August 15, 2013

Luxor

Luxor
Today it is difficult when one arrives at Luxor to imagine how the great city of Thebes was laid out. For centuries the capital of the Egyptian Kingdom, it was proverbially famous for its wealth («the city where the rich houses are treasures»), it is the city which Homer in the IX canto of the II- liad referred to as «Thebes of the hundred gates». Just a little village during the Memphis era it was the spot where the god of war Montu was worshipped. Its importance started to increase appreciably from the Xth dynasty onwards, for both political and geographical reasons, until finally it became the capital of the pharaohs of the New Kingdom. The god Amon, part of the triad which also included Mut and Khonsu, was worshipped here with great pomp. Every victory and triumph was celebrated by the construction of new and grandiose temples., to the god. Its decline started with the sacking of the city by Ashur-ban-pal in 672 B.C. and it was finally destroyed completely by the Ptolemies. In Roman times it was already just a ruin. As with Memphis a prophesy had been fulfilled, «Thebes shall be rent asunder» said Ezechiel (Ezechiel, XXX, 16). The old Egyptian capital is divided in two by a canal; to the south grew up the town of Luxor while to the north the village of Karnak developed.

Luxor
In Luxor the only witness to its splendid past is the grandiose temple that the Egyptians call «Amon’s southern harem», 260 metres long it was started by Amon-Ofis III, enlarged by Tutmose III and finished by Ramses II. It is joined to the temple of Karnak by a long avenue of sphinxes with ram’s heads which the XXth dynasty substituted for the human head. This road has not been completely uncovered and work is still in progress to restore it in its integrity. The road finished at what effectively constituted the entrance of the temple of Luxor, marked by the great pylon built by Ramses II which was 65 metres wide and was decorated with bas-reliefs representing scenes from the military campaign led by Ramses II against the Hittites, and also with the text of the so-called «Poem of Pentaur» in which the Pharaoh’s war exploits were celebrated. In front of the pylon there used to stand the two obelises of Ramses II but today only one on the left (25 metres high) remains, the other having been carried away to France in 1833 and erected by the engineer Lebas on 25th October 1836 in the centre of the Place de la Concorde in Paris.


Luxor
The entrance is flanked by two granite colossi representing the Pharaoh seated on his throne fifteen and a half metres high on a base of about one metre. Originally the two colossi stood beside four huge statues of pink granite having their backs to the pylon, of which one represented the Queen Nefertari and another on the right (which is still standing but is much damaged) represents her daughter Merit-Amon. Beyond this triumphal entrance is the courtyard of Ramses II in which stand two rows of columns whose capitals represent a closed papyrus flower, with between the columns, Osirian statues. In this courtyard there also stand the little temple of Tutmose III which possesses three chapels dedicated to the triad of Amon, Mut and Khonsu who are worshipped in the sanctuary of Karnak. Finally an imposing colonnade, 25 metres long, leads into the courtyard of Amon-Ofis III which is surrounded on three sides by a sides by a double row of columns with closed papyrus capitals, a veritable petrified forest which is very evocative.

Luxor
The outside of the temple is also quite interesting. The external wall has numerous doors leading into the various side chapels in which are depicted scenes from the battle against the Syrian-Hittite coalition and also scenes from religious ceremonies. To one side can be found remains of buildings which were part of the Roman camp («castrum» in Latin). The present name of Luxor is derived from the Arabic «E1 Qousour» a translation of the Latin «castrum».

Luxor

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