Historical monuments and heritage sites are not only symbols of our histories, but also serve as a connection to the past. They are not just structures but also stories that tell us who we were, what blunders we made and what glories we achieved. Therefore, they must be protected at any cost because they are the only time machines we would ever have. The good thing is we have understood the value of these and are constantly fighting to preserve them and make them stay on longer. However, there have always been individuals or groups of people who could not care less about them and are always ready to turn the glorious monuments to dust.
Here are eight magnificent historical structures that has been destroyed by stupid, arrogant and ambitious humans.
1. Nimrud, a monument 5,500 years old destroyed by ISIS
Perhaps one of the most important monuments that have been recently destroyed by mindless humans was the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud located 30 kilometres south of the present day Mosul in Iraq.
Nimrud was the city mentioned in the first book of the Bible (Genesis 10, Calah) and thus was both historically and culturally significant. The city had been the capital of Assyria since 3500 BC and was converted into a major city 1200 years before the arrival of Christ. Archaeological excavation of the city began in 1845 and many important pieces have been discovered since. The United Kingdom funded a ‘Nimrud Project’.
But all went in vain when in the year 2014 ISIS captured Mosul. In 2015, they bulldozed, hammered and dynamited the ruins of the cultural heritage, destroying the artifacts, manuscripts and everything else because they were blasphemous under Islam. Artifacts that were moved previously to museums around the world are the only remains of Nimrud.
Video of ISIS destroying Nimrud:
2. Burning down of the Library of Alexandria
The Library of Alexandria in Alexandria, Egypt, is today a symbol of loss of cultural knowledge. The library, established in the 3rd century BC by Ptolemy I Soter, the successor of Alexander the Great, believed to have 40,000 to 4,00,000 ancient scrolls at its peak on enormous subjects collected from all over the known world of that time.
The biggest and grandest of all libraries of the ancient world was destroyed eventually, stage-by-stage, by the acts of Julius Caesar, Roman emperor Aurelian, Pope Theophilus of Alexandria and Muslim conquest of Egypt. If the library had survived, we would have so much more information about the ancient world.
3. The bombing of the Bamiyan statues
The Buddhas of Bamiyan were some of the oldest and most magnificent statues of Buddha carved by human hands. The statues were carved into the sides of a cliff in Bamiyan in Afghanistan during 4th and 5th century AD. These were the classic examples of Gandhara art.
The grand statues that survived for 1500 years through several conquests, battles and world wars, were finally dynamited over several weeks and destroyed in the year 2001 by Taliban because they were ‘idols’ and considered blasphemous under Islam.
4. Blowing up the Parthenon
The Parthenon can safely be counted among the greatest cultural monuments of the ancient world. The most important surviving symbol of old Greece and the epitome of Doric Order, the constructions of the Parthenon begun in the year 447 BC.
The magnificent building was originally a temple of Greek goddess Athena but by the end of 6th century, it was converted into a church after the populace embraced Christianity. In the 15th century, the Ottoman Turkish forces captured Athens and the Parthenon was converted into a mosque. During the Great Turkish war fought between 1683 and 1699, the Ottoman Turks decided to use the Parthenon as a gun powder magazine despite the risks. The worst happened on September 26, 1687 when a Venetian ignited the magazine, partially blowing up the monument. For a century-and-half after that, people looted the surviving objects of value from the temple.
5. The destruction of the House of Wisdom
The House of Wisdom of Baghdad, also known as Bayt al-Hikma, was the intellectual center during the golden age of Islam. Founded by Caliph Harun al-Rashid in the 9th century AD, the library at its time had the largest collection of books in the world, and scholars from different religions were allowed to study there. It was an unrivaled center to study science, humanities, medicine, geography and more.
The priceless library of unparalleled knowledge was destroyed by the Mongols when Baghdad was seized in the year 1258. It is said that the Mongols threw so many books into the Tigris river that the water ran black for several days because of the dissolved ink.
6. The conversion of Qorikancha to a Church
The most important temple of the Inca empire Qorikancha (alternatively spelt as Coricancha) had such splendor that the Spanish aggressors who captured the empire and killed the last Inca leader, Atahualpa, described it as “fabulous beyond belief”. The temple was dedicated to Inti and the walls were covered in sheets of gold. It looked mesmerizing in the light of the sun. When Spanish conquerors held Atahualpa and demanded ransom from the empire in gold, the gold from the temple was stripped to pay the ransom. The Spanish killed Atahualpa in spite of the payment of ransom, melted the gold and sent to Spain.
The invaders eventually destroyed the temple in the 16th century AD, and spent the next century building the Church of Santo Domingo on the foundation of the very temple, destroying and burying the very traces of the grand monument.
7. The ransacking of Nalanda
Located 95 kilometers away from present day Patna, Nalanda, in its peak, attracted students from various parts of the world including China, Tibet, Korea, etc. The grandeur of the university can be easily assumed from the fact that both Mahavira, founder of Jainism, and Buddha, founder of Buddhism, visited the university, and legendary historical figures of India such as the mathematicians Aryabhatta, Nagarjuna, and Dharmapala were associated with it.
Established in 5th century AD, Nalanda’s decline started with the decline of Buddhism in India. The increasing influence of Islam added to its misery and it was finally destroyed by Bakhtiyar Khilji of Mamluk Dynasty.
8. Demolishing the ruins of Palmyra
Described as ‘an oasis in the Syrian desert’ by UNESCO, the ancient city of Palmyra was first written about approximately 4000 years ago. It was a multi-cultured wealthy city which had trade connections with China and India, besides other countries.
Among the most important structures of the ancient city was the Temple of Baal, built in the year 32 AD and dedicated to Mesopotamian god Baal. As the city changed hands and Christianity and Islam invaded the culture, the temple was subsequently converted into a church and then into a mosque over the years. The mosque remained in use until the 1920. Its ruins were considered among the best preserved in the city and designated a World Heritage Site in the year 1980 by UNESCO.
The ruins of the 2,000-year-old structure was finally destroyed by ISIS in August 2015. On August 31, 2015, United Nations confirmed its destruction.
BONUS: The Great Barrier Reef
Though this is not a man-made structure, it, too, is being steadily destroyed by humans and thus needs to be mentioned.
One of nature’s seven wonders, the Great Barrier Reef is located off the coast of Queensland, northeast Australia, and is the largest structure made of living organism in the world. But due to increased pollution causing rising level and warming up of sea waters, fishing and other human activities, the reef is dying fast. Some people even believe that the reef is reaching the stage where it would be beyond repair. The reef is estimated to be 500,000 years old.