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The Ramesseum Review
The mortuary temple of Ramses II (19th Dynasty) is one of the many monuments built by the king who so prolifically used architecture to show his greatness and to celebrate his divinity. The temple is a typical New Kingdom construction, which means that it includes two pylons, two courtyards, and a hypostyle hall, followed by the usual chapels and a sanctuary. The numerous surrounding granaries are made of mud brick. A huge quantity of potsherds, from amphorae that contained food and offerings, was found in situ. It shows that the temple had religious—as well as economic—importance.
Note the 55½-foot-tall (when it stood) broken colossus of Ramses II, between the first and the second courts. It was brought here in one piece from quarries in Aswan. A Roman historian's flawed description of the colossus is supposed have inspired Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem "Ozymandias"—its title was the Hellenic name for Ramses:
I met a traveller from an antique land Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand, Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed. And on the pedestal these words appear: "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings; Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Shelley got the facial expressions (if not the sculptors' talents), the fictitious inscription, and the desert location all wrong, but the poetic evocations of ancient political might and its wreck do have their power.
- Address: Thebes
- Cost: £E35
- Hours: Daily 6 am–5 pm
- Location: The Theban Necropolis
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