Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2014.04.06 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2014.04.06

Wolfram Hoepfner, Halikarnassos und das Maussolleion: die modernste Stadtanlage der späten Klassik und der als Weltwunder gefeierte Grabtempel des karischen Königs Maussollos.   Darmstadt:  Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 2013.  Pp. 160.  ISBN 9783805346092.  €29.99.  

Reviewed by Cornelie Piok-Zanon (

Table of Contents

In the study of ancient Greek architecture, the Maussolleion of Halikarnassos is without a doubt one of the best known monuments, not least due to its descriptions by both Pliny and Vitruvius.1 Built in the 4th c. BCE by the Karian dynast Maussollos, and perhaps his wife Artemisia, it served as both tomb-memorial to the Hekatomnid dynasty and focal point of the newly developed city of Halikarnassos (modern Bodrum, Turkey). Yet, despite the wealth of information on the monument, its patron, and designers provided by the ancient sources, the reconstruction of its superstructure remains much debated. The publication reviewed here is a contribution to this discussion.

Hoepfner’s study consists of two sections that describe two aspects of Maussollos’ building program for Halikarnassos. Part 1 discusses the shift of the Karian capital from Mylasa in the hinterlands to the harbor town of Halikarnassos, the synoikism of the surrounding cities, and the layout of Halikarnassos as a grand Hekatomnid capital. Part 2 focuses on the Maussolleion itself, particularly on the problem of the reconstruction of its superstructure. Both aspects, the Hekatomnid plan for Halikarnassos and the Maussolleion as a key monument of western architectural history, have long figured prominently in Hoepfner’s work, and the material presented here both summarizes and epitomizes the central aspects of his research and thinking on the site.2 While the two parts are interrelated in that they describe selected aspects of the Hekatomnid building program for Halikarnassos, they are treated quite distinctly and could easily stand by themselves as separate entities.

Some general remarks on the publication’s format and target audience must precede analysis of these two parts. The book’s small scale — only 24 by 22 cm and a mere 160 pages in length —, hardcover binding, and ample color illustrations make it an attractive library addition. The two parts are divided into short, easily manageable sections that follow a rather lose structure. The writing is informal, engaging, and includes much anecdotal information. The publication’s focused subject matter will appeal to both the general reader and the specialist. Indeed, the book contains material for both audiences: it combines a basic introduction to the Maussolleion, its patron(s), and the city in which it was built with new ideas on the layout of Halikarnassos and the design of the Maussolleion. Writing for such a broad and varied audience is challenging, however, and it is the opinion of this reviewer that Hoepfner has not successfully met the needs of either group. The most critical aspects of the publication require a thorough scholarly engagement with and knowledge of the archaeological and historical record that one cannot expect from the general reader. The specialist, on the other hand, will be disappointed by the lack of nuance in the presentation of archaeological problems and the often superficial and generalized approach to the subjects studied. Thus, for example, the complex history of the Hekatomnids and their ambitions has been condensed into a mere three pages. The text does not include a bibliography; footnotes are incomplete, poorly edited, and largely self-referential.3

According to Hoepfner, the aim of part 1 is to present the layout of Halikarnassos as the “damals modernste[n] griechisch-hippodamische[n] Stadtanlage” (9). This statement in many ways anticipates the limitations of this section in that it suggests a somewhat antiquated, at times insufficiently thoughtful approach to the site, and an unwillingness to let the archaeological record guide the discussion instead of making it fit a preconceived notion. While the author is without doubt well informed on current research in the area, a meaningful positioning of his study against recent scholarship is missing.4 Part 1 begins with a brief historiographical overview and a sketchy assessment of the cohabitation and cultural exchange between Greeks and Karians in the area, followed by a description of early Karian settlements on the Halikarnassos peninsula and their amalgamation into the Hekatomnid capital. The study of this new city forms the core of this section of the book. While the author addresses many aspects that may have affected both the decision to move the capital to the new location on the harbor and the layout of this new city, the different sections are poorly connected and often placed next to each other without any indication of their relevance to one another. It is left up to the reader to develop a cohesive picture out of the information presented.

The main contribution here lies in Hoepfner’s reinterpretation of Vitruvius’ description of Halikarnassos.5 His arguments for understanding Vitruvius’ presentation of the city as seen from the sea and his subsequent re-identification of the placement of palace, secret port, Fountain of Salmakis, and Sanctuary of Hermes and Aphrodite are quite appealing on first inspection. Hoepfner’s novel approach seems to put an end to the debate about how to reconcile Vitruvius’ description of the site with the archaeological record. However, upon closer scrutiny, one detects a number of inconsistencies in Hoepfner’s proposal. Thus, his identification of the palace in the area of the former Turkish arsenal finds archaeological confirmation only in the presence of “Scherben sehr feiner schwarz gefirnisster Keramik” (56) and a few spolia not described in the text. These observations do not hold up against P. Pedersen’s careful study of the foundation blocks underneath today’s Castle of St. Peter on the Zephyrion Peninsula and their identification as the remains of Maussollos’ palace.6 The informed reader must question Hoepfner’s silence on this most critical and most recent identification of the palace’s location. Similarly, one cannot but wonder about his assignment of the Salmakis Fountain to a part of town (that he identifies as the Taşlı Sokak) on the southern side of the Bodrum Bay. Ever since the discovery of the Salmakis inscription in 1995, the location of the fountain has been securely attributed to the promontory of the Kaplan Kalesi.7 The marble cornice Hoepfner attributes to the Temple of Aphrodite and Hermes may well have been part of a temple, but its use as a window sill in a modern house says little about its original location. Once again, Hoepfner avoids any meaningful discussion of his proposal against the extensive scholarship on the Salmakis Fountain. That said, it remains remarkable that Hoepfner found a way to reinterpret Vitruvius’ description of Halikarnassos in a way that cannot be entirely discounted. One must certainly applaud Hoepfner for this fresh and bold “solution” to a long-standing problem. It remains to be seen whether archaeological findings in the city can substantiate his theory.

