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Mausoleum of Halicarnassus

Mausoleum of HalicarnassusThe Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was a tomb built between 353 and 350 BC at Halicarnassus (present Bodrum, Turkey) for Mausolus, a satrap in the Persian Empire, and Artemisia II of Caria, his wife and sister. The structure was designed by the Greek architects Satyrus and Pythius, and each of the four sides was adorned with sculptural reliefs created by each one of four Greek sculptors Leochares, Bryaxis, Scopas of Paros and Timotheus. The finished structure was considered to be such an aesthetic triumph that Antipater of Sidon identified it as one of his Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus was by most accounts approximately 140 feet tall, and its base dimensions were 120 feet by 100 feet. One one estimate, the podium was 60 feet tall, the colonnade was 38 feet tall, the pyramid was 22 feet tall, and the chariot statue at the top was 20 feet tall.

The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus was Greek in that it was the creation of Greek artists, the most brilliant of their times; but it was reared on Asiatic soil, in honor of a non-Greek, non-Aryan king. Halikarnassos, the city which it adorned, stood on the sea-shore at the southwestern tip of Asia Minor. It was the home of a Doric-Greek colony, the birthplace, indeed, of Herodotos, "father of history," and its prevailing language was Greek; but, with all the rest of Karia, on whose soil it stood, it belonged to the domain of the Karian dynasts, who since the days of Kyros had been recognized as satraps of the Persian Empire.

The Karians, closely akin to their neighbors the Lykians and Pisidians, were originally distinct from the Greeks in language, customs, religion, and race, being the descendants and representatives of a people who, before there were any Greeks in Greece, occupied the whole of European Greece, the islands of the AEgean, and at least the western and southern portions of Asia Minor. Greek culture had not failed, however, to make its way among them, especially since the great days of Perikles's empire, to which they had been for a time attached as tributary members.

Maussolos for he spelled his own name with double s had been a prudent and successful king, and in 357 BC was a prime mover in the revolt known as the Social War, which destroyed the maritime empire of Athens, and gave Karia, along with other states, its independence. Uniting in himself the pride of a liberator and the thrift of a famous money-getter, he transferred his capital from the staid old island Mylasa to Halikarnassos, and proceeded to make it a Wettstadt and a monument of his own greatness.

So it happened that one of the World Wonders arose on the hem of the Orient through the cooperation of Greek artistic taste and barbarian filthy lucre, and became in so far the herald and forerunner of the dawning cosmopolitanism.

The Mausoleum was planned as a monument to Maussolos and his sister-wife Artemisia, and after his death (351 BC) was built nearly to completion by his widow. The scepter descended, in the Karian royal house, by the female side as well as by the male; and since the days of the other Artemisia, who distinguished herself on the Persian side at Salamis, and won from Xerxes the despairing plaudit, "My men have to-day become women, and my women men," the queens of KaEJa maintained a brilliant reputation as the better halves.

For fifteen centuries or more the Mausoleum stood firm in its place, a marvel to the ancient and the medieval world. Its name became generic, as in the "mausoleum" of Augustus, on the Campus Martius at Rome, and the " mausoleum " of Hadrian, surviving to-day in the Castle of San Angelo. As late as the fifteenth century AD the original Mausoleum was virtually intact. In 1402 a portion of the blocks which made its pyramidal summit were used by the Knights of St. John for the building of a fortification, and again, in 1522, the ruin was treated as a quarry, and a good portion of its marble went to lime.

It is melancholy to read the account of the commander who directed the work, and hear how, at the very time when Erasmus, Colet, Linacre, and Melanchthon were seeking to light the lamps of Greek culture at the North, a visible monument of its reality was going to the lime-kiln in the motherland itself. After four days' digging through massive walls, we hear how the spoilers came upon a great hall surrounded by marble columns, its walls decorated with polished panels of variegated marble and lines of sculptured frieze. From this hall a narrow door led out into the tomb, where sarcophagus and urn still stood undesecrated. During the following night robbers despoiled the tomb, and the next morning the floor was covered with bits of gold-leaf and fragments of fabrics wrought in gold.

The thirteen blocks of frieze which were taken from an old fortification wall, and in 1846 found their way to the British Museum, stirred the ardor for further search, and in 1856 was begun a careful excavation of the site, to which, aided by Pliny's note-book, we owe most of our present knowledge of what the building really was. The most probable interpretation of the fragments yields the picture of a building of two lofty stories, surmounted by a solid pyramid, bearing at its apex, one hundred and forty feet above the ground, a colossal four-horse chariot in which stood the royal pair.

The lower story, in which was the tomb, was decorated with Ionic pilasters alternating with niches for the figures of the family's ancestors, and supporting an architrave enlivened with a frieze. The second story was a temple, with an open colonnade of thirty-six Ionic columns surrounding the cella, in which the king and his queen received the honors of hero-gods. The first story served, therefore, in the design as a postament for the temple, and both served to carry the pyramid, which, in deference to the ancient usage of Egypt and Assyria, formed a fitting symbol for the resting-place of kings.

Bold and original as it was in design, and to this it undoubtedly owed in chief measure its place among the Seven Wonders, it arose under the hands of Greek artists, and yielded obedience to the lawsof beauty a beauty which is restraint, born of the sense of fitness, supreme of the Attic virtues.

The sculptures which, with their color and form, gave warmth and life to the exterior, were the work of Skopas, Bryaxis, Timotheos, and. Leochares. They wrought in competition, each assuming the decoration of one side; and when Queen Artemisia died (348 B. c.), before the work was done, "they did not," Pliny says, "abandon their tasks till all was finished, esteeming it at once a memorial of their own fame and of the plastic art; and to this day one cannot say which has excelled."

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Page last modified: 29-09-2012 18:38:00 ZULU