May 17, 2011

Seven Wonders of the Ancient World - Part Six

Mausoleum of Mausollos at Halicarnassus

The city of Halicarnassus (present Bodrum, Turkey) was the capitol of a small kingdom along the Mediterranean coast of Asia Minor. From 377 B.C. to 350 B.C. it was ruled by Mausolus and his queen. When Mausolus died in 353 B.C., Artemisia, who was not only his wife but his sister, decided to build a tomb to honour him. It became a structure so famous that Mausolus's name is now associated with all stately tombs through the modern word mausoleum.

Artemisia spared no expense in building the tomb. She sent messengers to Greece to find the most talented artists of the time. This included Scopas, the man who had supervised the rebuilding of the temple of Artemis at Ephesus. Other famous sculptors such as Bryaxis, Leochares and Timotheus joined him as well as hundreds of other craftsmen.

The tomb was erected on a hill overlooking the city. The whole structure sat in an enclosed courtyard. At the center of the courtyard was a stone platform on which the tomb itself sat. A staircase, flanked by stone lions, led to the top of this platform. Along the outer wall of this were many statues depicting gods and goddess. At each corner stone warriors, mounted on horseback, guarded the tomb.

At the center of the platform was the tomb itself. Made mostly of marble, the structure rose as a square, tapering block to about one-third of the Mausoleum's 45 metre height. This section was covered with relief sculpture showing action scenes from Greek myth/history. One part showed the battle of the Centaurs with the Lapiths. Another depicted Greeks in combat with the Amazons, a race of warrior women.

On top of this section of the tomb thirty-six slim columns, ten per side, rose for another third of the height. Standing in between each pair of columns was another statue. Behind the columns was a solid cella-like block that carried the weight of the tomb's massive roof.

The roof, which comprised most of the final third of the height, was pyramidal. Perched on the top was a quadriga: four massive horses pulling a chariot in which the images of Mausolus and Artemisia rode.

Artemisa lived for only two years after the death of her husband. Both were buried in the yet unfinished tomb. According to the historian Pliny the Elder, the craftsmen decided to stay and finish the work after their patron died "considering that it was at once a memorial of their own fame and of the sculptor's art."

The Mausoleum remained untouched for centuries, even when the city fell to Alexander the Great in 334 B.C. and was still undamaged after attacks by pirates in 62 and 58 B.C. It stood above the city ruins for some 17 centuries. Then a series of earthquakes shattered the columns and sent the stone chariot crashing to the ground. By 1404 A.D. only the very base of the Mausoleum was still recognizable.

Crusaders, who had occupied the city from the thirteen century onward, recycled the broken stone into their own buildings. In 1522 rumours of a Turkish invasion caused Crusaders to strengthen the castle at Halicarnassus (which was by then known as Bodrum) and much of the remaining portions of the tomb was broken up and used within the castle walls. Sections of polished marble from the tomb can still be seen there today.

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