An immersive, awe-inspiring tour of the ancient sites that kindle our imagination and afford us a glimpse into our shared history
Forty-five centuries ago, tens of thousands of workers teemed across Egypt’s Giza plateau, tirelessly heaving, chiseling, and constructing what would become the largest, tallest edifice on the planet for millennia—all for a single man, a god on earth. What would impel so early a civilization to embark on such a resource-thirsty endeavor? More importantly, what does it say about our forebears and the human will writ large?
Following the spectacular Pyramid of Giza came six more wonders of the ancient world: the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Temple of Artemis, the Statue of Zeus, the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse at Alexandria. Not all were created for the benefit of one person. Indeed, one may not have existed at all. But each came to be associated with aesthetic sublimity, ingenious engineering, and sheer, audacious magnitude, imbuing their creators and dedicatees with world-historical significance for time immemorial.
Guiding us through this fascinating history is celebrated historian Bettany Hughes, who has traveled to each of the sites to scour their ruins for clues, uncovered the latest archaeological discoveries, and brought these once breathtaking places back to vivacious, captivating life. Along the way we learn of the diverse people who built them and pilgrimaged to them, the incredible planning and design behind their seemingly flawless execution, and the spellbinding stories surrounding them—of arson, war, and love—that cemented their place in history.
These wonders persist in our minds as totems of the greatness of antiquity, but beneath the familiar images is a surprising, revelatory history. Carried by Hughes’s lyrical, engrossing voice, we begin to see the ancient world, and ourselves, in an entirely new way.
About the Author
Bettany Hughes is an award-winning historian, author and broadcaster. Her previous books (Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities; Helen of Troy: The Story Behind the Most Beautiful Woman in the World; and The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life) were published to great critical acclaim and worldwide success. Hughes has made a number of factual films and documentaries for the BBC, Channel 4, PBS, National Geographic, Discovery, The History Channel and ABC. She is a Research Fellow of King's College London and has been honoured with numerous awards including the Norton Medlicott Medal for History.
“A lively exploration of the ancient world, this fascinating book is brimming with stories of people and places, all told with Bettany’s natural sense of wonder and adventure.” —Simon Sebag Montefiore, New York Times bestselling author of The World: A Family History of Humanity
“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. It is a pleasure to wander lost realms and inspect (mostly) vanished marvels through Bettany Hughes’ bright and erudite writing.” —Dan Jones, author of Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages
“Taking us on a truly fascinating journey through the ancient world, Bettany Hughes not only rebuilds the wonders themselves in the reader’s imagination, but also vividly conjures up the culture and environment in which they existed. It is a tale of people as well as places, and I loved learning about what the wonders meant to those who built and visited them, their stories told by Bettany Hughes with trademark passion and humour.” —Elodie Harper, author of The Wolf Den
“The beginning of wisdom is wonder, so readers of Bettany Hughes’s new book are due to be wondrously wised-up as they follow in the footsteps of their Herodotean-style guide from Africa to Asia to Europe, in search of deeper appreciation of some of humanity’s greatest creations. Every page of this generously illustrated travelogue yields a treasure house of information and reflection on Egyptian, Babylonian and Greek masterworks of architecture, urban planning and sculpture.” —Paul Cartledge, author of Thebes: The Forgotten City of Ancient Greece
“Informed by careful research and enriched by inspired prose, this book is itself a wonder. Bettany Hughes has given new and powerful meaning to the ancient world’s most iconic monuments.” —James Romm, author of Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero
“A thrilling armchair journey from a very wise woman. Bettany Hughes is the eighth wonder of the world.” —Lucy Worsley, author of Jane Austen at Home: A Biography
“So vividly written that it is as if the reader is there, discovering the Seven Wonders firsthand. The stories behind them are endlessly fascinating, often surprising, and stay in the memory long after the last page has been turned. A dazzling achievement.” —Tracy Borman, author of Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story of Henry VIII’s Most Faithful Servant