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 Luxor Temple

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PostSubject: Luxor Temple   Sun Dec 20, 2009 10:32 pm

The name Luxor represents both the
present-day metropolis that was
ancient Thebes, and the temple on the eastern bank which adjoins the town.
"Luxor" derives from the Arabic al-uksur, meaning
"fortifications". That name in addition was adapted from the Latin castrum
which referred to the Roman fort built around the temple in the later third
century AD. The temple of Luxor has, since its inception, always been a
sacred site. After Egypt's pagan period, a
Christian
church

and monastery was located here, and after that, a mosque (13th
century Mosque of Abu el-Haggag) was built that continues to be used today.
In ancient Egypt the temple area now known as Luxor was called Ipt rsyt,
the "southern sanctuary", referring to the holy of holies at the
temple’s southern end, wherein the principal god, Amun "preeminent in
his sanctuary", dwelt. His name was later shortened to Amenemope.
This Amun was
a fertility god, and his statue was modeled on that of the similarly
Min of
Coptos. He also has strong
connections to both Karnak and
West Thebes.
Known in ancient times as "the private sanctuary (Opet) of the
south," the temple proper is located south of
Karnak. The present temple is built on a rise that has never been excavated and
which may conceal the original foundations. The early building may rest on a
no longer visible older structure dating back to the
12th Dynasty. However, since neither the cult nor any part of the temple appears to predate the early
18th
Dynasty
; the few Middle Kingdom fragments found here more probably came from
elsewhere and were transported to Luxor after the original buildings were
dismantled.
The
earliest reference to the temple comes from a pair of stelae left at Maasara
quarry, in the hills east of Memphis, inscribed in regnal year 22 of the reign
of Ahmose, c. 1550
BC. The text records the extraction of limestone for a
number of temples including the "Mansion of Amun in the Southern
Sanctuary." But structural evidence appears at Luxor only during the
co-rule of Hatshepsut and
Tuthmosis III c 1500
BC. These elements are now built
into the triple shrine erected by
Ramesses II, c 1280 BC, the most
substantial remnant of Luxor temple’s Tuthmosid phase. The shrine was erected
inside the first court, in the northwest corner, and reused elements from the
original chapel dedicated by Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III.. This small building
had been the last of six
barque stations built along the road that brought
Amun and his entourage from
Karnak to Luxor every year during the
Opet Festival..
We also know that Amenhotep
IV (Akhenaten)
built a sanctuary to the
sun next to
the Luxor Temple that
was later destroyed by
Horemheb.
The temple we
see today was built essentially by two kings,
Amenhotep
III
, (the inner part), and
Ramesses II, (the outer
part). The overall length of the temple between the pylon and rear wall
measures about 189.89 by 55.17 meters (623 by 181 feet).
The original function of the temple of Luxor, apparently dedicated to the
Theban Triad of
Amun,
Mut and their son
Khonsu,
appears uncertain. However, recent hypotheses suggest that the temple of
Luxor, a collection of irregularly developed structures begun during the
reign of
Amenhotep III
and then expanded, particularly by
Ramesses II, and still
further enlarged in later years, should be considered a sanctuary dedicated
to the celebration of the royal
ka.
Hence, Luxor
Temple was the power base of the living
divine king, and the foremost national
shrine of the king’s cult. This doctrine of divine kingship separated the
Egyptians from their neighbors in Mesopotamia and from the later medieval
"divine selection and right of kings" of Europe.



Plan of Luxor Temple
Kingship was believed to be ordained by the gods at the beginning of time
in accordance with ma’at., the well-ordered state, truth, justice, cosmic
order. The reigning king was also the physical son of the Creator sun-god.
This divine conception and birth was recorded on the walls of Luxor Temple, at
Deir el-Bahari, and
other royal cult temples throughout Egypt. The king was
also an incarnation of the dynastic god
Horus, and when deceased, the king was
identified with the father of Horus,
Osiris. This living king was thus a
unique entity, the living incarnation of deity, divinely chosen intermediary,
who could act as priest for the entire nation, reciting the prayers,
dedicating the sacrifices.
A road was built in the 18th Dynasty to link
Karnak to the north
with Luxor to the south. Although the position of this road must have
coincided with the avenue seen in front of Luxor temple today, the latter,
along with the sphinxes flanking it, date to the reign of Nectanebo I in the 30th
Dynasty. However, we believe that Nectanebo I only refurbished the road and
lined it with new sphinxes. The mudbrick ruins on either side of the road are all that remains of
the town of Luxor during the later and post-Dynastic periods.
There was a girdle wall built around the temple that consisted of independent
massifs of sun-dried brick abutting at their ends, built of courses set on a
triple system that ran concave horizontal concave.
