At last, I have seen one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. In the 4th century bc, King Maussollos refounded Halicarnassus, now Bodrum, the fashionable resort on Turkey’s Aegean coast. There he ruled the Karia people with his wife and sister, Queen Artemisia.

A facial reconstruction made from her skeleton, in the Crusader castle, suggests that Artemisia was no looker, but she had sophisticated taste in jewellery, being buried with an exquisite golden diadem made of leaves. Maussollos was mad about Greek culture and imported the best sculptors to beautify his capital. He probably began his own tomb-the Mausoleum. About 50 yards tall, it was covered in statues and reliefs, of which fragments are now in the British Museum.

In truth, little survives of the mausoleum, beyond its foundations. And a mystery. Why, for this short period of ancient history, were the Karians rich enough for their king to afford this immense edifice? Other wonders exist in the castle, which houses the Museum of Under-water Archaeology. Among other ships that have been recovered from beneath the waves is one from the Bronze Age, carrying amphorae, 10 tons of copper, one ton of tin, a chess set and a gold scarab that had belonged to Queen Nefertiti.

* Subscribe to Country Life and get our Ipad edition for free: