Page images



the ruins of this temple was begun by M. Maspero, who, with the help of several hundred pounds collected by public subscription in England, began the work in the winter of 1883, and it was prosecuted with such vigour, that the natives almost resisted by force the removal of the soil upon which their houses stood. In 1887 M. Grébaut, the successor of M. Maspero, continued the clearing, and shortly afterwards M. Grand Bey, a distinguished official of the Egyptian Government, and a skilled, practical architect, was appointed to report on the means which ought to be taken to prevent the collapse of the temple remains, which was beginning to take place owing to the removal of the earth from the walls and pillars.

In 1888 and the following years much clearing was done, and many portions of the building were strengthened with modern masonry, and now it is possible for the visitor to walk about in the temple and get an idea of its general plan. The temple is built of sandstone,

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

and stands, probably, upon the site of an earlier religious edifice; it formed an important part of the sacred buildings of Thebes, which were dedicated to the Theban triad of Åmen-Ra 4 mm

, Mut, and Khonsu,

o 070), and was called “ The House of Anien in the

Southern Apt,” to distinguish it from “ The House of Amen in the Northern Apt,” i.e., Karnak. It was built by Amenophis III. about B.C. 1500, and was at that time the most beautiful temple in Egypt; it was nearly 500 feet long and about 180 feet wide, and was connected with Karnak by means of a paved way, on each side of which was arranged a row of rams with their faces turned towards its main axis.

Soon after the death of Amenophis III. his son, the heretic king Amenophis IV., ordered the name and figure of the god Amen to be erased throughout the temple, and built a small shrine or chapel near his father's great work in honour of the god Åten. The building was not popular among the Egyptians, for on the death of Amenophis IV. it was pulled down, and the stones were employed in other parts of the main edifice. Heru-em-heb and Seti I. added a number of bas-reliefs, and Rameses II. built the large colonnade, a large courtyard with porticoes, a pylon, two obelisks, and some colossal statues. This last king, in building the courtyard and pylon, made their axes be in continuation of that of the paved way which led to Karnak, instead of that of the colonnade and other parts of the temple. During the rule of the Persians over Egypt the temple was sacked and burnt, but under the Ptolemies the damage was partially made good; in B.C. 27 the temple was greatly damaged by the earthquake which wrecked many a noble temple and tomb in Egypt, and a little later the stones which had been thrown down from the walls and columns were employed in building a barrier to keep out the waters from the city.

The damage wrought by the Christians in the Luxor temple was, as at Dêr al-Baharî, terrible, for not content with turning certain sections of it into churches, the more fanatical among them smashed statues, and disfigured basreliefs, and wrecked shrines with characteristic savage and ignorant zeal. When the Christians could afford to build churches for themselves they forsook the temple, and then the inhabitants of the town began to build mud houses for themselves in the courtyard and other parts of the building. As these fell down year by year the natives, who never repair a building if they can help it, built new ones on the old sites, and thus the temple became filled with earth and rubbish. In the XIVth century a mosque was built in the large courtyard of Rameses II. by a descendant of a Muḥammadan saint, who is said to have fourished near Mecca either during the life of Muhammad the Prophet or shortly after ; this man was called Abû Hagâg, and several families now living at Luxor claim him as an ancestor.

The Obelisk, hewn out of fine Aswân granite, is one of a pair which stood before the pylon of the temple and proclaimed the names and titles of Rameses II. ; it is nearly 82 feet high. The companion obelisk now stands in the Place de la Concorde in Paris. The front of the temple was ornamented with six colossal statues of Rameses II., four standing and two seated, but of the former three have been destroyed. The seated statues, one on each side of the door, were of black granite, and

the side of the throne of the one which now remains are conventional representations of members of vanquished nations.

The top of the pylon when first built was about 80 feet above the ground, and its width was nearly 100 feet; each


of its towers was hollow, and in their front walls were channels with sockets in the ground, in which large poles with flags flying from them were placed when Thebes was keeping a festival. The face of the pylon is covered with sculptures and texts which refer to the dedication of the pylon to Åmen-Rā, and to the victory of Rameses I. over the Kheta. The battle, which took place near the city of Kadesh on the Orontes, resulted in the overthrow of a great confederation of Syrian tribes, and Rameses was greatly elated by his victory. Among the texts on the pylon is a description of the fight written by one Pen-ta-urt, and this poetical narrative of the momentous event was so much esteemed by the king, that he ordered it to be inscribed on stelæ and many public buildings throughout the country. The outsides of the walls built by Rameses II. are covered with scenes relating to the same campaign and describing the return of the king in triumph.

The doorway of the Court of Rameses II. (A) contains reliefs by Shabaka, a king of the XXVth dynasty, and in the north-west corner are the ruins of a small chapel which Rameses II. built against the pylon; a portico with two rows of pillars runs round most of the four sides. Of the reliefs on the walls some date from the reign of Amenophis III, and Heru-em-heb, but most of them have been usurped by Rameses II.; here also are figures of personifications of geographical localities bearing offerings, and in the south-west corner are figures of seventeen of the sons of Rameses II., who are making offerings at the ceremony of dedication of the pylon. These are followed by a number of sacrificial scenes. The columns of the portico are 72 in number and have lotus capitals ; on each is a relief representing Rameses II. making an offering either to Amen-Rā, or Ámsu, and some goddess. The little chapel in the north-west corner contains three chambers, which are dedicated respectively to ÅmenRā, Mut, and Khonsu. On each side of the doorway which leads into the colonnade Rameses II. placed a huge black granite statue of himself, and between the columns close by were eleven statues of himself in red granite; on the side of each of these last is a figure of one of his wives. The Colonnade (B) beyond the courtyard of Rameses II. is a part of the original building of Amenophis III., though the names of many other kings are found in it; but it is doubtful if any of the reliefs on the walls were made by him ; the scenes represent the celebration of the festival of Amen-Rā, the procession of sacred boats to the Nile and back, the ceremonies in the shrine, etc., and many of them date from the time of Heru-em-heb. The lotus columns, 14 in number, are massive but beautifully proportioned; they are about 51 feet high, and about 11 feet in diameter.

The Court of Amenophis III. (c) is next reached. Round three sides of this runs a colonnade with two rows of columns, and the walls are decorated with reliefs belonging to various periods, from that of Amenophis III. to that of Alexander and Philip. Beyond this courtyard is a hall containing 32 columns; the walls are ornamented with reliefs of various periods, and the occurrence of the names of several kings in this portion of the building shows that, in parts, it has been often repaired. To the left, between the two last columns, is an altar of the Roman period, with a Latin inscription dedicating it to the Emperor Augustus. Passing through the doorway, a chamber which originally had eight columns is entered ; this was altered in several ways, and turned into a church by the Christians, who plastered over the interesting reliefs of the time of Amenophis III. with lime, and then painted it with elaborate designs in bright colours. On each side of this chamber is a small chapel; that on the left was dedicated to Mut, and that on the right to Khensu. Leaving the chamber which was turned into a Christian church, and

« PreviousContinue »