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Colossi of Memnon, Luxor

Posted by: johnmcc

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During the 18th Dynasty, Amenhotep III built a mortuary temple in Thebes, guarded by two enormous statues at the external gates. Now, the 23 metre high, 1000 ton statues are all that remain at the site of the temple due to natural flooding, earthquakes and the removal of its stones for other structures. Back in the day however, the temple grounds were known as the largest and most luxurious in Egypt in which later Pharaohs such as Ramesses II and Ramesses III could not match in area.  Both statues now stand damaged, with their faces and tall royal crowns missing.
Due to an earthquake in 27 BC, the statues became well known for their ‘music’. The bell like tone usually occurred in the morning, due to the humidity of the night and the heat of the rising sun. Soon after, they were associated by early Greek travellers with the figure of Memnon, the son of Aurora, whose mother was the goddess of dawn.
‘The ancient Greeks looked for an explanation in the legendary story by Homer about Memnon, the son of Eos (Aurora) and Titon, who was killed by Achilles and  reappeared in Thebes as a statue, and every morning lamented at the sight of his mother rising in the skies’ (Siliotti 122)
To be greeted with a song meant that you were in favour of the gods, resulting in many visitors travelling from afar to hear the statues’ song including Emperor Hadrian who visited in 130AD.

Colossi of Memnon, Luxor

The name Memnon comes from the Greek, meaning ‘Ruler of the Dawn’ and was given to the right (Northern) statue based on the time of day the song could be heard. Eventually the entire site had become recognised as Memnonium. 

The last reliable hearing of the song was recorded in 196AD. The Roman Emperor Septimius Severus wanted to repair the statues in 199AD, which unintentionally muted the statues forever.

The statues are included as  part of a Nile Cruise itinerary.

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