In exploring some of the achievements and feats of the medieval world in architecture, some edifice of renowned recognition come into the spotlight. These buildings portray the cultures and tradition of ancient architectural designs that were present at that time. However, some of these notable structures are still standing and serves as places of worship, monasteries, theatres, etc. They also add beauty and splendor to the natural landscape of their environment. From the great historical wall of China to the Roman Colosseum, they all possess architectural designs that are inevitable to modern building plans. There are numerous ancient structures in the world, but here are some of the important ones.
Below are the 15 ancient structures around the world today
(Images courtesy of Wikipedia)
The Great Wall of China
Built in the third century B.C during the Ming dynasty, it was constructed to ward off attacks from intruders. This ancient structure stretches about 4,000 miles around its territories. Even though some of its original structure couldn’t stand the test of time, it was rebuilt during the reign of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. So a vast portion of its protective wall remains to this day and attracts tourists from around the world.
The Pantheon, Rome, Italy
The Pantheon was constructed from 118 A.D to 128 A.D to serve as a place of worship of the Roman gods and is still used for that purpose. The Pantheon has stood the test of time, withstanding the calamities of nature. This goes to show the building ingenuity of the ancient Romans.
The Egyptian pyramids, Giza, Egypt
The Egyptian pyramids are considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It came to be during the reign of King Khufu of the fourth dynasty to serve as a burial tomb for his household. The pyramids were built between 2700 BC and 2500 BC. The interior of the pyramids has hallways and chambers that served as places of storage for valuables. The great pyramids of Egypt with its perfect external features have stood magnificent and proud over centuries.
The Lighthouse, Alexandria, Egypt
The Alexandria lighthouse was originally built in other to guide ships along the river Nile, but eventually destroyed by earthquakes in 1303 and 1323, its initial height was said to be 600 feet tall. It was built during the Ptolemy dynasty, named after Alexander the Great who founded the city. The ancient city has come to become a great citadel of learning. According to architects, the tower’s design was an inspiration for the Arabic minaret.’ No doubt the lighthouse has had a great influence on modern-day builders and also helped in avoiding shipwrecks along its coast before its final disappearance from history.
The temple of Zeus, Olympian, Greece
The temple of Zeus, Olympian was said to be constructed in 174 B.CE, but it was not completed until the reign of Emperor Hadrian in 131 CE. Also known as the Olympieion, it was stipulated to be among the tallest buildings in the world then.
The temple of Zeus has the imposing statue of the god Zeus. He is said to be the greatest of the Olympian gods and as a supreme god compared to the other gods. People believe that the famous Athenian sculptor Phidias created it. Another belief is that he also sculptured the Pantheon in Rome. The statue was sculptured with gold and ivory, at both sides of the Sphinx.
The Roman Baths
The Roman baths is a place of historical value in the city of Bath, England. The Romans built it during their invasion of England. After they withdrew from the city of Bath, the Roman baths ceased to exist because of neglect. In those days, the Romans used it as a place of bathing, relaxation and social interaction because they took bathing as part of their daily routine and ritual. They also considered the baths as places of worship. The Roman baths which were constructed during the conquest of England have steamers, changing rooms, and plunge pools.
In some cases, the elites had baths constructed for their private use. The public baths had to separate walls for males and females, and the female bathing rooms were smaller compared to the bathing rooms for the males. The baths were considered as a venue for the elites to conclude business deals and also to enact courtship between the elites.
The Great Sphinx, Giza, Egypt
The Great Sphinx is also known as the granite temple is located near the west bank of the river Nile, its diminishing stature facing west and east. It is said to have been built by King Khafre during the fourth dynasty. The great Sphinx has the face of a man and the body of a lion. Certain theories which are not in agreement by different archaeologists have surfaced since its discovery. Some argue that it was built by the half brother of King Khufu. Others claim that King Khafre built it since it is adjacent to the building of the pyramids. All the same, it is a great work of architectural ingenuity of the ancient world.
The Taj Mahal which is considered to be one of UNESCO World Heritage monuments was built on the order of the emperor Shah Jahan in 1631 AD and completed in 1648 AD in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. This building is situated at the bank of the Yamuna river. According to sources, the emperor had the best architects of his time to construct it. Its outer clusters were built later on and eventually finished in 1653 AD. The outer surface is embellished with white marble. The horticulture scenery of this edifice creates an ambiance of peace for visitors and a gigantic prayer hall for religious enthusiasts. It is still in perfect condition, unlike other ancient structures which have gradually lost their prominence to nature, neglect, etc. The exquisite beauty and splendor of the Taj Mahal is indeed a standing structure that showcases the rich architectural art/design of old.
Church of Nativity, Bethlehem, Isreal
The church of nativity which is also known as the Basilica of the Nativity or Nativity Grotto is said to be the birthplace of Jesus who is seen as the founder of Christianity. The church of nativity is situated at Bethlehem in the West Bank. Presently it accommodates three monasteries which serve as worship centers for Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, and Roman Catholic. It also serves as the oldest place of worship in Christianity that is still in use. It is said to have been built in 327 during the reign of Constantine the Great, and a basilica was eventually built by Byzantine who refurbished the designs of the previous one. However, it has gone through many refurbishments, and additional buildings have been put in place and extended covering about 12,000 square meters. The Church of Nativity appeared among the UNESCO world heritage sites in 2012 following a majority vote of thirteen over six in a secret voting system headed by Sue Williams. This is despite the controversy that is associated with the true ownership of the site by the Palestinian and Isreali government.
