Belevi Monumental Tomb, Ephesus

Last Updated on May 2, 2019

Modeled on the world’s first great monumental tomb, the Mausoleum, the great tomb at Belevi, 15 km (9 miles) north of Selçuk and 3 km (2 miles) east of Belevi village (map), is now in ruins, but a visit can still be worthwhile.

Dating from as early as 301-281 BCE, it was apparently inspired by the Mausoleum and intended to be the burial tomb of Lysimachus, king of this region after the death of Alexander the Great. But Lysimachus ended up being buried elsewhere, so the tomb was available.

Laodice I, the first and later wife of King Antiochus II Theos (261–246 BCE) of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire, had her husband buried here after she had him poisoned.

(Antiochus had left Laodice and married Berenice, daughter of Ptolemy of Egypt, who gave him an enormous dowry; but later he left Berenice and returned to Laodice, who slipped him a mickey. Berenice and her infant son by Antiochus were later murdered by Laodice’s pals.)

With the unfaithful Antiochus safely in the heavenly realm, Berenice and her infant son—a potential rival for the throne—sent there to join him, and her son Seleucus II on the throne as king, Laodice thought it was fine to honor Antiochus with a monumental tomb. All’s well that ends well…

The base of the monument, built into the bedrock and covering an area of 30 x 30 meters, was 10 meters high. Atop it stood a Corinthian colonnade (peristalsis) framing a rectangular stone structure which contained the sarcophagus of King Antiochus.

Although the main part of the tomb is now badly ruined, you can easily see the scale and some of the decoration of the monument, both of which are impressive.

The king’s sarcophagus, smaller fragments of decoration and other artifacts are now preserved in the Ephesus Museum at Selçuk, with other finds in the archeological museum of İzmir.

Watch for snakes in the grass as you climb around the ruined bits of cornice and column drums. They lurk in these sunny places. I scared a big black one, and it scared me back.

The site enclosure is apparently open all the time, for free. A signboard describes briefly the history and architecture of the tomb in Turkish, English and German.

How to Find the Belevi

Follow the D 550 highway north from Selçuk or south from İzmir to the village of Belevi, then follow the signs to the Belevi Monumental Tomb along the local road (NOT on theİzmir-Aydın Otoyol [expressway]) eastward from the village. The Otoyol looms above you on the southern side of the local road until after 2.5 km (1 mile) you come to a tunnel that passes beneath the Otoyo (map). Go through the tunnel, turn right after you emerge, and follow the small road a few hundred meters to the Belevi archeological site at the end of the road.

—by Tom Brosnahan

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