Word With a Past: Mausoleum

When King Mausolos of Caria * died in 353 BCE his widow decided to honor him by building a marble tomb more wonderful than any building known to man.  (We’ve seen this kind of thing before.  Taj Mahal anyone?)  She sent to Greece for the best architects and sculptors.  When it was completed the Mausoleum (literally, the tomb of Mausolos) at Halicarnassus was declared one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. **

[Brief pause while I do the math]  The tomb of Mausolos amazed travelers for more than 1500 years.  Travelers commented on its beauty well into the twelfth century CE, even after an earthquake or two damaged the walls and sent the sculptured chariot on the roof crashing to the ground.  The tomb ceased to be a wonder in the thirteenth century, when the Knights of Malta arrived at Halicarnassus.  From the crusaders’ point of view, the ruined tomb was a great source of building materials.

Today, the only things left of Mausolos’ tomb are an archaeological site, some carved pieces of marble in the walls of the crusader castle, and the word “mausoleum”


Mausoleum:  A tomb of more than ordinary size or architectural pretensions, especially a grand monumental structure.

* Now the modern Turkish resort town of Bodrum

** On one list, at any rate.  Listing the seven wonders was a favorite pastime for traveling Greeks in classical times.  One man’s wonder was another man’s Wonder Bread.


  1. Amy Sue Nathan on September 6, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    I love these Words With A Past features! Now, I must find a way to work “mausoleum” into the conversation next time I’m at a gathering. Yes, I do tend to be the *life* of the party. 🙂

    • Pamela Toler on September 7, 2011 at 2:03 am

      Glad you’re enjoying Word with a Past. I just keep stumbling over them.

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