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The Colossi of Memnon - A Must-See Attraction in Luxor
Are you heading to Luxor? Is the Colossi of Memnon on your list of things to see in Luxor?
Don’t miss it! The Colossi of Memnon is one of the attractions you have to see in Luxor.
Check out these pictures and see why I loved it.
What Are the Colossi of Memnon
The Colossi of Memnon are a pair of giant statues made out of quartzite sandstone. Each statue stands about 18 meters high (65 feet) and depicts Pharaoh Amenhotep III.
Amenhotep III is seated with his hands resting on his knees. He gazes towards the River Nile.
Next to the legs of the northern statue, a smaller figure of Amenhotep III’s mother Mutemwiya stands. While by the legs of the southern statue, stands the figure of his wife Tiy, as well as one of his daughters is depicted.
On the side panels of the throne, the Nile god Hapy is depicted tying together the papyrus plant and the sedge plant representing the union of Upper and Lower Egypt.
Where Are the Colossi of Memnon Located
The Colossi of Memnon stand on the West Bank on the River Nile in Luxor.
Image Source: Map data @2020 ORION-ME
Who Built the Colossi of Memnon
The Colossi of Memnon were built during the reign of Amenhotep III, a pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty (the New Kingdom), during the 14th century BC.
Although they look as if they are standing randomly in the middle of nowhere, they actually used to guard the entrance of the first pylon of the Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III.
The Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III was one of the largest temples built in Egypt.
The Construction of the Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III
Amenhotep III built on a grand scale.
The mortuary temple, constructed not far from his tomb, was the grandest of all mortuary temple complexes built in Egypt. It originally included three massive mud-brick pylons, or gates, aligned on a single axis, and a long connecting corridor leading to an immense, open solar courtyard, a roofed hall, a sanctuary, and sacred altars.
The temple contained hundreds of freestanding statues, sphinxes, and massive steles—tombstone-like slabs of stone, once carved with descriptions of Amenhotep III’s building achievements.
The temple complex was enormous. It measured 328 feet (100 meters) wide by 1,968 feet (600 meters) in length, longer than five American football fields placed end to end.
Source: World Monuments Fund
By the way, this picture is from the sunrise hot air balloon ride over Luxor. For me, it was one of the best experiences I ever had! Do not miss it! Make sure to check out my post: Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Luxor – A Bucket List Experience.
Now, going back to the construction of the Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III.
Unfortunately, the location of the temple was too close to the River Nile. Each year, when the Nile flooded it would fill the temple. Needless to say, the repeated flooding caused an extensive water damage to the architecture and statuary. It is estimated that by the 19th Dynasty, the Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III was in ruins. An earthquake in 27 BC further contributed to the damage. Lastly, the pillaging of stone and statuary for reuse in other projects left the temple in a complete ruin.
The only two items remaining, also, in relatively poor condition and barely recognizable, are the two statues, called the Colossi of Memnon.
Who was Amenhotep III
Amenhotep was born around 1392 BC and became a pharaoh somewhere between the ages of 6 and 12. He ruled Egypt for almost 40 years.
The first time, I heard about Amenhotep III was when I visited the Crocodile Mummy Museum in Kom Ombo. I read that Amenhotep III felt a special bond with god Sobek and chose to be depicted with that god in particular. I saw a spectacular sculpture depicting god Sobek with Amenhotep III at the museum.
Amenhotep III’s queen (Great Royal Wife) was Tiy. They had two sons together. Their first son died before Amenhotep III’s death leaving the second son, Amenhotep IV, to succeeded Amenhotep III as ruler of Egypt.
Amenhotep IV eventually changed his royal name to Akhenaten.
It is believed that Amenhotep III and his queen Tiy had four daughters together. Their names were Henuttaneb, Sitamun, Nebetah, and Isis (or Iset).
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Amenhotep III’s greatest contribution to Egypt was maintaining the peace and prosperity.
Many of the most impressive structures of the ancient Egypt were built during Amenhotep’s reign. One of the examples is the beautiful Luxor Temple. In addition, we cannot forget all of his contributions to the religious complex of Karnak.
Not surprisingly, more than 250 ancient statues of Amenhotep III have been discovered. It is more than of any other Egyptian pharaoh.
The Mortuary Temple was one of the largest temples ever built. What remains today are two giant statues of Amenhotep III known as the Colossi of Memnon.
What Was the Colossi of Memnon Used for
The major function of the statues was to guard the entrance to the Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III.
The Mortuary Temple was situated behind the statues. Unfortunately, it has been destroyed by the yearly flooding of the River Nile and gradual re-using of the blocks for other building projects.
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What is the Colossi of Memnon Famous for
The Colossi of Memnon is famous for singing every morning at dawn.
Strabo, a Greek historian and geographer of the 1st century, recorded an earthquake in 27 BC. The earthquake damaged the statues, especially it shattered the northern figure, causing its upper section to fall away.
Apparently, the damage created a fissure in the rock and hence the singing every morning at dawn. In addition, it is possible, that the reason why the sound was emitted only in the morning was due to the increase in temperature at dawn, and the evaporation of dew that accumulated in the cracks of the rocks at night.
When the Roman emperor, Septimius Severus ordered to have the statue repaired the sound vanished.
Why Are the Statues Called the Colossi of Memnon,
And Who Was Memnon
The sound emitted from the giant northern statue caused their name being changed from the Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III to the name of the legendary Memnon.
In Greek mythology, Memnon was the son of Tithonus, Trojan Prince and Eos, the goddess of dawn. He grew up to be a great warrior. At some point, Memnon became the king of the Ethiopians.
During the Trojan War, Memnon brought an army to Troy’s defense and killed Antilochus during a fierce battle. However, Memnon was challenged by Achilles. Needless to say, Memnon was no match for Achilles and was defeated in a single combat.
It is said that after his death Memnon re-appeared in a statue in Thebes (Luxor) and cried every morning.
Or, another version says that the statues were named Memnon in memory of Eos, his mother, mourning her son.
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