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Colossi of Memnon

On the west bank of the Nile opposite Luxor,on the road to the Valley of the Kings, stand two statues carved from quartzite sandstone. The statues are known by the locals as el-Colossat, or es-Salamat, but known throughout the rest of the world as the Colossi of Memnon. The statues which date from the 14th century B.C. are actually of Amenhotep III and were set up in front of his mortuary temple which he had built during his lifetime. Unfortunately very little remains of the temple itself.

The name Memnon came from the Greeks who named the Colossi after King Memnon. He was said to have been a King of Ethiopia, who brought his army all the way from Ethiopia to Troy to help defend the city against the Greeks. Unfortunately for King Memnon, he was killed by Achilles. Despite this, his name has lived on in common use as the name of two Egyptian statues with which he has absolutely no connection.

The two statues are in a seated position on a throne looking in the eastern direction and towards the river Nile, and the rising sun. Two smaller figures are carved into the front of the throne alongside his legs: these are his wife Tiy and mother Mutemwia. The side panels are carved to depict the Nile god Hapy.

It is thought that in 27 B.C. an earthquake damaged the northern statue collapsing it from about the waist up. After the damage it is believed that the remains of the statue "sang" every morning at dawn. One theory is that the sound may have been caused from the evaporation of dew inside the porous rock when heated by the morning sun. Whatever the reason, the mysterious sound disappeared when the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus repaired the statue in the year 199 by having the two halves reassembled.

Colossi of Memnon 1

The Colossi themselves have suffered badly over the years to a state where their faces are hardly distinguishable. Not only mother nature is responsible for this, look closely and you will see places where visitors throughout the centuries have carved their names and other things into the surface of the statues.

Colossi of Memnon 2 Colossi of Memnon 3

At first glance there seems to be almost nothing left remaining from the original temple, but look a little closer and you can still find pointers as to what was the largest temple in Egypt at that time measuring 700 by 550 meters. The temple had been badly damaged not only by earthquakes but as it was built on the Nile flood plain, through flood damage. Once the decay had started it was probably accelerated as later Egyptian rulers removed the sandstones to help build their own temples.

Colossi of Memnon layout