Saturday, September 15, 2012

Egypt: Thebes and Luxor

Thebes was the wealthy political and religious capital of Egypt from about 1550-1070 BC. Around 664 BC, an Assyrian army attacked Thebes and took much of its wealth back to Nineveh. Thebes never recovered its former glory. Yet the modern city of Luxor both rose from its ruins and prospers primarily from tourists who continue to visit them. Luxor is 314 miles (505 km) south of Cairo and 111 miles (180 km) north of Aswan.

In the center of the city stands the Luxor Temple. Workers completed construction of the original temple during the 1350s BC: the final prosperous years of the ruler Amenhotep 3rd. Subsequent rulers, including Tutankhamun, Ramses 2nd, and Alexander 3rd of Macedon, had additional structures added to it. In the 200s AD, Roman soldiers used the temple for their offices and barracks. When they left, the site fell into disuse. An archaeologist rediscovered the temple in 1881 and excavations of it began after that.

The temple’s front pylon boasts scenes depicting the imagined victory in 1274 BC of Ramses 2nd over his Hittite adversaries at the Battle of Qadesh on the Orontes River (in what is now Syria). Two large statues of Ramses flank the temple’s entrance and more are scattered throughout the temple’s interior. In front of one statue of Ramses at the entrance, an obelisk of red granite stands 82 feet (25 m) high. Muhammad Ali, ruler of Egypt, gave the matching obelisk in 1833 to Louis Philippe, ruler of France, who had it placed in the Place de la Concorde in Paris where it remains today.

An avenue of sphinxes leads from Luxor Temple to the Temple Complex of Karnak which lies 1.2 miles (2 km) to the north. The assorted temples, pylons, statues, obelisks, and artificial lakes cover more than 100 acres (40 hectares). The Hypostyle Hall alone covers over an acre (0.5 hectares) and contains 134 columns at least 33 feet (10 m) tall. Major construction at the site took place from 1550-1300 when southern rulers made Thebes the prosperous capital of an Egypt united under their control. During the 1200s BC, as many as 80,000 workers busied themselves at the site.

Because this temple complex remained the most important religious site in Egypt for centuries, centuries of rulers added their names and projects to it.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.