Introducing ABA, Mother of Mausolus of Halicarnassus

Next May I'm giving a paper in Copenhagen about recent archaeological research that sheds light on the Hecatomnids of Caria and the Argeads of Macedonia from Phillip II to the end of the dynasty. I wanted to blog some of my new research about the Hecatomnids, which although Koray Konuk and Anne Marie Carstens were unenthusiastic about when I posted it on Facebook, others such as Adrian Goldsworthy have been very excited about it - so I wanted to share some of my current research and 'put it out there' ...

The short version is: the tomb of Hecatomnus, found last year at Mylasa, contained a sarcophagus showing what I interpret as the Hecatomnid royal family, many of whose identities are now lost to us. When in Istanbul in early May, I took another look at an inscription in the garden of the Archaeological Museum, and think that I have identified the wife of Hecatomnus and mother of Mausolus: Aba. In addition, because of her Persian name, one can speculate that her mother, and that of Hecatomnus, was Persian, and this explains why he was appointed the first non-Persian Satrap.

Let's start with the sarcophagus found in the tomb assigned to Hecatomnus, and which depicts him surrounded by his family. (For my previous blog posts about the tomb, click on the Hecatomnus tag).

The deceased, identified by his diadem as a ruler and so Hecatomnus, reclines on his funerary couch. To the right of him a seated woman draws her veil with her right hand, a traditional bridal gesture, which suggests she was his wife. The royal couple are framed by: two bearded adult men and a boy to the left; then a boy, a youth and a woman to the right. The figures continue around the sides - several bear strong similarities to the Mourning Women Sarcophagus (photo below), and further hunting and battle scenes were copied by the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus and the Alexander Sarcophagus. (I've been working on reconstructing the Mausoleum based on the monuments that imitated it, so this is important evidence I'll discuss in Copenhagen, but we'll have to put that to one side for now.)

We know from literary sources that Hecatomnus had five children: two sets of sibling-spouses, Mausolus and Artemisia II, Idrieus and Ada, and one son Pixodaros, who ruled more or less in that order. Only one of these children is attested as having produced a grandchild of Hecatomnus, a daughter of Pixodaros who married the Persian Orontobates and is often called "Ada II".

If Mausolus and Artemisia II frame the sarcophagus panel standing at the ends of it, and if the man and the youth are the other known sons ... Why is Ada missing, and who are the two boys? One can play musical chairs with the identities of the figures on the front of the sarcophagus, and I have, but I have not been able to come up with a solution - we have too few names and too many people represented. Never has Socrates' saying "all that I know is that I know nothing" felt truer ... and after pouring over inscriptions, I feel that seeing it in the original Greek would not help!

There long been scholarly speculation that because of the use of unusual local names - for example Artemisia of Caria the daughter of the Satrap Hecatomnus - of links, whether sanguine or claimed by the Hecatomnids to earlier local Carian Dynasts - such as Artemisia of Halicarnassus a century earlier. The repeated use by the Hecatomnids of names that featured in early fifth century Carian families, and whether one can use this to trace some sort of ancestry and descent, will for now remain a matter for academic discussion. Coincidentally both Artemisias were generals, more specifically at sea.

I've been looking instead at the immediate family of Hecatomnus, and think I have identified the woman married to him. She appears not only on the front of the sarcophagus but is also represented in the frescoes that decorated the interior of the tomb chamber, which suggests she was considered an important part of the dynasty. Her headgear shows she was a queen, and her pose a wife.

Such an important woman would surely have been commemorated elsewhere in Hecatomnid art, such as amongst the ancestors depicted on the Mausoleum, and as part of dynastic statue groups - and this is where I found her.

The Hecatomnids employed Satyros as their court portraitist, both for the statues of the Mausoleum, and for statue groups such as the one at Delphi whose signed base survives (FD III, 4, 1954, 243, 176). When Phillip II of Macedon, inspired by the Hecatomnids, decided to build his own monument to his dynasty at Olympia, he hired Leochares to carve the portraits of himself, Alexander the Great, Olympias and so forth in the Philippeion. Leochares had earlier worked for the Hecatomnids on the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, amongst other projects. Part of a statue base to the Hecatomnids at Iasos was recently published, and the base below can now been linked to it (it had long lost its provenance).

As with the Delphi base which held statues of Idrieus and Ada, the top of this base suggests that it held a bronze statue. Because bronze was a valuable metal these tended to be melted down and so rarely survive. The base itself was re-used in the first century AD for the statue of an athlete. The statue may be lost, but the label identifying who it depicted survives and is fascinating:

"Aba of Hyssaldomus"

Hyssaldomus was ruler of Mylasa, where his son Hecatomnus was burried. The Greek could be read as Aba having been his wife, but the more common interpretation of the phrasing would read her as his daughter, and thus the sister of Hecatomnus.

Given that she is included in a group showing the immediate family created in the mid fourth century by later Hecatomnids, Aba was unlikely to have been just an ancestor's sister. Given that we know later siblings married - Mausolus and Artemisia, Idrieus and Ada - one can assume that this unusual practice was because of family tradition and that their father Hecatomnus had also married his sister. Since Aba is the only sister of Hecatomnus identified on monuments, she is presumably the one he married, and so probably the mother of his children. She was an important enough member of the family for the sculptor not to have felt the need to clarify why she was included, so I would suggest it was for an obvious reason - this one.

Carstens and Konuk both objected to my suggestion of this sibbling marriage on the basis that neither Mausolus and Artemisia, nor Idrieus and Ada produced known children, only Pixodaros who'd married an outsider (the Cappadocian Aphenis). I would argue that there were other children, possibly represented on the sarcophagus of Hecatomnus, who did not survive. I would also point out that the Ptolemies are well recorded examples of siblings having produced 'normal' children - and that modern research into more recent cases of incest and close inter-marriage, shows that the first generation of off-spring tends to have few genetic issues (Hecatomnus and Aba), but that the real problems occur in successive generations (Mausolus and his siblings' children).

We know from the Argeads and the Ptolemies that polygamy was the norm, and that whilst children by the sister or queen took precedence in terms of inheriting, that all children were legitimate. We also know that whilst a queen producing an heir was a bonus, failure to do so need not affect their statue (for example Arsinoe II of Egypt). Although we have no evidence of polygamy amongst the Hecatomnids, we also have nothing to suggest that they did not practice it - and brother-sister marriage, biologically less likely to produce children, would be an argument that it is more likely to have been the norm, as it was amongst the Achaemenids.

Another point interested me - although I initially thought of Aba and Ada as the same name with an interchangeable consonant indicating that they were having difficulties transliterating a local Carian name into Greek ... Aba is in fact a well-attested Persian name. If Aba was named after a Persian mother, this could explain why her brother Hecatomnus was the first non-Persian believed to have been appointed as Satrap by the Persians - in fact he could well have been half-Persian. (If Aba was instead the wife of Hyssaldomus and mother of Hecatomnus, a theory I consider far less likely, then this only strengthens my argument. Carstens doesn't think it's important in terms of understanding the dynasty, but I do.) The Hecatomnids were a Persian Dynasty, and the dominant role played by women in it is more in keeping with Achaemenid Persia than contemporary Athens.

This is just one of many new points I will be making at the conference in Copenhagen, and which will be fully written up and published with lots of nice footnotes. But you read it here first.

1 comment:

  1. wow, so much great information in one place!


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