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I have lying, over me in Halicarnassus, a gigantic monument such as no other dead person has, adorned in the finest way with statues of horses and men carved most realistically from the best quality marble. King Maussollos in Lucian's Dialogues of the Dead


The Mausoleum of Mausolos, the Persian satrap of Caria (351 BC, at Halicarnassus (present Bodrum), Turkey), was one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The word mausoleum came to be used generically for any grand tomb.

This enormous white marble tomb was built to hold the remains of Mausolus (Greek Μαύσωλος Maúsōlos), a provincial king in the Persian Empire, and his wife, Artemisia. Greek architects Satyrus and Pythius designed the approximately 45-metre-high tomb (135 feet), and four famous Grecian sculptors added an ornamental frieze (decorated band) around its exterior.

The construction of the Mausoleum

Section of the Mausoleon, one of the many reconstructions

When the Persians expanded their ancient kingdom to include Mesopotamia, Northern India, Syria, Egypt, and Asia Minor, the king could not control his vast empire without the help of local governors or rulers— the satraps. Like many other provinces, the kingdom of Caria in the western part of Asia Minor was so far from the Persian capital that it was practically autonomous. From 377 to 353 BC, king Mausolus of Caria reigned and moved his capital to Halicarnassus. Nothing is exciting about Mausolus' life except the construction of his tomb. The project was conceived by his wife and sister Artemisia, and the construction might have started during the king's lifetime. The Mausoleum was completed around 350 BC, three years after Mausolus' death, and one year after Artemisia's.

In 377 BC, the city of Halicarnassus was the capital of a small kingdom along the Mediterranean coast of Asia Minor. It was in that year the ruler of this land, Hecatomnus of Mylasa, died and left control of the kingdom to his son, Mausolus. Hecatomnus, a local satrap to the Persians, had been ambitious and had taken control of several of the neighboring cities and districts. Mausolus in his time, extended the territory even further so that it finally included most of southwestern Asia Minor.

Mausolus, with his queen Artemisia, ruled over Halicarnassus and the surrounding territory for 24 years. Mausolus, though he was descended from the local people, spoke Greek and admired the Greek way of life and government. He founded many cities of Greek design along the coast and encouraged Greek democratic traditions.

Mausolus decided to build a new capital, a city as hard to capture as it was magnificent to look at. He chose the town Halicarnassus. If Mausolus' ships blocked a small channel, they could keep all enemy warships out.

Mausolus started making Halicarnassus a fit capital for a warrior prince. His workmen deepened the city's harbor and used the dredged up sand to make protecting arms in front of the channel. On land, they laid out paved squares, streets, and houses for ordinary citizens, and on one side of the harbor they built a massive fortress-palace for Mausolus, positioned so that there were clear views out to sea and inland to the hills--the places that enemies might attack.

The workmen built walls and watch towers on the land ward side and put up a Greek-style theater and a temple to Ares, the Greek god of war.

Mausolus and his queen Artemisia spent their huge amount of tax money on beautifying the city. They bought statues, temples, and buildings of gleaming marble. In the center of the city Mausolus planned to place a resting place for his body after he was dead. It would be a tomb that would forever show how rich he and his queen were.

Then in 353 B.C. Mausolus died, leaving his queen and sister Artemisia (it was the custom in Caria for rulers to marry their own sisters) broken-hearted. As a tribute to him, she decided to build him the most splendid tomb in the known world. It became a structure so famous that Mausolus's name is now associated with all stately tombs through our modern word mausoleum. The building was also so beautiful and unique it became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Artemisia decided that no expense was to be spared in the building of the tomb. She sent messengers to Greece to find the most talented artists of the time. This included Scopas, the man who had supervised the rebuilding of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. Other famous sculptors such as Bryaxis, Leochares and Timotheus joined him as well as hundreds of other craftsmen.

The tomb was erected on a hill overlooking the city. The whole structure sat in an enclosed courtyard. At the center of the courtyard was a stone platform on which the tomb itself sat. A staircase, flanked by stone lions, led to the top of this platform. Along the outer wall of this were many statues depicting gods and goddess. At each corner stone warriors, mounted on horseback, guarded the tomb.

At the center of the platform was the tomb itself. Made mostly of marble, the structure rose as a square, tapering block to about one-third of the Mausoleum's 45-metre (135-foot) height. This section was covered with relief sculpture showing action scenes from Greek myth/history. One part showed the battle of the Centaurs with the Lapiths. Another depicted Greeks in combat with the Amazons, a race of warrior women.

On top of this section of the tomb thirty-six slim columns, nine per side, rose for another third of the height. Standing in between each column was another statue. Behind the columns was a solid block that carried the weight of the tomb's massive roof.

