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HALICARNASSUS hăl’ ə kär năs’ əs (̔Αλικαρνασσός). City and trading center on the coast of Caria opposite the island of Cos.

Situated on the Ceramic Gulf astride a magnificent, natural harbor that extended on each side to fortified promontories, the city early gained great commercial importance. The surrounding country was unusually fertile and noted for its abundant olive, fig, and almond orchards.

The city was founded by Dorian colonists, but it was excluded from the confederacy of Carian states because of an ancient dispute, according to Herodotus (Herod 1:144). It was conquered by the Persians who allowed the city semi-autonomous rule. Because it sided with the Persians, Alexander, unable to capture the acropolis burned the city after a long siege, a catastrophe from which it never fully recovered. It was renowned as the birthplace of the historians Herodotus and Dionysius, and as the site of King Mausoleus’ tomb, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. From it the word “mausoleum” is derived.

Two references are made to it in extra-Biblical Jewish sources. It was one of the free cities to which the Romans sent letters in 139 b.c., which proclaimed the friendship of the Romans for the Jews and defended their rights (1 Macc 15:23). According to Josephus (Jos. Ant. XIV. x. 23), the people of the city passed an ordinance in the 1st cent. b.c. that Jewish men and women should be allowed to build prayer chapels by the sea as was their custom, to observe the Sabbath and to perform their sacred rites.


C. T. Newton, Travels and Discoveries in the Levant, IV (1865), chs. 35-41, 45; Burchner in Pauly-Wissowa RE s.v. “Halikarnassos.”

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The largest and strongest city of the ancient country of Caria in Asia Minor, situated on the shore of a bay, 15 miles from the island of Cos. Its site was beautiful; its climate temperate and even; the soil of the surrounding country was unusually fertile and noted for its abundance of fig, orange, lemon, olive and almond trees. When the ancient country fell into the possession of the Persians, the kings of Caria were still permitted to rule. One of the rulers was the famous queen Artemisia who fought at the battle of Salamis. The most famous of the kings, however, was Maussollos (Mausolus), who ruled from 373 to 353 BC, and the tomb in which he was buried was long considered one of the wonders of the ancient world. Pliny describes the tomb as a circular structure, 140 ft. high, 411 ft. in circumference, and surrounded by 36 columns; it was covered with a pyramidal dome. The ancient writer Vitruvius, in his description of the city, says that the agora was along the shore; back of it was the mausoleum, and still farther away was the temple of Mars. To the right of the agora were the temples of Venus and Mercury, and to the left was the palace of Maussollos. Alexander the Great destroyed the city only after a long siege, but he was unable to take the acropolis. The city never quite recovered, yet it was later distinguished as the supposed birthplace of Herodotus and Dionysius. That a number of Jews lived there is evident from the fact, according to 1 Macc 15:23, that in the year 139 BC, a letter was written by the Roman Senate in their behalf. In the 1st century BC, a decree was issued granting to the Jews in Halicarnassus liberty to worship "according to the Jewish laws, and to make their proseuche at the sea-side, according to the customs of their forefathers" (Josephus, Ant, XIV, x, 23).

The modern town of Budrun, which represents the ancient Halicarnassus and covers a part of its site, stands a little to the West of the castle of Peter. This castle was erected by the Knights of Rhodes in 1404 AD, partly from the ruins of the mausoleum. Lord Redcliffe, who explored the ruins in 1846, sent many of the sculptured slabs from the castle to the British Museum where they may now be seen. Sir C. Newton conducted excavations there in 1857-58, adding other sculptures to the collection in the British Museum. He discovered the foundation of the Ionic temple of Aphrodite, and the greenstone foundation of the mausoleum upon which modern Turkish houses had been built. He also opened several tombs which were outside the ancient city. The city walls, built by Maussollos about 360 BC, and defining the borders of the ancient city, are still preserved; but the ancient harbor which was protected by a mole, has now disappeared. The ruins may best be reached by boat from the island of Cos.