Mausoleum of Halicarnassus draws tourists
Some fragments of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus may have been smuggled to the British Museum in 1857, but the 2,000-year-old structure’s ruins in the Aegean city of Bodrum have been drawing many visitors.
One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the site was visited by 3,500 people in the first quarter of the year.
The construction of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus started when the Caria King Mausolus was still alive. The structure was completed by famous architects and sculptors during the era in 352 B.C. after the king’s death and was regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the World by writers of the ancient era.
Some parts of the mausoleum, such as a fragmentary horse from a colossal four-horse chariot group which topped the podium of the building, was taken by British archaeologist Thomas Newton and his team to Britain. But the ruins are still in Bodrum, where it belongs, and has been drawing great interest from tourists.
Speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency, Yaşar Yıldız, a former director at the Bodrum Castle Underwater Archaeology Museum, said the structure was transported by sea.
“The giant memorial monument was carried on the Saray Street and loaded to a ship to be transported to the U.K. In 1857, the British archaeologist supposedly obtained permission from the Ottoman state and carried out works here. He took these artifacts to the British Museum but there is no written permission document,” he added.
Yıldız said the famous writer Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı, known as the Fisherman of Halicarnassus, had written a letter to the queen demanding the return of the monument many years ago.
“He said in the letter that the mausoleum could only find its value under Bodrum’s blue sky. However, the museum’s response was ‘we painted the ceiling of the hall where the mausoleum is on display blue.’ I was very interested in the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus because I went to New York’s Metropolitan Museum for an exhibition on Süleyman the Magnificent as a ministry official in 1987. I took my works from there to the British Museum. The museum director organized a dinner for us. They first thought I was from Topkapı Museum. But then an archaeologist, who knew that I was the
Bodrum museum’s director, joked and said, ‘he came here to take the freezes,’ they then said, ‘sorry but we aren’t returning the artifacts because we did not steal them,’” Yıldız said.
He said they’ve done many works to return the parts the mausoleum but failed to get any results.
‘It should be in Turkey’
“Important artists have worked on this sculpture. I believe that the return of such an important artifact will make great contribution to Turkish tourism. Today, the platform of the structure is still in Bodrum. Some of the artifacts around the region were already stolen; we don’t know what they were. There is a mockup and topographic map of the mausoleum. Intelligent people, who are interested in history, come to see the mausoleum, but its place is empty. These artifacts should be displayed in Turkey, not in the U.K.,” Yıldız said.
Tayfun Selçuk, deputy director at the Bodrum Underwater Archaeology Museum, said the ancient site, where the well-known sculptors of the ancient age worked, has drawn many visitors.
“The structure was built by the best-known architect in the era for free. The 42-meter-high structure is made up of four parts. It has a high podium, gallery, pyramid roof and the sculpture of Mausolus and his wife Artemisia. It is one of the most important artifacts in the world. Tourists visit this place and imagine the structure there. Some 3,500 people visited the mausoleum in the first quarter of this year. Last year it was visited by 19,000 people. We hope to see an increase in this number this year,” Selçuk said.