Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Halicarnassus Mausoleum & Its Amazonomachy Frieze Panels

Amazonomachy scene: An Amazon woman warrior (left) doing battle with a Greek on a frieze (decorative band that runs the length of a building's wall) panel from the Halicarnassus Mausoleum and now at the British Museum. Image credit: Wikipedia.
A frieze panel from the Halicarnassus Mausoleum depicting Amazons battling Greek soldiers. The Amazons can be identified by their flowing capes. Image credit: British Museum.
Another Amazonomachy frieze panel from the Halicarnassus Mausoleum. Image credit: Wikipedia,
Mausoleum of Halicarnassus- One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
Besides being one of Strabo's seven wonders of the world (at Geography 14.2.16), the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, Caria (now in western Turkey) is also famed for a relief depicting the Amazons (the Amazon Frieze) that once adorned the magnificent edifice. The word 'mausoleum', now part of our everyday lexicon meaning a grand tomb, is derived from Mausolus, the Persian satrap or governor-general of Caria, known to the Persians as Karka. Mausolus had been satrap of Caria/Karka from 377 to 353 BCE. He succeeded his father Hecatomnus who served as satrap for the Persian Achaemenid king Artaxerxes II (r. 404-359 BCE). Upon Mausolus' death, his wife, Artemisia II (r. 353-350 BCE and not to be mistaken for her illustrious namesake who flourished c.480 BCE) commissioned the building of the mausoleum as the resting place for his remains. Artemisia became satrap of Caria upon Mausolus' death.

[The use of a mausoleum for a resting place for the dead conforms to the Zoroastrian standards for disposing dead bodies i.e. encased in stone with no contact with the soil - as with the tomb of Cyrus the Great and the rock face tombs of the other Achaemenid kings.]
An artist's impression of the Halicarnassus Mausoleum. Image credit: Pervandr at
Halicarnassus was a port city on the south-western (Aegean) coast of Anatolia. Today, it is the Turkish city of Bodrum. Halicarnassus' other claim to fame is that it was the birthplace of Herodotus (c. 484–425 BCE), often called the father of history. Halicarnassus became the capital of the Persian satrapy (governorate) of Caria when the satrap (governor general) Mausolus moved there from Mylasa (present day Milas located to the east of Halicarnassus/Bodrum). (Mylasa/Milas is home to the ruins of a Roman era mausoleum said to have been modelled on the larger one at Halicarnassus.)

Anciently, Caria was a part of the Hittite sub-kingdom of Arzawa. It was known to the Persians as Karka and to the Phoenicians as Karak. Parts of coastal Caria were invaded and settled by Ionian and Dorian Greeks in the century or so following the c. 1200 BCE Greek assault and destruction of Troy to the north of Caria (see Chronology of the Region's History at our page on Ancient Westernmost Asia Minor
Halicarnassus (follow red arrow) in Anatolia. Place names are Greco-Roman.

Mausoleum Ruins
The rubble. What is left of the Mausoleum today. Image credit: Wikimedia (2009).
Other than rubble, little remains of the grand mausoleum and we read speculation that the mausoleum was damaged by earthquakes. What we told as well is that when the crusading Knights of St. John of Jerusalem arrived in Bodrum/Halicarnassus in 1402 CE, they used the mausoleum's stones to build a castle and its bas reliefs as decoration for their castle. The knights also burnt the mausoleum's marble in order to make lime [James Ferguson in The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (London, 1862) pp 6-10].

The Scottish Rite Masonic Temple in Washington, DC, USA was designed to be a replica of the Halicarnassus Mausoleum. 
» Also see Ethnicity of Artemisia, Amazons & Carians

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