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