Researching Ancient Wonders

A (fairly idiosyncratic) Research Guide
(originally designed to accompany adult evening classes)
by Tim Parkin

(I). Some conventional sources

The Seven Wonders
If it's fact rather than fantasy you're after, it must be said that most general accounts of the Seven Wonders are rather flawed. The best book I know of in English is the collection of papers in Peter A. Clayton and Martin J. Price (eds.), The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (1988, and often reprinted), though some of the chapters are much better than others. For illustrative material, particularly the engravings of Maerten van Heemskerck (1498-1574) and Johann Fischer von Erlach (1656-1723), worth a look is J. R. Green, The Wonders of the Ancient World (Reader's Digest booklet, 1978). Of some recent interest too is J. and E. Romer, The Seven Wonders of the World: A History of the Modern Imagination (1995).
There are also a large number of video programmes available; I've yet to find one worth watching, I'm afraid.

The Greek and Roman Authors
Most of the relevant authors (Herodotus, Greek Anthology, Strabo, Diodorus, Josephus, Vitruvius, Pliny the Elder, Pausanias, etc.) are available in the Loeb Classical Library, with the original Greek or Latin text and facing English translation. (The only noteworthy exception is Philo; I can provide a translation on request). For an easier read than the Loeb, Penguin Classics have good translations of Herodotus and Pausanias (among many others), and volumes of selections from such authors as the Greek Anthology, Pliny the Elder, and Josephus.

The Pyramid(s) at Giza
Of course there is a great deal on this wonder. A useful and practical guide to the whole subject area is W. J. Murnane, The Penguin Guide to Ancient Egypt (1983) - worth taking with you to Egypt when you go! A marvellous book, well written and well illustrated (but not very portable) is John Baines and Jaromír Málek, Atlas of Ancient Egypt (1980). Specifically on the Giza pyramids, a good book is Nancy Jenkins, The Boat Beneath the Pyramid (1980). For the mystery, the best approach, I think, is by Kurt Mendelssohn, The Riddle of the Pyramids (1974). Less objective is Peter Tompkins, Secrets of the Great Pyramid (1973). And for the latest craze, Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert, The Orion Mystery (1994).

Babylon - its Walls and its Hanging Garden
An excellent introduction to Babylon, its history and ruins, is Joan Oates, Babylon (1979). On the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires (8th-6th centuries B.C.), a good and scholarly treatment may be found in The Cambridge Ancient History, 2nd edition, vol. III, part 2 (1991). For the more recent treatment of the site of Babylon, see D.J. Wiseman, Nebuchadrezzar and Babylon (1985); and A.R. George, "Babylon revisited: archaeology and philology", Antiquity 67 (Dec. 1993) 734-46. For the cuneiform inscriptions, start with Reading the Past: Cuneiform by C.B.F. Walker (1989); relevant material may be found in Royal Inscriptions and Fragments from Nippur and Babylon, ed. L. Legrain (1926), and Chronicles of Chaldaean Kings, 626-556 B.C. in the British Museum, ed. D.J. Wiseman (1956). And for Saddam Hussein's use of monumental art: Samir al-Khalil, The Monument: Art, Vulgarity and Responsibility in Iraq (1991).

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
The archaeology is covered (or rather, uncovered) by Anton Bammer, Ephesos: Stadt an Fluß und Meer (1988); Das Heiligtum der Artemis von Ephesos (1984); Die Architektur des jüngeren Artemision von Ephesos (1972). For the history of Ephesus in later times: Clive Foss, Ephesus after Antiquity: A Late Antique, Byzantine and Turkish City (1979). And for the work of Mr (and Mrs) John Turtle Wood: J.T. Wood, Discoveries at Ephesus, Including the Site and Remains of the Great Temple of Diana (1877).

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
There are many books on Olympia and the ancient Games. E.N. Gardiner, Olympia: its History and Remains (1925) is a classic. A beautiful guide is by Manolis Andronicos, Olympia - first published in 1976, it's a good photographic collection with intelligent text, often reprinted and widely available in Greece in many languages. For the temple and the art work, see Bernard Ashmole, Architect and Sculptor in Classical Greece (1972), chapters 1-3. For the statue, there is the very scholarly Josef Liegle, Der Zeus des Phidias (1952). For the size of the statue, based on the fragment of Callimachus, see R. Pfeiffer, "The measurements of the Zeus at Olympia", Journal of Hellenic Studies 61 (1941) 1-5.

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
See again Bernard Ashmole, Architect and Sculptor in Classical Greece (1972), chapter 6. The authoritative catalogue on the sculptures in the round is G.B. Waywell, The Free-Standing Sculptures of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (1978). And for all the historical background, and a detailed chapter on the Mausoleum, see Simon Hornblower, Mausolus (1982).

The Colossus at Rhodes
A well-illustrated tourist guide is A.B. Tataki, Rhodes (Athens, 1985). Highly recommended for a good read is Lawrence Durrell, Reflections on a Marine Venus (1953). For the historical circumstances surrounding the building of the Colossus, see R.M. Berthold, Rhodes in the Hellenistic Age (1984). And for an imaginative but flawed treatment of the Colossus, see the article by the sculptor Herbert Maryon, "The Colossus of Rhodes", Journal of Hellenic Studies 76 (1956) 68-86 [and note the brief reply by D.E.L. Haynes, Journal of Hellenic Studies 77 (1957) 311-12].

The Pharos or Lighthouse at Alexandria
P.M. Fraser, Ptolemaic Alexandria (3 volumes, 1972) is a monumental work of scholarship, with 3 pages of text and 15 pages of footnotes on the lighthouse! More recent and somewhat more accessible is D.I. Sly, Philo's Alexandria (1996) - not our Philo, by the way, but the Jewish Philo who lived around the time of Christ. Also worth noting is E.M. Forster, Alexandria: A History and a Guide (1922), reissued with an introduction by Lawrence Durrell (1961). Specifically on the Pharos lighthouse, the authoritative work is H. Thiersch, Pharos antike Islam und Occident: ein Beitrage zur Architekturgeschichte (1909); for the Arabic evidence, see the paper in the Proceedings of the British Academy 19 (1933) 277-92. Recent "coffee-table" style books include Jean-Yves Empereur, Alexandria Rediscovered (New York, 1998).

(II). And then there's the Internet ...

If you have access to the Internet, there are a number of sites devoted to the Seven Wonders. Some examples, for better and for worse:

General site:
Yahoo's list:
General list:

And specifically on Alexandria and its Pharos:
A good basic site on ancient Alexandria (in French):
Note also this Greek site (in English):
On the new Biblioteca Alexandrina:
Alexandria's sunken treasures (an excellent site):
Another good link re sunken treasures:
For Cleopatra and her palace, see
The Pharos:
An article by Empereur himself:
Two imaginative sites on the Pharos (in Spanish): and
And if you want to know more than you could ever want to know about lighthouses, take a look at (e.g.), including resources for teachers at

Finally, a few sites not on ancient wonders, but wonders in their own right, and potentially of enormous help to Classicists:
For EVERYTHING Roman, take a look at

A number of other useful basic sites for classicists may be found at:

Also useful is Encyclopedia Brittanica:

For searching the Web, I currently use Google: