Sunday, April 14, 2013

Preparing for Egypt, Part Eight (Temple of Luxor)

Here is a photo of the Temple of Luxor (Thebes), floodlit at night, which is how it will look when we see it. Originally there were two obelisks here at the entrance, but the second one was moved and is now in Paris. (That's nothing; the obelisk that now sets in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican was originally moved from Egypt by none other than that most vicious of Roman Emperors, Caligula. Such irony.)

This temple was originally built by Amenhotep III (Akhenaton's father) and then expanded later on by Rameses II. Of note are its avenue of Sphinxes, which in its heyday actually lined the road all the way (like, for two miles) to Karnak Temple. I recall reading somewhere that it was the habit of some Pharoahs to add his (or her) own Sphinx to the avenue of Sphinxes, so if you can read the hieroglyphs in the cartouches, Cleopatra's can even be found. (Or, at the very least, she was involved in renovating the avenue of Sphinxes and had her name added to one that was already there.) Anyway, the two colossal statues in the photo at the front of the temple are of Rameses, and the first pylon is probably the most famous part of the temple because of its relief that shows Ramses slaying the Hittites at the battle of Kadesh.

Now this is a funny story worth telling, because the last thing Ramses the Great actually did was destroy all the Hittites single-handedly at the battle of Kadesh. A remarkable chariot battle, at best that fight was a draw. But what is of note is that it resulted in the world's first recorded peace treaty between nations that still survives to this day, both Hittite (modern day Turkey) and Egypt versions.

The Temple of Luxor also manages to house a mosque with a minaret that dates back to the 11th century, a colonnade of papyrus-like columns that are 62 feet high, a sun court and hypostyle hall, and then other later additions by Roman Emperor Hadrian and then, at the very end, the Barque Shrine of Alexander the Great.

If you'd like to see a fun documentary (in three parts) on the Battle of Kadesh, one from The History Channel can be seen on Youtube here.

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