Wonders of the World
This is a small series of books, under the general editorship of Mary Beard, that focuses on some of the world’s most famous sites or monuments.
Below is a list of in-print works in this collection, presented in series order or publication order as applicable.
The Alhambra is the only Muslim palace to have survived since the Middle Ages and has long been a byword for exotic and melancholy beauty. In his absorbing new book, Robert Irwin, Arabist and novelist, examines its history and allure.
Westminster Abbey is the most complex church in existence. This is both an appreciation of an architectural masterpiece and an exploration of the building’s shifting meanings. We hear the voices of those who have described its forms, moods, and ceremonies, from Shakespeare and Voltaire to Dickens and Henry James; we see how rulers have made use of it, from medieval kings to modern prime ministers.
The Temple of Jerusalem
It was destroyed nearly 2,000 years ago, and yet the Temple of Jerusalem—cultural memory, symbol, and site—remains one of the most powerful, and most contested, buildings in the world. This glorious structure, imagined and re-imagined, reconsidered and reinterpreted again and again over two millennia, emerges in all its historical, cultural, and religious significance in Simon Goldhill’s account.
The history of the Colosseum is, in reality, much stranger than the legend. In this engaging book, we learn the details of how the arena was built and at what cost; we meet the emperors who sometimes fought in gladiatorial games; and we take measure of the audience who reveled in, or opposed, these games. The authors also trace the strange afterlife of the monument.
The Tomb of Agamemnon
Mycenae, the fabled city of Homer’s King Agamemnon, leapt into the headlines in the late nineteenth century when Heinrich Schliemann announced that he had opened the Tomb of Agamemnon and found the body of the hero smothered in gold treasure. In this book, historian of science Cathy Gere tells the story of these extraordinary ruins.
The Rosetta Stone and the Rebirth of Ancient Egypt
The Rosetta Stone is one of the world’s great wonders, attracting awed pilgrims by the tens of thousands each year. This book tells the Stone’s story, from its discovery by Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt to its current—and controversial—status as the single most visited object on display in the British Museum.
Built by the decree of Constantine, rebuilt by some of the most distinguished architects in Renaissance Italy, emulated by Hitler’s architect in his vision for Germania, immortalized on film by Fellini, and fictionalized by a modern American bestseller, St. Peter’s is the most recognizable church in the world. This book covers the social, political, and architectural history of the church from the fourth century to the present.
The Forbidden City
The Forbidden City (Zijin Cheng) lying at the heart of Beijing formed the hub of the Celestial Empire for five centuries. Over the past century it has been celebrated and excoriated as a symbol of all that was magnificent and terrible in dynastic China’s legacy. In this book, Geremie Barmé provides a new and original history of the culture, politics, and architecture of the Forbidden City.
The meaning of the Taj Mahal, the perceptions and responses it prompts, ideas about the building and the history that shape them: these form the subject of Giles Tillotson’s book. More than a richly illustrated history, this book is an eloquent meditation on the place of the Taj Mahal in the cultural imagination of India and the wider world.
Rosemary Hill guides the reader on a tour of Stonehenge in all its cultural contexts, as a monument to many things—to Renaissance Humanism, Romantic despair, Victorian enterprise, and English Radicalism.
Piazza San Marco
The Piazza San Marco, one of the most famous and instantly recognizable townscapes in the West, if not the world, has been described as a stage set, as Europe’s drawing room, as a painter’s canvas. This book traces the changing shape and function of the piazza, from its beginnings in the ninth century to its present day ubiquity in the Venetian, European, as well as global imagination.
The Roman Forum
One of the most visited sites in Italy, the Roman Forum is also one of the best-known wonders of the Roman world. David Watkin sheds completely new light on the Forum, examining the roles of the ancient remains while revealing what exactly the standing structures embody—including the rarely studied medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque churches, as well as the nearby monuments that have important histories of their own.
The Parthenon, Revised Edition
This book conducts readers through the storied past and towering presence of the most famous building in the world. In this revised version of her classic study, Mary Beard now includes the story of the long-awaited new museum opened in 2009 to display the sculptures from the building that still remain in Greece, as well as the controversies that have surrounded it, and asks whether it makes a difference to the “Elgin Marble debate.”
The cataclysm that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum in AD 79 continues to fascinate nearly two thousand years later. Darley’s meditation on a powerful natural wonder touches on pagan beliefs, vulcanology, and travel writing, as it sifts through the ashes of Vesuvius to expose changes in our understanding of cultural and natural environments.
The Buddhas of Bamiyan
For 1,400 years, two colossal Buddhas overlooked the Bamiyan Valley on the Silk Road in Afghanistan. The Buddhas embodied the intersection of East and West, and their destruction by the Taliban in 2001 provoked international outrage. Morgan excavates the layers of meaning these vanished wonders hold for a fractured Afghanistan.