Built: About 457 B.C.
Location: Ancient Greek city of Olympia
History: In about 450 B.C., the city of Olympia where the first Olympic Games were held in 776 B.C. -- built a temple to honor the god Zeus.
Many considered the Doric-style temple too simple, so a lavish 40-foot statue of Zeus was commissioned for inside. Athenian sculptor Phidias created an ivory Zeus seated on a throne, draped in a gold robe. Zeus had a wreath around his head and held a figure of his messenger Nike in his right hand, and a scepter in his left.
Eventually, wealthy Greeks decided to move the statue to a palace in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul, Turkey). Their effort prolonged its life, as fire later devastated the Olympia temple. However, the new location couldn't keep Zeus eternally safe: a severe fire destroyed the statue in 462 A.D.
All that remains in Olympia are the temple's fallen columns and the foundation of the building.
Built: About 270 B.C.
Location: On ancient island of Pharos in harbor of Alexandria, Egypt
History: Upon its completion, the Alexandria lighthouse -- commonly estimated to have been about 400 feet high -- was one of the tallest structures on Earth. The Greek architect Sostratus designed it during the reign of King Ptolemy II. The Pharos guided sailors into the city harbor for 1,500 years and was the last of the six lost wonders to disappear. Earthquakes toppled it in the 14th century A.D. An Arab traveler made notes in 1166 that provide intricate details on the structure. From his writing, archaeologists have deduced that the lighthouse was constructed in three stages. At the top, a mirror reflected sunlight during the day, and a fire guided sailors at night. The structure was so famous that the word "pharos" came to mean lighthouse in French, Italian and Spanish.
In November 1996, a team of divers searching the Mediterranean Sea claimed to have found the ruins of the fabled lighthouse of Pharos.
Built: About 600 B.C.
Location: In Babylon near modern-day Baghdad, Iraq
History: These gardens -- which may be only a fable -- are said to have been laid out on a brick terrace by King Nebuchadnezzar II for one of his wives. According to the writings of a Babylonian priest, they were approximately 400 feet square and 75 feet above the ground. His account says slaves working in shifts turned screws to lift water from the nearby Euphrates River to irrigate the trees, shrubs and flowers.
Built: About 550 B.C.
Location: In Greek city of Ephesus, on west coast of modern Turkey
History: The great Ionian city of Ephesus was chosen as the site for one of the largest and most complex temples built in ancient times. The Temple of Artemis (Diana) had a marble sanctuary and a tile-covered wooden roof.
Conceived by architect Chersiphron and his son, Metagenes, the temple's inner space featured a double row of at least 106 columns, each believed to be 40 to 60 feet high. The foundation was approximately 200 feet by 400 feet.
The original temple burned in 356 B.C. and was rebuilt on the same foundation. Fire devastated the second temple in 262 A.D., but its foundation and some debris have survived. The British Museum in London counts some of the second temple's sculptures among its treasures.
Built: From about 2700 to 2500 B.C.
Location: Giza, Egypt, on west bank of Nile River near Cairo
History: The Egyptian Pyramids are the oldest and only surviving member of the ancient wonders. Of the 10 pyramids at Giza, the first three are held in the highest regard. The first, and largest, was erected for the Pharaoh Khufu. Known as the Great Pyramid, it rises about 450 feet (having lost about 30 feet off the top over the years) and covers 13 acres. It's believed to have taken thousands of laborers about 10-20 years to build the mammoth Khufu pyramid, using an estimated 2.3 million blocks. By one theory, crews dragged or pushed limestone blocks up mud-slicked ramps to construct the royal tombs.
Many scholars think the pyramid shape was an important religious statement for the Egyptians, perhaps symbolizing the slanting rays of the sun. Some speculate the sloping sides were intended to help the soul of the king climb to the sky and join the gods.
Built: About 353 B.C.
Location: In what is now southwestern Turkey
History: This enormous white marble tomb was built to hold the remains of Mausolus, a provincial king in the Persian Empire, and his wife, Artemisia. Greek architects Satyrus and Pythius designed the approximately 135-foot-high tomb, and four famous Grecian sculptors added an ornamental frieze (decorated band) around its exterior.
Word of the grandeur of the finished structure spread though the ancient world, and the word "mausoleum" came to represent any large tomb.
The monument was damaged by an earthquake in the early 15th century and eventually disassembled. Only the foundation and some pieces remain. The British Museum in London has several of the mausoleum's sculptures.
Built: Early 200s B.C.
Location: Near harbor of Rhodes, a Greek island in Aegean Sea
History: The Greek sculptor Chares and his shop worked 12 years to build a giant bronze statue in honor of the sun god Helios. The statue, celebrating the unity of Rhodes' three city-states, is believed to have stood on a promontory overlooking the water.
At approximately 120 feet, the bronze Colossus stood almost as high as the Statue of Liberty in the United States. Interior stone blocks and iron bars supported the hollow statue. Just 56 years after it was built, a strong earthquake destroyed it.