NEW YORK – Appearing in literature, songs, and films, these mystical sculptures, sacred religious sites, royal palaces, fortifications, ancient centers of commerce, ports, and tombs are all we have left of some of history’s most illustrious societies.
While some sites were lost for centuries, engulfed by overgrown jungles, others never fell out of use. Either way, these awe-inspiring places are sure to inspire travelers looking for adventure and a connection to the past.
As the saying goes, all roads lead to Rome, and in the Ancient World, all roads led to the . Spread out in the valley between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills, the Roman Forum was the center of the Roman Empire from about 500 B.C. to 400 A.D. All aspects of public life took place here: triumphal processions, elections, public speeches, criminal trials, gladiatorial matches, and commercial affairs. Here, Marc Anthony delivered Julius.
In the desert south of Cairo, testify to the legacy of the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt. The Pyramid of Khufu, commonly known as the Great Pyramid of Giza, is the largest of the three and the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (as well as the only one still in existence). The Great Sphinx stands guard at the entrance of the complex, which includes.
Crowning the city of Athens, the —“High City” in Greek—seems to reach up into the clouds. Built from 461-429 B.C., under the Athenian statesman Pericles, the site comprises the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Propylaea and the Erechtheion, which together recall the wealth, power, and sophistication of ancient Greece.
The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. completely destroyed the town of, burying it under molten lava and petrifying the site when it hardened. It takes some imagination to appreciate the site, which features the ruins of a meat and fish market, a bakery, the baths, Temple of Jupiter, the Basilica law courts, amphitheater, and several villas.
Located near present-day Selçuk in Izmir Province, was once the most important Greco-Roman city in the Eastern Mediterranean and one of the best-preserved ancient sites in the world. The site tells the story of a powerful trading port and sacred settlement to the cult of Artemis. It was later conquered by the Romans and became an important Christian site, where the Third Ecumenical Council declared Mary the Mother of God. Ephesus.
The ancient Nabataeans carved this incredible city into the sandstone cliffs between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea. was lost until 1812, when Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt rediscovered it, and only 15 percent of the site has actually been unearthed. What we can see today includes 800 tombs, luxurious temples, churches, and the —Petra’s most famous monument.
Yale University historian Hiram Bingham rediscovered the “Lost City of the Incas” in 1911, and the train from that snakes through the Urubamba Valley to bears his name. Machu Picchu was not actually the most significant site of the Inca Civilization, but it is the most famous today because it was untouched during the Spanish conquest of South America. It was built in the 1400s as the estate of the Incan emperor Pachacuti.
Located , Teotihuacan is the site of the most remarkable pre-Columbian pyramids in Mesoamerica. The city is pre-Aztec, but the Aztecs—who believed that the gods created the world there—named it “City of the Gods.” The city is believed to have been constructed between 100 B.C. and 250 A.D., and at the height of its power, it had a population of perhaps as many as 200,000 people.
The Great Wall of China originated in 220 B.C., when China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang joined together fortifications built to protect northern China from invasions. The majority of the wall was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), when it became the world’s largest military structure. It spans over 20,000 kilometers from Shanhaiguan in Hebei province in the east to Jiayuguan in Gansu province in the west.
A jungle city built by the Mayans, reached the height of its power in the eight century before it was mysteriously abandoned around 900 A.D. It remained engulfed by the jungle for nearly 1,000 years, unnoticed by the Spanish conquistadors searching for gold. In the late 1800s, archeologists began to uncover the massive temples once covered in stucco and painted bright red and green to honor the Mayan gods.