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The Colossi of Memnon: Pharaoh on his throne
Remains of the Amenhotep III Temple destroyed by an earthquake in -27 BC, the Colossi of Memnon proudly sit on the occidental side of Thebes, in a place called Kom-el-Hettan. These colossi are representations of the pharaoh sitting on his ancestors’ throne, hands on his knees and the women of his life on each side of his legs: his mother Moutemouia and his wife Tiyi.
Memnon’s forgotten complaint
These colossi are representations of Amenhotep III so why are they called “Colossi of Memnon” you may ask? Greek historian Strabon says that the earthquake quote earlier had cracked the “right” colossus, from hips to the shoulder. When sudden temperature or humidity changes occured, the stone began to vibrate and make a strange whistle. According to the legend, this sound was the lamentations of Memnon, Ethiopian king and hero of the Troy war beaten by Achille, addressing his mother Eos when the sun rises. Then, the roman emperor Septime Severe restored the statue with sandstone blocks and since then, no complaint could not be heard anymore!
The Colossi of Memnon are absolute marvels but also enigmas of architecture. There are colossal (pun intended): more than 18m high, the pedestal is a 10.5 x 5.5m rectangle and the whole thing weighs more than 1300 tons per colossus! How such weights could be carried and built ? No one actually knows…
Unlike the vast majority of Egyptian monuments, the Colossus of Memnon are not made of granit or sandstone, but they are made of an alloy of quartzite and silica, a very dense and hard material (maybe harder than granite). How could Egyptians manage to sculpt this material and give their form to these gigantic statues ? No one knows either! Majestically serene on the side of the road, the colossi are watching out for the cars and buses coming to the western valley of Louxor
. Impassive, they impress all of those who make their first stop of the day at the feet of these enigmatic statues.