Iran Zamin 2

This weblog contains personal views on the history of Iran in comparison with other ancient countries and information on Iran for those interested to learn about our heritage. (this is part 2 of Iran Zamin)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus

One of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World was the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. It was a massive tomb, built in the city of Halicarnassus, in Asia Minor by a Persian Satrap named Mausolus. During his reign he succeeded to conquer vast territories; at the height of his powers, Mausolus and his queen, Artemisia, controlled most of southwest Asia Minor.
Most of the accounts about Mausolus and his queen has come from ancient Greek writers, such as Pilny, hence open to speculations. Some especially insist that Mausolus did nothing remarkable during his life and taxed the people heavily in order to build himself beautiful palaces. Those who believe he was a knowledgeable, powerful leader tend to maintain that his province was so far from the Persian capital that it was practically autonomous as a result condemn any credit associated with the achievement of the Persians, in another word they believe that he was successful because he was deeply influence by the Greeks. The truth is that he was a man who embraced many cultures, ( he was at egypt and the model of his tomb was partly influenced by the Pyramids of Egypt), and that is precisely why he succeded in building one of the most extra ordinary monuments in the world.
When the Persians expanded their ancient kingdom to include Mesopotamia, Northern India, Syria, Egypt, and Asia Minor, the king could not control his vast empire without the help of local governors or rulers—the satraps. Mausolus was such a satrap; from 377 to 353 BC, king Mausollos of Caria with his queen Artemisia reigned the Asia Minor.
Mausolus decided to build a new capital, a city as hard to capture as it was magnificent to look at. He chose the town Halicarnassus. If Mausolus' ships blocked a small channel, they could keep all enemy warships out.
Mausolus started making Halicarnassus a fit capital for a warrior prince. His workmen deepened the city's harbour and used the dredged up sand to make protecting arms in front of the channel. On land, they laid out paved squares, streets, and houses for ordinary citizens, and on one side of the harbour they built a massive fortress-palace for Mausolus, positioned so that there were clear views out to sea and inland to the hills--the places that enemies might attack. In the centre of the city Mausolus planned to spot a resting place for his body after he was dead. It would be a tomb that would forever show how glamorous he and his queen were.
Then in 353 B.C. Mausolus died, leaving his queen and sister Artemisia broken-hearted. (It was the custom in Caria for rulers to marry their own sisters. One reason for these marriages might have been that it kept the power and wealth in the family.)
Openions divert with respect to time of the construction of Mausolus’ tomb. Some believe that he started building the tomb when he was alive and his wife continued on with he project after his death. Other’s believe that Artemisia decided to build the most splendid tomb in the known world as a tribute to Mausolus and hence the construction of the tomb started after his death. Soon after the death of Mausolus, Artemisia found herself in a crisis. Rhodes, an island in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Asia Minor, had been conquered by Mausolus. When the Rhodians heard of his death they rebelled and sent a fleet of ships to capture the city of Halicarnassus. Knowing that the Rhodian fleet was on the way, Artemisa hid her own ships at a secret location at the east end of the city's harbour. After troops from the Rhodian fleet disembarked to attack, Artemisia's fleet made a surprise raid, captured the Rhodian fleet, and towed it out to sea. Artemisa put her own soldiers on the invading ships and sailed them back to Rhodes. Fooled into thinking that the returning ships were their own victorious navy, the Rhodians failed to put up a defence and the city was easily captured quelling the rebellion.
Artemisa lived for only two years after the death of her husband. The urns with their ashes were placed in the yet unfinished tomb. As a form of ritual sacrifice the bodies of a large number of dead animals were placed on the stairs leading to the tomb, then the stairs were filled with stone and rubble, sealing off the access. According to the historian Pliny, 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 beauty of the Mausoleum is not only in the structure itself, but in the decorations and statues that adorned the outside at different levels on the podium and the roof. These were tens of life-size as well as under and over life-size free-standing statues of people, lions, horses, and other animals.
Vitruvius records that the architect responsible for the Mausoleum was Pytheos, the designer of the Athena temple at Priene and that the reliefs which the memorial was embellished were the works of the greatest sculptors of the time such as: Bryaxis, Leochares, Scopas, and Timotheus, each was responsible for one side of the mausoleum. The Mausoleum also holds a special place in history as it was not dedicated to the gods of Ancient Greece.The last written document of a visitor is the one of Bishop Eustathius, he observes in his commentary on Homer, in the twelfth century, that the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus is a marvel.
It was untouched when the city fell to Alexander the Great in 334 B.C. and 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 ( This was the first time that a heavy stone structure had been placed on top of the roof of a monument and hence the practice of this form of architecture was born at this point). 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. Indeed sections of polished marble from the tomb can still be seen there today. Some of the sculptures survived and are today on display at the British Museum in London.
Also see The Hanging Gardens of Babylon another one of the 7 wonders of the world!


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