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Halicarnassus (Bodrum)


A fourth-century CE mosaic showing a personification of the city of Halicarnassus. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Marco Prins.
A fourth-century CE mosaic showing a personification of the city of Halicarnassus
Halicarnassus (Greek Ἁλικαρνασσός): Greek-Carian city, modern Bodrum in southwestern Turkey.

History Siege Mausoleum Pictures

The first picture shows a mosaic, now in London's British Museum, from the fourth century CE: the lady represents the city of Halicarnassus. When it was made, the settlement must have been a thousand years old. The town is supposed to have been founded by Dorian Greeks, but there must have been an older village of native Carians. Anyhow, it became part of the Achaemenid Empire in the mid-sixth century BCE and was one of its most important military ports.
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Persian sphinx, now in the museum of Bodrum. Photo Jona Lendering.
Remains of the Persian age are scarse, but this beautiful sphinx (now in the archaeological museum in the castle of Bodrum) compensates much. It is a rare example of free-standing Achaemenid art. One reason for the paucity of Persian remains is that they belong to the oldest, and deepest strata, which are hard to excavate in a city near the sea. Another explanation is that in Turkey, the Achaemenid age is not a really popular subject.

The Xerxes jar. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Marco Prins. This chalcite jar was discovered in the famous Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. It is interesting, because it mentions the name of the Achaemenid king Xerxes (486-465), who must have given it to his contemporary, queen Artemisia of Halicarnassus. She must have kept this rare object, which was made in Egypt, and it must have continued to circulate in the family, until it was left behind as a funeral gift in the Mausoleum. Today, this jar is in the British Museum in London.

In the mid-fourth century, a member of the royal family, Maussolus, refounded Halicarnassus and made it the capital of his satrapy, Caria.


The Myndus gate. Photo Jona Lendering.

The new fortifications -the picture shows the Myndus gate- were the best in the world, and in the autumn of 334, the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great was unable to capture the city, which was defended by Memnon of Rhodes. Although Alexander occupied parts of Halicarnassus, he could not seize the harbor district, and was forced to move on. A satellite photo can be found here.

Alexander's siege of Halicarnassus. Design Jona Lendering. This map shows the walls of Halicarnassus. The main fortress was on the Royal Island, in the port. Today, there is a castle on this island (satellite photo).
The hill west of the harbor of Halicarnassus, seen from the castle. Photo Jona Lendering. Salmacis, the hill west of the harbor of Halicarnassus, seen from the castle (satellite photo). There are indications that in the fifth century BCE, Salmacis was the Carian quarter of city.
Hermaphroditus. Statue at the Palazzo Massimo, Roma (Italy). Photo Jona Lendering.
According to a myth retold by the Roman poet Ovid, this was the place where the water nymph Salmacis fell in love with Hermaphroditus. The two became one, bisexual being. In Antiquity, there was a sanctuary for this hermaphrodyte in Halicarnassus; the well that was once inhabited by the water nymph is still there, a nice place to swim. This statue of Hermaphroditus can be see in Rome, in the Palazzo Massimo.
The theater and acropolis of Halicarnassus. Photo Marco Prins. The Hellenistic theater (left; satellite photo) and the acropolis of Halicarnassus, seen from the castle.
Reconstruction of the tomb of Ada, the female satrap of Caria in the age of Alexander the Great. Bodrum museum. Photo Marco Prins. Reconstruction of the tomb of a woman who has been identified with Ada, the female satrap of Caria in the age of Alexander the Great. Bodrum museum.
Wreath of Ada, found in her tomb. Photo Marco Prins. Wreath of Ada, found in her tomb. Bodrum museum.
The skeleton of Ada, Bodrum museum. Photo Marco Prins. The skeleton of Ada, Bodrum museum.
Part of the decoration of the theater of Halicarnassus: a mask. Bodrum museum. Photo Jona Lendering. Part of the decoration of the theater of Halicarnassus: a mask. The Bodrum museum has several of them.

A gladiator on a relief in the Bodrum museum. Photo Jona Lendering. A gladiator on a relief in the Bodrum museum. Although we know gladiators as a Roman "invention", they were especially popular in the Greek half of the Roman empire. This gladiator is called a scissor, "cutter".
A mosaic from a villa of late Antiquity, showing a hunt.
And another mosaic from the fourth century: Phobos, or fear. Both mosaics are now in the British Museum.

History Siege Mausoleum Pictures
Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2003
Revision: 15 May 2012
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