Now considered a bohemian centre, until the growth of tourism in the mid 20th century, Bodrum was a small town based on the industries of fishing and sponge diving, agriculture not being easy in the rocky area. It is however fortunately placed for trade with the Dodecanese Islands, Kos is only 15 minutes away by hovercraft, although the ferry or a sailing boat is a lot more pleasant way of crossing.
Early occupants of the Bodrum peninsular were the Carians, but the area of the modern town was colonized by Greeks, as was much of the Turkish coastline, in the 7th century BCE. Like much of the region, it succumbed to the Persian invasion. Mausolus, the guy mausoleums were named after, ruled the Carians from 377 to 353 BCE as a puppet of the Persians. On his death his sister/ wife Artemisia incested! on having an enormous tomb built for him. This wonder of the ancient world lasted for nearly two millennium before being destroyed by earthquakes. Bodrum became part of Alexander's empire, when after prolonged fighting he conquered the town.
During the 15th century CE, the Knights of St John were having their headquarters in Rhodes come under repeated attack by Seljuk Turks. As a precautionary measure, they decided to build a castle on the mainland opposite their castle in Kos, to control the coastal waters between. The site chosen had been used since antiquity as a fortress.
The Knights of the Order of Saint John arrived in 1402 and promptly, in true Xtian style, started dismantling the mausoleum and using its green volcanic stone for building Petronium (St Peter's) Castle, from which the name Bodrum is derived? They also utilised many marble columns and carved marble sculptures to decorate their new abode.
The building work was hastened by the promise of eternal life to the construction crew! The Knights were grouped by language, each group having its own tower, and the responsibility of maintaining and defending that sector. Each tower having a style in keeping with its occupants, the French tower obviously being the highest! The English tower, known as the Lion Tower, accessed by a drawbridge, was built on three levels with the coat of arms of Henry IV carved above that of a lion.
It was the practice on all their castles to have painted carved reliefs of their coats of arms placed on the walls surrounding the the castles, and in any other appropriate place, as a type of "kilroy was here" grafiti.
The castle at Bodrum was a safe refuge for fleeing Xtians on the mainland of Asia Minor until the mid 15th century, when the expanding Ottoman Empire of Sultam Suleyman closed in on them. By the end of the century the landward walls of the castle had to be reinforced due to the cannons that were turned against them. This resulted in the removal of most of the mausoleum stonework along with the remaining decorative items.
In 1522 Suleyman attacked the Grand Masters Palace at Rhodes with 200,000 troops in an armada across the Bay of Marmaris. Rhodes fell and the humiliating surrender included giving up the castles of Kos and Bodrum as well as Rhodes.
When the Knights headquarters at Rhodes fell to Sultan Suleyman the crusaders withdrew to Malta leaving Bodrum to the mercy of the Ottomans.
When the Greeks revolted against Turkish rule in 1824, the Turks garrisoned Bodrum. In the 19th century the chapel that had been built by Spanish Knights in 1520 at Bodrum Castle was converted into the Mosque of Suleymaniye Camii by adding a minaret, and a public baths installed, but by 1895 the castle was used as a prison.
It was the British's turn to pillage the castle in the 19th century, when many artefacts were brought back for the British Museum.
During World War I, the French navy shelled the castle causing damage to the towers and toppling the minaret, much as Napoleon's army had wreaked havoc on the Sphinx and other ancient Egyptian monuments a century earlier. When the war finished the castle was garrisoned by Italians, but they were deposed when Mustafa Ataturk, the Father of the Turks, came to power in 1921. The minaret has since been rebuilt.