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The tomb of Mausolus at Halicarnassus


The tomb of Mausolus, a king of Caria, was built in the antique Greek city of Halicarnassus, in what is currently Bodrum, Turkey, between 353 and 350 BC by Artemisia who was the sister, wife and successor of Mausolus. Halicarnassus in Caria was a member of the Dorian Hexapolis and later controlled under Artemisia I of Caria after being expelled from the league. Mausolus and Artemisia ruled over Halicarnassus and the surrounding region for 24 years. After Mausolus’s death in 353 BC, Artemisia succeeded him as Artemisia II of Caria and commissioned the best artisans of the time to build a spectacular tomb on a hill in honor of her husband. Later, the tomb of Mausolus became the origin of the word “mausoleum” and one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

A multilevel structure, approximately 45 m in height and primarily made of marble, was designed by two Greek architects, Pytheos and Satyros. There were many statues depicting gods and goddesses along the outer wall of the tomb. Various artists from neighboring countries were employed for this project, including sculptors such as Bryaxis, Scopas of Paros, Timotheus and Leochares. The inside of the tomb was decorated with many statues of animals and sculptural bas-reliefs of Greek and Amazon warriors in battle. The roof of the tomb was in the form of a stepped pyramid with 24 levels, and sculptures of Mausolus and Artemisia in a chariot being pulled by four massive horses carved by Pytheos were placed on the top of the structure.

In 334 BC, Halicanassus sustained severe damage during the siege of the Persians against the army of Alexander the Great. The tomb was also destroyed by earthquakes in the 13th century. Only the very base of the Mausoleum was still recognizable by 1404. In the 16th century, the mausoleum was raided by the Knights of Rhodes. Today, some of the remaining portions of the tomb can be seen in the walls of the Bodrum castle. Along with other artifacts, the statues of Mausolus and Artemisia were found during the excavation conducted by Charles Thomas Newton around 1846. These statues were restored and have been exhibited in the British Museum.

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