August 6, 2013

Amon responds at last to Ramses’ prayer

Amon responds at last to Ramses’ prayer
«I am your father the sun, my right hand is with thee and, as you have said, I alone am worth more than millions of warriors! When I descend into the tumult of chariots which beseige you, you will see them fall and shatter like vases of clay under your horse’s hooves!... I will turn to ice the hearts of your countless enemies, I will take the strength from their limbs, I will make fall the lances and quivers from their hands and I will fling them into the waters like crocodiles!... They will kill each other and cut each other’s throats, and he who has fallen shall never rise again!...».


Amon God
Then Ramses calls for help from the generals and horsemen who have not taken part in the battle: «Come forward», Pharaoh cries to them, «and tell me who among you has sacrificed himself for his country more than I have done. While you sat tranquil in your camps, I went out alone against the enemy. Were it not for me, you would all be dead!...».

Evening falls and the poet lets us witness the outcome of the battle. Ramses’ entire army, which had retreated, turns to advance again.

«They advanced over earth covered with corpses, all red with blood... Their feet found no place to rest, so many were the dead!...». When the battle is over, the generals. acclaim Pharaoh and praise him for the victory: «0 Ramses of the valiant heart, you have done alone more than a whole army could do. Before your victorious sword the land of the Hatti has bowed down!... Nothing can be compared to you when you fight for your people on the day of battle!... Impelled by the example of their leader, the Egyptian cavalry threw themselves into battle as the sparrow-hawk springs on its prey. The Pharaoh accomplished great of valour. All those who approached him fell beneath his blows. Soon the bodies of the enemy cut to pieces formed a mountain of bloody corpses...».

Amon God Statue
The role played by Ramses II in history comes to life in these epic pages. No wonder then that from Djebel Barkal to Narh el Keld (near Beirut), numerous stelae celebrate the deeds of this king to whom classic legend attributes victories similar to those of Thot- Mosis III, Seth I and Ramses III.

It is also a singular fact that Ramses II, in the continual glorification of himself, had a much smaller temple, barely ten metres long and dedicated to his wife Nefertari built beside his masterpiece. Never before in Egypt had the wife of a pharaoh been depicted on the facade of a temple, indeed only the wife of Ramses II ever did attain this honour.

For many long centuries the temples of Abu Simbel remained there, lapped by the waters of the Nile, perpetuating the memory, the greatness and the divinity of Ramses II. The danger that the temples might disappear beneath the waters of the artificial lake had world wide repercussions. UNESCO immediatley set up two commissions to study the problem of salvaging them. However finding a solution was not a simple matter both because of the structure of the temples and because of the material of which they are made. The final choice was a solution proposed by Sweden which involved complete removal of the overhanging rocky mass, the cutting up of the temples into pieces and their reconstruction on a plateau above the original level. First of all 17,000 holes were made in the stone through which resin was injected to consolidate the structure. Thirty three tonnes or resin and about the same weight of iron braces to prevent the stone from crumbling were found to be necessary.

Amon God
 As the waters of the Nile rose, and they rose much more rapidly than anticipated, the cutting and moving of the stones was started in a frantic race against time. The monuments were sawn into one thousand and thirty six blocks whose average weight was thirty tonnes to which must be added the eleven hundred and ten pieces cut from the surrounding rock.

The first block, bearing the number GA lAOl, was removed on 21st May 1965. This was the start of the most fantastic enter- prize involving the dismantling and reconstruction of a monument which archeologists had ever undertaken. The funerary complex of Ramses and Nefertari was reconstructed exactly as it had been on a site ninety metres above the original level. However it was soon realized that it was not possible to reconstruct the temple just like that because the weight of the artificial rock built above it would have caused the temple to crumble. Hence two enormous domes of reinforced concrete were built over it which were intered to take the pressure of the mountain and thus like an enormous bell-jar, to protect the sanctuary. The two domes were then covered with the material which had been removed and the sand and the dust could be left to see to the filling of any gaps.

The removal of the temple from its original site was barely completed in time. By the end of the summer of 1965 the waters of the Nile slowly started to fill the now quite desolate caverns where the temples had once stood. Up above the big temple was complete again. All that was lacking to complete the picture was the «miracle of the sun» and this occurred punctually in February 1969. Then the light of the sun fell on the gods sitting in the shrine just as it has done two thousand years previously. Ramses II and his architectural masterpiece continued to exist in spite of everything.


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