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.