The roof, which comprised most of the final third of the height, was in the form of a stepped pyramid. Perched on top was a quadriga: four massive horses pulling a chariot in which images of Mausolus and Artemisia rode.

Soon after construction of the tomb started Artemisia found herself in a crisis. Rhodes, an island in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Asia Minor, had been conquered by Mausolus. When the Rhodians heard of his death they rebelled and sent a fleet of ships to capture the city of Halicarnassus. Knowing that the Rhodian fleet was on the way, Artemisa hid her own ships at a secret location at the east end of the city's harbor. After troops from the Rhodian fleet disembarked to attack, Artemisia's fleet made a surprise raid, captured the Rhodian fleet, and towed it out to sea.

Artemisa put her own soldiers on the invading ships and sailed them back to Rhodes. Fooled into thinking that the returning ships were their own victorious navy, the Rhodians failed to put up a defense and the city was easily captured quelling the rebellion.

Artemisa lived for only two years after the death of her husband. Both would be buried in the yet unfinished tomb. According to the historian Pliny, the craftsmen decided to stay and finish the work after their patron died "considering that it was at once a memorial of their own fame and of the sculptor's art."

The Mausoleum in medieval and modern times

Grant's Tomb in New York is based on a scholarly reconstruction of the Mausoleum.

The Mausoleum overlooked the city of Halicarnassus for many centuries. It was untouched when the city fell to Alexander the Great in 334 BC and still undamaged after attacks by pirates in 62 and 58 BC. It stood above the city ruins for some 16 centuries. Then a series of earthquakes shattered the columns and sent the stone chariot crashing to the ground. By 1404 only the very base of the Mausoleum was still recognizable.

In the early fifteenth century, the Knights of St John of Malta invaded the region and built a massive castle. When they decided to fortify it in 1494, they used the stones of the Mausoleum. In 1522 rumors of a Turkish invasion caused Crusaders to strengthen the castle at Halicarnassus (which was by then known as Bodrum) and much of the remaining portions of the tomb was broken up and used within the castle walls. Indeed sections of polished marble from the tomb can still be seen there today.

At this time a party of knights entered the base of the monument and discovered the room containing a great coffin. The party, deciding it was too late to open it that day, returned the next morning to find the tomb, and any treasure it may have contained, plundered. The bodies of Mausolus and Artemisia were missing too. The Knights claimed that Moslem villagers were responsible for the theft, but it is just as likely that some of the Crusaders themselves plundered the graves.

Before grinding and burning much of the remaining sculpture of the Mausoleum into lime for plaster, the Knights removed several of the best works and mounted them in the Bodrum castle. There they stayed for three centuries. At that time the British ambassador obtained several of the statues from the castle, which now reside in the British Museum.

In 1846 the Museum sent the archaeologist Charles Thomas Newton to search for more remains of the Mausoleum. He had a difficult job. He didn't know the exact location of the tomb and the cost of buying up all the small parcels of land in the area to look for it would have been astronomical. Instead Newton studied the accounts of ancient writers like Pliny to obtain the approximate size and location of the memorial, then bought a plot of land in the most likely location. Digging down, Newton explored the surrounding area through tunnels he dug under the surrounding plots. He was able to locate some walls, a staircase, and finally three of the corners of the foundation. With this knowledge, Newton was able to figure out which plots of land he needed to buy.

Newton then excavated the site and found sections of the reliefs that decorated the wall of the building and portions of the stepped roof. Also a broken stone chariot wheel, some 2 metres (7 feet) in diameter, from the sculpture on the roof was discovered. Finally, he found the statues of Mausolus and Artemisia that had stood at the pinnacle of the building.

The beauty of the Mausoleum is not only in the structure itself, but in the decorations and statues that adorned the outside at different levels on the podium and the roof. These were tens of life-size as well as under and over life-size free-standing statues of people, lions, horses, and other animals. The statues were carved by four Greek sculptors: Bryaxis, Leochares, Scopas, and Timotheus, each responsible for one side. Because the statues were of people and animals, the Mausoleum holds a special place in history as it was not dedicated to the gods of Ancient Greece.

Nowadays, the massive castle of the Knights of Malta still stands in Bodrum, and the polished stone and marble blocks of the Mausoleum can be spotted within the walls of the structure. At the site of the Mausoleum itself, only the foundation remains of the once magnificent Wonder. Some of the sculptures survived and are today on display at the British Museum in London. These include fragment of statues and many slabs of the frieze showing the battle between the Greeks and the Amazons. There the images of Mausolus and his queen forever watch over the few broken remains of the beautiful tomb she built for him and that is now lost to eternity.

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