Take Inspiration from Some of History's Most Famous (and Infamous) Gifts
We're often looking for gifting inspiration, or thinking that if we could only afford it there'd be so many more gift options. So why not join us on a tour through the ages to see what gifts were given by those who were unconstrained by financial circumstances.
Hanging Gardens of Babylon
One of the seven wonders of the ancient world, they are believed to have been built by Nebuchadnezzar II as a gift to his wife, Queen Amytis. The queen came from a homeland rich in natural flora and was quite understandably unhappy with her new desert surroundings in ancient Babylon. Built to replicate the mountainous terrain of the queen's homeland, the gardens are said to have included many imported plants, some of which may have been, cedar, cypress, ebony, pomegranate, plum, rosewood, and the list goes on. What was perhaps even more remarkable than the plants was the irrigation system that included canals and fountains, used to irrigate these gardens. Quite a remarkable engineering feat for the era!
Not all gifts are well-intentioned and what would be a better example than the Trojan Horse. Built by the Greek army and presented to the city of Troy during the Trojan War, it took the army 3 days to build. Approximately thirty soldiers were hidden inside, and they were to were to open the gates of the city for the Greek Army once the gift was received. This was to trick the Trojans, as the custom was that a surrendering army would present the commander's horse to the victors.
Commissioned in 1632 and completed in 1643 by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a gift to his late wife and to serve as her, and later also his, tomb. The tomb is built of white marble inlaid with semiprecious stones and is surrounded by four forty meter (130 ft) minarets. It is just the centerpiece of a seventeen-hectare complex that also includes a guesthouse, mosque, and elaborate gardens. It is estimated that the cost of construction in modern currency would be equivalent to approximately $1,000,000,000.
What today appears as a rapidly developing modern city on the North African shore of the Mediterranean sea, was once a gift. In 1661 King Charles II was officially married to Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese princess. As part of the dowry, Charles was presented with the city of Tangier, the seven islands of Bombay, trading privileges in Brazil and the Portuguese East Indies, and 2,000,000 Portuguese crowns. In return, Portugal got British naval and military support which proved decisive in her struggles against Spain.
Commissioned yearly by Russia's Tsar's as gifts for their Tsarina's, these jewel encrusted eggs are of the most famous bejeweled gifts of all time. Each egg was unique and contained a special "surprise", usually another bejeweled trinket designed to amuse the Tsarina. From a golden hen to a silver dagger, a miniature imperial crown to a heart pendant, the surprises were certainly wide-ranging, and along with being unique, were the only requirements put forward by the tsar for the making of the eggs. Of the 69 eggs known to have been created only 57 have survived and can be found in collections worldwide. This is a gift you can still give, well, if you're willing to haggle with oligarchs and the like, that is.
Statue of Liberty
This list would not be complete without what is perhaps the most famous, albeit more recent, national gift. First conceived in 1865, but only dedicated in October of 1886, the statue is a gift from France celebrating the Union victory and subsequent abolishment of slavery. While the statue was built in France for $250,000 (Today approx. 5.7 million), the Americans were required to build the pedestal, at a cost of about $300,000 (today approx. 6.9 million). Originally it was a dull copper color, but after a few years the copper began to oxidize and took on the green color we are all familiar with. Standing tall at 305 ft this is certainly a large gift even if dwarfed by the likes of the Taj Mahal.
Since 1945 the Netherlands has presented Canada with an annual gift of tulip bulbs. This tradition was started as the Dutch's way of showing gratitude to the Canadians who sheltered their queen and princess during the war, and who helped liberate the Netherlands from the Nazis. The first year they sent 100,000 bulbs, and every year since they've been sending 20,000. The gift is presented by both the Dutch royal family and the Dutch bulb growers association. 10,000 of the bulbs are planted on the hospital grounds where the princess was born and 10,000 in Commissioners Park. A flower subscription certainly makes a great gift. However, unless the recipient is a country, may we suggest you give a little less than the Dutch like to?
After President Nixon visited China in 1972, the government of China presented the United States with a pair of giant Panda's, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing. The pandas were kept in the National Zoo in Washington D.C. and attracted millions of visitors each year. In return for this gift, the United States presented China with a pair of musk oxen known as the Goodwill Couple, or more specifically Koyuk and Tanana.
The Great Seal Bug
Otherwise known as "The Thing", it was a carved wooden seal of the United States of America with a passive listening device hidden inside. The Thing was presented to the US ambassador to the Soviet Union, W. Averell Harriman in August 1945 by the Young Pioneers of the Soviet Union, as a "gesture of friendship". It wasn't until 1951 that the device was accidentally discovered by a radio operator at the British embassy who overheard American conversations on a Soviet air force radio channel.