The Mausoleum of Mausollos at Halicarnassus

The Fifth Wonder of the World

The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus was a tomb built for Mausolus, a Persian governor, by his wife Artemisia II from 353 to 350 BC.

The Mausoleum of Mausollos was considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World, along with the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus and theStatue of Zeus at Olympia. Since its construction the word mausoleum has become synonymous with any large tomb. At the time, the word meant “building dedicated to Mausolus.”


In 623 BC, Halicarnassus was a city in a small kingdom on the coast of Asia Minor. In 377 BC, its ruler Hecatomnus of Milas died, leaving his kingdom to his son, Mausollos. During the course of his reign, Mausollos greatly extended the borders of his kingdom until it reached the southwest coast of Anatolia, in what is now Turkey.

Reflecting upon the size of the territory he now governed, Mausollos decided to build a new capital. For that purpose he selected the city of Halicarnassus. Located on the coast, Halicarnassus offered access to trade routes, as well as an easily defendable position in case of attack. Mausollos put his architects to work rebuilding the city. In addition to deepening the harbour, building a breakwater and strengthening the city’s defences, Mausollos also commissioned a theatre and a temple dedicated to Ares, the Greek god of war. In the centre of the city, space was cleared for what was to be Mausolus’s tomb.

Before construction could begin, however, Mausollos died in 353 BC. His death left Artemisia broken-hearted and she vowed to complete his tomb. However, as construction was about to begin a crisis occurred. Just before his death, Mausollos had conquered the island of Rhodes. Sensing an opportunity to win back their freedom, the Rhodians began plotting a rebellion when news of Mausollos’ demise reached them. They quickly assembled a fleet and launched an attack on Halicarnassus.

When Artemisia learned of the impending invasion she responded by hiding her fleet in the eastern end of the harbour. After the Rhodian army landed, Artemisia’s fleet came out of hiding and towed the enemy fleet out to sea. They then set sail for Rhodes. Thinking that this was the Rhodian army returning after a quick victory, Artemisia’s forces were allowed into the city where they quickly burned and sacked Rhodes, crushing the rebellion in the process.

The Mausoleum

Artemisia spared no expense building the Mausoleum. She wanted to give her husband the finest tomb ever seen and sent messengers all over Greece seeking the very best architects and craftsmen she could find. These included Scopas, the architect who rebuilt the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, as well as such noted sculptors as Leochares, Bryaxis and Timotheus.

The Mausoleum was erected on a hill overlooking Halicarnassus. It was built in the middle of a walled court yard. The tomb rested on a large stone base that formed part of its foundation.

The tomb itself consisted of a large, tapering rectangular stone block that supported the burial chamber as well as a ring of 36 Greek columns. These, in turn supported a pyramid-shaped roof. The whole structure was covered with sculpture and relief carvings depicting scenes from Greek mythology, such as the Trojan War and was capped with a quadriga, a chariot pulled by four bronze horses.

The Destruction of the Mausoleum

The Mausoleum stood overlooking Halicarnassus for centuries, and remained relatively untouched, even as the city gradually fell into ruins. In the middle ages, the Mausoleum was levelled by a series of earthquakes. During the Crusades, Halicarnassus was rebuilt as the city of Bodrum by the Knights of Malta, who also used the stone from the Mausoleum to build a fortress meant to protect the city. Today only the foundation of the Mausoleum remains intact.

Works Cited

Kostof, Spiro (1985). A History of Architecture. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 9.

Gloag, John (1969) [1958]. Guide to Western Architecture (Revised Edition ed.). The Hamlyn Publishing Group. pp. 362.

Smith, William (1870). “Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, page 744”. Retrieved on Mar.18/09

The copyright of the article The Mausoleum of Mausollos at Halicarnassus in Ancient History is owned by Terry Long. Permission to republish The Mausoleum of Mausollos at Halicarnassus in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.


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