Seven Wonders and 100 books

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (from left to right, top to bottom): Great Pyramid of Giza, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria as depicted by 16th-century Dutch artist Marten Heemskerk. (Image source: Wikipedia)

I was reading an article the other day which mentioned the Seven Wonders of the World. Which got me to wondering what that list includes. And why seven?

It seems it all started in Ancient Greece,  where the first lists (now known as “The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World”) were compiled by the historian Herodotus and the scholar Callimachus. What their list(s) served as was an early version of the travel guidebook. Yes, apparently there were tourists back in Ancient Greece too. But obviously because of the limitations to travelling in those times, they generally visited areas around the Mediterranean.  So why seven? Well, seven was for the Ancient Greeks a representation of perfection and plenty.

Obviously as the world’s population grew and scattered, they discovered and built new wonders. And so today there is not only one list of seven, but several: The Seven Wonders of the Medieval World, The Seven Wonders of the Natural World, The Seven Wonders of the Underwater World, The Seven Wonders of the Modern World etc. Mostly they stuck with the number seven.  I guess it sounded like a catchy title?!

It seems though that like with most things, humans just can’t agree on things, and there are debates about which seven of whatever belongs on the list. Even the Ancient Greeks couldn’t agree on their list. My question is: Why don’t they just put them ALL on the list, and stop calling them “The Seven Wonders of . . .”? Or is this just a too simplistic solution? It can be done: USA Today let readers vote on an eighth wonder for their list, and Ronald W. Clark went with 52 (for the number of weeks in a year) for his book on Wonders of the World.

It reminds me of the “100 books you need to read before you die” (I can’t remember the exact title) list I came across recently.  Not only do I wonder who decides on the list, but does this mean that when new wonderful and relevant books are written, we need to drop some off the list? Why not have a “List of Wonderful Books” . . . and say that if you read any 100 of these by the time you die you’ve done well?!


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Categories: Random


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at and (my photoblog)


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2 Comments on “Seven Wonders and 100 books”

  1. GeoRoMancer
    August 13, 2010 at 8:46 am #

    Nice photos.

    There are plenty of numbers in the world of logic, but often little logic in choosing a particular number over others.

    Why seven wonders? Maybe because it’s also a prime number? Ten is very popular nowadays amongst management gurus (10-point lists, 10-item action plans etc.). I wonder whether that’s because those guys like to count on their fingers?

    Another common “chosen number” is twelve, which at least has the advantage of having quite a lot of factors (6, 4, 3, 2), so it was popular with English carpenters. I hear 60 was much loved by the Babylonians, who used it as the base for their number system, perhaps for the same reason.

    And – what a coincidence – today is Friday the 13th! Because many Western countries believe 13 to be an unlucky number, that may be the reason that, although there are actually 13 zodiacal constellations (constellations that contain the Sun during the course of the year), Ophiuchus is the only one not counted as an astrological sign (source: ). Its symbol is a man battling a snake (quite a noble deed, really) but Ophiuchus was presumably axed to stop it being a “Devil’s Dozen”.

    Right, I’m off to get me a Baker’s Dozen (hope it won’t be a Dirty Dozen).

    • August 13, 2010 at 9:03 am #

      WOW! What a detailed response to my question. Maybe I should get you to write “guest” posts for me?! Seriously.

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