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DARK WONDER

There is nothing so mighty or so marvelous that the wonder it evokes does not tend to diminish in time.

—Lucretius

THE DESIGNATION OF WONDERS—like that of miracles—is a popularizing and promotional strategy raising its object to some rarefied acme of recognition. Sites of wonders, like those of miracles, attract: the seven wonders of the ancient world (a phrase familiar to all, although few can name them) were powerful creations that drew entrepreneurs, thieves, vandals, historians, and eventually archaeologists to their locations around the rim of the eastern Mediterranean. This tradition has also inspired modern writers to engage in what might be called “the seven wonders gambit”: a strategic opening to a text that appropriates old monuments in order to supplant them with new ones.

Joseph Gies begins his Wonders of the Modern World, 1966, By deferring to Antipater of Sidon, whom he

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