A Brief History of Bodrum
In the fifth century BC, Halicarnassus appeared to be purely Ionian in nature. Both Herodotus and his uncle, Panyasis, wrote every page of their books in the Ionian language of the time, and there is no trace of the Doric dialect in any work of art from this period. In 546 BC, the Persians invaded the Greek coastal cities and Halicarnassus fell with them being subsequently governed by numerous dynasties under the guiding hand of Persian rule. The most famous of these dynasties was that of Artemisia I, who took over control of the city in 480 BC.
Herodotus mentioned this outstanding woman, at length, in his writings. He spoke of her needlessly raising volunteer soldiers for the naval forces of Xerxes, invading Greece at that time, in the following way: “Her mannish attitude and ways drew her to war. Her participation in the attack on Greece, without taking her womanhood into consideration, truly impressed me.” She personally commanded a warship in this attack, to tremendous success. It is said that Xerxes recognized her accomplishment in the attack when he stated, “The men under my command acted like women and the women acted just like men.”
Psyndalis, Artemisia’s son, succeeded her as the ruler of Halicarnassus and Cos, as well as a number of other cities. Though historians made very little commentary on the reign of Psyndalis, they were not sparing in their usage of terms such as cruel, tyrant and oppressor when referring to his son, Lydanis II. Herodotus, unable to stand the oppression and cruelty of Lydanis II, left his homeland, traveling to the island of Samos. In 1856, the archaeologist Sir Charles Newton happened to discover an inscription of a law enforced by Lydanis II which apparently indicates an avid intolerance by Lydanis II for opposition of his political approaches and views. We have no knowledge of who succeeded Lydanis II, nor information on how and why his oppression ended, however it is known that significant changes occurred in the region in fourth century BC.
Athens and Persia signed the “King’s Peace” treaty soon after the Persian reign was overthrown within the region during the previous century, and this treaty caused rule and control of the cities in Asia to be returned to the Persians. Persia divided the region into small princedoms, known as strapes, and in 377 BC, King Mausolus ruled the region as the Strap, or Governor, of Caria and Halicarnassus.
Prior to King Mausolus’ reign, Halicarnassus had been a fairly small town however Mausolus had devastating plans for the region. Moreover, he was also well aware of the importance of the region to fortification and trade. He moved his capital from Mylasa, modern-day Milas, to Halicarnassus and built long lines of massive walls surrounding the city; parts of these walls can still be seen in Bodrum today. He additionally transferred inhabitants of other six settlement places to Bodrum, with the goal of increasing the population of the region. King Mausolus forcibly imposed heavy taxes upon the people under his rule in order to implement his overwhelming projects, and even charged levies on hair longer than shoulder length.
One of his focus projects was the Antique Theater which is the only historical structure that still survives from the classical age. This theater, situated on the southern skirts of Mount Goktepe, just outside of Bodrum, is one of the oldest theaters in Anatolia. In 1960, it was restored by a group of Turkish people and is still used for attractions and festivals to this day.
Tourists visiting the theater may not be aware of how time flies while sitting comfortably in the theater watching the movement of the boats entering, docking and leaving the harbor. Interesting features of the theater include a stone altar, once used for sacrifices to Dionysus before the plays, and several holes cut into a number of the seats, likely used to support sun shades. The theater has a seating capacity of 13,000 spectators, with a 40 cm space between each seat. On a short climb up Mount Goktepe, one can explore engraved, rock-hewn tombs dating back to the Roman and Hellenistic periods that still hold several sarcophagi and mementos buried with the dead, some remains of which are on display in the castle museum.
Interesting artifacts, commonly found in the tombs, include small “tear cups”. These cups are thimble-sized and were buried together with the dead after being filled with the tears of the mourners. The number of the cups entombed indicated the importance of the deceased. Traditionally, more cups meant a more prestigious and popular person. Mausolus died in 353 BC with his wife-sister, Artemisia II, succeeding him.
Artemisia II ruled for only thirteen years, however, in that time she achieved two major accomplishments. The first being the continuation of construction on the Tomb of King Mausolus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, from which the modern word Mausoleum is derived. The second was a stunning success in battle, executed with all the brilliance of her predecessor and namesake, Artemisia I.
Open resources - unidentified artist and owner
Representation of Mausoleum
Pliny and other historiographers agreed that the mausoleum was a true wonder, worthy of protection. Easily visible from a good distance out to sea, it stood erect approximately as tall as a 20-story building. Visitors on tour to the mausoleum site today have only their imaginations to help visualize its magnificence. Although it stood, untouched, for 1500 years, it finally fell into ruin as the result of an earthquake. Later on, the Knights of St. John arrived, finding and using its remains to construct their castle.
