized by Alexander. For Hecatomnus, the king of the Carians, had three sons, Mausolus and Hidrieus and Pixodarus, and two daughters. Mausolus, the eldest of the brothers, married Artemisia, the elder of the daughters, and Hidrieus, the second son, married Ada, the other sister. Mausolus became king and at last, childless, he left the empire to his wife, by whom the above-mentioned tomb was erected. But she pined away and died through grief for her husband, and Hidrieus then became ruler

Aulus Gelius, Attic Nights, 10.18

Artemisia is said to have loved her husband with a love surpassing all the tales of passion and beyond one’s conception of human affection. Now Mausolus, as Marcus Tullius tells us, was king of the land of Caria; according to some Greek historians he was governor of a province, the official whom the Greeks term a satrap. When this Mausolus had met his end amid the lamentations and in the arms of his wife, and had been buried with a magnificent funeral, Artemisia, inflamed with grief and with longing for her spouse, mingled his bones and ashes with spices, ground them into the form of a powder, put them in water, and drank them; and she is said to have given many other proofs of the violence of her passion. For perpetuating the memory of her husband, she also erected, with great expenditure of labour, that highly celebrated tomb, among the seven wonders of the world. When Artemisia dedicated this monument, consecrated to the deified shades of Mausolus, she instituted an agon, that is to say, a contest in celebrating his praises, offering magnificent prizes of money and other valuables. Three men distinguished for their eminent talent and eloquence are said to have come to contend in this eulogy, Theopompus, Theodectes and Naucrates; some have even written that Isocrates himself entered the lists with them. But Theopompus was adjudged the victory in that contest. He was a pupil of Isocrates. The tragedy of Theodectes, entitled Mausolus, is still extant today; and that in it Theodectes was more pleasing than in his prose writings is the opinion of Hyginus in his Examples.

Pliny the Elder, The Natural History, 36.4

Scopas had for rivals and contemporaries, Bryaxis, Timotheus, and Leochares, artists whom we are bound to mention together, from the fact that they worked together at the Mausoleum; such being the name of the tomb that was erected by his wife Artemisia in honour of Mausolus, a petty king of Caria, who died in the second year of the hundred and seventh Olympiad. It was through the exertions of these artists more particularly, that this work came to be reckoned one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The circumference of this building is, in all, four hundred and forty feet, and the breadth from north to south sixty-three, the two fronts being not so wide in extent. It is twenty-five cubits in height, and is surrounded with six-and-thirty columns, the outer circumference being known as the “Pteron.” The east side was sculptured by Scopas, the north by Bryaxis, the south by Timotheus, and the west by Leochares; but, before their task was completed, Queen Artemisia died. They did not leave their work, however, until it was finished, considering that it was at once a memorial of their own fame and of the sculptor’s art: and, to this day even, it is undecided which of them has excelled. A fifth artist also took part in the work; for above the Pteron there is a pyramid erected, equal in height to the building below, and formed of four and twenty steps, which gradually taper upwards towards the summit; a platform, crowned with a representation of a four-horse chariot by Pythis. This addition makes the total height of the work one hundred and forty feet.

Vitruvius, On Architecture, 7.12-13

Silenus afterwards produced a treatise on the symmetry of Doric buildings; Theodorus, on the Doric temple of Jupiter in Samos; Ctesiphon and Metagenes, on that of the Ionic order in the temple of Diana at Ephesus. Pythius wrote a volume on the Ionic temple of Minerva at Priene, and Ictinus and Carpion on the Doric temple of Minerva at Athens, on the Acropolis; Theodorus Phoceus on the vaulted temple at Delphi; Philo on the symmetry of temples, and on the arsenal at the Piræus; Hermogenes on the Ionic pseudodipteral temple at Magnesia, and the monopteral one of Father Bacchus at Teos. Argelius wrote on the proportions of buildings of the Corinthian order, and on the Ionic temple of Asculapius at Tralles, which he is said to have built; Satyrus and Phyteus, who were extremely fortunate, on the Mausoleum, to which some contributed their exertions whose talents have been admired in all ages, and who have gained lasting reputation. Each front was assigned to a separate artist, to ornament and try his skill thereon. Those employed were Leochares, Bryaxes, Scopas, Praxiteles; some say that Timotheus was employed. The great art displayed by these men, caused this work to be ranked among the seven wonders.

Pausanias, Description of Greece, 8.16.4

I know many wonderful graves, and will mention two of them, the one at Halicarnassus and one in the land of the Hebrews. The one at Halicarnassus was made for Mausolus, king of the city, and it is of such vast size, and so notable for all its ornament, that the Romans in their great admiration of it call remarkable tombs in their country “Mausolea.”

