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Useful Notes / Seven Wonders of the World

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The Seven Wonders of the World are lists of the seven most amazing things on Earth — as in, things mankind has created that are considered examples of our greatest feats. Can be considered as Real Life listings of humanity’s Moments of Awesome. Many of the Wonders have become iconic images across the World today and so show up often in fiction as well; they are often destroyed, animated or stolen. Some can even be considered to be Trope Makers on their own.

Why seven things? It's just tradition; the first list, made thousands of years ago, had seven items. Some lists have "honorary mentions" making them actually longer.

The first lists are now referred to as the Seven Wonders Of The Ancient World, compiled by Herodotus (484 – ca. 425 BC), and the scholar Callimachus of Cyrene (ca. 305 – 240 BC) at the Museum of Alexandria. The original term was actually Seven Sights of the World. No copy of either of their writings on these lists have survived, but they were referenced by many other figures in the Middle Ages, allowing us to know to this day the monuments that figured on the lists. They listed the following:

  • The Great Pyramid of Giza (still standing)
  • The Hanging Gardens of Babylon (said to be destroyed sometimes after 1st century AD by an earthquake, see note)note 
  • The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (destroyed in 356 BC by arson by the Greek Herostratus, who did it solely to get his name into the history books; a reconstructed version was destroyed by Goths by 268 AD)
  • The Statue of Zeus at Olympia (removed to Constantinople, where it was destroyed in a fire c. AD 400)
  • The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (destroyed by an earthquake around 12th to 15th Century AD)
  • The Colossus of Rhodes (destroyed by an earthquake in 226 BC, the ruined statue was later melted down and sold for scrap in AD 653)
  • The Lighthouse of Alexandria / The Ishtar Gate (destroyed by an earthquake in 1303/ destroyed sometime after 1st century AD by an earthquake)note 

Of these, only The Great Pyramid still stands today. The Ishtar Gate was excavated in 1902 and it has been partially rebuilt at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

It's not rare in fiction (or Real Life) for something to be declared great by being given the title of "Eighth Wonder of the World". Though, if one were to get technical, the eighth spot is already taken by the Lighthouse of Alexandria. Also note that the lists are not in order of importance.

There are many other examples. Making up Lists of Seven Wonders of (whatever) with real or fictional items, is popular in itself. Many groups and organizations have formed lists of Seven Wonders of the Medieval/Modern/Natural world, though none of them are held as "official" the way the list of Wonders of the Ancient World is. The Other Wiki has a compilation of various famous lists of wonders.

Related Tropes:

  • Briefer Than They Think: All Seven Wonders existed simultaneously for less than sixty years. And that's only if you count the reconstructed post-Herostratus version of the Temple of Artemis. If not, the Seven Wonders wouldn't exist simultaneously at all.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: Some of the Wonders of the World, particularly the Great Pyramids (the only surviving one) are often used as part of an Establishing Shot to let audience know where (and, for the no-longer-extant ones, when) the story is taking place.
  • Landmark of Lore: The Seven Wonders are famous and emotionally resonant, so using them for this purpose in fiction often makes dramatic sense.
  • Living Statue: If it looks human, one of the Wonders will be shown talking or moving in SOME story — the Colossus of Rhodes, for example, is an early Boss Battle in God of War II, and the Disney Hercules movie has Zeus talking through the statue of himself
  • Monumental Damage: They all got damaged or destroyed eventually.
  • Monumental Theft: They get stolen often in cartoons, especially ones that really just want to explain them.
  • Older Than Feudalism: The original 'canonical' list of seven was defined in a poem by the Greek-speaking epigrammist Antipater of Sidon around 140 BC.
  • Rule of Cool, applied to Real Life.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Very much so. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon may not have even existed. With the exception of the Great Pyramid, none of the Wonders survived long enough to be studied by anyone resembling an archaeologist, so that is somewhat inevitable.note