The gate through which one would pass from the avenue to the esplanade in
front of the temple was constructed after the Dynastic period, for the brick
wall around this courtyard is
contemporary
with the Roman fort built around the temple at the beginning of the 4th
century AD. Substantial remains of the walls, gates, and pillared stone
avenues, can be seen east and west of the temple. Buildings used in this
transformation and which no longer exist in whole include a chapel dedicated
to Hathor that was erected during the
25th dynasty
reign of Taharqa and a
colonnade of
Shabaka
, later dismantled. A modest mudbrick shrine dedicated to
Serapis during Hadrian’s reign and which still
contains a statue of Isis survives at the court’s northwest corner.
Two red granite obelisks originally stood in front of the first pylon at the
rear of the forecourt, but only one, more than 25 meters (75 feet) high, now
remains. The other was removed to Paris where it now stands in the center of the
Place de la Concorde. These obelisks were not of the same height, and they were
not on the
ame alignment, probably to make up in perspective for this
difference in height.
Six colossal statues of Ramesses II,
two of them seated, flanked the entrance, though today only the two seated ones
have survived. The one to the east was known as "Ruler of the Two Lands".
Although
Amenhotep III
built the temple proper, it is fronted by a 24 meter high pylon of
Ramesses II. The pylon
and the courtyard beyond, also built by Ramesses II, is oddly out of
alignment with the axis established by the other pre-existent buildings.
This non-alignment may have resulted from consideration for the small shrine
built during the reigns of
Tuthmosis III
and Hatshepsut. Some
scholars also think that the alignment may have been made so that the pylon
would be on the same axis as the processional way leading to the
Karnak Temple. Reliefs and texts on
the outside of the first pylon relate the story, in sunk reliefs, of the
battle of
Qadesh
against the
Hittites.
Other later kings, particularly those of the
Nubian Dynasty, also
recorded their military victories on these walls (Shabaka
on the inner pylon walls). The pylon towers once supported
four enormous cedar-wood flag masts from which pennants streamed.
Within the pylon is the Peristyle Courtyard of
Ramesses II, a "feast court"
(wsekhet khefet-her, "The Temple of Ramesses Meriamon united with eternity"),
which is surrounded by two rows of papyrus bud columns with cylindrical shafts
on all of its sides. It is not square, but rather in the form of a
parallelogram, measuring 57 by 50.9 meters (187 by 167 feet). It is here, in the
northeast corner, that an ancient church was located, on the ruins of which the
more modern mosque was built. Also here is the shrine of
Tuthmosis III
and Hatshepsut, which
originally consisted of three contiguous deep shrines for the barques of
Amun,
Mut and
Khonsu, preceded
by a porch with four columns. This structure was rebuilt at the same location by
Ramesses II using elements from the earlier sanctuary. It was
embodied in the
courtyard portico, abutting on the inner face of the northwestern tower of the
pylon. It was necessary for the columns nearest the shrine to be engaged in its
walls resulting in a quite unusual type of
column. On the
outside walls of this court are depictions related to Ramesses II's campaigns
against the
Hittites
in Syria.
Colossal granite statues of Ramesses II
representing him striding with a diminutive
Queen
Nefertari
were placed between the columns of the southern part of the
Peristyle Courtyard. The colossus to the west was "Re'-of-the-Rulers", a name
borne by other statues at Abu
Simbel
and the Ramesseum.
Amenhotep
III
built the temple proper, at the south end of the site in three
phases, including the colonnade, the big second courtyard and the hypostyle
hall. The processional colonnade of Amenhotep III runs for some 100 meters with seven
papyrus columns on either side standing 19 meters high (62 ft 3 in). Two seated double statues
of Amun and
Mut are on the south side.
Here, the figure of
Amenhotep III alternates with those of his successors on
door-jambs and columns. Carving of the scenes and inscriptions on the walls
behind the columns had
barely been started when the king died and then the upheavals of the
Amarna
period
hold. Work came to a stop at Luxor during the reign of
Akhenaten, but afterwards
Tutankhamun finished most of the
interior carving. He died before the work was finished, and therefore
Ay completed the
decorations. However, Horemheb
usurped these decorations so that Tutankhamun's name shows up only
inte4rmittently under that of Horemheb. The few scenes still left in paint at
the south end of the hall were finally completed in relief a few years later by
Seti I. These
scenes depict the
Festival of Opet
. Those on the west wall show a procession of barques from
Karnak to
Luxor, those on the east wall show the reverse journey. It is here that
inscriptions mention the six way stations for the
barque between
Karnak and Luxor, each possibly having a repository chapel (men wahet, "way
station"). This hall predates that of Karnak, and served as its architectural
prototype.
Beyond the colonnade is the Great Sun Court of
Amenhotep III’s temple,
which measure about 45.11 by 56.08 meters (148 by 184 feet.
The sun court is almost identical to the court in front of the inner part of Amenhotep III’s funerary temple in
West Thebes.
Both are slightly wider at the front then at the rear. This would have enhanced
the depth of the perspective of the court by an optical illusion and added to
its impact. It received decoration from the time of Amenhotep himself to that of
Alexander the Great. The
side walls retain some of their original coloring. It was here in Luxor that in
1989 workers found a deep pit containing a large quantity of statuary, buried
probably in the 4th century AD during the installation of a cult
of the deified Roman emperor. The cache, similar to one found in
Karnak in
1903, included statues of gods, goddesses,
queens, kings and kings as gods, as
well as triads of divinities and royal groupings. The most amazing statue in
this cache was a larger than life sized statue of
Amenhotep III, carved from
red-gold quartzite.
