Marvel at the wonder of Halicarnassus

The Turkish port city of Bodrum was once known as Halicarnassus. It was home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and even though the mausoleum has long since crumbled away, visitors still come from all over the world to see where it once stood. The mausoleum of Halicarnassus was built in the 4th century BC. This grand tomb was crafted by famous sculptors as the elaborate resting place of the great ruler of the region, Caria King Mausolus, and his sister-wife Artemisia II of Caria.

History of the mausoleum of Halicarnassus

When Mausolus ruled, he decided to build a brand new capital for the region; one that couldn’t be captured and looked absolutely magnificent. In those days, town planning was all about the bling and impressing your neighbours, but after looking at the sums, Mausolus decided that a whole new city might empty the treasury coffers a little bit too much. So he decided that the city could be overhauled instead. He and Artemisia spent huge sums of tax money to make the city one of the most beautiful and impressive in the entire region.

All great rulers want to make sure they’re remembered after they’re gone, so as part of the wider building works going on in Halicarnassus, the construction of Mausolus’ mausoleum began. It started when he was still alive, and Artemisia and his siblings carried on with the project after his death. It was designed by the most famous Greek architects and sculptors of the time, and no expense was spared for his final resting place. It wasn’t until after the king’s death that it became one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and it was named as such by writers of the time.

For many years to come, the magnificent mausoleum looked out over the city. It remained standing through tough times, even when Alexander the Great took Halicarnassus in 334 BC, and attacks by pirates in 62 and 58 BC destroyed most of the city. In fact, for over 1,600 years the mausoleum stayed intact above the ruins of the city – before a series of earthquakes brought the columns crashing down. It’s believed that by the year 1404 AD, only the base remained.

Explore the site

The design of the site was architecturally unique for its period, adopting styles from different countries. It featured a 45-metre-high structure made up of four parts: a high podium, gallery, pyramid roof, and a sculpture of Mausolus and Artemisia standing in a chariot lead by four horses right at the top.

There were sculptures and carvings surrounding the building, and you can still see the remains and recreations of some of them today. The pyramid roof was surrounded by stone lions, which were believed to protect the mausoleum.

Like all ancient wonders, apart from the pyramid and Sphinx complex near Cairo, the mausoleum of Halicarnassus has mostly turned to ruins. But you can still marvel at its former glory by visiting the ruins and the expansive site where it once stood in Bodrum. Some of the handcrafted, marble decorations are kept in the Underwater Archaeology Museum in Bodrum Castle.

Where to find the ruins

Today, you can discover the ruins of Halicarnassus and the mausoleum for yourself, right in the heart of the city of Bodrum, on Turkey’s west coast. Make your way to the port, head north, and you’ll get to the site of the mausoleum.

Less than a mile from Bodrum beach, you can get a bird’s eye view of the site. Certain parts of the mausoleum, like one of the horses from a huge four-horse chariot that stood on top of the podium of the building, was taken to the UK by British archaeologist Thomas Newton, but most of the ruins can still be seen today. As it’s so close to some of Bodrum’s top resorts and hotels, it’s easy to visit and a must-see day out for the whole family. Our top tip: get there early to avoid the crowds and the hottest part of the day.