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Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus-Istanbul

In 377 BC, Halicarnassus was the capital of a small regional kingdom in the coast of Anatolia. In that year the ruler of the region, Hecatomnus of Milas, died and left the control of the kingdom to his son, Mausolus. Hecatomnus, a local satrap under the Persians, took control of several of the neighboring cities and districts. After Mausolus and Artemisia, he had several other sons and daughters: Ada (adopted mother of Alexander III of Macedon), Idrieus and Pixodarus. Mausolus extended its territory as far as the southwest coast of Anatolia. Mausolus and Artemisia ruled from Halicarnassus over the surrounding territory for twenty-four years. Mausolus, although descended from local people, spoke Greek and admired the Greek way of life and government. He founded many cities of Greek design along the coast and encouraged Greek democratic traditions.
Mausolus decided to build a new capital, a city as safe from capture as magnificent for to be seen. He chose the city of Halicarnassus. If Mausolus' ships blocked a small channel, they could keep all enemy warships out. He started to make of Halicarnassus a capital fit for a warrior prince. His workmen deepened the city's harbor and used the dragged sand to make protecting breakwaters in front of the channel. On land they paved streets and squares, and built houses for ordinary citizens. And on one side of the harbor they built a massive fortified palace for Mausolus, positioned to have clear views out to sea and inland to the hills — places from where enemies could attack.
On land, the workmen also built walls and watchtowers, a Greek style theatre and a temple to Ares — the Greek god of war.
Mausolus and Artemisia spent huge amounts of tax money to embellish the city. They commissioned statues, temples and buildings of gleaming marble. In the center of the city Mausolus planned to place a resting place for his body after his death. It would be a tomb that would forever show how rich he and his queen were.
In 353 BC Mausolus died, leaving Artemisia broken-hearted. It was the custom in Caria for rulers to marry their sisters. Such incestuous marriages kept the power and the wealth in the family. As a tribute to him, she decided to build him the most splendid tomb, a structure so famous that Mausolus's name is now the eponym for all stately tombs, in the word mausoleum. The construction was also so beautiful and unique it became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Soon after construction of the tomb started Artemisia found herself in a crisis. Rhodes, a Greek island at the Aegean Sea, had been conquered by Mausolus. When the Rhodians heard about 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, Artemisia hid her own ships at a secret location at the east end of the city's harbor. 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. Artemisia 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 defense and the city was easily captured, quelling the rebellion.
Artemisia 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 sacrifice ritual the bodies of a large number of dead animals were placed on the stairs leading to the tomb, then the stairs were filled with stones and rubble, sealing the access. According to the historian Pliny the Elder, the craftsmen decided to stay and finish the work after the death of their patron "considering that it was at once a memorial of his own fame and of the sculptor's art."

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