The Colossi of Memnon
One of the main attractions on the West Bank of Luxor, a landmark which everyone passes on the road to the monument area, are two gigantic statues known as the Colossi of Memnon.
These two huge ruined statues, around 17m high, once stood at the entrance gate of the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III, though very little of the temple behind them remains today. They were cut from two massive granite blocks, brought from quarries near Cairo, and carved to represent the pharaoh Amenhotep III of Dynasty XVIII.
The legend behind their name is interesting. After an earthquake (recorded by Strabo) in 27 BC, part of the northern colossus collapsed and from then on, each morning at sunrise, the statue produced a strange musical sound. Early Greek and Roman tourists came to hear the sound, and gave the statue the name of ‘Memnon’, a Trojan hero, the son of Eos and Titan, who sang to his mother each morning at dawn. In reality it is thought that the effect of the sun heating up the stone produced the sound. In the third century AD, Septimus Severus attempted to repair the damaged northern statue and the mysterious ‘singing’ was never heard again! As a result of the legend, however, the whole of western Thebes became known as ‘Memnonia’.
Each statue is seated and rests on a huge granite plinth. On the columns at the rear of the statues are dedication texts of Amenhotep III and on the sides, scenes of ‘binding the sma-symbol’. The legs of the king’s statues are flanked by smaller images of the Great Royal Wife, Queen Tiye, and his mother, Queen Mutemwiya.
The German company Kircher, who are experts in cleaning large buildings, have recently undertaken the task of cleaning the Colossi of Memnon, uncovering paint under the thousands of years of dirt and grime.
How to get there
The Colossi of Memnon are situated about half a kilometre east of the Antiquities Inspectorate (the ticket office) on the main road to the West Bank monument area. The statues are always open and no ticket is required.
Click here for the description of the Temple of Amenhotep III.