The Temple of Baalbek, Lebanon
Located in what is now present-day Lebanon, the temple of Baalbek which is in ruins was a colossal structure that was dedicated to the Phoenician gods Astarte and Baal. History has it that Alexander the Great conquered the city [Baalbek] in 334 BCE and changed its name to Heliopolis which means the city of the sun. After it became a colony of Rome during the reign of Pompey the Great, the city was reconstructed with new roads, walkways, and aqueducts and they even erected a temple of Jupiter Baal. It was a site for pilgrimage before Christianity was introduced by Constantine the Great. People say that the temple of Baalbek is larger and the pillars heavier than the Parthenon of Athens. Under Muslim rule, the city was renamed Al Qalaa. Following the tussle of ownership of the city, the Ottoman empire which was the last of the list of conquest seekers left the city dilapidated without repairs. It remained until 1898 when Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany visited the city accompanied by external bodies which sent a delegation of archaeologists to restore its physical conditions.
The Stonehedge, England
The Stonehedge is located in Wiltshire, England. There is limited information on how these monoliths structures came to be at that particular place and its purpose. Records have it to be 5,000 years old and have hundreds of tumulus or burial molds. So, history carried that it was a burial place. Archaeologists hold the belief that it was built around 3000 BC to 2000 BC during the Neolithic period. Each of the stones measures up to 4.1 meters high and 2.1 meters wide. Several historians, geologists, and archaeologists have conflicting comments on this structure. Some argue that it was done with the help of magic by the magician Merlin during the reign of King Arthur Pendragon. People believed it until much later when excavations and more research were done, and they discovered signs of cremation.
The hanging gardens of Babylon, Iraq
The hanging gardens of Babylon are said to be among the seven wonders of the ancient world although its origin is said to be poetic or imaginary because it didn’t appear in earlier texts. It was said that King Nebuchadnezzar II had the hanging gardens erected for his Median wife because she longed for the flowery surroundings of her homeland. The structure was built on a high platform with bricks and was irrigated by the Euphrates river. The hanging gardens of Babylon are the only structure among the seven wonders of the world whose original location and existence has not been established and is still in contention even Herodotus did not make mention of it in his writings.
Temple of Artemis, Ephesus, Turkey
People also refer to the temple of Artemis as the temple of Diana. A Greek god who is believed to be the twin of Apollos was built in the 6th century BCE. Also, it is amongst the Seven Wonders of the World. It was engulfed in fire in a deliberate act of arson by Herostratus who was eventually sentenced to death and his name forbidden from being mentioned.
Records have it that the burning of the temple of Artemis also coincided with the birth of Alexander the Great. So upon emergence as king, he offered to rebuild the temple, but his offer was politely and firmly rejected by the Ephesians. The temple was later rebuilt in the 4th century BCE. It was destroyed by Christain faithful upon the introduction of Christianity in Ephesus. Presently only a lone pillar/column with misplaced fragments of the once elegant and great building of the goddess Artemis can be seen.
Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, Bodrum, Turkey
Mausoleum at Halicarnassus also known as the tomb of Mausolus was originally a tomb built during 353 and 350 BC. Halicarnassus was once the stronghold of the region of Caria. After the demise of the King Hecatomnus of Milas, the rulership of the kingdom was transferred to his son Mausolus. The tomb was said to have been built by his sister who later became his wife and successor Artemisia II although it was initially planned by Mausolus. According to sources, the structure was squarelike and was supported by 36 pillars. Its outer appearance is polished with white marble. It was situated right in the city center. The building had features of Greek, Egyptian architectural designs because Artemisia employed the services of the best architects available to erect the Mausoleum but she did not live to see its completion. She died two years after the death of her husband, and both were buried together in the tomb. The mausoleum was said to have been destroyed following an earthquake in the 15th century CE. Remnants of the mausoleum can be seen at the British Museum which was excavated by a British archaeologist named Charles Newton. So thus originated the word mausoleum from the name Mausolus which is used to describe a house like kind of tomb.
Colossus of Rhodes, Rhodes Island, Greece
The Colossus of Rhodes was a statue erected to honor the Greek sun god Helios who was believed to have given them victory when their city was besieged by Demetrius I of Macedon. It was made of bronze and plastered with iron, and it was sculptured by Chares of Lyndus. The Colossus of Rhodes was constructed from 294-282 BCE. It collapsed in 224 AD following an earthquake, and its remains were sold at cheap rates to a Jewish merchant by Arabian forces when they raided the city of Rhodes in 654 CE. Some say that the Colossus of Rhodes is synonymous to the Statue of Liberty in the United States.
The ancient world no doubt has a lot on the architectural design of this age, ranging from the Pyramids of Egypt to the Statue of Zeus. They all show the architectural ingenuity that was associated at that time. These structure has held generations spellbound while deciphering some of the mysteries of the ancient world.