The 7 wonders of the ancient world: Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

Since I learned to read I’ve been intrigued by Greek mythology and history. The two seem to intertwine in a way we’re not really sure what really happened and what didn’t. To me of the most interesting things about this mythological world is that it all happened in a small territory, today encompassed by modern Greece and parts of Albania, Turkey, Bulgaria and North Macedonia. I mean, imagine living in ancient Greece, you’d actually be able to visit all these places you hear about in stories, such as the rock where Prometheus was chained, Hephaestus’ workshop, Mount Olympus and the Seven Wonders of the World. These are all real places.

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was my first ever World Wonder. Well, at least outside of Assassin’s Creed Origins (Pyramid and Lighthouse) and Odyssey (Statue of Zeus) at least.

I went there by chance. We had a wedding to attend (view previous posts) and ended up in Bodrum, Turkey. I was thrilled to find out that this place full of five star hotels and yachts was ancient Halicarnassus.

Basically nothing is left at the site where stood the great Mausoleum, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The city of Bodrum is now a beach destination. If I hadn’t researched about the place beforehand I wouldn’t even know it was home to the Mausoleum. None of my friends at the hotel knew about it and nowhere was there any indication we were right there next to the site where once stood one of the most grandiose structures in the known world.

Hoards of tourists enjoy the sun in the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean.

Hoards of tourists enjoy the sun in the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean.

Fortunately there are map apps on our phones.

This “huge” sign in a small alley was the only indication we were approaching the Mausoleum.

This “huge” sign in a small alley was the only indication we were approaching the Mausoleum.

After a few minutes of walking up the streets of this little coastal city, there it was: the great Mausoleum. Well, it’s basically a walled field full of stones and a mini museum. Not much stands. Uhm, nothing stands. But I was there. This is the place of which so many stories were written and I’ve read of so many times.

I guess to some this might be a bit disappointing. You get there and there’s just a pile of rubble. It’s not like the inside of Hagia Sofia or so many other cathedrals in Europe. But what’s important here is what was here. Right here, where you’re standing.

The great Mausoleum, that once stood 40 meters tall and 125 wide is now a pile of rocks.

The great Mausoleum, that once stood 40 meters tall and 125 wide is now a pile of rocks.

A replica in the museum shows how the Mausoleum was before it was destroyed by earthquakes in 1404. The top had 36 columns and larger than life statues of lions and a carriage with four horses carrying the images of, supposedly, Maussollus and his wife.

A replica in the museum shows how the Mausoleum was before it was destroyed by earthquakes in 1404. The top had 36 columns and larger than life statues of lions and a carriage with four horses carrying the images of, supposedly, Maussollus and his wife.

History  

This wonder was built in the 353 b.C. and wasn’t called a mausoleum back then because mausoleums didn't exist. This building is the definition of what a mausoleum is. Why is that? - you may ask.

This gigantic building was built as a tomb for King Maussollus, thus mausoleum, by his sister-wife. Yes, he married his sister. Different times.

For over 1500 years the Mausoleum stood over the city greeting anyone that came from sea with a marvelous view. Then in the 12th century all through the 15th century a series of earthquakes brought the building to its knees.

They’ve put these roofs to cover some of the stones. I guess it’s so we don’t completely dehydrate in the sun while we’re there.

They’ve put these roofs to cover some of the stones. I guess it’s so we don’t completely dehydrate in the sun while we’re there.

Parts of the 36 columns are still there, but nothing else, not even the base.

Parts of the 36 columns are still there, but nothing else, not even the base.

I don’t know greek, ancient or modern. but it seems to me that “τοποελ” is written on this stone, which means absolutely nothing. If you know greek, please let me know what it is. It may be a partial as well.

I don’t know greek, ancient or modern. but it seems to me that “τοποελ” is written on this stone, which means absolutely nothing. If you know greek, please let me know what it is. It may be a partial as well.

In the museum bit they have some of the few surviving engravings still in Turkey.

