Engineering marvels every traveller should visit
Rome’s Colosseum was commissioned by the Emperor Vespasian in AD 72 on the marshy site of a lake. Here deadly gladiatorial combats and wild animal fights were staged free of charge for public viewing. While practical in design, with 80 arched entrances to allow easy access for an estimated 55,000 spectators, the Colosseum is also a building of great classical beauty.
The ‘Church of the Holy Wisdom’, Hagia Sophia is among the world’s greatest architectural achievements. More than 1400 years old, it stands as a testament to the sophistication of 6th-century Constantinople, and had a huge influence on architecture in later centuries. In the 15th century, the Ottomans converted it into a mosque: the minarets, tombs and fountains date from this period.
THE GREAT PYRAMID
Pharaoh Khufu’s pyramid, commonly called the Great Pyramid of Giza, was
built using only simple surveying tools but with such remarkable precision that the greatest difference in length between its four 230-metre-high sides is just five centimetres. The pyramid is estimated to contain more than two million stone blocks weighing on average 2.5 tonnes, with some weighing up to 15 tonnes. Although the construction methods and the purpose of some of its chambers are unknown, the architectural achievement is clear.
GREAT WALL OF CHINA
The Great Wall once snaked across the Chinese landscape, over deserts, hills and plains, for more than 8851 kilometres. Yet, despite its seemingly impregnable battlements, the wall was ultimately an ineffective barricade. In the 13th century it was breached by the ferocious onslaught of the Mongols and then in the 17th century by the Manchu. Today, its dilapidated remains crumble across the rugged terrain of northern China and only select stations have been restored.
The ‘Lost City of the Inca’ is one of the most spectacular archaeological sites in the world. Perched high on a saddle between two peaks and often shrouded in cloud, it is almost invisible from below. A site of just 20 square kilometres, it was built in 1460 by the Incan ruler Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui as a royal retreat. About 1000 people inhabited the area and they were self-sufficient, being surrounded by agricultural terraces and watered by springs.
Rising high on a rocky crag, this magnificent castle was prominent in Scottish history for centuries and remains one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture in Britain. Legend has it that King Arthur wrestled the original castle from the Saxons. The present building dates from the 15th to 16th centuries and was last defended in 1746 against the Jacobites, who were mainly Catholic Highlanders wishing to restore the Stuart monarchy to the throne.
Despite damage over the years, the Colosseum remains a majestic sight
The Great Pyramid was the tallest building in the world for thousands of years