The Wonder of Halikarnassus
The Wonder of Halikarnassus
by Chris Drum
‘ One of the Seven Wonders..’ is a phrase bandied around, but in Ancient times – just as now - people wanted to know what the ‘must-sees’ of their times were. Writers and the learned obliged by coming up with the list of The Seven Wonders of the World – which we redefine now as ‘the Ancient World’ of more than 2000 years ago.
They were :- The Statue of Zeus at Olympus; the Colossus of Rhodes; the Lighthouse at Alexandria, The Pyramids of Giza, The Hanging Gardens of Babylon; The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus; and the Mausoleum at Halikarnassos.
Yes- Bodrum , ancient Halikarnassos, was on the tourist map millennia ago as the city dominated by the 5-story high tomb of King Mausolous and his sister-wife Artemisia. Mausolous began work on his own funerary monument before his death in 353 B.C , and his grief-stricken widow continued work on it for the next three years until she died and left the task of completion to their younger brother and successor Idrieus. The construction took 2 renowned architects- Pythius and Satyrus; and the leading sculptors of the Hellenic world- Bryaxis, Leochares, Timotheus and Scopas who each worked on a single side of the structure, with perhaps Pythius carving the arrangement statues with Artemisia and Mausolous, on the top of the pyramidal roof.
It stood for centuries, but by the 13th century travellers reported it to be near ruin. Earthquakes may have brought the last stones down.
The city of Halicarnassus had suffered from Alexander, and his sucessors; grew again in the Roman Peace until AD 654, when it was destroyed in the successive invasions of Asia Minor. In 1402 it become part of the territory of the Knights Hospitallers of St.John based at Rhodos, who decided to build the great fortress dedicated to St. Peter the Protector. The Knights did not have to look far for building materials as the ruins of Mausolous’s city provided the famous green granite of Myndos, and marble. Much of it came from the ruins of the Mausoleum. In later centuries, European travellers reported fragments of the reliefs from the Mausoleum being set in the walls of the Castle. The most significant report being by an Englishman sent in 1844 by Stratford Canning, the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. When he received the reports of substantial slabs of the Amazons frieze being in the walls of the Castle, he requested permission to remove the marbles to Britain.
In 1846 Sultan Abdul Mecit issued a firman , or an imperial decree, granting his permission to the request.
Stratford Canning also sponsored Charles Newton’s Halicarnassos Expedition which discovered and excavated the Mausoleum from 1856-59, finding the portrait statues of Mausolous and Artemisia and other statues and friezes. Those excavations were also conducted with the permission of the Ottoman Government. As a result of Stratford Canning’s and Charles Newton’s work, there is now a full room in the British Museum, named the Halikarnassus Room, where the statues and friezes are displayed in all their glory. Charles Newton published 2 volumes of his findings. In 2004 a further seven volumes of work was completed by Professor Kristian Jeppesen, the leader of the Danish Halikarnassus Project team, who from 1966 have been excavating and researching the site of the Mausoleum. They have uncovered the whole of the basement area, the tomb area and many of the architectural elements and small finds from this extraordinary rich site. A small temporary museum was set up to show the progress of their labours and discoveries, and it is quite easy now to comprehend the scale and design of the Mausoleum, and appreciate the colossal size from the column pieces that remain.
The “Bring back the Mausoleum” Campaign.
What is this campaign about? Launched by the Bodrum Municipality, it is now run by lawyers, who wish to be funded in taking a legal case to the European Court of Human Rights ( according to the press release) to reclaim marble pieces back from the British Museum.
Will challenging the 150 year-old imperial decree of the Sultan take precedence over the sad list of cases of torture, imprisonment, discrimination and other injustices against real and present-day people?
Will this “bring back” the Mausoleum? The marble pieces and statues were just parts of a massive structure that, in the course of centuries, was largely re-used in the construction of the Castle and in many buildings of Bodrum. To “bring back” the Mausoleum would be to dismantle Bodrum! The barely disturbed ancient structures of Halikarnassus that Charles Newton mapped 150 years ago, have since disappeared into the lime-pits, and foundations of a town whose population cared little for the past. Indeed – a very recent survey found most residents still knew nothing about the Mausoleum. Tourists knew more!
Charles Newton read the Roman writer Vitruvius’s 1stC B.C description of Halicarnassus to locate the Mausoleum. Mentioned by the same writer is the Temple of Mars, with a colossal statue, that stood in the citadel beyond the Mausoleum. Newton found in the “Field of Mars” alongside the base of the temple, a Doric colonnade and a Stoa of Apollo. These days in the neglected field of Mars, near the Ozel Hastane, you will find a stalled hotel building excavation which was approved by an inattentive Bodrum Municipality, that revealed extensive marble finds in a small area. The approval would never have happened if there was a real concern for conserving what is still in Bodrum. We may wish that Newton had taken more to the British Museum!
Some of our readers will know that the Greeks have had a legal argument with the British Museum for the last 30 years saying that the Acropolis and Athens are now ready to be fitting custodians of the Elgin Marbles – which were illegally taken from Athens – and the case is still not concluded…
Now that the Danish excavations of the Mausoleum have been completed, it is time for Bodrum to consider how to permanently display the site and its pieces; to educate its taxpayers and residents and visitors to the values of guarding and sharing its heritage, and demonstrate that Bodrum may one day, be also a trustworthy custodian of the past.