In the museum bit they have some of the few surviving engravings still in Turkey.

But what happened to all the rubble and statues. For such a huge building there should be more than just a few parts of columns, right?

Well, by 1404 only the base of the Mausoleum still stood. The Knights of St John of Rhodes moved to Bodrum, and by moved I mean invaded, and they needed a place to crash. So they built the Castle of Saint Peter. And what did they use? Yep, you guessed it, the stones from the ruins of the Mausoleum and its base. The castle still stands.

The Castle of Saint Peter was built with stones from the Mausoleum. Unfortunately when I went it was under renovation, as you can see with the cranes there.

The Castle of Saint Peter was built with stones from the Mausoleum. Unfortunately when I went it was under renovation, as you can see with the cranes there.

Three cheap fiberglass replicas of statues recovered from the Mausoleum are displayed in the entrance of the Castle of Saint Peter.

Three cheap fiberglass replicas of statues recovered from the Mausoleum are displayed in the entrance of the Castle of Saint Peter.

What about the statues?

By the 19th century the exact location of the Mausoleum was lost. British Museum archaeologist Charles Thomas Newton was sent to Bodrum to try and find the ruins of the building. He studied old accounts and found a probable location and dug and located the walls and then parts of the statue that sat on top of the whole construction. These were taken back to the museum, where they can be seen to this day.

The artist Thomas Picken made some lithographs in 1862 of the excavations.

The British Museum has a whole section dedicated to Ancient Greece and a great part of the items come from Halicarnassus.

The British Museum has a whole section dedicated to Ancient Greece and a great part of the items come from Halicarnassus.

One of the four horses that stood on top of the Mausoleum is preserved in the British Museum, as are the lions that decorated the entrance.

One of the four horses that stood on top of the Mausoleum is preserved in the British Museum, as are the lions that decorated the entrance.

Here are the statues of Artemisia and Maussollos himself, which were at the very top, inside a chariot pulled by four horses. The plaques at the British Museum point out that there is no concrete evidence that these are the images of Artemisa and Maussollos, but it’s likely they are.

Here are the statues of Artemisia and Maussollos himself, which were at the very top, inside a chariot pulled by four horses. The plaques at the British Museum point out that there is no concrete evidence that these are the images of Artemisa and Maussollos, but it’s likely they are.

The image of king Maussollus himself. The statues are quite big, so they could be seen from great distances, probably.

The image of king Maussollus himself. The statues are quite big, so they could be seen from great distances, probably.

The sides of the Mausoleum were decorated with images of the Amazonomachy, the mythical fights between the greeks and the amazons.

The sides of the Mausoleum were decorated with images of the Amazonomachy, the mythical fights between the greeks and the amazons.

The engravings show different battle scenes of the Amazonomachy. In one of them, not this one, Hecules can be seen grabbing queen Hippolyta by the hair. Unfortunately I missed that slab.

The engravings show different battle scenes of the Amazonomachy. In one of them, not this one, Hecules can be seen grabbing queen Hippolyta by the hair. Unfortunately I missed that slab.

If you go to the British Museum in search for Halicarnassus stuff, don’t forget the basement! A lot of cool stuff is hidden down there.

CT Newton brought back to England lots of little details of the construction.

CT Newton brought back to England lots of little details of the construction.

One of CT Newton’s greatest finds in the Mausoleum site were these beautiful mosaics. They hang in the walls of one of the stairways of the museum.

One of CT Newton’s greatest finds in the Mausoleum site were these beautiful mosaics. They hang in the walls of one of the stairways of the museum.

If you’re not careful you might miss these two lions that flank a big staircase of the museum.

If you’re not careful you might miss these two lions that flank a big staircase of the museum.

Now one on each side of the staircase in the museum, these lions used to greet visitors in the main entrance of the Mausoleum.

Now one on each side of the staircase in the museum, these lions used to greet visitors in the main entrance of the Mausoleum.

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Most people just walk by the lions. I don’t blame them, there are so many awesome things to see at the British Museum.