The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus

The structure itself, possibly after being severely damaged by earthquake, was dismantled in two stages (1404, and again in 1523) by the Knights of S. John and the blocks used to build their Castle of S. Peter, a last toehold in Asia Minor before retreating before the Turks to Rhodes and then to Malta. In Halicarnassus, say Michelozzi and Bonsignori, were to be seen the great ruin of the Mausoleum [...] and in this same place ("in tal loco") there is now the Castle of Saint Peter (Borsook 1973, 169, note 169). Although there is some doubt here, the balance of probability is that what they actually saw was the Mausoleum, or at least its remains - together with the Castle of Saint Peter not too far away, by the sea. Certainly, the Castle incorporates many of the building blocks and sculptural decoration of the Mausoleum.

But could the superstructure of the Mausoleum still have been visible in the 15th century? If we accept the well known account of the Commandant de la Tourette (who was in charge of the 1522 repairs to the Castle), the tomb chamber was actually discovered leading from a room containing much marble decoration and bas- reliefs. It went the way of the rest: having at first admired these works, and entertained their fancy with the singularity of the sculpture, they pulled it to pieces, and broke up the whole of it. The account makes it clear that the sappers were digging downwards for stone and not therefore dismantling any superstructure; indeed, the characteristic grey- green stone of the foundation blocks also appears in the 1404 building (in all, to a calculated 6,000 cubic metres) - which surely means that parts (at least) of the superstructure had by then been re-used.

All this suggests that it was indeed the Knights who were responsible for dismantling a building - one of the Seven Wonders of the World - which, according to Eustathius of Thessaloniki's twelfth-century commentary on the Iliad, was in his day intact. Indeed, because much of the sculptural decoration from the Mausoleum also appeared in the castle walls, and placed so as to be as decorative as possible (cf. Luigi Mayer's drawing of 1797, reproduced in Lloyd 1989, 170), it is possible that the tomb stood almost complete before the first castle was begun: for the sculpture would have to be stripped before the builders could get at the structural blocks.

The Knights themselves (many of whom would have been cultured men) certainly liked the sculptured pieces of the tomb, for some of these were placed prominently in the walls of their castle - just as discovered antiquities were exhibited on city walls back home in Europe. They probably took others abroad with them. Thus the fragment no. 1023 now in the British Museum was found in a Turkish house on Rhodes, only a few hours' sailing away, and possibly taken there before the Turkish conquest of 1522. Another piece, fragment 1022, reached Genoa, perhaps in the same manner. Sufficient sculptures remained visible later in the century to prompt the enterprising if strictly impractical project of Fra' Sabba da Castiglione to take the whole tomb to Italy, to beautify Mantua; unfortunately, the Turks got in the way. Sabba, incidentally, appears to have acted as the Ciriaco of his generation, importing two little heads of Amazons into Italy, and sending to Isabella d'Este sculptures from Kos, Naxos and Delos. One thing which is certain is that knowledge of the Mausoleum, and the very tradition of its site (which was quite well known in the Middle Ages) disappeared when the Knights evacuated the area.

The 18th century revival of travel

For political and sometimes for religious reasons, Westerners found travel to Turkey difficult in the 16th and 17th century. But in the 18th century, we have Chandler & Revett's Ionian antiquities (London 1769) to thank for the best set of drawings of that region, and Chandler's own Travels in Asia Minor, 1764-1765 for a more discursive and personal account. In the following century, Fellows, Hamilton and Newton all provide accounts which are still useful - because it is clear from them that few of the major monuments available to us today were totally buried in earlier centuries. Indeed, such earlier accounts are a good test of the "survivability" of Turkish monuments.

Whereas we often read earlier accounts of travels in Europe in order to gain information about monuments subsequently destroyed by the pressures of an exploding population, we can still use earlier accounts of Turkey when we visit the country today because, as already remarked, in most areas (Constantinople and a few other large centres excluded) so little has thus far changed.

In Turkey we can visit inhabited antique cities which are still lower in population than they were in Antiquity. Iznik (SB2.1) is a good example: although it has never recovered from the Greek/Turkish conflicts of the 1920s, it seems likely that even in earlier centuries it was not completely inhabited within the walls. Leake (1824, 11), writing of a visit he made there in 1800, notes that the ruins of mosques, baths, and houses, dispersed among the gardens and corn-fields, which now occupy a great part of the space within the Greek fortifications, show that the Turkish Iznik, though now so inconsiderable, was once a place of importance, as indeed its history under the early Ottomans, before they were in possession of Constantinople, gives sufficient reason to presume. But it never was so large as the Grecian Nicaea, and it seems to have been almost entirely constructed of the remains of that city; the walls of the ruined mosques and baths being full of the fragments of Greek temples and churches.

Early guidebooks

Although we tend to think of the guidebook in all its glory (Murray and then Baedeker) as an invention of the 19th century, developed to accommodate an ever-increasing interest in travel, there are in fact plenty of guidebooks from earlier centuries. Pausanias' Guide to Greece, written in the second century AD, could be matched by mediaeval and Renaissance guides to Rome; and more discursive accounts of travels throughout the classical world were popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was educated people who had the money, curiosity and leisure to travel, and so the resultant accounts are often both readable, accurate and informative, depending always on the range of interests of the traveller. However, just as we take guide-books with us, so they did in the 18th century; so that "snowball" books sometimes result, consisting of passages copied or imitated from an earlier author, plus additions and variations by the current one, myths and inaccurate information being thereby perpetuated.


From here you may also go to The Preface, The Introduction, Building for Splendour, Town Planning, Roads, Water Supply, Aqueducts, Harbours, The Architecture of Work & Leisure, Religion: Temples & Special Sanctuaries, Funerary Art & Architecture, Decline & Renewal, The Conclusion, The Bibliography, or The Table of Contents

Greek & Roman Cities of Western Turkey