Bodrum: Crusaders, A Castle, and Shipwrecks


The final stop in my travels through Turkey was Bodrum.  This seaside town is a popular holiday destination and has a reputation for catering to the wealthy.  The yachts at the waterfront attest to this.


The architecture of the city and surrounding area is noticeably uniform.  Boxy white buildings facing seaward befit this warm coastal area.

Like seemingly everywhere I’ve been in Turkey, Bodrum has historical significance.  Previously known as Halicarnassus, the city housed one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  Mausolus was a ruler in fourth century western Anatolia.  After his death, his wife (who was also his sister) commissioned a great tomb for him in Halicarnassus.  Mausolus would probably be largely forgotten if not for this monument.  Standing nearly 150 feet high and made of marble, the finest craftsman of the day were hired to work on the tomb.  The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus no longer stands as a result of earthquakes and Crusaders.  A small portion remains and can be visited.  Several statues from the site now reside in the British Museum.

Herodotus, the so-called “Father of History” was born in Halicarnassus.  He is known to have completed one work, The Histories, which in all likelihood you haven’t read.  I just remember him being brought up in Mr. Curry's class junior year.

Statue of Herodotus in Bodrum

One of the main attractions in the city is Bodrum Castle.  The Knights Hospitaller were a military and religious order that was organized during the First Crusade in 1099.  After Muslim forces took back the Holy Land the Knights moved their base of operations to Rhodes.  They constructed a network of castles in the Dodecanese Islands and Anatolia.  The castle in Bodrum, called the Castle of St Peter by the Knights, is considered one of the largest and most impressive of these.  Construction started in 1402 and continued for over a century.  The Knights even took marble from the nearby Mausoleum to add to their castle.

A view inside the castle

While based in Rhodes the Knights came to anger the nearby Ottomans.  Suleiman the Magnificent led a siege against the Knights at Rhodes and in 1422 the Knights capitulated.  As part of the surrender they turned over their fortresses, including the Castle of St Peter, to the Ottomans.  The Knights eventually settled in Malta several years after this.  Today, operating from Rome, their successor is the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Crests relating to the Knights

As you might expect, the knights included a chapel in their castle.  Once the Ottomans took control of the castle it was predictably converted into a mosque and a minaret was added.  During World War I this minaret was toppled by French naval shelling.  It was rebuilt in 1999.  

The castle chapel

You can also visit the dungeon where the Knights held their prisoners. A not very convincing dummy prisoner is housed down their now.

This guy is not having a good time

The castle currently houses the Museum of Underwater Archaeology.  Exhibits include shipwrecks, amphoras, and coins.  Much of the artifacts are related to commerce and trade over the ocean.

A display from the Underwater Archaeology Museum

I stayed on the western end of the peninsula on an orange farm about 45 minutes away from the main city.  This was a quiet place to relax, enjoy the outdoors, and do some hiking.  The trek to the top of a nearby hill offered great views of the peninsula and the Aegean.  Without having to squint you can even see Greek islands.

Hilltop view