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The Colossi of Memnon

The Colossi of Memnon, two statues each weighing about 800 tons, were a tourist attraction in Egypt in ancient times. The evidence of this is the 150 inscriptions carved by Greek travelers on the calves of one of the giants.

The almost 18-meter high famous statues rise high on the west bank of the Nile. They now stand a short distance from the river, directly on the road leading to the Theban necropolis, but once flanked the entrance to the temple of Amenhotep III (1388-1351/ 50 BC). It was destroyed by the earthquake in 1220 BC.

Both statues, made of red quartzite, represent the pharaoh Amenhotep III. The ruler is seated on the throne with his hands flat on his thighs. He is wearing a shendyt (a traditional royal apron) and nemes (a type of scarf) along with a ureus, or royal cobra on his head, signifying power. The reliefs on the side of the throne represent the sema tawy scene, the symbolic unification of Egypt. Two human figures, the deities of the Nile, unite two plants, papyrus and lotus, symbols of Lower and Upper Egypt. The members of his family are shown at the ruler's calves. They are: Mutemwiya - Amenhotep III's mother, Tiye - his wife and a third, unidentified female figure.

The history of naming the giants is intriguing. First of all, the question arises; why are the statues attributed to Memnon, the hero of the Trojan War, if they represent the pharaoh Amenhotep III? This is the result of an ancient mistake. Greek travelers, who initially named only the northern statue after Memnon, the son of the goddess Dawn, noticed that when the first rays of the rising sun, at dawn, fell on the carved figure, it makes strange sounds and murmurs. It was believed that the Memnon immortalized in a rock block, killed by Achilles, takes life under the influence of his mother's life-giving rays and greets his mother with sad singing. The phenomenon was probably caused by the earthquake that took place in 27 BC. At that time, cracks formed in the statue, which filled at night with moisture, and under the influence of the heat of the sun's rays, evaporated through the cracks and made soft noises.

In 199 AD, Emperor Septimius Severus, being greatly impressed by Egypt and its culture, decided to renovate the statue, which made it silent for centuries. However, the ancient name persisted in the minds of travelers, and over time it also included the second of the statues.