The Wonders of the World: The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus

Artist's Representation

The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus is one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  It is the tomb of Mausolus, a ruler in the Persian Empire and of his wife, Artemisia II.  The 148-foot-high structure was built c. 350 BC by Greek architects Satyros and Pythius of Priene.  It was so well known that the word “mausoleum” has come to mean any grand tomb.

On the death of his father in 377, BC Mausolus inherited the rule of Halicarnassus, the capital of a small kingdom in Asia Minor. Mausolus with his sister/wife Artemisia ruled for twenty-four years. Mausolus admired the Greek culture—even rebuilt his capital in the Greek style—and encouraged Greek democratic traditions.

When Mausolus died in 353 BC, the devastated Artemisia built a tomb on a hill overlooking the city that would be a monument to him.  Although Artemisia lived for only two years after her husband’s death, after the urns with their ashes were placed in the tomb, the artisans stayed on to complete the monument. The beauty of the Mausoleum was filled with decorations and statues that adorned the outside at different levels on the podium and the roof, including statues of people, lions, horses, and other animals in varying scales. Statues of Mausolus and Artemisia stood in the chariot at the top of the top of the pyramid. 

The Ruins

The monument stood for 16 centuries before it was destroyed by earthquake in the 14th century AD. A century later the Knights of St. John used the stones to fortify Bodrum Castle, even burning the marble for lime.  Some of the monument’s components can be viewed in the wall  of Bodrum Castle.

The destruction of the monument was so massive that the building is known only from the descriptions of Pliny and other ancients.  The site was discovered and excavated in 1846 by Charles Newton who removed the statues of the couple and some reliefs from the castle and placed them in the British Museum. 

Tomorrow, Colossus of Rhodes   Rita Bay

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