Mausoleum of Halicarnassus

The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and can be found in modern day Turkey. The Mausoleum was completed in 350 BC as a tomb for Mausolus, a governor in the Persian Empire. Halicarnassus was the capital of the Caria, the province that Mausolus governed. When Mausolus died, his wife had an enormous tomb erected in his honor. This tomb became known as the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, and the term mausoleum became accepted as a generic definition for any grand tomb. Although it remains only as ruins today, the tomb of Mausolus lasted well into the 15th century. It was excavated in the mid 19th century and the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus is recognized world wide as one of the most impressive structures of the ancient world.

Mausolus was the son of Hecatomnus of Milas, a satrap under the Persian Empire. A satrap is a name given to rulers who governed provinces of the Persian Empire. In 377 BC, Hecatomnus died and left control of his province Caria to Mausolus. During his rule, Mausolus married his sister Artemisia and together they worked hard to extend the inherited territory during 24 years Mausolus ruled. Mausolus was descended from the local people, but he strongly admired the Greek government and way of life. Because of this, many of the cities Mausolus founded contained Greek design, including the city of Halicanassus.

While in power, Mausolus moved the capital of his governed area to the city of Halicanassus. To Mausolus, Halicanassus was there perfect choice for a new capital because the sat high to be admired and was the ideal spot to protect the province. There was a small channel that if was well protected, could keep all enemy ships at bay. Mausolus had the appropriate provisions assigned to protect the channel, and the city was expanded at a rapid pace. Streets were paved, houses for citizens were built, and a giant palace for Mausolus and Artemisia was erected. Mausolus invested heavily into his new capital all the way up to his death in 353 BC.

When Mausolus died, his wife and sister Artemisia was heartbroken and left to govern the province herself. As a tribute to her husband, Artemisia decided to build Mausolus a tomb that was unmatched by all others. The structure was so splendid that Mausolusís name is actually the eponym for all grand tombs, in the word mausoleum. Artemisia spared no limits for the tomb for her husband. Because she knew his love for the Greek way of life, Artemisia sent messengers to Greece to find the most talented artists and architects of the time. Construction for the tomb began in 353 BC and was completed in 350 BC. Artemisia died 2 years after her husbandís death in 351 BC and was buried in an urn in tomb next to her husband before the final structure had been completed.

The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus was designed by well respected Greek architects Satyros and Pythis. The prominent sculptors who worked on the Mausoleum include Leochares, Bryaxis, Scopas, and Timotheus. The tomb itself was built on the top of a hill that overlooked the entire city. The tomb was contained within a courtyard and sat in the middle on top of a stone platform. Stone lions were located on the sides of the stairway that led to the top of the platform. Statues of gods and goddesses surrounded the outside of the tomb, and each corner of the platform had warrior on horseback used to figuratively guard the tomb. The center of the platform contained the tomb, which was also surrounded by 36 columns (10 on each side with the corner columns being shared between both sides). The 36 columns were used to support the massive roof. The roof of the mausoleum was pyramidal with a massive stone statue on top of four horses pulling a chariot with sculptures of Mausolus and Artemisia riding along. When the mausoleum was finally completed, it stood overlooking the city at 148 ft. tall.

For hundreds of years, the Mausoleum overlooked the city of Halicarnassus. In 334 BC, Alexander the Great overtook the city of Halicarnassus, but he left the tomb of Mausolus untouched. Even after pirating attacks in 62 and 58 BC, the Mausoleum remained in tact. Mausolusís tomb stood intact for nearly 16 centuries until it was damaged heavily by a series of earthquakes that shattered the columns and roof of the tomb. In 1404 AD, the base was the only definable characteristic of the Mausoleum. When the Knights of St. John of Malta invaded the city of Halicarnassus in the early 1400s, their first priority was to build a castle called the Bodrum Castle. The Bodrum castle was impressively large, and when the Knights suspected a Turkish invasion in 1522, they used stones from the Mausoleum to fortify the castle walls. Portions of the tomb can still be seen in the castle walls today. While collecting stones to fortify the walls, the Knights discovered the tomb of Mausolus and Artemisia, but when they entered the tomb, they discovered that grave robbers had long ago stolen the contents of the tomb. The Knights were impressed with some of the sculptures though and mounted several of the best works inside the Bodrum castle.

In 1852, the British Museum assigned archeologist Charles Thomas Newton to try and discover more remains of the Mausoleum. By using the accounts of ancient writers, Newton was able to approximate the location of the tomb. After some slight exploration, Newton was able to locate three corners of the Mausoleumís foundation as well as a staircase and some walls. Once full excavation began, Newton was able to find parts of the roof as well as portion of a stone chariot wheel that came from the sculpture on the roof. His biggest discovery was the statues of Masolus and Artemisia that was also part of the sculpture on the roof.

The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus was one of the most impressive structures of ancient times. Not only was the building itself impressive, but the tomb was decorated with works by some of the best Greek artists of that time. The tomb lasted for nearly 1600 years until it was damaged heavily by earthquakes. Pieces of the tomb can still be seen in the walls of the fortified Brodrum castle. Many buildings today are based on the design of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus including Grantís Tomb in New York City, the Shine of Remembrance in Melbourne, Australia, and the spire of St. Georgeís Church in London. Although the tomb was destroyed over 500 years ago, many countries still try to imitate the beauty of the Mausoleum today.

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