Part 2 focuses on the reconstruction of the Maussolleion and includes a new proposal for its superstructure. Hoepfner derives this new design from a corrected reading of the numbers recorded by Pliny, affecting in particular the monument’s height and circumference.8 His reinterpretation of the written sources and its comparison with the archaeological record are clearly presented and convincingly argued, and find support through juxtaposition with contemporary monuments. What makes his argument particularly attractive is the fact that he is able to propose a reconstruction that is based on clear numerical relationships among the monument’s different parts, thus reaffirming the notion that the monument was built according to a preconceived plan. One monument that informs Hoepfner’s new proposal in particular is the so-called Proto-Maussolleion at Mylasa, construction of which seems to have been abandoned when the Hekatomnids moved their capital to Halikarnassos.9 Given the importance of this structure for Hoepfner’s revision of the reconstruction of the Maussolleion, one would expect to find a detailed description of its form and an exploration of its precise relationship to its famous twin. Instead, one has to rely on one – albeit well executed – sectional drawing. Similarly, there is little discussion of the relevance of the long-standing tradition of funerary monuments in the area,10 some of the more famous of which are included more as an afterthought — tellingly collected in a section titled “Epigonen” — rather than being used to reinforce his new reconstruction. Ultimately, despite the clear scholarly contribution made through the rereading of Pliny, part 2 as well falls short of its potential in that it fails to situate the monument within the broader architectural context of Asia Minor and to position the argument within the context of current scholarship.

Given the complexity of the problems covered in the two parts, publication of their key arguments — the re-reading of Vitruvius’ view of the city in part 1 and the new superstructure proposed for the Maussolleion in part 2 — as two separate articles would have been more productive from a scholarly perspective, allowing the author to focus in on these problems, position them against the scholarship on the site, and explore in detail all aspects of his argument. In fact, for the study to be taken seriously as a scholarly work, a thorough review of the extensive bibliography on Halikarnassos, the Hekatomnids, and the Maussolleion seems imperative. Along the same lines, a very general publication on the Maussolleion for a broader audience should steer clear of complex specialized debates. In either case, a detailed bibliography on the Hekatomnids and their building program at Halikarnassos would have been desirable. The publication’s format and design are highly attractive and well developed and make up for some of its shortcomings. The volume’s rich illustrations will be much appreciated by those familiar with exploring the rugged Karian terrain. Finally, despite the sketchy presentation of his arguments, Hoepfner should be credited for putting forth novel approaches to Halikarnassos and its ancient sources that may stimulate new scholarly discussion.


1.   Vitruvius 2.8.10-15. Pliny, NH 36, 30-31.
2.   W. Hoepfner and E.-L. Schwandner 1994, Haus und Stadt im klassischen Griechenland. Munich: Deutscher Kunstverlag. W. Hoepfner and G. Brands eds. 1996. Basileia: die Paläste der Hellenistischen Könige. Mainz: Philipp von Zabern. W. Hoepfner 1993. “Zum Mausoleum von Belevi,” AA 111–123. W. Hoepfner 2003. Der Koloss von Rhodos und die Bauten des Helios. Neue Forschungen zu einem der Sieben Weltwunder. Mainz am Rhein: Philipp von Zabern.
3.   Footnotes are not consistently formatted throughout and some are incomplete. It should be noted that the author cites himself 19 times! [4]] Recent publications on Karia: F. Rumscheid ed. 2009. Die Karer und die Anderen. Internationales Kolloquium an der Freien Universität Berlin 13. bis 15. Oktober 2005. Bonn: Rudolf Habelt Verlag. R. van Bremen and J.-M. Carbon eds. 2010. Hellenistic Karia: Proceedings of the First International Conference on Hellenistic Karia. Oxford, 29 June – 2 July 2006. Bordeaux: De Boccard. L. Karlsson and S. Carlsson eds. 2011. Labraunda and Karia. Proceedings of the International Symposium Commemorating Sixty Years of Swedish Archaeological Work in Labraunda. Stockholm, November 20-21, 2008. Boreas 32. Uppsala: Ubsaliensis S. Academiae.
5.   Vitruvius, 2.8.10-15.
6.   P. Pedersen 2009. “The Palace of Maussollos in Halikarnassos and Some Thoughts on Its Karian and International Context,” in F. Rumscheid ed. 2009 (above n. 4) 315-348.
7.   P. Pedersen 2004. “The Building Remains at the Salmakis Fountain I,” in S. Isager and P. Pedersen, eds. The Salmakis Inscription and Hellenistic Halikarnassos. Odense: University Press of Southern Denmark, 15-30. For an up-to-date bibliography on the Salmakis Fountain, see The Salmakis Fountain (compiled by S. Isager).
8.   For a detailed analysis of Pliny, see K. Jeppesen. 2002. The Maussolleion at Halikarnassos. V. 5. The Superstructure. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, esp. 29-54.
9.   F. Rumscheid 2010. “Maussollos and the ‘Uzun Yuva’ in Mylasa: An unfinished Proto-Maussolleion at the heart of a new urban centre?,” in R. van Bremen and J.-M. Carbon eds. (above n. 4) 69-102.
10.   O. Henry, Tombes de Carie. 2009. Architecture funéraire et culture Carienne VI ͤ - II ͤ siècle av. J.-C. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes.

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