Strabo, Ancient Geography, 14.1.22

As for the temple of Artemis, its first architect was Chersiphron; and then another man made it larger. But when it was set on fire by a certain Herostratus, the citizens erected another and better one, having collected the ornaments of the women and their own individual belongings, and having sold also the pillars of the former temple. Testimony is borne to these facts by the decrees that were made at that time. Artemidorus says: Timaeus of Tauromenium, being ignorant of these decrees and being any way an envious and slanderous fellow (for which reason he was also called Epitimaeus), says that they exacted means for the restoration of the temple from the treasures deposited in their care by the Persians; but there were no treasures on deposit in their care at that time, and, even if there had been, they would have been burned along with the temple; and after the fire, when the roof was destroyed, who could have wished to keep deposits of treasure lying in a sacred enclosure that was open to the sky? Now Alexander, Artemidorus adds, promised the Ephesians to pay all expenses, both past and future, on condition that he should have the credit therefore on the inscription, but they were unwilling, just as they would have been far more unwilling to acquire glory by sacrilege and a spoliation of the temple. And Artemidorus praises the Ephesian who said to the king that it was inappropriate for a god to dedicate offerings to gods

Pliny the Elder, The Natural History, 36.18

There is another building, too, that is highly celebrated; the tower that was built by a king of Egypt, on the island of Pharos, at the entrance to the harbour of Alexandria. The cost of its erection was eight hundred talents, they say; and, not to omit the magnanimity that was shown by King Ptolemæus on this occasion, he gave permission to the architect, Sostratus of Cnidos, to inscribe his name upon the edifice itself. The object of it is, by the light of its fires at night, to give warning to ships, of the neighbouring shoals, and to point out to them the entrance of the harbour. At the present day, there are similar fires lighted up in numerous places, Ostia and Ravenna, for example. The only danger is, that when these fires are thus kept burning without intermission, they may be mistaken for stars, the flames having very much that appearance at a distance. This architect ‘is the first person that built a promenade upon arches; at Cnidos, it is said.

Herodotus, The History, 2.148-149

Moreover they resolved to join all together and leave a memorial of themselves; and having so resolved they caused to be made a labyrinth, situated a little above the lake of Moiris and nearly opposite to that which is called the City of Crocodiles. This I saw myself, and I found it greater than words can say. For if one should put together and reckon up all the buildings and all the great works produced by the Hellenes, they would prove to be inferior in labour and expense to this labyrinth, though it is true that both the temple at Ephesos and that at Samos are works worthy of note. The pyramids also were greater than words can say, and each one of them is equal to many works of the Hellenes, great as they may be; but the labyrinth surpasses even the pyramids. It has twelve courts covered in, with gates facing one another, six upon the North side and six upon the South, joining on one to another, and the same wall surrounds them all outside; and there are in it two kinds of chambers, the one kind below the ground and the other above upon these, three thousand in number, of each kind fifteen hundred. The upper set of chambers we ourselves saw, going through them, and we tell of them having looked upon them with our own eyes; but the chambers under ground we heard about only; for the Egyptians who had charge of them were not willing on any account to show them, saying that here were the sepulchres of the kings who had first built this labyrinth and of the sacred crocodiles. Accordingly we speak of the chambers below by what we received from hearsay, while those above we saw ourselves and found them to be works of more than human greatness. For the passages through the chambers, and the goings this way and that way through the courts, which were admirably adorned, afforded endless matter for marvel, as we went through from a court to the chambers beyond it, and from the chambers to colonnades, and from the colonnades to other rooms, and then from the chambers again to other courts. Over the whole of these is a roof made of stone like the walls; and the walls are covered with figures carved upon them, each court being surrounded with pillars of white stone fitted together most perfectly; and at the end of the labyrinth, by the corner of it, there is a pyramid of forty fathoms, upon which large figures are carved, and to this there is a way made under ground.

Such is this labyrinth; but a cause for marvel even greater than this is afforded by the lake, which is called the lake of Moiris, along the side of which this labyrinth is built. The measure of its circuit is three thousand six hundred furlongs (being sixty schoines), and this is the same number of furlongs as the extent of Egypt itself along the sea. The lake lies extended lengthwise from North to South, and in depth where it is deepest it is fifty fathoms. That this lake is artificial and formed by digging is self-evident, for about in the middle of the lake stand two pyramids, each rising above the water to a height of fifty fathoms, the part which is built below the water being of just the same height; and upon each is placed a colossal statue of stone sitting upon a chair. Thus the pyramids are a hundred fathoms high; and these hundred fathoms are equal to a furlong of six hundred feet, the fathom being measured as six feet or four cubits, the feet being four palms each, and the cubits six. The water in the lake does not come from the place where it is, for the country there is very deficient in water, but it has been brought thither from the Nile by a canal: and for six months the water flows into the lake, and for six months out into the Nile again; and whenever it flows out, then for the six months it brings into the royal treasury a talent of silver a day from the fish which are caught, and twenty pounds when the water comes in.

Comments are closed.