Alfred Duff Cooper
As phrases they are familiar: the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, the seven wonders of the ancient world, the twelve labours of Hercules . . . But how easy is it to name the horsemen? Whose was the apocalyptic vision? Why seven wonders? And who challenged Hercules to clean up the Augean stables? This irresistible book takes us from the three sons of Adam and Eve to the twelve signs of the zodiac in sixty culturally significant lists, backed up with a wealth of information and anecdote about each one, to educate, amuse and entertain.
In all the chosen lists, the number is key to its significance. The attribution of mystical or sacred properties to numbers has a long history: in the ancient Greek world the Pythagoreans claimed that the entire cosmos was made of numbers, while the early Christians especially venerated the numbers three, seven, ten and twelve. For this delightful book, however, the lists are culled from the wider worlds of mythology, religion, literature, science, history, art and music. They include the four assassinated presidents of the United States and the six flavours of quarks as well as the 'seven against Thebes' and the nine worthies. While the six wives of Henry VIII bear witness to the lethal politics of an age, the seven voyages of Sinbad the Sailor provide a charming fairy-tale interlude. An invaluable source of reference, the ideal companion to quizzing and parlour games, What Are the Seven Wonders of the World? is a hugely stimulating treasury of facts and fun.