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The Colossi of Memnon: A Guide to These Ancient Egyptian Monuments

May 27
As soon as you step into the ancient Luxor region of Egypt, your senses are immediately struck by the splendid, awe-inspiring presence of the Colossi of Memnon - two gigantic statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III towering over forty feet tall. These mammoth monuments are steeped in mystery, myth, and legend, making them a fascinating subject for exploration and study. This guide will delve deeper into the history, significance, and enchanting tales of the Colossi of Memnon and uncover why they remain one of Egypt's most intriguing tourist attractions.


Welcome to your ultimate guide to one of Egypt's most impressive ancient monumental structures - the Colossi of Memnon, located on the west bank of the Nile opposite Luxor. These awe-inspiring statues are the first thing that greets visitors as they begin their journey across the Nile, towering an amazing 60 feet (18 meters) above the plains and weighing a staggering 720 tons each. These statues were built over 3,000 years ago to guard the mortuary temple of Pharaoh Amenhotep III, which can still be seen at the site. Although not much of the temple remains today, the Colossi of Memnon continue to attract tourists from all over the world.

Carved from sandstone, historians believe that the stones used to make the statues were transported over 420 miles (675 kilometres) south from the quarries near Memphis to Luxor over land as they would have been too heavy to carry along the Nile. The statues of Amenhotep III depict him seated and are adorned in a style common during his reign. You will find additional engravings of his mother, wife, Hapy (god of the Nile), and other symbolic elements. With such an impressive stature, it is no wonder that these ancient monuments' sheer size and grandeur strike visitors.

However, what is equally impressive about the Colossi of Memnon are the stories and legends that surround them. According to one ancient legend, the northern statue would whistle at sunrise, causing some Greeks and Romans to associate the Colossi with the hero Memnon, who was killed during the Trojan War. Due to Memnon's bravery and heroism, which the Greeks admired, they believed the statue's song was the king's cry greeting his mother, Eos, the goddess of dawn. However, historians now believe that the statue's whistling was likely due to a crack in the body of the statue which resulted from an earthquake in 27 BCE.

Despite their impressive history and ancient origin, these Colossi have continued to be a popular tourist attraction for thousands of years. Visitors can explore the massive statues in luxurious surroundings, surrounded by the area's natural beauty. You can learn about the majesty and power of Amenhotep III, his significant achievements, and his reign, which transformed Egypt into a land of international wealth and power.

Join us to explore and experience the beauty and history of the Colossi of Memnon. Whether you are an archaeologist, a history buff, or simply looking to experience something truly awe-inspiring, these ancient monuments' sheer scale and grandeur will make for an unforgettable experience that you'll treasure forever. [1][2]

Location and Description

Are you planning a trip to Egypt and want to visit the magnificent Colossi of Memnon? This guide will provide all the information you need about the location and description of these ancient Egyptian monuments.

The Colossi of Memnon are two massive stone statues of the pharaoh Amenhotep III, located on the west bank of the Nile River in Luxor, Egypt. These statues were built as guardians for Amenhotep III's mortuary complex, once the largest and grandest of its kind in Egypt. Unfortunately, the complex was destroyed by earthquakes and floods, leaving only the two colossal statues behind.

The statues are made of quartzite stones and weigh approximately 720 tonnes each, standing 18 meters high. They depict the seated king on a throne, with imagery of his mother, wife, and the god Hapy, among other symbolic engravings. The pharaoh is adorned with the royal headdress of the Nemes and is protected by the divine cobra. The palms of his hands rest on his knees, and his face is directed towards the east, looking towards the Nile river.

Located about half a kilometre east of the Antiquities Inspectorate on the main road leading to the west bank monument area, the Colossi of Memnon are one of the most important landmarks in Luxor. They are also known as the Vocal Memnon, as one of the statues was said to produce a humming sound at dawn, which was believed to be the voice of Memnon, the mortal son of Eos, the goddess of dawn, who Achilles slew in Greek mythology.