At the back of the Great Sun Court, at its southern end, a hypostyle hall is
blended in almost imperceptibly. It is described as a hall of appearance (wsekhet
kha'it). It consists of four rows of eight bundle papyrus columns that once
supported a now non-existent roof. Through the center of these columns runs an
aisle. On the walls of this chamber
Amenhotep III
is depicted before the gods of
Thebes ceding
the temple above a plinth of figures personifying the Egyptian
nomes.
This hypostyle hall leads to a smaller eight columned hall or portico which
originally opened into the inner temple, but which was transformed by the Roman
legion stationed at Luxor into a chapel dedicated to the imperial cult. At that
time, the columns were removed. It contained the standards of the legion, and
its south doorway was blocked with an apse painted with figures Emperor
Diocletian, c 284-305 BC, and his three coregents, There is also a stairway in
the chamber, and it is flanked by chapels dedicated to
Mut and
Khonsu.
In turn, this hall leads to two square halls, each originally having four
columns, following one behind the other. To the east of the first of these halls
is the "birth room", so called because of its decorative sequence. It is
dedicated to the theogamy or marriage of
Amun with
Queen Mutemuya, the mother of
Amenhotep III,
represented in low-relief scenes similar in subject to those of
Hatshepsut's
temple at Deir el-Bahari. This
was the "divine marriage" that was celebrated between the god and the queen, or
"God's wife", during the
Opet Festival.
On the west wall is depicted the divine conception and birth of Amenhotep III,
along with his subsequent presentation to the gods and nurturing, as well as the
determination of the future king's realm. These scenes affirm the overall theme
of renewed royal and divine vitality celebrated in the festival. The mound on
which this area of the temple stood was also held to be the very site of the
birth of Amun so that the theme of birth was clearly one shared by temple and
festival alike.
To the west of this first, four columned halls was a series of niches.
The second four columned hall originally built by
Amenhotep III
no longer contains its columns, though the
column bases
may in fact still be seen. This was a
barque chapel
that was later converted into a shrine built by
Alexander the Great and
dedicated to the ithy-phallic
Amun. Its
scenes represent Alexander, dressed as a pharaoh, entering, receiving the two
crowns, and offering rites. To either side of this small chamber were side
chambers with three columns and an outer series of four contiguous cells.
When
Amenhotep III
built this section of the temple, the remaining part of it at
the rear, was accessible through a side doorway in the east wall of the rear
hall. Later, a central doorway was opened behind the stand for the
barque in the
barque shrine, in the axis of the temple plan, where there was once a gigantic
false door that symbolically connected the two sections. This arrangement of two
separate sanctuaries, the one in front made accessible to the people and the one
to the rear reserved only for the priests, is one of the characteristics of this
temple The chambers beyond the barque shrine, originally separated form the
front part, formed a sort of temple within the temple, apparently with special
mythic significance related to its particular version of
Amun.
Above the lintel of the doorway connecting the
barque shrine
with the rear of the temple, concealed by removable slabs and accessible by
holds cut in the wall, was a small chamber probably for oracular pronouncements.
Directly behind the
barque shrine
(south) are the innermost chambers of the
Amenhotep III
temple. The first of these chambers is a broad "hall of the offering table" (wsekhet
hetep), with twelve columns, which actually proceeds the the shrine of the
statue. The twelve columns possibly symbolize the hours of the day since
depictions of the sun-god's day and evening barques appear on the room's
opposing east and west walls (and in fact, the chamber is often referred to as
the "Hall of Hours").
The twelve column broad hall is flanked by two small rooms, the eastern one
being in fact a smaller "hall of the offering-table".
Beyond the twelve columned broad hall, in the central location, is the
original sanctuary or "holy of holies", containing the base of the block which
once supported the god's image. The seated statue of
Amun was of
colossal proportions, placed on a socle abutting on the rearmost columns, like
the socles of thrones in temple palaces. There were two lateral balustrades.
This is represented in low relief in two scenes flanking the entrance doorway to
the rear shrine.
About this room are other chambers that form the suite of private or
intimately secluded chambers which gave the temple its name of Opet or "harem".
Here, we find
niches that contained the statues of other divinities. These
innermost parts of the temple stood on a low mound which was thought by the
ancient Egyptians to be either the original site of
creation, the
mound which rose from the primeval waters, or at least symbolic of that place.
Hence, the roles of the chief gods
Amun and
Re and the concepts
of creation and cyclic solar renewal were here particularly intertwined.
The outer surfaces of the eastern walls of the inner temple area can be seen
to contain many blocks apparently randomly decorated with unrelated images. This
area represents a practice wall where the ancient masons and sculptors learned
the skills of temple decoration. These surfaces were then plastered over, only
to be revealed again in the course of centuries as the underlying stone became
exposed.
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