Hellenistic Structures > Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

Mausoleum at Halicarnassus


The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, renowned for its grandiose architecture and artistic significance. Built in the city of Halicarnassus (modern-day Bodrum, Turkey), it served as the tomb for Mausolus, a satrap of the Persian Empire, and his wife, Artemisia II. Here is a detailed overview of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, covering its history, construction, significance, and legacy:

History and Construction

  1. Mausolus and Artemisia II:

    • Mausolus (c. 377-353 BCE): Mausolus was the ruler (satrap) of Caria, a region in Asia Minor, under the Persian Empire. He governed Halicarnassus and expanded his territory and influence.
    • Artemisia II: His wife and sister, Artemisia II, succeeded him as the ruler of Caria after his death. She commissioned the construction of the Mausoleum to honor him.
  2. Commissioning the Mausoleum:

    • Purpose: The Mausoleum was intended as a monumental tomb for Mausolus, reflecting his power and legacy. It also served as a symbol of Artemisia's love and respect for her husband.
    • Construction Period: The construction began shortly after Mausolus's death in 353 BCE and was completed around 350 BCE, during Artemisia's reign.
  3. Architects and Artists:

    • Designers: The Mausoleum was designed by two Greek architects, Satyros and Pythius.
    • Sculptors: Four renowned Greek sculptors were commissioned to adorn the Mausoleum with elaborate sculptures: Scopas, Bryaxis, Leochares, and Timotheus.

Architectural Design

  1. Structure and Dimensions:

    • Height: The Mausoleum stood approximately 45 meters (148 feet) tall, making it one of the tallest structures of its time.
    • Base: The base of the Mausoleum was a rectangular platform, approximately 38 meters (125 feet) by 32 meters (104 feet).
    • Pyramid Roof: The structure was capped with a stepped pyramid roof, consisting of 24 steps, which added to its height and grandeur.
  2. Materials:

    • Marble: The primary material used for the construction was white marble, which was quarried locally. The use of marble contributed to the Mausoleum's elegance and durability.
  3. Design Elements:

    • Columns: The tomb was surrounded by 36 Ionic columns, which supported the roof and created a colonnaded walkway around the central chamber.
    • Statues: The Mausoleum was adorned with numerous statues and reliefs depicting gods, heroes, and scenes from Greek mythology. These sculptures added to its aesthetic and cultural significance.
  4. Sculptural Decoration:

    • Friezes and Reliefs: The Mausoleum featured friezes and reliefs depicting battles, mythological scenes, and other intricate designs. These sculptures showcased the artistry and skill of the Greek sculptors.
    • Statue of Mausolus and Artemisia: Atop the pyramid roof stood a massive statue of Mausolus and Artemisia riding a chariot, symbolizing their eternal journey together.

Significance and Legacy

  1. Architectural Influence:

    • Innovative Design: The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus is considered one of the finest examples of Hellenistic architecture, blending Greek, Egyptian, and Lycian styles.
    • Inspiration for Future Structures: Its design influenced subsequent monumental tombs and buildings, setting a precedent for grandeur and artistic excellence.
  2. Cultural Impact:

    • Symbol of Power: The Mausoleum symbolized the power and legacy of Mausolus and Artemisia, reflecting their prominence in the region and their connection to the broader Hellenistic world.
    • Hellenistic Art: The sculptures and architectural elements of the Mausoleum contributed to the development of Hellenistic art, showcasing the skill and creativity of Greek artists.
  3. Historical Recognition:

    • Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: The Mausoleum was recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, highlighting its architectural and artistic significance.
    • Term "Mausoleum": The term "mausoleum" has since become synonymous with monumental tombs, derived from Mausolus's name and his grand tomb.

Destruction and Archaeological Rediscovery

  1. Destruction:

    • Earthquakes: The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was damaged by a series of earthquakes between the 12th and 15th centuries CE.
    • Knights of St. John: In the early 15th century, the remaining structure was dismantled by the Knights of St. John of Rhodes, who used its stones to fortify their castle in Bodrum.
  2. Archaeological Excavations:

    • Rediscovery: The site of the Mausoleum was rediscovered in the 19th century by British archaeologists, including Charles Thomas Newton.
    • Excavations: Excavations revealed the foundation and fragments of the sculptures and architectural elements, many of which are now housed in the British Museum in London.


The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus stands as a testament to the architectural and artistic achievements of the Hellenistic period. Commissioned by Artemisia II in honor of Mausolus, it combined innovative design, skilled craftsmanship, and cultural significance. Although it no longer stands intact, its legacy continues to inspire and inform our understanding of ancient monumental architecture and the rich cultural heritage of the Hellenistic world.


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