Colossi of Memnon

One of the biggest tourist attractions in Luxor, the Colossi of Memnon

gained its popularity due to its majestic appearance and for the mysterious

sounds emitted by the northern colossus statue at every sunrise.

Where is the Colossi of Memnon located?

In the West Bank of Luxor Egypt, two magnificent twin statues image of a pharaoh

Amenhotep III and two smaller statues carved by his feet (one being his wife and

the other his mother) stand graciously on the horizon of the magnificent Luxor horizons.

The two statues, each measuring 60 feet tall, stand at the entrance of Amenhotep III’s

mortuary temple. They are famously named by the name of Colossi of Memnon due to

a phenomenon produced by one of the statues after an earthquake.

Originally built in the Theban Necropolis in the west of the Nile River in the modern city of Luxor,

the Colossi of Memnon, two colossal statues made of quartzite sandstone,

which archaeologists believe was quarried at El-Gabal el-Ahmar,

located near modern Cairo and then transported 420 miles

overland to the ancient city of Thebes, remain after thousands of years.

When was the Colossi of Memnon built?

Pharaoh Amenhotep III reigned in Egypt during the 18th Dynasty from

1386 to 1349. During his kingdom, Egypt experienced a time of great

prosperity and artistic progress, this era was known as the Old Kingdom.

During the Old Kingdom, the architectural work improved tremendously

in Egypt, and most of these monuments are still standing today.

Many of these majestic monuments were built during Amenhotep III’s 39

years of reign including the Colossi of Memnon which construction

was completed by 1350 BC. The Colossi of Memnon was constructed

in front of which once was Amenhotep III’s temple (destroyed by an

earthquake soon after its completion). Amenhotep Temple served as a

funerary temple to the Pharaoh Amenhotep III. Due to an earthquake at

27 BC the Colossi of Memnon was partially destroyed and then restored

by Roman emperors during the Roman Empire in ancient Egypt.

The origin of Colossi of Memnon’s name

Its modern Arabic name is Kom el-Hatan but the Colossi of Memnon

is better known for its Roman name, the Temple of Memnon?

A hero of the Trojan War, Memnon was a king of Ethiopia who

traveled with his army from Africa to Asia Minor to help defend

the beleaguered city under attack but it was slain by Achilles.

Colossi of Memnon

Memnon’s name whose means steadfast or resolute, was the son of Eos,

known for being the goddess of dawn. Memnon was associated with

the Colossi many years after its construction due to the cry at the dawn of

the northern statue also known as the “Vocal Memnon.” Memnon

eventually became known as the “Ruler of the West.”

The Guardians of the Gate: What was the Colossi of Memnon used for?

It was acting as guardians to the Temple of Amenhotep III.

The Colossi of Memnon was meant to protect the Pharaoh’s temple from evil.

Even though the temple was destroyed by a severe earthquake,

the Colossi of Memnon remains standing strongly for thousands of years.

The legend of the “Vocal Memnon”

Due to an earthquake in 27 BC, the northern Colossus was partially destroyed,

collapsing from the waist up and cracking the lower half. Following this event,

the remainings of the northern colossus started to “sing” an hour or two before sunrise, right at dawn.

The sound was mostly heard in the months of February or March but this

might have been because those were the months where people were mostly

reported to visit the statues. The sound was described as a “blow” according

to the Greek historian and geographer Strabo, who heard the sound on his visit to it in 20 BC.

The legend about the “Vocal Memnon” says that it brought good luck

to those who listened to its strange sounds. This rumor became known outside of Egypt,

which brought many foreign visitors, including several Roman Emperors

in search of the blessing that the “Vocal Memnon” could bring.

Colossi of Memnon

Since its popularity, many throughout history and to modern days have tried to demystify

the “Vocal Memnon” but no explanation has yet been proved to this day and they

remain yet as another mystery of the ancient Egyptian civilization.