Mausoleum of Halicarnassus – Wonder 5/7 (ca. 350 BC)

By: The Scribe on Friday, May 18, 2007

Built for a Persian satrap named Maussollos and his family between 353 and 350 BC, the Tomb of Maussollos (or alternately, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus) was constructed by some of the best architects in the Greek world at the time. Standing around 45 meters high, the tomb was considered to be such an aesthetic and architectural triumph that Antipater of Sidon named it one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Construction of the Mausoleum was actually begun by Maussollos’ wife Artemisia, who commissioned the best known artists and architects of the time. One of these artists was a Greek man named Scopas, who had actually supervised an earlier rebuilding of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

Mausoleum of Halicarnassus

Placed on a hill above the city of Halicarnassus in Turkey, the tomb was surrounded by an open courtyard. The tomb was built on a raised platform in the courtyard, with a stairway leading up to its main entrance – and along the stairway were statues of stone lions, gods, and goddesses, and at each corner of the platform were mounted stone horsemen.

The bottom third of the Mausoleum was covered in sculptural reliefs, mainly focusing on battle scenes: Greeks battling Amazons, or the battle of the Centaurs and Lapiths. Above this section were 36 columns with statues between each one, and above this was a pyramid-style roof. At the peak of the roof was yet another statue: a four-horse chariot driven by statues of Maussollos and Artemisia.

After the death of her husband in 353 BC, although the tomb was incomplete, Artemisia continued the construction. However, she lived only two years after his death, and although the building was still incomplete, the builders continued working as a tribute to their generous rulers. Maussollos’ and Artemisia’s burial urns were placed within the incomplete Mausoleum, and as a sacrificial ritual, a number of dead animals were placed on the steps leading up into the tomb – after which the stairs were sealed off with rubble.

The Mausoleum remained standing for an incredible 16 centuries, until an earthquake in 1304 AD shattered the columns. By 1522, almost every block had been removed by Crusaders to build their own castle and fortifications nearby.

Want to read more?

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

Tomorrow: The Colossus


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