Leonard Cottrell's 1 Wonders of Antiquity (London: 1964)
is a great introduction to the subject - no easy feat for one book. Historians and archeologists, like most other disciplines, increasinly tend to specialize in ever-narrower fields of study. As a result, wide-scope surveys like Cottrell's all that seriously anymore. Monumentalism
(architectural or historical) is considered passe
in academe. Apparently, a similar smug
derision was exhibited by ancient scholars themselves when reflecting upon the Wonders:
Classical writers such as Pliny regarded all this effort (the Great Pyramids) as a ponderous exercise in futility, and some modern writers, especially the Marxist school, take the same view. It is a shallow and ignorant view, typical of the materialist age in which we live. It rests on the fallacy that the people of that remote period, nearly five thousand years ago, were basically like ourselves. We cannot imagine that thousands of workmen could be induced to build such huge and apparently useless structures unless they were slaves driven by a ruthless tyrant. (24-25)
Cottrell, in this passage, builds to a careful annihilation of the thesis that slave labour
was used to construct the Great Pyramid at Giza
. He points out, first of all, slave vs. wage labour are modern distinctions with little significance in a pre-monetary, theocratic
society. His second point is that most tales of the Pharaoh
s' cruel and callous construction projects can be traced back to one source: Herodotus
. This is problematic given the Greek historian lived about as close to Cheops
' time of pyramid-building as we do to Herodotus' ancient Athens. There was likely no small distortion given "the Greek horror of tyranny
After elaborate discussions of pyramid engineering and mathematics, the book sails on to the Lighthouse of Alexandria
, or the Pharos. Alexander the Great
arrives in Egypt roughly 2300 years after the construction of the Great Pyramid
, and although he selects a wonderful site for the city which will bear his name, he never sees the completion of the Pharos
(or indeed of the city). Construction of Alexandria itself begins on a sandy beach at a tiny fishing village, Rhakotis
, on the western branch of the Nile Delta. Off the coast is a small island, where the Lighthouse will eventually loom. Built by architect Sostratus of Cnidus
circa 240 BC, the Pharos was over 400 ft. high, with hundreds of windows and nearly 300 rooms. Its magnified firelight was said to be visible as far as 300 miles out to sea, and the lighthouse
stood reportedly until the 14th c. (though by then it had been converted into a mosque) when an earthquake sent the entire structure into the harbour. 2
Cottrell then moves on to the other wonders, lingering longer at the Colossus of Rhodes 3
than the Hanging Gardens of Babylon
, but takes the unique license of adding several other monuments which he feels would have been included in the enumeration of Philo
, including the Palace of Minos
, the Theban necropolis
, the Valley of the Kings
and the Dome of the Rock
. Each monument Cottrell surveys in its entirety, from construction to destruction.
British author and archaeologist - also a commentator, writer, and producer for the British Broadcasting Corporation
until 1960, when he retired to writing. He wrote over twenty books on history
and ancient languages, including : Bull of Minos
(1958), Realms of Gold
(1965), and Lost Civilizations
After the seizure of Alexandria
, some of the more 'colorful' Middle Eastern historians wrote the polished lens at the top of the lighthouse was so powerful it could set ships approaching the harbour ablaze with its beam, or could be used as a telescope
to check the activities of Byzantine
s going about their daily business on the streets of Constantinople
In particular, the story of the siege of Rhodes
by the Macedonian
forces under Demetrius
is given considerable ink. The island-city was only rescued from ruin at the last second by the navies of Ptolemy
's Alexandria, and in his honor the bronze statue of the sun-god, Helios
, was constructed. Cottrell also mentions tradition has it much of the material for the statues frame was supplied by the re-used pieces of the fleeing invaders' siege
Ashley, Michael. The seven wonders of the world. -- London : Fontana, 1980.
Banks, Edgar James, 1866- The seven wonders of the ancient world. -- New York : G.P. Putnam, c1916.
Clayton, Peter A. The seven wonders of the ancient world. -- New York : Routledge, 1988.
McLeish, Kenneth. The Seven Wonders of the World . -- New York : Cambridge University Press, 1989.
Romer, John. The Seven Wonders of the World : a history of the modern imagination. London : Michael O'Mara Books, 1995.