A Wonder of the Ancient World Commissioned By A Hellenophil Persian Satrap And His Wife-Sister

This is the last of three stories (the first story was about the Cyrus Cylinder, and the second story was about Parthenon frieze) that aim to show the cultural link between two arch-enemies, Ancient Greece and the First Persian Empire, using three objects that are on the display in the British Museum. The subject of this story will be about one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (or, more precisely, remains thereof) is exhibited in a room that is a bit out of the way, and not many people seem to be aware. An absolute scandal, is not it?…

A Story Of A Mausoleum Commissioned By Mausolus

Marble statue from the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos, possibly Artemisia, cr. 350 BC, Halicarnassus, Caria, now Bodrum, Turkey
Marble statue from the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos, possibly Artemisia, cr. 350 BC,
Halicarnassus, Caria, now Bodrum, Turkey
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Marble statue from the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos, possibly Mausolus, cr. 350 BC, Halicarnassus, Caria, now Bodrum, Turkey
Marble statue from the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos, possibly Mausolus, cr. 350 BC,
Halicarnassus, Caria, now Bodrum, Turkey
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In mid 4th century BC, a Persian satrap (viceroy; there is no negative connotation in the original meaning) of Caria (present-day West coast of Turkey) has decided to build a funeral house for himself and his wife-sister Artemisia. The chosen location was the capital city of Halicarnassus (now the Turkish town of Bodrum), and the name of the satrap was Mausolus, so the structure was called “Mausoleum at Halicarnassus”.

Mausolus spoke Greek and was very fond of Greek culture even though he descended from local people, and Ancient Persia and Ancient Greece were arch-enemies. He invited Greek architects Satyros and Pythius of Priene to design his tomb. Four Greek sculptors, Leochares, Bryaxis, Scopas of Paros and Timotheus, are known to work on the sculptures that adorn it. However, the design includes some Persian elements: the tomb is raised on a high podium, just as the Nereid Monument in Lycia (built in cr. 390 BC) and also the Tomb of Cyrus in Persia (built in 559 – 529 BC).

Mausolus died in 353 BC, before the mausoleum was completed. His wife-sister Artemisia has died shortly after him, in 351 BC. The architects and the sculptors finished the work after her death, some of them working (it was said) purely for renown. It was justified: the Mausoleum became known as one of Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

What Did The Mausoleum Look Like?

The Tomb of Cyrus the Great, 559 - 529 BC, Pasargadae, Persia, now Iran
The Tomb of Cyrus the Great, 559 - 529 BC,
Pasargadae, Persia, now Iran
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House of the Temple, design based on the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, 1911-5, Washington, D.C., U.S.A.
House of the Temple, design based on the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus,
1911-5, Washington, D.C., U.S.A.
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Model of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology
Model of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus,
Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology
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The Mausoleum was destroyed by the earthquakes in the Middle Ages. The remains include some pieces of the frieze (the band that goes around the building on top of the columns) that are exhibited in the British Museum. The site and a few remains can still be seen in Bodrum, Turkey.

Nobody knows exactly what the building looked like. The House of the Temple, Masonic temple in Washington, is one of the attempts to create an identically looking building.

Derived from his name, the term mausoleum has come to be used generically for any grand tomb. Three famous spin-offs, Taj Mahal, Lenin's Mausoleum and Anıtkabir, are below. The latter seems to have borrowed many design elements of Apadana that we have seen in the previous story.

Taj Mahal, 1632–53, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, Agra, India
Taj Mahal, 1632–53,
Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, Agra, India
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Lenin's Mauzoleum, 1924, Alexey Shchusev, Moscow, Russia
Lenin's Mauzoleum, 1924,
Alexey Shchusev, Moscow, Russia
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Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, 1944-53, Emin Onat and Ahmet Orhan Arda, Ankara, Turkey
Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, 1944-53,
Emin Onat and Ahmet Orhan Arda, Ankara, Turkey
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Additional Information

Jon Snow and his aunt and partner Daenerys Targaryen, The Game of Thrones, season 7
Jon Snow and his aunt and partner Daenerys Targaryen,
The Game of Thrones, season 7
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Mosaic showing the battle of Issus, detail showing Alexander the Great, circa 100 BC, Pompeii, Roman empire, perhaps after an earlier Greek painting of Philoxenus of Eretria (4th-3rd century BC)
Mosaic showing the battle of Issus, detail showing Alexander the Great,
circa 100 BC, Pompeii, Roman empire, perhaps after an earlier Greek painting of Philoxenus of Eretria (4th-3rd century BC)
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Marble statue from the Temple of Athena Polias, possibly Ada, cr. 350 BC - 325 BC, Priene, Ionia, now Güllübahçe, Turkey
Marble statue from the Temple of Athena Polias, possibly Ada, cr. 350 BC - 325 BC,
Priene, Ionia, now Güllübahçe, Turkey
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Cersei and her brother and partner Jaime Lannister, The Game of Thrones, season 7
Cersei and her brother and partner Jaime Lannister,
The Game of Thrones, season 7
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Marble statue from the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos, possibly Artemisia, cr. 350 BC, Halicarnassus, Caria, now Bodrum, Turkey
Marble statue from the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos, possibly Artemisia, cr. 350 BC,
Halicarnassus, Caria, now Bodrum, Turkey
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Marble statue from the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos, possibly Mausolus, cr. 350 BC, Halicarnassus, Caria, now Bodrum, Turkey
Marble statue from the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos, possibly Mausolus, cr. 350 BC,
Halicarnassus, Caria, now Bodrum, Turkey
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Mausolus and Artemisia were husband and wife, as well as full siblings… Essentially, this makes them the Lannisters of the ancient world! Upon the deaths of Mausolus (in 353 BC) and Artemisia (in 351 BC), they were succeeded by Idrieus and Ada of Caria. Idrieus and Ada were both the husband and wife and also the full siblings of Mausolus and Artemisia. Upon the death of Idrieus (in 344 BC), Ada became satrap of Caria, but was expelled by her brother Pixodarus, the fifth sibling, in 340 BC. When Alexander the Great defeated Pixodarus and entered Caria in 334 BC, Ada adopted Alexander as her son or nephew. In return, Alexander reinstalled Ada as satrap of Caria, which she remained until her death in 326 BC.

Artemisia, 1492, Master of the Griselda Legend, Italy
Artemisia, 1492,
Master of the Griselda Legend, Italy
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Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria, cr. 1616, Artemisia Gentileschi, Italy
Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria, cr. 1616,
Artemisia Gentileschi, Italy
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Artemisia is renowned in history for her extraordinary grief at the death of her husband (and brother) Mausolus. She is said to have mixed his ashes in her daily drink, and to have gradually pined away during the two years that she survived him. She received a full and friendly biography by the Florentine author Giovanni Boccaccio, written by 1374 (he also penned Decameron). Boccaccio completely omits reference to her husband being her brother (“…knowledge of her parents or native country has not reached us…”). He praises Artemisia: “to posterity she is a lasting example of chaste widowhood and of the purest and rarest kind of love”.

The name “Artemisia” has been in the news a lot at the moment of writing this post. This is the name of an Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi, whose self-portrait was recently bought by the National Gallery.

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