Hecatomnus on the Mausoleum?

One of my pet hates is when people identify random idealised heads as specific monarchs ... and the problem with many Greek portraits is that they are idealised images of rulers, and so by definition almost impossible to identify.

The figure on the left is a colossal statue from the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (now in the British Museum). Because it comes from this specific structure, and because of it's scale, we know it's a god or a Hecatomnid ruler. It is an early portrait, but not idealised, so it can be said with a great deal of certainty that it is a man not a divine being ... Therefore most scholars identify it as having represented the eponymous Mausolus of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus built to him by his sister-wife Artemisia II of Caria (yes, I know a lot of books say he built it, but the ancient sources are very specific when they assign it to her).

Because the Mausoleum became one of the wonders of the ancient world, and spawned a term to describe a large tomb type, we have many sources that mention it. Although most of them are brief, and many of them are quite late, the term 'heroon' is often used - suggesting that it was some sort of a cult structure to the heroised semi-divine deceased. It was also a shrine that in its architectural decoration commemorated the might of the Carian Satraps and their ancestors.

Gods were represented on the tomb too, but they tended to be idealised rather than realistic portraits - for example this head of Apollo (also in the BM). Apollo is the only God identified with any degree of certainty, and the debate continues about who was represented in the chariot that topped the structure: Helios, Mausolus, or, my theory, Mausolus as or becoming Helios.

If we assume for now that the colossal figure is Mausolus, and its female pair was his sister-wife Artemisia - the women were still pretty idealised in Hecatomnid Caria, so are harder to identify with certainty - then I thought it might be worth looking at some of the other portraits from the Mausoleum and on the sarcophagus found in Hecatomnus' tomb at Mylasa to see if we can identify any others.

We know that there were many portraits of the Hecatomnids around the Med, because of surviving literary sosurces and inscriptions on surviving bases, but the only one we can identify with certainty is the one below. This relief, probably commemorating a donation was found at Tegea and honours Idrieus and Ada of Caria, shown flanking the supreme deity Zeus Carius, whose sanctuary Hecatomnus controlled at Mylasa.

Ada is shown in the 'Orans' pose previously used for her sister Artemisia. Figures in this style appear on the Mourning Women Sarcophagus, which imitated the Mausoleum, and it continued to be used as a 'type' for the depiction of Roman empresses. Idrieus is small, but identifiable, and this small scale relief probably copies the figures from a large scale statue group of the couple.

There are two bearded heads from the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus in the British Museum which are clearly portrait heads of Hecatomnids.

I slightly feel as if I'm blogging 'how to read Greek sculpture 101' and apologies if this is obvious, but you can tell from its shape that this head was created to be inserted into a statue. It's close to the Mausolus portrait type, with a similar beard, but not identical.

I may be pointing out the obvious, but Hecatomnus is represented reclining on his sarcophagus, with two bearded sons to the left of him, who are presumably Mausolus and Idrieus (see below). And this looks most like Hecatomnus to me (although I reserve the right to keep changing my mind right up until publication ...).

This second head is more idealised, and to me suggests that it might represent an ancestor rather than a living relative. The obvious person for me to suggest would be Hecatomnus - or more likely his father Hyssaldomus. As we know from Ptolemaic portraits it can be hard to tell family members apart, but this seems to be a Hecatomnid ancestor of Mausolus' though which one ...

The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus depicting amongst its lavish sculptural decoration a royal hunt and a battle - both motifs immitated by the Alexander Sarcophagus found at Sidon, but which were also depicted on the Hecatomnus Sarcophagus that pre-dated it. So the figure hunting on the Hacatomnus Sarcophagus must be Hecatomnus himself, and therefore we can safely identify these two heads below as having been portraits of him.

Many comparisons can be drawn between the Alexander Sarcophagus, the Hecatomnus Sarcophagus and the fragments of the figures from the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. I'll be making them in a conference paper, but I thought these points might be worth sharing. We have portraits of all the major Hecatomnids - we just need to work out who's who ...


  1. Why Hecatomnus?

  2. I would advice the author to read more books and speak less non sense....


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