The Mausoleum in Halicarnassus (today – Bodrum, Turkey) is one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, which existed for almost 19 centuries and was destroyed only in the 15th century AD.It is of interest as an example of ancient Greek architecture and an object of archaeological research. On the site of the once majestic mausoleum, only the foundation and a modest open-air museum remain.
In 377 BC, power in the state of Caria in the southeast of Asia Minor passed to a new ruler – Mavsol . Most sources describe him as a tyrant and despot, while he was an educated and sincerely passionate about architecture.
He actively applied innovative ideas in the construction of the main structures of Halicarnassus. An example is the royal palace, which Mavsol designed himself. An innovation was the coating of bricks with plaster, sanded to a mirror finish.
During his lifetime, Mavsol decided to build a unique tomb for himself. He took up work with his wife Artemisia. The best Greek architects were invited for the construction, each of whom was engaged in the design of a separate part of the building. Timofeos in the south, Leohar in the west, Briaxides in the north, Skopas in the east. The quadriga crowning the tomb was created by Pytheas.
Unfortunately, Mavsol did not live to see the completion of construction, as did Artemisia, who survived her husband by only 2 years. According to some sources, the work was completed by the son and grandson of the couple, according to others – by artisans who wanted to erect a monument not only to the glory of the ruler, but also to the art of sculpture.
Interesting fact! Many rulers were so impressed by the beauty and grandeur of the tomb in Halicarnassus that they wanted to build the same for themselves. As a result, they began to be called mausoleums, on behalf of the ruler Mavsol (consonant in Greek).
Architectural features of the mausoleum
The place for the Halicarnassus mausoleum was chosen by the ruler of Caria himself. It was in the middle of the central city street, not far from such iconic buildings as the Temple of Ares and the Temple of Aphrodite.
The mausoleum was significantly different from other buildings in the Greek style. He was taller and bigger than them. In the plan, it was a slightly elongated rectangle with sides of 66 and 77.5 m , the height was 45-46 m.
The tomb in Halicarnassus is clearly divided into several tiers in height:
- the first tier – a massive foundation made of raw bricks and a high plinth faced with marble tiles;
- the second tier – a temple with a colonnade around the perimeter, the height of the columns was 11 m;
- the third tier is a 24-step pyramidal roof, which was crowned by a quadriga with sculptures of Mavsol and Artemisia.
A small garden was laid out in front of the mausoleum, and the entrance was “guarded” by galloping horsemen and lions.
Interesting fact! During archaeological research, about 20 lion sculptures, about 1.5 m long, were found.
The decoration of the Halicarnassus mausoleum deserves special attention. Thirty-six columns on the second tier and sculptures towering between them are made of marble. The sculptural ensemble consisted of approximately 330 statues.
Also, the structure was surrounded by friezes. They depicted scenes of the struggle of the Greeks with centaurs, Amazons and chariot races. The relief of the friezes was clearly visible and very expressive.
Organization of internal space
There is little information on what the mausoleum looked like inside. It is believed that in the premises of the first tier of the Halicarnassus mausoleum there was a memorial temple . It was there, in the marble sarcophagi, that urns with the ashes of Mavsol and Artemisia were located. The height of the room was approximately 20 m, and the total area of the tomb was about 5000 sq. m.
The second tier of the mausoleum, presumably, served for sacrifices and worship of King Mavsol. There was also his stately statue, which has survived to this day and is exhibited as an exhibit in the British Museum.
The interior decoration of the premises, like the cladding of the façade, was made of white marble.
Destruction of the mausoleum
Surprisingly, the mausoleum at Halicarnassus survived even during pirate raids and fierce wars of conquest. It collapsed only during an earthquake in the 15th century AD . It was then that a quadriga fell from the top of the building and the colonnade of the second tier collapsed.
For a long time, the foundation of the building was still recognizable, but at the end of the fifteenth century, the Hospitallers conquered Halicarnassus and part of the wreck was used for the construction of St. Peter’s Castle. Literally a couple of decades later, it was additionally fortified, destroying the mausoleum completely. Some of the sculptures that survived the earthquakes were used by the Knights of the Hospitaller Order to decorate the halls in the castle.
The Castle of St. Peter has survived to this day and is geographically located in the Turkish city of Bodrum. The marble blocks of the Halicarnassus mausoleum remain within its walls.
Archaeological research in the territory of Halicarnassus
In 1852, Charles Newton organized an archaeological expedition in search of the ruins of the once magnificent mausoleum. Previously, he spent a lot of work on studying the works of historians in order to have an idea not only of what to look for, but also where. To begin excavations, Newton bought a piece of land that seemed to him promising for research, and he was right.
As a result, the following were found:
- fragments of sculptural friezes depicting the struggle of the Greeks with the Amazons;
- a wheel with a diameter of 2 m from the chariot from the roof of the building;
- statues of Artemisia and Mausolus;
- marble blocks from the walls of the mausoleum.
The marble blocks were taken to Malta and used as building material for the British Navy dock. The rest of the finds have been studied and exhibited in the British Museum.
In 1966-1977, the research was continued by K. Jeppesen, who subsequently wrote a six-volume book about the object of study.
Today in Bodrum there is a modest open-air museum dedicated to the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. It is located almost half a kilometer from the city center and it is easy to get there both by taxi and by bus, and from the bus station – on foot.
Note! To visit the museum, you need to purchase an entrance ticket.
On the territory of the museum you can see the ruins of the mausoleum . Even its foundation has been preserved. All objects are equipped with plates with inscriptions, from which it becomes clear where the tomb, the statue of Mausolus, etc. was located.
In the exhibition hall located there, there are plans for the structure, some fragments of marble, 3D models of the mausoleum, images of its changes over several centuries.
It is worth visiting the ruins of the Halicarnassus mausoleum in Turkey at least in order to pay tribute to the architects and workers who, more than two thousand years ago, were able to build a unique tomb. The surviving fragments contain the history of several states and peoples, which you can literally touch.