Freemasonry Q & A: What is the Tomb of Mausolus at Halicarnassus?

January-February 2011

Mausolus was a Satrap of the Persian Empire and reigned from the town of Halicarnassus starting in 377 BC. Upon his death in 353 bc, his wife Artemisia began construction of a magnificent tomb for him in the center of the city. She died two years later, but the artisans completed the tomb to honor the two rulers and the skills of the sculptors. Its beauty became so famous that the word mausoleum now refers to any stately tomb.

The Greek poet Antipater of Sidon lived in the second half of the second century bc, and composed a list of “The Seven Wonders of the World,” sort of a travel guide for Greek tourists. He included the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus in his list, and its fame has continue for over 2000 years. It is regrettable that the tomb did not last as long. By the early 1400s, earthquakes had destroyed most of the tomb, and in 1494 the Knights of St. John of Malta decided to fortify their Bodrum Castle with stones from the Mausoleum. They also ground and burned statues for plaster. Fortunately, some of the statues and building parts survived are preserved in Halicarnassus and in the British Museum.

Here is how Antipater described the Seven Wonders.

I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the Colossus of the Sun, and the huge labor of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, “Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.”—Antipater, Greek Anthology IX.58