Maussoleum at Halicarnassus
377 B.C., the city of Halicarnassus was the capitol 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 neighbouring cities and districts. Mausolus in
his time, extended the territory even further so that it finally included most of
southwestern Asia Minor.
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.
in 353 B.C. Mausolus died, leaving his queen Artemisia, who was also
his sister (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.
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 harbour.
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
Mausoleum overlooked the city of Halicarnassus for many centuries.
It was untouched when the city fell to Alexander the Great in 334 B.C. and
still undamaged after attacks by pirates in 62 and 58 B.C.. It stood above the city
ruins for some 17 centuries.
Then a series of earthquakes shattered the columns and
sent the stone chariot crashing to the ground. By 1404 A.D. only the very base of
the Mausoleum was still recognizable. Crusaders, who had occupied the city
from the thirteen century onward, recycled the broken stone into their own buildings.
In 1522 rumours 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.
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.
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 seven 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.
Today these works of art stand in the Mausoleum
Room at the British Museum. There the images of Mausolus and his queen forever
watch over the few broken remains of the beautiful tomb she built for him.