Review: The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by Bettany Hughes

Posted February 9, 2024 by Stephanie in 4 Stars, Ancient History, History, Nonfiction, Review / 9 Comments

Title: The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
Author: Bettany Hughes
Publication: January 18, 2024 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Genre: Nonfiction, Ancient History
Find it on: Amazon | Apple Books | Barnes & Noble | Blackwell’s | Google Play | Kobo | Waterstones
Rating: 4/5★

‘This is an entrancing book, at once a love letter to the ancient world and a learned introduction to some of the most astonishing feats of imagination and engineering in human history.’
Dan Jones, author of Powers and Thrones; A New History of the Middle Ages

Their names still echo down the ages: The Great Pyramid at Giza. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The Temple of Artemis. The statue of Zeus at Olympia. The mausoleum of Halikarnassos. The Colossus at Rhodes. The Lighthouse of Alexandria. The Seven Wonders of the World were staggeringly audacious impositions on our planet. They were also brilliant adventures of the mind, test cases of the reaches of human imagination. Now only the pyramid remains, yet the scale and majesty of these seven wonders still enthral us today.

In a thrilling, colourful narrative enriched with the latest archaeological discoveries, bestselling historian Bettany Hughes walks through the landscapes of both ancient and modern time; on a journey whose purpose is to ask why we wonder, why we create, why we choose to remember the wonder of others. She explores traces of the Wonders themselves, and the traces they have left in history. A majestic work of historical storytelling, The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World reinforces the exciting, and nourishing, notion that humans can make the impossible happen.

 

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World was one of my most anticipated books of 2024. I felt really lucky that the release date was in January because the wait would’ve been horrible. It’s only my second book by Bettany Hughes (the first one being her book on Venus and Aphrodite which I also highly recommend) but it didn’t came as a surprise that I ended up loving the book. I already knew what the seven wonders of the ancient world were but I had never actually come across a book about them until now. It was really amazing to read about all of these wonders. I often ended up reading past my bedtime because I just needed to finish the chapter I was in. I just love ancient history so damn much!

The seven wonders of the ancient world were: the Great Pyramid at Giza in Egypt, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in Iraq, the Temple of Artemis in Turkey, the statue of Zeus at Olympia in Greece, the mausoleum of Halikarnassos in Turkey, the Colossus at Rhodes in Greece and the Lighthouse of Alexandria in Egypt. Only the Great Pyramid is still standing but we do know where the other wonders would’ve been located. I knew about all seven of these wonders but aside from the Great Pyramid at Giza I didn’t know too much about them or their intricate histories. This is why I’m so glad that Bettany Hughes wrote this book and did a deep dive about them. She even visited all of the places where the wonders are (the Great Pyramid) and would’ve been (the others) located.

Initially I would’ve thought that the Great Pyramid at Giza or the Lighthouse of Alexandria would be my favorites to read about since I’m a huge Egyptophile but the chapter on the mausoleum of Halikarnassos ended up being my favorite. This came as a surprise but the history of the mausoleum and the dynasty that build it was very fascinating. Now all I want to do is find more literature about it. Second place would go to the Temple of Artemis. It was also super interesting to read and learn more about. I could clearly go on like this but yes, those two chapters definitely stood out to me. Another thing I loved was learning that Alexander the Great visited all of these seven wonders in his short but frenzied life. Quite a feat, if you ask me!

Needless to say, you could really tell that the author did amazing research. In the book it was mentioned, if I remember correctly, that she was writing the book in 2019 but she also visited the various sites where the wonders would’ve been. The descriptions is what makes this book really stand out because I could absolutely imagine all of the wonders in my mind’s eye even though there are only artistic renderings of them (aside from the Great Pyramid, of course). The only reason why I didn’t give it an extra star and make it a 5 star rating is that some chapters could be quite dense with not always the easiest words used. Even for me, who’s been reading nonfiction like this for years it sometimes became a little heavy. Other than that I have no negative remarks at all.

Overall, The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by Bettany Hughes was quite a riveting ride. I loved learning about all of these wonders and it made me wish that almost all of them hadn’t been destroyed by earthquakes and fires. It was amazingly written, full of marvelous tidbits and facts about the ancient hellenistic world. I already know this will end up on my favorite books of 2024 list!

 
 

The seven wonders of the ancient world desgined by Dutch artist Maarten van Heemskerck and engraved by Dutch publisher Philip Galle in 1572:

 

The Great Pyramid of Giza | The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

 

The Temple of Artemis | The Statue of Zeus at Olympia

 

The Mausoleum of Halikarnassos | The Colossus of Rhodes

 

The Lighthouse of Alexandria

 
 
 
 

9 responses to “Review: The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by Bettany Hughes

  1. Thank you for the review. I think I have to buy this book, and probably her other book as well. I have seen the pyramids, and visited Alexandria. Of course you don’t see the lighthouse these days, but it is a great city. I have also visited Olympia, and would have loved to see the Zeus statue. Still a few places remain to be visited.

  2. I’m really looking forward to this one and learning about the Seven Wonders! It’s amazing how much we know about places that haven’t been around in so long.

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