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Bill Thayer

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[image ALT: An engraving of a large cubical building comprising a solid masonry base some three stories tall, a four-sided porticoed section resting on it, the whole capped by a gentle pyramidal roof. It is a reconstruction of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.]
				For a major article on the problem of what the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus looked like, see The Tomb of Mausolus (W. R. Lethaby, 1908).

It is more recent, more careful, and far longer than the article in front of you, and more critical of the authorities mentioned below. It also includes 27 engravings.

p744 Mausoleum

Article by Philip Smith, B.A., of the University of London
on pp744‑745 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

MAUSOLE′UM (Μαυσολεῖον), which signified originally the sepulchre of Mausolus, was used by the Romans as a generic name for any magnificent sepulchral edifice (Paus. VIII.16 §3 s8, and the Latin Lexicons).

The original building was the production of the piety of a wealthy queen, and the skill of the great artists of the later Ionian and Attic schools of architecture and sculpture. Mausolus, the dynast of Caria, having died in B.C. 353, his queen Artemisia evinced her sorrow by observing his funeral rites with the most expensive splendour, and by commencing the erection of a sepulchral monument to him, at Halicarnassus, which should surpass anything the world had yet seen (see Dict. of Biog., arts. Artemisius, Mausolus). She entrusted its erection to the architects Phileus (or Phiteus, or Pytheus) and Satyrus, who wrote an account of the work and its sculptural decorations; and to four of the greatest artists of the new Attic school, Scopas, Bryaxis, Leochares, and either Timotheus or Praxiteles, for respecting this name, Vitruvius tells us, the authorities varied. These artists worked in emulation with one another, each upon one face of the building, and, upon the death of Artemisia, who only survived her husband two years, they continued their work as a labour of love. Pliny mentions a fifth artist, Pythis, who made the marble quadriga on the summit of the building (Vitruv. VII. Praef. § 12; Plin. H. N. XXXVI.5 s4 § 9; Dict. of Biog., under the names of the artists).

It was chiefly, Pliny tells us, on account of the works of these artists that the Mausoleum became celebrated as one of the seven wonders of the world. Unfortunately, however, the ancient authors, who have celebrated its magnificence, have furnished us with such scanty details of its construction, that the restoration of its plan is almost hopeless (Strabo, XIV. p656; Cic. Tusc. Disp. III.31; Gell. X.18; Val. Max. IV.6 ext. 1; Propert. III.2.19; Suid. Harpocr. s.vv. Ἀρτεμισία, Μαύσολος). There are, indeed, coins which give a representation of it; but they are modern forgeries (Rasche, s.v.; Eckhel, vol. II p597). The edifice has so entirely vanished, that even its site is doubtful,a although some precious fragments of its sculptures survive, and are now in our own possession.

Pliny is the only writer who gives any thing like a complete description of the edifice; but even in this account there are considerable difficulties. The building, he tells us, extended 63 feet from north to south, being shorter on the fronts, and its whole circuit was 411 feet (or, according to the Bamberg MS. 440); it rose to the height of 25 cubits (37½ feet); and was surrounded by 36 columns. This part of the building was called Pteron. It was adorned with sculptures in relief, on its eastern face by Scopas, on the northern by Bryaxis, on the southern by Timotheus, on the western by Leochares. Above this pteron was a pyramid equal to it in height, diminishing by 24 steps to its summit, which was surmounted by the marble quadriga made by Pythis. The total height, including this ornament, was 140 feet.

The limits of this article do not admit of a discussion of the various proposed restorations of the plan of the edifice. They will be found enumerated by Mr. Charles Newton, in a very valuable essay On the Sculptures from the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus in the Classical Museum for July, 1847, vol. V. pp170, foll., with a chart of Halicarnassus, a restoration of the Mausoleum, and other illustrations.

Thus much is clear enough from Pliny's account; that the edifice was composed of an oblong quadrangular cella (the pteron), surrounded by a peristyle of columns (which were in all probability of the Ionic order), and elevated on a basement (for this supposition presents the only means of p745reconciling the discrepancy between the total and partial heights), which pteron was surmounted by the pyramid; the sculptures were of course on the frieze of the order. The other apparent discrepancy between the lengths of the sides and fronts and the total circuit of the building can only be satisfactorily explained by supposing that it stood within an enclosure, or upon a platform of the larger dimensions, namely, 440 feet in perimeter. When we come to the details of the arrangement of the parts, we find most writers giving the simple explanation, which most readers of Pliny would probably adopt at first sight, that the 36 columns, of which Pliny speaks, formed a single peristyle all round the building (see, for example, the restoration in Hirt's Gesch. d. Baukunst, Pl. X fig. 14, Pl. XXX fig. 14). To this view there are very formidable objections; and another, which has not only the merit of being exceedingly ingenious, but the authority of a most accomplished architect, is proposed by Mr. Cockerell, in Mr. Newton's Essay. Taking on the one hand Pliny's 63 feet as the length of the longer side of the peristyle, and on the other hand, calculating the dimensions of the order from the existing fragments of the frieze (which, in the case of a work of that period of Greek art, an architect can do with as much certainty as that with which Professor Owen can construct a dinornis from a single thigh-bone),b Mr. Cockerell arrives at the conclusion that the 36 pillars were arranged, in a single row of six columns on each front, and in a double row of eight on each side, at intercolumniations of 6 feet 8 inches, around a long narrow cella, corresponding in length to six of the columns of the peristyle, and in width to two (see the plan and elevation in the Classical Museuml.c.).

