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The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus


Head of a statue of Maussolus of Caria. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Marco Prins.
The so-called Maussolus (British Museum)
Halicarnassus (Greek Ἁλικαρνασσός): Greek-Carian city, modern Bodrum in southwestern Turkey.

History Siege Mausoleum Pictures

Maussolus, the satrap of Caria, refounded Halicarnassus (modern Bodrum) and made it his capital. In the Greek world, it was not unusual that a city founder (ktistes) received cultic honors and a tomb on the central square of the new town, and this also happened to Maussolus. After his death in 353 BCE, his wife Artemisia succeeded him and invited Greek artists to build a fitting tomb.  

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A modern reconstruction of the Mausoleum.
The result was not just a fitting monument, it was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Although the mausoleum itself was constructed of bricks, this was covered with white Proconnesian marble which must have looked splendid. The impressive monument was copied on several occasions. It is likely that the architecture of the tomb of Alexander the Great in Alexandria and the Belevi Mausoleum was inspired by the building in Halicarnassus, which was known as 'the mausoleum'.

The remains of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. Photo Marco Prins.
Today, the remains of this once grandiose monument offer a sad sight. (Here you can see the remains on a satellite photo.) The site did suffer already in Antiquity, but in the Middle Ages, the ruin was still impressive. However, the proud tower was ultimately destroyed by the Rhodian knights in 1522. As a result, stones of the monument can today be found in the castle of Bodrum.

The remains of the chamber of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. Photo Jona Lendering.
These are the remains of the funeral chamber of the mausoleum. The building was designed by the famous architects Satyrus and Pytheos, who were inspired by traditional Anatolian and Greek architecture (cf. the Monument of the Nereids in Xanthus) and later wrote a book on the monument they had created. This book was known to Roman authors like Pliny the Elder, who offers a brief description.


He says that four famous sculptors were involved: Scopas, Bryaxis, Timotheus, and Leochares, who were responsible for the decoration on the east, north, south, and west side. They made brilliant reliefs of an Amazonomachy, i.e. a battle between Greek warriors and Amazons. Here you can see a man and a woman fighting over a dead Amazon.


"Before their task was completed," Pliny says, "queen Artemisia died. The four sculptors did not leave their work, however, until it was finished, considering that it was at once a memorial of their own fame and of the sculptor's art. And, to this day even, it is undecided which of them has excelled." On the right-hand part of this relief, you can see Heracles, trying to hit an Amazon with a club.


From the bottom to the top, there was a large substructure (32x26 meter), a level that was surrounded by thirty-six columns (the Pteron), and, on top of it, Pliny says, "there is a pyramid erected, equal in height to the building below, and formed of twenty-four steps, which gradually taper upwards towards the summit."


Another part of the Amazonomachy. As these blocks were not found in situ, but in the castle of Bodrum, we can not identify the artist. These reliefs are now in the British Museum.

Detail of the decoration of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. Photo Jona Lendering. This part of the decoration is still in the small gallery next to the ruins of the Mausoleum. Note the superb knowledge of the way the human body moves. The man to the right is kicking forward and needs his shield to remain balanced.
Between the columns of the Pteron, there must have been many statues, and at the base of the pyramid, there were twenty-four lions. This one's from the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul.
This one, made from Pentelic marble from Athens, was also among them and stood on the north side. Was it made by Bryaxis? It may be noted that there were very many lions, but this animal is the only that has survived almost completely. (It is now in the British Museum, just like the sculpture on the next pictures.) On the corners of the pyramid were statues of horsemen.
Finally, on top of the monument was, according to Pliny, "a platform, crowned with a representation of a quadriga (four-horse chariot) by Pythis. This addition makes the total height of the work one hundred and forty feet." (About fifty meters.) This is one of the horses of the chariot.

The monument was surrounded by an enclosure (temenos).


A capital of a column, now in the British Museum.
Probably, these two brilliant statues were right above the entrance in the east, between the columns of the Pteron. If this is correct, they must represent Artemisia and Maussolus, and were carved by Scopas. Yet, the identification is contested.
Finally, the portrait of Maussolus again. Few people have received such an impressive funeral monument. The Greek author Lucian could appreciate it, in his Dialogues of the Dead, making the Carian satrap say "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."
Achilles kills Penthesileia. Relief from the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, now in the British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Marco Prins.
Achilles kills Penthesileia

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History Siege Mausoleum Pictures
Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2003
Revision: 21 August 2009
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