Wonders of the Ancient World

The Mausoleum at Hallicarnassus

Commissioned by Artemisia II of Caria, the Mausoleum was built in honour of her dead husband Mausolus. The sides of the temple were adorned with reliefs by the greatest Greek sculptors of the day: Leochares, Bryaxis, Scopas and Timotheus. The top housed a great bronze chariot that contained statues of Artemisia and Mausolus himself.

The Necropolis of Giza

Situated on the Giza plateau, just outside Cairo, the Giza Necropolis is still home to two of the most iconic images of Ancient Egypt, the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx. The Great Pyramid was the oldest of the ancient wonders of the world and is the only one that still stands today.

The Pharos of Alexandria

The Pharos, or lighthouse, of Alexandria was built sometime between 280BC and 247BC and commissioned by Ptolemy I. According to legend, its light could be seen 100 miles out to sea and the light itself was created using a giant mirror that harnessed the rays of the sun and could be used to burn enemy ships.

The Oracle of Amun-Re

Located near the Egyptian border with Libya, the walls of the temple of Amun-Re still stand to this day. In order to reach the temple travellers had to cross a vast and dangerous desert and there are many legends about whole armies disappearing beneath the sands before they could reach it.


Stonehenge has always been shrouded in mystery. Standing alone on the plains of Wiltshire in southern England, the huge standing stones are thought to have been erected sometime between 3000BC and 2000BC. As little archaeological evidence has been found, historians have been unable to conclusively define exactly how it was built and what it was used for.

The Dolmens of Karnag

The village of Carnac in Brittany, France, is home to one of the most impressive megalithic sites in the world. Standing stones and dolmens cover a huge area and a number of theories have been put forward to explain the precise positions of these huge lumps of stone. Some believe that the standing stones map the stars in the night sky, while others argue that the dolmens may have been ancient earthquake detectors.

The Great City of Babylon

The great city of Babylon was home to some impressive architecture. There was the huge Ishtar Gate, an ancient wonder until it was replaced by the Pharos, the Ziggurat of Marduk, an impressive temple precinct in the heart of the city; and, last but not least, the legendary Hanging Gardens.

The Necropolis of Rostam

This impressive temple complex is hewn from the mountain itself and is thought to be the final resting place of the Persian kings Darius I the Great, Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I, and Darius II. The site is also home to some impressive reliefs, the oldest of which dates back to 1000 BC and is thought to have given the site its name, Naqsh-e Rostam or Picture of Rostam.

The Bam Citadel

The Bam Citadel is located in modern day Iran and was the largest sand and clay structure in the world until it was devastated by an earthquake in 2003. A marvel of architecture and engineering, it even had a very early form of air conditioning. Large towers caught the wind and funnelled it down into the buildings below.

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia

The Statue of Zeus was said to be thirteen metres tall, made of ivory and gold, and sculptured by The Great Pheidias, considered by many to be the finest sculptor of the classical world. It is said that Pheidias immortalised his lover Pantarkes by carving "Pantarkes kalos" into Zeus’ little finger.

The Colossus of Rhodes

The Colossus of Rhodes was a giant bronze statue constructed to commemorate the Rhodian victory against Antigonus I, ruler of Cyprus. A representation of the sun god Helios, it stood over thirty metres high, but not astride the harbour as has been suggested. It is thought to have fallen during an earthquake in 226BC. The broken chunks of statue were eventually sold off as scrap metal some 800 years later.

The Sanctuary of the Great Gods

Located on the island of Samothrace off the coast of Greece, the Sanctuary of the Great Gods was home to a strange religion known as the Eleusinian Mysteries. The Spartan leader, Lysander, the historian Herodotus, and King Philip II of Macedon, who met his future wife and mother of his son Alexander the Great at the site, were all initiates of the mysteries.

Mount Olympus

Mount Olympus is the tallest mountain in Greece and according to legend was the home of the gods. It was here that Zeus held court and toyed with the lives and fates of mortal men. The great thrones on which Zeus and Queen Hera sat were made by their son Hephaestus, the crippled smith god who also made Zeus’ lightning bolts.

Mount Damavand

Mount Damavand is located in the Alborz mountain range and is the highest peak in Iran. Its impressive height and volcanic nature made it a place of magic and power in Persian mythology. According to Zoroastrian texts it was the home of the three-headed dragon Azi Dahaka, who was imprisoned there until the end of days.

Mount Behistun

Located in the Kermanshah Province of Iran, Mount Behistun is home to the Behistun Inscription. This multilingual inscription includes an autobiography of Darius the Great. As the same piece of text was translated into three different languages, Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian, it is similar to the Rosetta Stone as the key to languages thought to be lost.

Mount Etna

One of the most active volcanoes in the world, Etna, on Sicily, was the mythical location of Hephaestus’ forge, which may explain the mountain’s name, which originated from the Phoenician word ‘attuna’, meaning furnace. It was also the prison of Typhon, "the father of monsters", who was cast down by Zeus.

Mount Vesuvius

Vesuvius is perhaps the most famous volcano in the world and the only one on the European mainland to have erupted in the last hundred years. Responsible for the complete destruction of the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, the eruption of Vesuvius in 79AD killed approximately 16,000 people, including the philosopher Pliny the Elder.

The Pillars of Hercules

According to Greek legend, the Pillars of Hercules were created by Hercules himself as one of his twelve labours. Rather than waste time scaling the mountain that had once been Atlas, Hercules punched through it, so joining the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean and creating the Strait of Gibraltar.

Mount Argaeus

The Greek geographer Strabo wrote that Mount Argaeus was "The highest mountain of all… those who make the ascent say... both seas, that of Pontus and that of Issus, are visible." This huge volcano sits south of Kayseri in modern-day Turkey, and discoveries of Roman coins suggest that it last erupted in 253BC.