« PreviousContinue »
On the west bank of the river the following are the most interesting antiquities :—
I. The Temple of Kurnah. This temple was built by Seti I. in memory of his father Rameses I.; it was completed by Rameses II., by whom it was re-dedicated to the memory of his father Seti I. Two pylons stood before it, and between them was an avenue of sphinxes. This temple was to all intents and purposes a cenotaph, and as such its position on the edge of the desert, at the entrance to a necropolis, is explained. In the temple were six columns, and on each side were several small chambers. The sculptures on the walls represent Rameses II. making offerings to the gods, among whom are Rameses I. and Seti I. According to an inscription there, it is said that Seti I. went to heaven and was united with the Sun-god before this temple was finished, and that Rameses II. made and fixed the doors, finished the building of the walls, and decorated the interior. The workmanship in certain parts of this temple recalls that of certain parts of Abydos; it is probable that the same artists were employed.
II. The Ramesseum. This temple, called also the Memnonium and the tomb of Osymandyas (Diodorus I., iv), was built by Rameses II., in honour of Amen-Ra. As at Kurnah, two pylons stood in front of it. The first court had a double row of pillars on each side of it; passing up a flight of steps, and through the second pylon, is a second court, having a double row of round columns on the east and west sides, and a row of pilasters, to which large figures of Rameses II. under the form of Osiris, are attached on the north and south sides. Before the second pylon stood a colossal statue of Rameses II., at least sixty feet high, which has been thrown down (by Cambyses ?), turned over on its back, and mutilated. In the hall are twelve huge columns, arranged in two rows, and thirty-six smaller ones arranged in six rows. On the
interior face of the second pylon are sculptured scenes in the war of Rameses II. against the Cheta, which took place in the fifth year of his reign; in them he is represented slaying the personal attendants of the prince of the Cheta. Elsewhere is the famous scene in which Rameses, having been forsaken by his army, is seen cutting his way through the enemy, and hurling them one after the other into the Orontes near Kadesh. The walls of the temple are ornamented with small battle scenes and reliefs representing the king making offerings to the gods of Thebes. On the ceiling of one of the chambers is an interesting astronomical piece on which the twelve Egyptian months are mentioned.
III. The Colossi.—These two interesting statues were set up in honour of Amenophis III., whom they represent; they stood in front of the pylon of a calcareous stone temple which was built by this king; this has now entirely disappeared. They were hewn out of a hard grit-stone, and the top of each was about sixty feet above the ground; originally each was monolithic. The statue on the north is the famous Colossus of Memnon, from which a sound was said to issue every morning when the sun rose. The upper part of it was thrown down by an earthquake, it is said, about B.C. 27; the damage was partially repaired during the reign of Septimus Severus, who restored the head and shoulders of the figure by adding to it five layers of stone. When Strabo was at Thebes with ^ilius Gallus he heard "a noise at the first hour of the day, but whether proceeding from the base or from the colossus, or produced on purpose by some of those standing round the base, I cannot confidently assert." It is said that after the colossus was repaired no sound issued from it. Some think that the noise was caused by the sun's rays striking upon the stone, while others believe that a priest hidden in the colossus produced it by striking a stone. The inscriptions show that many distinguished Romans visited the "vocal Memnon" and heard the sound; one Petronianus, of a poetical turn of mind, stated that it made a sighing sound in complaining to its mother, the dawn, of the injuries inflicted upon it by Cambyses. The inscriptions on the back of the colossi give the names of Amenophis III.
IV. Medinet Habu.—This village lies to the south of the colossi, and its foundation dates from Coptic times. The early Christians established themselves around the ancient Egyptian temple there, and having carefully plastered over the wall sculptures in one of its chambers, they used it as a chapel. Round and about this temple many Greek and Coptic inscriptions have been found, which prove that the Coptic community here was one of the largest and most important in Upper Egypt. The temple here is actually composed of two temples; the older was built by Thothmes III., and the later by Rameses III. The first court of the temple of Thothmes III. was built during the time of the Roman occupation of Egypt, and the names of Titus, Hadrian, Antoninus, etc., are found on various parts of its walls. The half-built pylon at the end of this court is of the same period, although the door between them bears the names of Ptolemy X. Soter II. (Lathyrus) and Ptolemy XIII., Neos Dionysos (Auletes). The little court and pylon beyond are inscribed with the names of Tirhakah, B.C. 693, and Nectanebus II., B.C. 358. Passing through this last court and its pylon, the temple proper is reached. The oldest name found here is that of Thothmes II. The work begun by this king was completed by Thothmes III., and several subsequent kings restored or added new parts to it.
Before the Temple of Rameses III. there stood originally a building consisting of two square towers, the four sides of which were symmetrically inclined to a common centre. The interior chambers were ornamented with sculptures, on which were depicted scenes in the domestic (?) life of the