The researches of the latest travellers furnish a strong hope that good elements for reconstructing the plan of the Mausoleum may be found among the fragments of columns which are scattered about the city of Budrum,º and worked into its walls.

The building was still standing in the latter part of the fourth century after Christ (Gregor. Naz. Epigr. cxviii), and even as late as the tenth; but it shared at length, with Halicarnassus itself, in the almost total destruction which fell upon the cities of Asia Minor. For its subsequent history, the question of its site, and the chain of evidence which proves that the marbles now in the British Museum are the very reliefs with which Scopas and his rivals adorned the sepulchre of Mausolus, the reader is referred to the very interesting account of these matters given in Mr. Newton's Essay. All that can here be stated is, that when the knights of Rhodes built the citadel of Halicarnassus (Budrum), in the fifteenth century, or more probably when they strengthened its fortifications in 1522, they used materials obtained from the ruins of the Mausoleum, and, among the rest, they worked into the inner wall of their fortress some of the sculptured slabs which had formed its frieze. Various travellers, from Thevenot to the present time, have described these marbles, of which there is a sketch in the Ionian Antiquities of the Dilettantiº Society (vol. II Supp. Pl. II). At length our ambassador at Constantinople, Sir Stratford Canning, obtained the permission of the Porte for their removal, and in February, 1846, they were taken down and conveyed to England, and are now deposited in the British Museum, under the name of the Budrum Marbles. They consist of thirteen slabs, of the uniform height of 3 feet including the mouldings, or 2 feet 5½ inches without them, and varying in length from 2 feet 8 inches to 6 feet 11 inches. Their total length is 64 feet 11 inches, which is nearly the same as that of each longer side of the building; but they are evidently from different faces of it, as they cannot all be arranged in one continuous composition, though some of them are continuous, and they show traces of the hands of various artists. Their subject is the battle of Greek warriors with Amazons, which was as favourite a myth in Ionia and Caria as it was in Attica. Their style is considered by competent judges to be inferior to what we might have expected from artists of the school of Scopas and Praxiteles; but their close resemblance to another bas-relief of the same school, that of the choragic monument of Lysicrates, is admitted; and the points in which they are alleged to be deficient are just those in which we recognise the inferiority of the later Attic school to the perfect art of Pheidias. The suggestion of Mr. Newton, that accident may have preserved to us, out of the whole frieze, the inferior works of Bryaxis, Leochares, and Timotheus, and not the better productions of Scopas or Praxiteles, is not only inconsistent, as he himself remarks, with Pliny's statement that the sculptures were regarded as of equal merit; but also, it is one of those gratuitous suppositions made to escape from a difficulty, which cannot be admitted without some positive proof.

In the Roman Mausolea the form chiefly employed was that of a succession of terraces in imitation of the rogus. Of these the most celebrated were those of Augustus and of Hadrian; the latter of which, stripped of its ornaments, still forms the fortress of modern Rome (the Castle of S. Angelo); but of the other, which was on a still larger scale, and which was considered as one of the most magnificent buildings of Augustus, there are only some insignificant ruins (Strabo, V p236; Suet. Aug. 100; Nardini, Roma Antica, vol. III p75, ed. Nibby; Hirt, Lehre d. Gebäude, pp349‑351, and restoration of the monuments in Pl. XXX fig. 21, 23).

Thayer's Notes:

a For some indication of the depredations during the Middle Ages, see this section of The Greek and Roman Cities of Western Turkey, by Michael Greenhalgh.

b Dinornis is better known as the moa, a large flightless bird related to the kiwi; Richard Owen was one of the great 19c paleontologists: see for example this biographical sketch.

On the other hand, our author's simile could not be more apt, and will serve as a caution with regard to the value of reconstructions: some of the best-known of them have turned out to be utterly wrong. Along with a whole generation of little boys I am sure, I was quite disappointed to read in a newspaper account a few years ago that the beloved Stegosaurus of my childhood may never have existed after all . . .

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Page updated: 18 Sep 12