Visitors can explore the impressive temples, statues, and buildings that Amenhotep III commissioned during his remarkable reign from 1570 until 1069 BCE. One noteworthy palace to visit is the palace at Malkata, equipped with spacious apartments, conference rooms, audience chambers, libraries, gardens, storerooms, a harem, and a temple to the god Amun.

The Colossi of Memnon are a unique and fascinating destination that should not be missed during your trip to Egypt. With their massive size and impressive details, they provide a glimpse into the glorious history and culture of ancient Egypt. [3][4]

Historical Significance

Are you planning a trip to Luxor, Egypt? If so, don't miss out on visiting the Colossi of Memnon, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area. Here is a guide to these ancient Egyptian monuments:

Firstly, let's learn about the Colossi of Memnon's historical significance. These twin statues, each standing 60 feet tall, were built during the 18th Dynasty of ancient Egypt, around 1350 BC. They were constructed as guardians for Pharaoh Amenhotep III's mortuary complex, which was once located behind them. The complex symbolised Amenhotep III's power and wealth, and his success in realizing this vision is evidenced by over 250 buildings, temples, statuaries, and steles he commissioned throughout Egypt. The Colossi of Memnon were just a small part of this grand building project, and they protected the temple from evil spirits.

Next, let's discuss where the Colossi of Memnon is located. The statues are on the West Bank of Luxor, facing east towards the River Nile. Originally, they were part of the Theban Necropolis, which is located near modern-day Luxor. The ancient Egyptian architects constructed the statues from sandstone quarried at El-Gabal el-Ahmar, near modern-day Cairo. The quartzite sandstone blocks were transported over 420 miles to the temple site.

Do you know how the Colossi of Memnon got its name? The site got its name from the hero Memnon, a king of Ethiopia. According to the legend, Memnon joined the Trojans against the Greeks in the Trojan War and was killed by the Greek champion Achilles. Memnon's courage and skill in battle elevated him to the status of a hero among the Greeks. Greek tourists began associating the impressive statues with the legend of Memnon rather than Amenhotep III. Furthermore, one of the statues began making noises interpreted as oracles, and from ancient times to the present, the Colossi has been a legendary site for divination.

Finally, let's talk about the legend of the "Vocal Memnon." Due to an earthquake in 27 BC, the northern Colossus was partially destroyed, and the site became known for the mysterious sounds emitted by the statue at every sunrise. The sounds were interpreted as a greeting from Eos, the goddess of dawn, to her son Memnon. The mysterious sounds stopped around the 3rd century AD, and later, Emperor Septimius Severus restored the statue and added a new inscription, bringing even more visitors to the site.

The Colossi of Memnon is a must-see attraction for anyone interested in ancient Egyptian history. Its historical significance, location, name, and legend are all fascinating aspects of this site, and they provide a glimpse into the rich culture and mythology of ancient Egypt. [5][6]

Mythology and Legend

The Colossi of Memnon, two magnificent twin statues standing at the entrance of Amenhotep III’s mortuary temple in Luxor, Egypt, have captured the imagination of people for centuries. One of the reasons for this is the legends and mythology surrounding them. According to Greek mythology, the statues are associated with the hero Memnon. This Ethiopian king fought on the side of the Trojans against the Greeks and was killed by Achilles. Memnon’s courage and skill in battle made him a hero among the Greeks. Greek tourists visiting the statues associated them with the legend of Memnon instead of Amenhotep III, and this link was also suggested by the historian Manetho, who claimed that Memnon and Amenhotep III were the same people. The site became legendary for divination after one of the statues began making noises interpreted as oracles, leading to the Greek writers referring to the entire complex as the “Temple of Memnon.”

The origin of the name "Colossi of Memnon" is also linked to a legend. Memnon's name, meaning "the steadfast or resolute," was the son of Eos, the goddess of dawn. The Colossi of Memnon were associated with Memnon many years after their construction due to a phenomenon produced by the northern statue. It emitted a cry at dawn, known as the “Vocal Memnon.” Memnon’s cry eventually earned him the title “Ruler of the West,” adding to his association with the Colossi of Memnon.

