In c. 377BC a man named Mausolus became ruler of Anatolia, a region in Western Asia, as he had inherited the land from his father, King Hecatomnus of Milas. Mausolus married his sister Artemisia (as was the tradition then; to keep power and wealth strictly within the family) and deemed Halicarnassus the capitol of this region, and his home.
During their reign as King and Queen, Mausolus and Artemisia adorned Halicarnassus with beautiful objects, sculptures, art and architecture, and they had always planned to have a beautiful tomb resurrected for them to be placed in when they died. Unfortunately Mausolus died earlier than was expected, leaving his wife distraught and determined to build the shrine they had talked about together. She asked the most prestigious and revered artists and architects of Greece to work on the tomb, considering Mausolus had been such a lover of Greek culture. The Antipater of Sidon (a historian of the era) thought the Mausoleum was so beautiful it should become one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Before Mausolus died he had conquered the Greek island of Rhodes and during the tomb’s construction the Rhodians heard of his death and set a fleet of ships to conquer Halicarnassus back in rebellion. Despite her grief, Artemisia formulated a flawless battle plan by hiding her own fleet of ships and ambushing the Rhodians once they had arrived. Her army then sailed back to Rhodes in the Rhodian ships to make the citizens think their army was returning in victory, only to find their island to be conquered once again.
As with many of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, Pliny the Elder (a first century historian) is to thank for much of the fine details that we know of the Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus today. Pliny documented that even after Artemisia died the workers carried on construction of the Mausoleum, as it was a testament to their own hard work and skill as well as to the lives of their rulers.
The Briton Charles Thomas Newton was another very prominent figure within the story of the Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus, as he was the man who rediscovered the ruins of the sculptures and statues held within the Mausoleum when it fell. He made sure these remnants were rescued as well as they could have been and displayed for the world to see until this day onwards.
Where it is Today:
At present, all that stands in the place of the original Mausoleum is the foundations that it once lay upon. The tomb itself was destroyed in the 15th century by a spate of severe earthquakes and once it had fallen the individual tombs of Mausolus and Artemisia were raided by either Moslem people or a team of crusaders. Much of the high quality marble that the structure was made from was taken to reinforce the walls of Bodrum Castle, south western Turkey, when it fell.
These sections of marble can still be seen today, whereas some of the sculptures and the statues of Artemisia and Mausolus were discovered by 19th century archaeologist Charles Thomas Newton when he dug a series of tunnels and found the site of the tomb in 1857. These are now displayed in the Mausoleum exhibit room of the British Museum for all to see, some 2360 years after they were first built.
First we should owe our thanks for the knowledge we have of the Mausoleum to Artemisia for choosing such skilled architects to build the structure. If it weren’t for their talent the tomb may have fallen much earlier than the 1400s and we would not be able to see parts of it in the British Museum and Bodrum Castle today.
Secondly we should thank Pliny the Elder, but most importantly Charles Thomas Newton who went to great lengths to find the remains of the Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus. Not only did he buy plots of land that he could only assume were home to the tomb, but he also dug a series of tunnels beneath the ground the find it. Thankfully his efforts were fruitful and his greatest achievement is still shown at the British Museum in London today.