Helicarnassus (Halicarnassus) (modern day Bodrum, Turkey) is an ancient Greek city founded, as best as can be discerned from images of Medusa, Athena, and Poseidon found on its coins, during the Dorian period. These symbols support the hypothesis attributing its founding to Troezen and Argos, Greek cities of the Hexapolis. Inhabitants accepted Anthes, one of Poseidon’s sons, as their founder.

For most, this city brings to mind images of the great Mausoleum, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World; however, by me, it is best known as the birthplace of Herodotus the Greek historian and philosopher.

As I said before, for most, this city is famous for the tomb of Mausolus, known simply as the Mausoleum, which was counted among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by Antipater of Sidon.  Named for Mausolus, who in name was the Persian Satrap (governor).  He enjoyed the status of king due to his father’s participation in the Revolt of the Satraps and his moving the the local seat of power from Mylasa to Helicarnassus. Following local custom for nobility, he was wed to his sister Artemisia II.

Mausoleum RuinsFollowing his death, Artemisia commissioned a grand tomb to be built in his honor and to bear his name.  The Mausoleum was adorned with massive reliefs created by one of four Greek sculptors: Bryaxis, Leochares, Scopas of Paros, and Timotheus.

Standing in grandeur for sixteen centuries, all that is left of the Mausoleum today are the ruins pictured left. The Mausoleum was destroyed by an earthquake which shook the area in 1304 A.D., leaving it a pile of rubble.  What remained of the edifice was used to fortify a castle built nearby by crusader knights of the Order of St. John of Malta in 1494 A.D.  By 1522 A.D. the remains of the Mausoleum had been completely disassembled and used for the construction of Bodrum Castle.

One of the knights, La Touret, wrote in his journal, saying:

First we found the stairs leading down to the burial chamber below the ground and we were breathless at the spectacular sight in front of our eyes. The second minute we started looting the place, but we didn’t have much time, because they commanded us back to the castle. The next day when we came back to the same site, precious gold jewelry and pieces of fine cloth were scattered around the place…

Today it is believed that the tomb had been robbed centuries before the knight’s discovery. Archeologist studying the sight in the 1960s discovered a tunnel leading to the burial chamber which had been dug long before he chamber was discovered by La Touret and his companions.

Many artists and architects have interpreted historical descriptions of the edifice to produce various renditions; however, while the dimensions of the tomb are fairly certainly known; we cannot be certain regarding the specifics of it’s appointment and ornamentation.  Below are some examples of what artists and architects think it may have looked like.


Wikipedia contributors. “Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 7 Jul. 2015. Web. 15 Jul. 2015.

“The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.” Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. BodrumPages.com, n.d. Web. 14 July 2015. <http://www.bodrumpages.com/English/mausoleum.html&gt;

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