The Ramesseum in Luxor
The Ramesseum; Ramses II dubbed his massive memorial temple ‘the Temple of Millions of Years of User-Maat-Ra,’ while classical visitors dubbed it the Tomb of Ozymandias, and Jean-François Champollion,
who deciphered hieroglyphics, dubbed it the Ramesseum, after the Roman general who deciphered the language of the dead.
A mong major temple complex that can be seen in the city of Luxor is the temple of Ramses II: the Ramesseum. The ancient capital Thebes represents a real open-air museum
where it can admire the remains of this funerary temple dedicated to the pharaoh Ramses II. This structure, built at the behest of the most important regent of the 19th dynasty,
represented a real declaration of greatness for enemies and subjects.
Today, despite not being intact, a visit to the archaeological site that houses his remains has enormous historical and cultural relevance to better understand this country’s rich past during your trip to Egypt.
Who built the Ramesseum?
The Ramesseum Temple is considered one of the funerary temples built to bury the dead. King Ramesses II built it and was among the most kings who built temples for them.
The temple includes huge statues of King Ramesses II, similar in its architectural design to a large extent to the Abu Simbel Temple. It includes Inscriptions telling the nature of ancient pharaonic life.
Where was Ramesseum located?
The Ramesseum, or the mortuary temple of Pharaoh Ramses II, is located near Luxor, the ancient Thebes, the country’s capital during the New Kingdom.
It hosts many archaeological sites of incredible historical importance. Furthermore, the temple is located on the western banks of the Nile, near the Valley of the Kings,
which houses, among many tombs, the royal burial of Ramses II.
When was the Ramesseum discovered?
The significant archaeological discoveries in the Ramesseum temple
In 1798 Napoleon Bonaparte arrived in Egypt, and it is precisely this historical period that we owe the significant archaeological discoveries and the modern advent of Egyptology.
Surely it was also due to the thrust of the Enlightenment and its ideals which led Napoleon and his scholars to arrive in Egypt not only for military reasons but also for the historical wonders
and mysteries that the country guarded. In this period, the work Description de l’Égypte was written by French Egyptologists,
which also included the numerous studies carried out inside the temple of Ramses II in Egypt; however, they mistakenly confused it with the tomb of Memnon and his palace.
It was only in 1991 that, thanks to an excavation campaign by the French and Egyptians, the site of the Ramesseum was restored and explored more thoroughly.
This operation, still more than active today, continues to bring discoveries to light to illuminate this archaeological site, still partly shrouded in mystery.
Halls, kitchens, and many shops were discovered inside the temple and a school for young scribes. Among the most important finds of the temple, it is possible to observe parts of the huge collapsed colossi.
What is the Ramesseum famous for?
The temple was built in celebration of the god Amon and the ancient pharaoh of Egypt, Ramses II. It is best known for the seated statue of king Ramses II which measured 57 feet (17 meters)
high but has since been damaged, keeping only items left. The walls of the Ramesseum, which is only partially preserved, are covered with reliefs depicting historical events such as the Battle of Kadesh,
the Syrian wars, and the Festival of Min. The shattered colossus of Ramses II was the subject of the poem “Ozymandias” written by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
This temple has been identified as the “Tomb of Osymandias” (a version of Ramses II’s prenomen), recorded by the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus in the 1st century BC.
Diodorus Siculus chose to write about the tomb in the 1st century BC.
The characteristics of the Ramesseum Temple
After observing the original layout of the temple, thanks to the plan, let’s see its features in detail.
The perimeter of the temple, still clearly visible thanks to the remains left inside the archaeological site, measures approximately 67 mx 183 m,
certainly one of the largest temple complexes in Luxor. Today, despite being a ruined structure, you can still see parts of the colossus that represented the pharaoh Ramses II, in the past over 18 m high,
which stood in front of the first pylon. Its architectural style perfectly mirrored what the temples of the New Kingdom have in common.
The materials used for the construction were mainly sandstone blocks, a material very sensitive to climatic and time erosion.
What To See In The Ramesseum Temple
The Colossus of Rameses II
Among the most important remains we can observe today inside the Ramsesseum in Luxor we find those of the colossus representing the pharaoh Ramses II.
They are found lying on the ground, right where the statue was placed in an upright position. Originally, its height was probably greater than 18m.
