memnon colossi Two massive statues, sadly weathered by time and now of no artistic merit, sit in stately isolation in the fertile lower valley of the necropolis.
They once formed an impressive entrance to the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III and are solitary relics of his golden era.
The mortuary temple itself was probably destroyed by a high flood.
Some of the blocks were re-used by Merneptah, son of Ramses II, in his neighbouring mortuary temple.
These two statues rise to a height of twenty metres above the plain.
They were made of quartzite
under the supervision of the Pharaoh’s chiefarchitect, Amenhotep son of Hapu, who transported them from the quarries on eight barges along the Nile during the annual flood.
The one on the left is in a better state of repair and shows Amenhotep III seated and flanked by his mother Metamwa and his wife Tiy.
A third ‘figure between the legs has been destroyed.
On each side of the seat are representations of two Nile-gods winding the papyrus and lotus, symbols of Lower and Upper Egypt, round the hieroglyph for ‘unite’.
The so-called Colossi of Memnon is a misnomer, since the Romans referred to one statue only, the northern one, as the Colossus of Memnon, the legendary son of Aurora, goddess of the dawn.
Memnon had slain Antilochus during the Trojan War
the latter being the valiant son of Nestor-and had himself fmally fallen at the hand of Achilles.
The first visitors to the necropolis during the Roman epoch interpreted the strange sounds they heard emerging from the statues at dawn each day as Memnon greeting his mother Aurora.
The myth grew and tourists flocked to see and hear for themselves.
The number of Greek and Latin inscriptions, in both prose and verse, on the legs of the statues, attest to each having heard the sound for himself.
Some said it was a musical note, others a trumpet blast. Others still said that they could hear voices chanting, or the sound of an angry god.
It was a great tourist attraction.
The curious were subsequently followed by the eminent.
Physicists came and exploded the myth utterly.
It was, they said, the contracting of the stone during the cool nights following expansion during the day that caused a splitting off of particles from the surface.
Be that as it may the sound completely stopped when, in the time of Septimius Severus, the upper part of the northern statue was repaired and some of the holes were filled in.
It has never been heard since.