The general consensus on the appearance of the mausoleum is as follows: oblong in shape and consisting of four parts. The first was a solid base, topped by a hall with a colonnade of 36 columns upon which sat a pyramid with 24 steps. At the head of the steps was a chariot drawn by four stallions in which statues of Mausolus and Artemisia stood, guiding the vehicle unto the heavens. All surfaces of the walls were decorated with frescoes by the most eminent artists of the time. The spectacular appearance of the mausoleum is customarily attributed to the magnificence and abundance of these wall frescoes. Though some fragments of the frescoes were taken to the British Museum, some blocks and column bases can still be seen at the original site, many having been used in the construction of the Castle's walls.
Artemisia's second important and notable accomplishment was the siege of Rhodes. The Rhodians considered it an indignity to deal with a female Carian ruler and in consequence, they mounted a naval attack to overthrow her. Artemisia, having been made aware of the plan, used the information well, hiding her own troops in a secret harbor situated near the main harbor. When the Rhodians landed and went ashore, Artemisia had her men capture and sail the Rhodian ships back out to sea. The Rhodian soldiers were surrounded and slaughtered in the marketplace, after which the Carians used their newly acquired ships to sail to Rhodes. The Rhodians, believing that their soldiers were returning in victory, mistakenly welcomed the enemy soldiers and were subsequently ambushed. The city fell easily to the Carian forces. Artemisia was followed by a series of successors who were neither as successful nor as remarkable as she had been.
Alexander the Great plundered Anatolia at a breakneck pace and, in 334 BC, quickly reaching Halicarnassus and its Queen, Orontabatis, Satrap of Caria. The city represented Persia’s last stand of resistance against Alexander in the Aegean area. Consequently, Orontabatis assembled a sizeable Persian force, supported by Greek ladrones. Historians Diodius and Arrian filled many pages with tales of the ferocity with which both the visiting and the defending armies fought. Tremendous efforts were made, with the Halicarnassians mounting an obstinate resistance, which enraged Alexander. Leading his forces, he was finally able to penetrate the city walls and, despite sparing the inhabitants, ordered the city sacked and burned as punishment for the resistance fighters who had dug in and delayed him for so long.
At the same time that the imported citizens of the six inland cities were sent back to their original settlements, Orontabatis and her Persian partner, Memnon, were held in prison in the chateaus at Salmacis and Zephysia which stood at the east and west ends of the main harbor, respectively. Alexander maintained the remaining part of his naval forces in Cos. When the castle there fell, he summoned forces to the small island-princedom which he had previously reduced to ashes.
Halicarnassus never regained the power it had commanded prior to Alexander's conquest. For some time, few remarkable events occurred in the city, but we know that in the third century BC, it came under control of Ptolemy II, of Egypt, who chose it as a staging ground with a focus on the construction of warships. When the Romans conquered Egypt in 190 BC, Halicarnassus again became a free city. This independence endured until 129 BC, when Caria was entwined in the restructuring plan of Rome.
By 400 AD, with the fall of Rome and the rise of Christianity, Halicarnassus had developed into a Diocese, affiliated with the Archbishop of Aphrodisias. In the meantime, the Byzantine Empire prospered, reaching an apex with its capital, Constantinople, located where Istanbul now stands. The infamously feared troops of the immense empire were soon to invade North Africa, Italy and Spain. Nevertheless, the days of world-wide infamy were coming to an end for Bodrum. It was little noted in the annals of history until the 11th Century, when the Turks assumed control of the region. In 1906, the area fell to the Byzantines, only to be retaken by the Turks three years later.
Towards the end of the 13th century, the region known as Caria became the Province of Menteshe and, in 1392, was annexed to the Ottoman Empire by Sultan Beyazit. At this time, the Knights of St. John maintained their castle at Symirna, present-day Izmir. The Mongol leader, Tamerlane, reduced this region to ashes in 1402. In compensation, The Knights of St. John were given claim to certain lands. They were given Halicarnassus, in which they built a new castle, and controlled the town, which they named Mesy, for over a century.
In 1523, the 'Greatest of all the Sultans', Suleyman the Magnificent, expelled the Knights from their lands. The Ottoman Empire flourished during Suleyman’s reign, which lasted for 40 years, however a long period of internal crisis and decline began on the coat-tails of this prosperous time.