The city of Halicarnassus was once a bustling metropolis on the coast of Turkey. Today, it is an archaeological site in the Turkish city of Bodrum. The most famous monument in Halicarnassus is the Mausoleum of Mausolus. Despite its ruined state, the Mausoleum is still an impressive sight. It stands on a hill overlooking the city, and its massive size is evident – even in its ruins.
What is the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus?
The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus was a tomb built for King Mausolus of Caria and his queen, Artemisia II of Caria. The Mausoleum was designed by the Greek architects Pythius and Satyros. It was decorated with beautiful relief sculptures.
It was one of the wonders of the ancient world.
King Mausolus was the eldest son of Hekatomnos of Mylasa and belonged to the Hekatomnid dynasty; his two brothers were Idrieus and Pixodaros, his sisters Artemisia II and Ada. From 377-353 BC, he enjoyed the status of ruler or satrap of Caria by virtue of a powerful position, created by his father.
Mausolos married his sister Artimisia, who was a naval strategist. She was also the successor of Mausolus. After his death, she became deranged with grief. According to the stories, she mixed her late husband’s ashes into her drinks. She also had an impressive tomb built for his remains. This tomb was more like a palace than a funeral monument. It is even said that she lived in this tomb for the last years of her life, just to be near her beloved husband.
From then on, a tomb or memorial monument for a famous dead person was called a Mausoleum, a reference to this magnificent tomb for King Mausolus.
What did the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus look like?
According to Pliny the Elder’s (23–79 CE) description, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus was nearly square, with a total circumference of 411 feet (125 meters). It was surrounded by 36 columns, and its apex was a 24-step pyramid topped by a four-horse chariot made of marble.
The exterior of the Mausoleum was ornamented with statues of people, lions, horses, and other animals of diverse sizes, as well as with ornaments and statues that added to its attractiveness. Bryaxis, Leochares, Scopas, and Timotheus, four famous Greek sculptors, carved the statues and were each responsible for one side.
Now, the only remnants of the Mausoleum are the foundations and a modest museum. A lot of remaining sculptures can be admired in the British Museum. There are several frieze slabs depicting the war between the Greeks and Amazons.
Two statues, usually identified as Mausolus and his wife, can also be seen in the British Museum.
In 150 AD, a Roman rhetorician, Lucianus Samosatensis wrote:
“The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus cannot be compared to anything else in size or beauty. It is adorned with the finest pieces of art, including marble depictions of humans and horses.”
Modern architects were inspired by the interpretations of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, and the results can be found all over the world. Famous are the design of the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne and the Masonic House of the Temple of the Scottish Rite in Washington DC.
When was the Mausoleum destroyed?
The Halicarnassus tomb stood undisturbed until the 13th century, when a huge earthquake caused it to collapse. Gradually, the Johannites removed the remnants of the mausoleum’s ruins and utilized them to create Fort St. Peter at the harbor. Even now, the walls of the fort include gray-green cuboid stones.
How can you visit the remains of the Mausoleum?
There aren’t many things left from Halicarnassus, but if you visit the site, you can say you’ve been to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
It is located in the center of Bodrum and easy to visit. Today, the area around the mausoleum is set up as an open-air museum. As soon as you get your ticket and go inside, you’ll see a Bodrum-style house on the right. Reliefs, models, drawings, and other parts of the building’s architecture are shown in the tall building on the left.
You can visit the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus every day of the week except Monday. It costs 14 Turkish Lira to get in. The Halicarnassus Mausoleum is open every day from 8:30 am to 8:00 pm.
Things to do in Bodrum (Turkey)
Bodrum is a nice town to visit. It is not only historically interesting, you can also enjoy delicious food, and it has a busy nightlife. There are a couple of beautiful beaches nearby.
If you want to visit historical places – besides the mausoleum – there is enough to explore:
- The old castle of St. Peter, also known as the Templar castle. According to some sources, the Knights Templar used stones of the mausoleum to build this castle. More accurately, it were the Johannites (successors of the Knights Templar) that looted the mausoleum for building stones.
- Inside the castle is one of Bodrum’s most famous landmarks; the museum of underwater archeology, where you can view various artifacts, ship remains and pottery.
- The old town of Bodrum is also worth a visit. The main attraction in the old town are the small cottages that dot the narrow alleys. Located in Off Kale Sokak, just behind St. Peter’s Castle, the old town stands as a reminder of what was once a small fishing village. Although there have been renovations to modernize the city, the atmosphere of the old town has remained authentic.
- The ancient gate, Myndos Kapisi, is a remnant of King Mausolus’ fortress. It is part of the ancient city walls. As you stroll along the walls, you will find ancient ruins and tombs. You may also come across ancient mosaics.
- The bazaar in Bodrum sells everything you may need. There is a wide variety of stores and although the prices are not the cheapest, you can find authentic Turkish products such as textiles and pottery.
Places to stay
There are lots of lovely hotels in Bodrum. The expensive ones aren’t always the best, and the cheap ones might rip you off.
The hotel I would recommend is Historical Myndos Hotel. It is clean, the staff is lovely and the location is really nice. The breakfast is magnificent!!