This is Faith Lapidus.
And this is Steve Ember with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we present the first of three programs about some of the most interesting, beautiful and unusual places on Earth. We begin with a list of what have been called the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
People have always felt the need to create lists. Lists are records of important ideas, places, events or people. About two thousand five hundred years ago a Greek historian named Herodotus is said to have made a list of what he thought were the greatest structures in the world. His list of places became known as the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Herodotus only wrote about places he knew. He did not know much about Asia. North and South America were completely unknown. Six of these ancient places no longer exist. We can only guess what they really looked like. But here is the list of those seven ancient Wonders of the World.
|The Hanging Gardens of Babylon|
We begin with one that existed in what is now Iraq. It was called the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar the Second probably built the gardens about two thousand six hundred years ago. Ancient historians say they were a huge system of gardens with trees and flowers.
Also on this list is the Colossus of Rhodes. It was a huge bronze metal statue of the Greek sun god Helios. The Colossus was about thirty-seven meters tall. It was built near the harbor on the Greek island of Rhodes about two thousand three hundred years ago. This ancient statue was destroyed in an earthquake.
Next on our list is the statue of the Greek God Zeus in a temple at Olympia, Greece. It was the most famous statue in the ancient world. Records say it was about twelve meters tall and made of ivory and gold. An earthquake probably destroyed the temple. The statue was removed and later destroyed in a fire.
The Pharos of Alexandria was an ancient lighthouse. A fire burning on the top of the lighthouse made it easier for ships to find the great harbor of Alexandria, Egypt. Records say the lighthouse was about one hundred thirty meters tall. It stood for one thousand five hundred years before it was destroyed by an earthquake.
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus is another ancient wonder of the world. It was built to honor a Greek goddess. It was one of the largest and most complex temples built in ancient times. The temple was built in what is now Turkey about two thousand five hundred years ago.
Number six on our list was also built in what is now Turkey. It was the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. The huge marble burial place was built for King Mausolus of Caria. It was so famous that all large burial places, or tombs, became known as mausoleums. An earthquake destroyed the structure.
|The Pyramids of Egypt|
The last of the seven ancient wonders are the oldest. Yet they are the only ones that still exist today. They are the three Pyramids of Egypt, near the Nile River at Giza. The pyramids were built about four thousand five hundred years ago as burial places for ancient kings. The largest is called the Great Pyramid. It is almost one hundred forty meters high. It covers an area of more than four hectares. The Greek historian Herodotus said more than one hundred thousand men worked for more than thirty years to build the Great Pyramid. The great pyramids of Egypt will probably continue to exist for many years to come.
Now we will tell about several other ancient wonders that still exist today. We cannot tell about all of the great structures built in ancient times. There are too many. However, if Herodotus had known about the Great Wall of China we feel sure he would have included it on his list of wonders of the world.
|The Great Wall of China|
The Great Wall was begun more than two thousand years ago. It was built to keep out invaders. It extends about six thousand seven hundred kilometers across northern China. Today, the Chinese government is working to repair parts of the wall and protect as much of it as possible. The Great Wall of China is one of the largest building projects ever attempted. It is also the only object built by people that can be seen from space.
One of the oldest structures ever built by people also belongs on a list of ancient wonders. It is a circle of huge stones on the Salisbury Plain in southwestern England. It is called Stonehenge. Experts believe work began on Stonehenge about five thousand years ago. It was added to and changed several times until it became the structure we see today. We know very little about Stonehenge. We do not even know how these huge stones were moved to the area.
Some experts believe the stones were cut from solid rock about three hundred eighty kilometers away in Wales. One of the huge stones weighs as much as forty-five tons. Experts say Stonehenge may have been built as some kind of ceremonial or religious structure. Much has been written about Stonehenge, but experts say they still are not sure what it was used for.
Another famous ancient structure is the Coliseum in Rome, Italy. It was built almost two thousand years ago. The ancient Roman sports center could hold fifty thousand people who gathered there to watch public events. Experts say it is one of the finest examples of Roman design and engineering.
The city of Machu Picchu in Peru should be on most lists, too. Experts say it includes some of the best stone work ever built. The ancient Inca people built Machu Picchu high in the Andes Mountains, northwest of the city of Cuzco. Machu Picchu is about thirteen square kilometers.
Historians say it might have been one of the last places of safety for the Incas who were fleeing invaders from Spain.
India is famous for its temples and buildings. The most famous is the Taj Mahal, considered one of the most beautiful buildings every constructed. The fifth Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, ordered it built in Agra in sixteen thirty-one. He built it as a burial place in memory of his wife.
The Taj Mahal has tiny colorful stones inlaid in white marble. The structure seems to change color during different times of the day and night. Experts say it is one of the most perfect buildings ever constructed. They say nothing could be added or taken away to improve the beautiful Taj Mahal.
We will end our program today in Egypt. Any list of ancient places must include the two temples at Abu Simbel. They were built to honor an ancient king of Egypt, Ramses the Second, and his wife, Nefertari.
Abu Simbel was built more than three thousand years ago. It is about two hundred eighty kilometers south of Aswan on the western bank of the Nile River.
It took an army of workmen and artists more than thirty years to cut the huge temple into the face of a rock mountain. In front of the main temple are four huge statues of Ramses the Second. Each statue is about twenty meters high. Nearby is another temple that honors his wife, Nefertari. It too is beautifully carved out of solid rock.
The Nile River has always made life possible in the desert areas of Egypt. However the Nile also made life difficult when it flooded. The modern Egyptian government decided a dam could control the Nile to prevent both floods and lack of water. Work began on the Aswan Dam in nineteen sixty.
However, when plans were made for the dam experts quickly discovered that the great temples at Abu Simbel would be forever lost. They would be under water in the new lake formed by the dam. Egypt appealed to the United Nations agency UNESCO for help. UNESCO appealed to the world.
The governments of the world provided technical help and financial aid to save the great temples. In nineteen sixty-four work began to cut the temples away from the rock mountain. Each large piece was moved sixty meters up the mountain to a safe area. Then the huge temples were carefully rebuilt. The work was finished in nineteen sixty-eight.
Today Abu Simbel is safe. It looks much the same as it has for the past three thousand years. It will continue to honor the ancient king and his queen for many years to come. And it will honor the modern world’s efforts to save a truly great work of art.
Next week we tell about some of the natural wonders of our world. This program was written by Paul Thompson. It was produced by Mario Ritter. This is Faith Lapidus.
And this is Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.