Colossi of Memnon

Type: attraction Location: Luxor

Colossi of Memnon Kom El-Hetan, a few hundred metres to the north of Medinet Habu and almost directly across the Nile from Luxor temple, is the site of Amenophis III’s mortuary temple. In its day this was the greatest temple built on the Theban west bank. Unfortunately, virtually nothing remains of this once great edifice beyond the two immense "Colossi of Memnon" which stood before its entrance.
These great sandstone statues of Amenophis III flanked by small figures of his mother and his wife Tiye are nealy 18 m (59 ft) high and were famous in antiquity not only for their size but, following an earthquake in 27 BC, for the bell-like stone which was emitted by the expanding stone of the northern figure at sunrise. Greek travelers thus equated the figure with Memnon, the son of Aurora, the goddess of the dawn, but repairs to the statue in the reign of the Roman emperor Septimius Severus silenced the sound forever. The stone for the colossi is believed to have been quarried at Gebel Ahmar, near modern Cairo.
Behind these behemoths were two great courts with other colossal seated statues – perhaps, as Betsy Bryan has suggested, the largest sculptural programme in history. Eventually also a long processional way similar to that to that built by the king in Luxor Temple stretched from the innermost pylons to a large peristyle solar court. A huge quartzite stela which has been re-erected here was probably one of a pair set up at the entrance to the court, describing Amenophis’ building accomplishments. Many of the columns bases of the solar court are also still in place, though overgrown, along with fragments of colossal standing statues of the king which once stood in this part of the temple. Some of the colossi bases at this site have important lists of foreign place names, for instance there is one with those of distant regions, including the Aegean.
A small, separate limestone temple to Ptah-Sokar-Osiris stood in the northern part of the huge compound with its own gateway flanked by two quartzite standing statues of the king. The complex was so thoroughly raided of its stone that little more is known of the other features of this great temple, however.
The temple’s location on the flood plain was interesting and apparently unique. The ground level of the temple was low and the structure was purposely built so that the annual inundation of the Nile flooded its outer courts and halls, perhaps leaving only the inner sanctuary area – which stood on a low knoll – above water level. The whole temple thus symbolized, as the waters retreated, the emergence of the world from the primeval waters of creation.

Attraction Map