The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: Construction, Fame, and Destruction with Helena Meskanen - Context Travel

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: Construction, Fame, and Destruction with Helena Meskanen

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The seven wonders of the ancient world were a list of ‘things to see’ in classical antiquity, but only the pyramids remain standing today. This Conversation explores the archaeology and history of the ‘wonders’, moving from construction and fame to their eventual destruction. We’ll travel far and wide: from Greece to Turkey to Egypt and beyond.

After the conquests of Alexander the Great, the world became much larger for Greek culture and influence. Stories of lands now more tightly connected circulated, and various authors began listing famous things to see, or at least to know about. Ranging from monuments built thousands of years earlier (such as the pyramids) to more recent ones (like the colossus of Rhodes) the seven ‘wonders’ were the most impressive structures and statues of their time. Together, we will explore the historical and archaeological backgrounds of these ‘wonders’, embarking on a virtual tour around the eastern Mediterranean.

Many of us have encountered lists of ‘seven wonders’ around the world, but the first one preserved to us dates from the second century BC. Antipater, a poet from Sidon, writes a short passage about seven wonderful sites he has seen. A century earlier, a now lost work “A collection of wonders in lands throughout the world” was written by a librarian at the famous library at Alexandria. What was included, and why were they chosen? We will explore each of the sites in turn, going on a journey from Greece (the statue of Zeus at Olympia and the Colossus of Rhodes), to Turkey (the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus and the temple of Artemis at Ephesus), Iraq (the hanging gardens of Babylon) and Egypt (the pyramids and the lighthouse of Alexandria). Only one of these stands tall today, for the others we will piece together the archaeological and literary evidence for what they may have looked like. We will finish the Conversation with stories of destruction and rediscovery, and where in the world you can find fragments of them today.

Led by an expert on Greek archaeology, Dr Helena Meskanen, this interactive seminar will take you on a fascinating tour of the most impressive sites of the Hellenistic world. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with a better understanding of the history and archaeological reality of these fascinating sites.

Dr Helena Meskanen is an archaeologist specialising in ancient Greece, with research focusing on ancient Spartan religion. She has been leading tours of the British Museum for 3 years and feels passionately about the wide range of objects on display, and the stories they tell about the museum and the cultures that created them.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.