July 15, 2013

Temple of Ramses II

Temple of Ramses II
This temple is by no means the largest of the temples built by Ramses II, nor is it well preserved; in fact some of the blocks were removed from the monument and reused during the last century. Only the lower part of the walls and the bases of the columns remain. Nevertheless, it will be briefly described because it must once have been among the most beautiful temples in the Nile valley. It was built of fine-grained white limestone, black granite, rose granite, red and brown sandstone, and flawless alabaster. The granite was used for the doorways, sandstone for the columns and alabaster lined the inner shrine.


Temple of Ramses II
 The Entrance Pylon and the First Court have, unfortunately, been destroyed. The Second Court (1) is surrounded by a colonnade supported by rectangular pillars; before each was a statue of Ramses in Osiride form. The raised section to the rear (2) was approached by three flights of steps. Its roof was supported by sixteen rectangular sandstone pillars. The highly polished black granite doorway at the centre led to the first Hypostyle Hall (3) and the second Hypostyle Hall (4), one behind the other and both the same size; each contained eight rectangular pillars supporting the roof. There are three shrines on each side of the second Hypostyle Hall. It is not certain to whom they were dedicated.

The door to the rear led to the Sanctuary (5). The roof was constructed of red granite, the upper part of the walls of alabaster, and the lower part of red sandstone. This must undoubtedly have been the most beautiful Sanctuary built in Egypt. The rear wall is an imitation door built of a huge slab of alabaster, which rests on a sill of red granite. The two sculptured panels represent Ramses embracing Osiris.

As with all Egyptian temples, the temple of Ramses II was completely decorated, both inside and out. The walls on the inside were covered with religious subject matter: scenes of priests bearing flowers and sacrificial animals towards the temple; and processions of people singing, clapping hands, blowing trumpets and carrying banners. On the outside walls there were scenes of official journeys, wars and activities abroad.


Temple of Ramses II Night
A typical religious scene may be found in the Second Court (i) on the right-hand wall (a), where a procession of servants bear dishes of food on their heads; it is preceded by a priest burning incense in front of a statuette of the king that is borne on the shoulders of the leading priest. The scribe of the temple records the offerings received by another priest. On the left-hand wall (b) are butchers, slaughtering and cutting up sacrificial bulls. Servants run forward with the joints of meat. Each piece is purified by a priest who carries a vase of libation water.

The surviving battle scenes on the outside of the temple can be found on the eastern face of the northern tower (c) and the western wall (d). These are not in good condition, and will be but briefly described.

The scene at (c), from left to right, shows the text of the battle (i) that differs from that at Abu Simbel by a special decree that Ramses’ two chariot horses should be commended for their bravery by henceforth receiving food in his presence for ever. Ramses II is depicted in his chariot (2) with Egyptian soldiers beneath him (3).

Ramses II at Abydos; outer wall of temple (c)
He watches scribes who count and record the hands of the slain enemy (4) and prisoners of war (5). The Hittite army and camp are depicted (6), with Ramses surrounded by the enemy (7). The great battle scene is to the right (8) showing Hittite chariots, the Hittites rescuing their friends from the river Orontes into which they were driven, and the king of Aleppo being held upside down to disgorge water.

The scene on the western wall (d) shows (from left to right) hand- to-hand combat between Hittites, Egyptian and Sherdan soldiers; Ramses’ camp protected by infantry carrying shields; Ramses’ chariot, with sunshade and w'ith groom holding the reigns; and the Egyptian infantry and chariots.

All representations of Ramses II, unlike those of his father Seti I, are proud, arrogant, and confident. His head is always held high and his shoulders are squared.

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