Thus it competed with the majesty of the colossi of Memnon and with the gigantic statues found in front of the nearby temple complex of Abu Simbel.
Also, these giants were originally present in pairs, representing one of the greatest sculptural examples of Egypt.
A head of the two granite giants was transported to the British Museum and can be seen today under the name of Young Memnon. Furthermore, his image also inspired poems and sonnets,
such as those composed by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
The pharaoh’s palace is a minor temple within the first courtyard of the Ramesseum at Luxor. Inside was a vestibule that led to a reception room inside a colonnade, the Pharaoh’s chamber, and his throne room. These temple complexes often performed not only the function of places of worship but also administrative ones. Furthermore, the castle, in turn, contains a temple, various halls, warehouses, and rooms used for different purposes.
The decorations and wall paintings
On the walls of the right side of the Ramesseum in Luxor, it is possible to observe war scenes from the military campaigns of Pharaoh Ramses II against the Hittite people.
In the second and first pylons, other war decorations tell of the pharaoh’s courage in war. Other significant images are present in the statues of Osiris found on the eastern and western sides of the temple,
such as those on the columns and capitals with a flower bud decoration.
The courtyards and the pylons
Inside the main pylon of the temple of Ramses II in Luxor is a courtyard that opens onto the south side of the temple, now in ruins.
Inside were massive pillars on which the pharaoh’s statues invested as Osiris. The palace’s main facade, with its colonnaded portico, was on the opposite side.
In the secondary courtyard of the temple stood the western wall; symbolically, it was one of the most important places. The two giants representing the pharaoh were on their sides, placed in opposite positions.
The Minor Temples
Next to the hypostyle hall in the northern part, there is a minor temple dedicated to Tuya, mother of Ramses II, and to his favorite royal wife,
Nefertari, for whom he also built a tomb inside the necropolis of the Valley of the Queens. Also in this temple complex was the temple dedicated to Seti I,
even if today only the foundations are present, from which it is easy to understand its perimeter. It was composed of a main courtyard and two smaller sanctuaries.
Exceeding the second temple courtyard was a colonnade that filled all sides of the temple leading to the terrace at the rear of the Ramesseum.
Furthermore, in the center, there was a long staircase bordered by monolithic statues representing the pharaoh Ramses II.
Various statues in this temple area represent the pharaoh intent on leaving offerings for the main deities of the cult. Continuing through this room, it was possible to reach the hypostyle hall,
which in the past was also flanked by columns decorated with papyrus flower capitals that filled both naves after the hall was the sanctuary, divided into various rooms and reserved for nobles and priests of the cult of Amun.
How long did the Ramesseum take to build?
The Ramesseum is the second-largest temple in Egypt and served as the grave site for King Ramesses II. It is also known as the “House of the Ram.”
It took over 20 years to build, and once it was finished, it was used to worship Ramesses II as a god while he was still living and after he passed away.
The Description of the Temple of the Ramesseum
An intact section of the Colossus of Ramses II, the Ozymandias of Shelley’s poem, lies near the western stairwell, where it formerly stood 17.5 meters high.
In the second court, the head of another granite statue of Ramses II, one of a pair, may be seen lying on the ground.
In all, 29 out of the originally 48 columns of the vast hypostyle hall are intact and in good condition.
The ceiling of the smaller hall behind it, which is adorned with astronomical hieroglyphs, is still in situ and may be seen.
Ramesseum Rest House is a rest house/restaurant located right adjacent to the temple and is named, unsurprisingly, Ramesseum Rest House.
In addition to being a nice spot to relax and enjoy a refreshing drink or a snack, You may leave your bike here while you explore the nearby area with your friends.
The Temple of Ramses II Today
Due to the numerous cataclysms that have struck this archaeological site over the centuries and the successive rulers who attacked it to establish their power,
today, mainly ruins remain of this temple. Furthermore, with the advent of the Copts in this area, the temple was converted into a place of Christian worship, damaging it again. Once majestic,
the remains that we can observe today still contain the ancient charm of this place, one of the most important of ancient Thebes.
A visit to the Ramesseum is unmissable if you are in the archaeological site of the Valley of the Kings, as this site is connected to other temples and tombs, allowing us to have a complete
and a thorough visit to this ancient necropolis, among the most important in Egypt.