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The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

on 03/07/2013

The Tomb of King Mausolus of Caria in Asia Minor made a powerful impression on the minds of the people of the ancient Mediterranean.

Mausoleum of Mausolos one of the 7 ancient Wonders of the World

King Mausolus was the son of Hecatomnus (r.377-353 BC), who ruled the Caria on the Mediterranean coast of Asia Minor (Anatolia, Turkey) as vassal or ‘satrap’ of the Persian empire. Mausolus ascended the throne after his fathers death in 377 BC.

Started to remodel and expand his kingdom along Hellenic lines, adopting Greek culture and language and even attempting to foster a limited form of Greek democracy in his realm. He chose for his capital the city of Halicarnassus (modern Bodrum). Mausolus ruled from Halicarnassus over the surrounding territory for twenty-four years. Mausolus, although descended from local people, spoke Greek and admired the Greek way of life and government. Mausolus tried to unite the Greeks after the Peloponnesian war.

Mausolos restored the city. The city’s port was dredged, the material removed being used to form new breakwaters, and the channel between them was defended by stringing a row of ships across it. The city was paved and Mausolus ordered the construction of a large fortified palace for himself as well as a private harbour on an island in the bay.

It was also at this time the Mausolus is thought to have begun work on his greatest monument, his own tomb. Much of what we know of this building comes from a description in the Natural History by the Roman historian Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79). Although there is no evidence that Pliny ever visited the Mausoleum we do know that he possessed a copy of a book by the architect of the Mausoleum on the building. The tomb was built between 353 and 350 BC for himself and for his wife/sister Artemisia II. The Mausoleum was designed by two greek architects Satyros and Pythius of Priene.

The Mausoleum took a long time to complete, it was not finished untile three years after the death of Mausolus and one year after the death of Artemisia II. According to Pliny, even though their patrons were dead, the sculptors chose to remain and finish their work, “considering that it was at once a memorial of their own fame and of the sculptor’s art.

This replica is located at Miniaturk Miniature Museum in Istanbul.

The Replica of Mausoleum of Halicarnassus

Description of the Mausoleum.

The Mausoleum was revolutionary in design at the time it was built. It was a huge building, especially since its main purpose was to serve as a tomb. The podium was 60 feet tall, the colonnade was 38 feet, the pyramid, 22 feet, and the chariot statue at the top was 20 feet. Altogether, the Mausoleum was 140-148 ft. Its base dimensions were 120 feet by 100 feet.

The four sides were adorned with sculptural reliefs each created by one of four Greek sculptors Leochare, Bryaxis, Scopas of Paros and Timotheus. It was adorned with many freestanding statuettes  and contained a rectangular ‘basement’ beneath a colonnade embodying 36 columns. It included a stepped pyramid, which was on the top of the colonnade. At the top of the pyramid sat a beautifully sculpted statue of Mausolus and Artemisia in a chariot drawn by four horses . Covering the basement of the Mausoleum there was a stepped podium, whose sides were decorated with reliefs. The burial chamber was gold-trimmed, and it and the white alabaster coffin were located on the podium, surrounded by Ionic columns. These columns held up a statue-adorned, pyramid-shaped roof.
The Mausoleum was constructed by Greek architects and decorated by Greek sculptors, but none of the statues represented Greek gods or goddesses.
The Mausoleum is mentioned in Satirist Lucian of Samata (c. AD 125-180) “Dialogues of the Dead” in the dialogue between Diogenes and Mausolos:
Statue King Mausolos in British Museum London

King Mausolos

Mausolos “Further, I was comely, and of noble stature, and a mighty warrior. Finally, a vast tomb lies over me in Halicarnassus, of such dimensions, of such exquisite beauty as no other shade can boast. Thereon are the perfect semblances of man and horse, carved in the fairest marble; scarcely may a temple be found to match it. These are the grounds of my pride: are they inadequate?”
Diogenes “But, my handsome Mausolus, the power and the beauty are no longer there. If we were to appoint an umpire now on the question of comeliness, I see no reason why he should prefer your skull to mine. Both are bald, and bare of flesh; our teeth are equally in evidence; each of us has lost his eyes, and each is snub-nosed. Then as to the tomb and the costly marbles, I dare say such a fine erection gives the Halicarnassians something to brag about and show off to strangers: but I don’t see, friend, that you are the better for it, unless it is that you claim to carry more weight than the rest of us, with all that marble on the top of you.”
Mausolos “Then all is to go for nothing? Mausolus and Diogenes are to rank as equals?”Diogenes “Equals! My dear sir, no; I don’t say that. While Mausolus is groaning over the memories of earth, and the felicity which he supposed to be his, Diogenes will be chuckling. While Mausolus boasts of the tomb raised to him by Artemisia, his wife and sister, Diogenes knows not whether he has a tomb or no–the question never having occurred to him; he knows only that his name is on the tongues of the wise, as one who lived the life of a man; a higher monument than yours, vile Carian slave, and set on firmer foundations.”

The destruction of the Mausoleum
The Mausoleum was damaged in earthquakes, used for building materials and was in ruins by CE 1400. After the conquest of Bodrum by crusading Knights Hospitaller, during the construction of the Castle of St. Peter (Bodrum Castle) in 1404 under the German knight-architect Heinrich Schlegelholt , workers who were guaranteed a reservation in Heaven by a papal decree of 1409, used squared green volcanic stone, marble columns and reliefs from the Mausoleum.

In 1494 to protect themselves from the growing threat of the Ottoman Empire, the knights decided to fortify castle further more used stones from Mausoleum to thicker the walls. Castle fell to the Ottoman’s during the reign of Suleiman The Magnificient in 1522.

What is left of the Mausoleum
In 1846 a relief of Amazonomachy (the portrayal of the mythical battle between the Ancient Greeks and the Amazons, a nation of all-female warriors) from Mausoleum was seen in Constantinople (Istanbul) by British Ambassador Sir Stratford Canning at the Topkapi Palace’s Sublime Porte. He manage to purchase the relief and transferred it to British Museum in London. In 1852 British Museum sent the archaeologist Charles Thomas Newton, former museum employee, as a vice-consul at Mytilene for further research in Halicarnassus. He bought some land, and dig tunnels to reach the foundations of the Mausoleum. He located the foundation, corners of the site, staircase, parts of stepped roof, one large broken stone wheel from a carved chariot, several statues  including Artemisia II and Mausolos. All these findings can be seen in the British Museum in London.
Mausoleum of Halicarnassus Amazonomachy
The Mausoleum was considered to be such an aesthetic triumph that Antipater of Sidon identified it as one of Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus not only influenced the Greek tomb architecture but it also gave us the term for any grand tomb “mausoleum”, a word that originally meant simply dedicated to Mausolus.

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