From the Archives: Word With a Past: Mausoleum

Among other things, I’m currently working on the story of Artemisia II, the widowed queen in the story below.  I’m ashamed to realized that I did not mention her by name:  my own small contribution to erasing women from history. (I’ve corrected that in this re-run.) While we don’t know a great deal about Queen Artemisia, she did more than simply build an amazing memorial to her husband.  She also defended her kingdom against a revolt by men who didn’t want to be ruled by a woman, defeating the rebels with a clever bit of military sleight-of-hand.

She was also known as a botanist and has a plant genus named after her. Mugwort, wormwood and the like may not be romantic but they are useful and smell good.  You could have a worse monument.

So here it is, a word with a past:

When King Mausolos of Caria * died in 353 BCE his widow, Artemisia II, 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. Iris Seefeldt on July 14, 2017 at 7:14 pm

    Interesting. How come these places are always in locations where I don’t want to go at this time in my life, like turkey? Where the Turkey lives and rules.

    • pamela on July 15, 2017 at 11:57 am

      In this case, you’re not missing much. Mausolos’s mausoleum is long gone. The only thing to visit is a small museum at the archaeological site: so small that the staff at our hotel in Bodrum couldn’t tell us where it was.

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