The Colossi of Memnon was also built to serve as guardians to the Temple of Amenhotep III. Their purpose was to protect the Pharaoh’s temple from evil forces. Even after a severe earthquake destroyed the temple, the Colossi of Memnon stood strongly for thousands of years as a sign of the strength and skill of the ancient Egyptian builders.

In addition to their cultural significance, the Colossi of Memnon remain one of the biggest tourist attractions in Luxor due to their majestic appearance and the mysterious sounds emitted by the northern statue at every sunrise. People have been visiting the site for thousands of years, as evidenced by graffiti inscribed on the base from ancient visitors. The popular attraction has also been the subject of many books, poems, and artworks throughout history.

Through the legends and mythology surrounding the Colossi of Memnon, we can appreciate their cultural significance and the enduring impact they have had on people's imaginations throughout history. Their majesty, combined with their mysterious history, make them a must-see site for tourists visiting Egypt. [7][8]

Amenhotep III and the 18th Dynasty

Amenhotep III was a legendary pharaoh who ruled Egypt during the 18th Dynasty (c. 1570-c. 1069 BCE). He was a visionary leader who embarked on grand building projects, commissioning over 250 buildings, temples, statuaries, and stele throughout Egypt. His aim was to create a land so splendid and opulent that it would leave one in awe. His pleasure palace at Malkata on the west bank of the Nile was a testament to his grandeur, covering over 30 hectares and featuring spacious apartments, conference rooms, audience chambers, a throne room, a festival hall, libraries, gardens, storerooms, kitchens, a harem, and a temple to the god Amun.

When Amenhotep III came to the throne at 12, he married Tiye, a girl of just 11 or 12 from a prestigious family. She was given the title of Great Royal Wife, an honour not accorded to Amenhotep III's mother. Together, they became a powerful royal couple with impressive power and influence. Amenhotep III was a master of diplomacy who placed other nations in his debt through lavish gifts to ensure they would be inclined to bend to his wishes. His generosity to friendly kings was well established, and he enjoyed profitable relationships with the surrounding nations, which filled Egypt's royal treasury.

Throughout his reign, Amenhotep III commissioned so many monuments, temples, and other building projects that later Egyptologists attributed him an extraordinarily long reign because it seemed impossible that one king could have had the resources to accomplish what he did in less than 100 years. However, Amenhotep III ruled for far less time than that but was so effective a king that he accomplished far more than most. He maintained the honour of Egyptian women, refusing requests to send them as wives to foreign rulers, claiming that no daughter of Egypt had ever been sent to a foreign land and would not be sent under his reign. This adherence to tradition and cultural values won the respect of other nations.

The Colossi of Memnon, two enormous statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III, were built to guard his mortuary temple on the western bank of the Nile opposite Luxor. The statues are the first thing visitors see when they reach the west bank of the Nile. Carved from sandstone from the quarries near Memphis, Egyptologists believe these must have then been transported the 420 miles south to Luxor over land, as they would have been too heavy to be carried on the Nile. The statues show the seated pharaoh and were completed in 1350 BCE.

According to legend, the northern statue would whistle at sunrise, probably caused by a crack in its body resulting from an earthquake in 27 BCE. Ancient Greek and Roman visitors considered the Colossi linked to the African King Memnon, who fell at Troy. They believed it to be good luck to hear the statues' song, which they thought was the king's cry greeting his mother, Eos, the goddess of dawn. The name Colossi of Memnon comes from this association with the legendary figure, and the site became legendary for divination after one of the statues began making noises interpreted as oracles.

Today, the Colossi of Memnon remains a popular tourist attraction and can be found in the west of modern Luxor and facing east toward the River Nile. While time, earthquakes, and the practice of using older monuments and buildings as resource material for new structures have all contributed to the disappearance of Amenhotep III's once-enormous mortuary complex, visitors can still marvel at these two nearly-60-foot tall statues, each weighing an estimated 720 tons. They represent a fascinating glimpse into the grandeur and power of Amenhotep III and the 18th dynasty. [9][10]