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Halicarnassus (Greek Αλικαρνασσός) is an ancient Greek city on the southwest coast of Caria, Asia Minor, on a picturesque advantageous site on the Ceramic Gulf (Gulf of Cos). It originally occupied only the small island of Zephyria close to the shore, now occupied by the great castle of St. Peter, built by the Knights of Rhodes in 1404; but in course of time this island was united to the mainland and the city extended so as to incorporate Salmacis, an older town of the Leleges and Carians.

Early History: Founding

About the foundation of Halicarnassus various traditions were current; but they agree in the main point as to its being a Dorian colony, and the figures on its coins, such as the head of Medusa, Athena and Poseidon, or the trident, support the statement that the mother cities were Troezen and Argos. The inhabitants appear to have accepted as their legendary founder Anthes, mentioned by Strabo, and were proud of the title of Antheadae.

At an early period Halicarnassus was a member of the Doric Hexapolis, which included Cos, Cnidus, Lindus, Camirus and Ialysus. But when one of the citizens, Agasicles, chose to take home the prize tripod which he had won in the Triopian games instead of dedicating it, according to custom, to the Triopian Apollo, the city was cut off from the league. In the early 5th century Halicarnassus was under the sway of Artemisia I of Caria, who made herself famous as a naval commander at the battle of Salamis. Of Pisindalis, her son and successor, little is known; but Lygdamis, who next attained power, is notorious for having put to death the poet Panyasis and causing Herodotus, the greatest of Halicarnassians, to leave his native city (c. 457 BC).

Persian Rule

In the 5th century BC Halicarnassus and other Dorian cities of Asia were to some extent absorbed by the Delian League, but the peace of Antalcidas in 387 made them subservient to Persia; and it was under Mausolus, a Persian satrap who assumed independent authority, that Halicarnassus attained its highest prosperity. Struck by the natural strength and beauty of its position, Mausolus removed to Halicarnassus from Mylasa, increasing the population of the city by the inhabitants of six towns of the Leleges. He was succeeded by Artemisia II of Caria, whose military ability was shown in the stratagem by which she captured the Rhodian vessels attacking her city, and whose magnificence and taste have been perpetuated by the "Mausoleum," the monument she erected to her husband's memory.

Macedonian Influence

One of her successors, Pixodarus, tried to ally himself with the rising power of Macedon, and is said to have gained the momentary consent of the young Alexander to wed his daughter. The marriage, however, was forbidden by Philip. During the early years of Alexander's campaigns, Memnon, the paramount satrap of Asia Minor, had taken refuge with the Persian fleet in Halicarnassus. As soon as he had reduced Ionia, Alexander demanded Halicarnassus to surrender; and on its refusal took the city after hard fighting and devastated it. As he was not able to reduce the citadel, Alexander was forced to leave it blockaded. He handed the government of the city back to the family of Mausolus, as represented by Ada, sister of the latter. Not long afterwards we find the citizens receiving the present of a gymnasium from Ptolemy, and building in his honour a stoa or portico. Halicarnassus never recovered altogether from the disasters of the siege, and Cicero describes it as almost deserted.

Later Years

Halicarnassus fell to the Ottoman Turks, under Suleyman the Magnificent, in 1522. Four centuries later, after World War I, it came temporarily under Italian control. The Italians withdrew as the Treaty of Sevres became unenforceable and later the city's Greek population also left after the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey. Many of them settled outside Heraklio, Crete, where they founded Nea Alikarnassos.

Archeological Notes & Restorations

The site is now occupied in part by the town of Bodrum; but the ancient walls can still be traced round nearly all their circuit, and the position of several of the temples, the theatre, and other public buildings can be fixed with certainty.

From the ruins of the Mausoleum sufficient has been recovered by the excavations carried out in 1857 by CT Newton to enable a fairly complete restoration of its design to be made. The building consisted of five parts—a basement or podium, a pteron or enclosure of columns, a pyramid, a pedestal and a chariot group. The basement, covering an area of 114 feet by 92, was built of blocks of greenstone and cased with marble. Round the base of it were probably disposed groups of statuary. The pteron consisted (according to Pliny) of thirty-six columns of the Ionic order, enclosing a square cena. Between the columns probably stood single statues. From the portions that have been recovered, it appears that the principal frieze of the pteron represented combats of Greeks and Amazons. In addition, there are also many life-size fragments of animals, horsemen, etc., belonging probably to pedimental sculptures, but formerly supposed to be parts of minor friezes. Above the pteron rose the pyramid, mounting by 24 steps to an apex or pedestal.

On this apex stood the chariot with the figure of Mausolus himself and an attendant. The height of the statue of Mausolus in the British Museum is 9'9" without the plinth. The hair rising from the forehead falls in thick waves on each side of the face and descends nearly to the shoulder; the beard is short and close, the face square and massive, the eyes deep set under overhanging brows, the mouth well formed with settled calm about the lips. The drapery is grandly composed. All sorts of restorations of this famous monument have been proposed. The original one, made by Newton and Pullan, is obviously in error in many respects; and that of Oldfield, though to be preferred for its lightness (the Mausoleum was said anciently to be "suspended in mid-air"), does not satisfy the conditions postulated by the remains. The best on the whole is that of the veteran German architect, F. Adler, published in 1900; but fresh studies have since been made (see below).


  • CT Newton and RP Pullan, History of Discoveries at Halicarnassus (1862—1863)
  • J Fergusson, The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus restored (1862)
  • E Oldfield, "The Mausoleum," in Archaeologia (1895)
  • F. Adler, Mausoleum zu Halikarnass (1900)
  • JP Six in Journ. Hell. Studies (1905)
  • WB Dinsmoor in Amer. Journ. of Arch. (1908)
  • JJ Stevenson, A Restoration of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (1909)
  • JBK Preedy, "The Chariot Group of the Mausoleum," in Journ. hell. Stud., 1910.

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