Colossi of Memnon

Jesuit Claude Sicard (1677-1726) was commissioned by the French regent Philippe d’Orléans to investigate and identify ancient monuments in Egypt. Sicard visited Upper Egypt four times and was the first in modern times to identify the site of Thebes as well as the colossi of Memnon and the Valley of the Kings.

The Memnon Colossi mark the site of the temple of Pharaoh Amenophis III (reigned 1391-1353 BC, Baines & Malek, p. 36). These two massive stone statues depict the Pharaoh, and are positioned in the Theban necropolis, on the west side of the Nile across from Luxor.

Colossi of Memnon. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

This statue is 55 feet tall, on a base of about 5 feet in height. See people on ground for scale. Nebuchadnezzar’s image (Daniel 3) towered 30 feet higher than this!

Colossi of Memnon. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

In his commentary on Daniel, Albert Barnes makes an interesting point regarding the great image Nebuchadnezzar made (Daniel 3) and the possible relation of that to the colossi of Memnon:

It is not impossible that Nebuchadnezzar was led, as the editor of Calmet’s Dictionary has remarked (Taylor, vol. iii. p. 194), to the construction of this image by what he had seen in Egypt. He had conquered and ravaged Egypt but a few years before this, and had doubtless been struck with the wonders of art which he had seen there. Colossal statues in honour of the gods abounded, and nothing would be more natural than that Nebuchadnezzar should wish to make his capital rival everything which he had seen in Thebes. Nor is it improbable that, while he sought to make his image more magnificent and costly than even those in Egypt were, the views of sculpture would be about the same, and the figure of the statue might be borrowed from what had been seen in Egypt.

It is not impossible that Nebuchadnezzar was led, as the editor of Calmet’s Dictionary has remarked (Taylor, vol. iii. p. 194), to the construction of this image by what he had seen in Egypt. He had conquered and ravaged Egypt but a few years before this, and had doubtless been struck with the wonders of art which he had seen there. Colossal statues in honour of the gods abounded, and nothing would be more natural than that Nebuchadnezzar should wish to make his capital rival everything which he had seen in Thebes. Nor is it improbable that, while he sought to make his image more magnificent and costly than even those in Egypt were, the views of sculpture would be about the same, and the figure of the statue might be borrowed from what had been seen in Egypt. An illustration of the subject before us is furnished by the preceding engraving, from a photograph, of the two celebrated colossal figures of Amunoph III. standing in the plains of Goorneh, Thebes, one of which is known as the Vocal Memnon. (Barnes, A.,  Notes on the Old Testament: Daniel, Volume 1, p.204).

Regarding the meaning of the word Memnon,

Memnon was a hero of the Trojan War, a King of Ethiopia who led his armies from Africa into Asia Minor to help defend the beleaguered city but was ultimately slain by Achilles. The name Memnon means “Ruler of the Dawn”, and was probably applied to the colossi because of the reported cry at dawn of one of the statues. Eventually, the entire Theban Necropolis became generally referred to as the Memnonium (Wikipedia).

Click images for larger view.

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One Response to Colossi of Memnon

  1. Keith B. Isbell says:

    Thanks Leon !

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