Belevi Mausoleum

GPS coordinates: 38.014700, 27.472200

This article has been previously published as a part of book Around Ephesus and Kusadasi: TAN Travel Guide by Izabela Miszczak

Belevi Mausoleum is monumental tomb from the Hellenistic era that stands near Selçuk in the Aegean province of Izmir. It is the second largest ancient mausoleum in Anatolia, slightly smaller than the most famous building of this type; that is the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. However, Belevi Mausoleum is much better preserved than one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Belevi Mausoleum
Belevi Mausoleum

Historical overview: 

Originally the mausoleum was designed for Lysimachus, one of the generals of Alexander the Great. Lysimachus was killed during the war with his former ally - Seleucus I Nicator, at the Battle of Corupedium, near Sardis, in 281 BC. His body, guarded by a faithful dog, was found a few days later and sent to his son - Alexander. He buried his father in Lysimachia, located in Thrace. It was a symbolic event because Lysimachia was founded by Lysimachus during the preparations for war with his rivals.

Finally, ruler of the Seleucid dynasty known as Antiochus II Theos was buried in Belevi Mausoleum.His nickname, meaning "God", was given to him by the residents of Miletus. He freed them from the rule of a tyrant named Timarch. Antiochus II died in 246 BC, allegedly poisoned by his first wife and cousin – Laodice I – who then married her cousin, Seleucus II.

Antiochus II Theos was partly of Persian origins because his grandmother Apam was a Persian princess. She married one of the distinguished generals of Alexander the Great, Antiochus I Soter, the father of Antiochus II. His roots explain the Persian influences visible in Belevi Mausoleum embellishments.

Sightseeing: 

The burial chamber of the mausoleum is carved in solid rock. This chamber had the square plan, with a side of the length of 29 meters and its height was 10 meters. From the outside, the rock obscuring the mausoleum was covered with marble slabs. Above there was a second level, surrounded by 28 columns. The construction of Belevi Mausoleum was never finished. It would probably have the shape of a steep pyramid with the statue crowning its top, and the whole structure would reach 35 meters in height.

In the burial chamber, there was a large, unfinished sarcophagus, with a lid carved to resemble a lying man. Originally the man's head was decorated with a crown, and in his hand he held a bowl. He was accompanied by a servant, whose dress and figure indicate Persian origins.

The materials for the construction of the mausoleum were acquired locally, for example the marble came from the vicinity of Ephesus. To complete the decorations of the mausoleum, up to 2,500 cubic meters of marble had been excavated. The slabs, which covered the mausoleum from the north, depicted the funeral. The reliefs on other sides illustrated a centauromachy that is the battle of legendary people known as Lapiths with the Centaurs at the wedding feast of Pirithous.

The groups of lions-griffins staring in the direction of carved stone vessels were placed around the edges of the roof of the mausoleum. On the corners of the roof, there were pairs of sculpted horses. Not much has been preserved to our times of this magnificent structure. The preserved sculptures and the sarcophagus are now in the collections of Ephesus Museum in Selçuk. Other decorative elements, including the fragments of centauromachy, are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum in Izmir.

Belevi Mausoleum represents a mixed style, as, apart from the Greek elements, Persian influences are visible in its execution. These include the character of an oriental servant, the statues of lions-griffins with long wings and the style of decorative vases.

Visitor tips: 

The area surrounding the mausoleum is fenced off. The access is free of charge. At the mausoleum stands an information board in three languages: Turkish, English, and German.

A visit to Belevi Mausoleum can be easily combined with a tour of better-known tourist attractions, such as Ephesus and Selçuk.

Getting there: 

Belevi Mausoleum is located on the eastern outskirts of the town with the same name, just off the İzmir-Aydın highway. Belevi is a small town in the province of Izmir, located near Selçuk. It is inhabited by about 2,000 people, and it received city rights only in 1991. To the east of the city lies Lake Belevi. Belevi is passed by the İzmir-Aydın highway, from which you can exit directly into the town. The distance to Izmir is 71 km and to Aydın - 55 km.

To get to the mausoleum leave the highway and drive to the center of Belevi, and then follow the signposts to the east. The road leads along the highway, and then turns right and goes under the viaduct. Belevi Mausoleum stands at the end of dead end road.

Warning! It is possible to get confused by"'Belevi mezarlığı" signposts that lead to the modern cemetery, located on the same side of the town. To find the ancient mausoleum, look for brown signposts that signify tourist attractions in Turkey.

Bibliography: 

Image gallery: 

The statue of a lion-griffin from Belevi Mausoleum, now in Ephesus Museum in Selçuk
The statue of a lion-griffin from Belevi Mausoleum, now in Ephesus Museum in Selçuk
The sarcophagus from Belevi Mausoleum, now in Ephesus Museum in Selçuk
The sarcophagus from Belevi Mausoleum, now in Ephesus Museum in Selçuk
The vase from Belevi Mausoleum, now in Ephesus Museum in Selçuk
The vase from Belevi Mausoleum, now in Ephesus Museum in Selçuk
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