Ramesseum | West Bank Luxor
Ramesseum or the mortuary temple of Ramses II is on the west bank of the Nile. we have to understand that in ancient times they had two kinds of temples,
Temples on the East bank of the River Nile like Luxor temple and Karnak temples
Temples on the West bank of the River Nile or as it was called the beautiful west or the great west as it was boarded by
- River Nile to the East
- Desert to the west
- The village of Al-Tarif to the north
- Armant to the south
like Ramesseum and Madinet Habu temples.
Difference between East bank of the Nile and the West Bank
East Bank Luxor
We have mentioned before that the Egyptians believed where the sun rises is life, that’s why houses, palaces and daily life temples were on East bank
West bank Luxor
where the sun sets or disappeared is the death. So we can easily say that tombs, pyramids, mortuary temples always, Always on the West bank of the Nile like Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, Noblemen tombs, Deir El Madina, Madinet Habu temple and Ramesseum.
Daily life buildings
Daily life structure was used daily or opened daily like temples and houses but mortuary structures were used from time to time only like those on the West bank.
After life buildings
They were used during the celebration of the feasts like the beautiful festival of the valley or like resting place for the barque of Amon during the feast. And it happened some times that kings built palaces next to the temples to use them during the celebration, For example Ramses II and Mer-N-Ptah.
The temple of Ramses II s or Ramesseum
The temple of Ramesseum is unfortunately not like that one of Luxor, Karnak or even Madinet Habu in good condition but it’s mostly in ruins. The design is typical new kingdoms design by the great king Ramses II and later on his son Mernptah, and his successor Ramesses III, made some additions.
Ramesseum names in ancient times and its surroundings
Temple was called The ‘House of millions of years of User-Maat-Re Setepenre [the throne name of Ramesses]. Ramesses II chose as a site an area that was bordered, to the north, by the temple of Amenhotep II and the “Chapel of the White Queen” and, to the south, by the temple of Tuthmosis IV and the chapel of Wadjmes. This site had earlier been occupied by a small temple built during the reign of his father, Sety I.
The temple supposed to have
- First Pylon, North and South two towers and the entrance in between
- First Court with colonnade
- Colossal statue of Ramesses II
- Second Pylon
- Second Court
- Hypostyle Hall
- Room of Barques” with astronomical ceiling
- Room of Litanies”
What are more here are the palace and the Temple of Tuya (Ramses’ mother) and Nefertari.
Ramses II ruled Egypt almost 67 years, the second longest period on the throne of Egypt after Pepi II who ruled more than 90 years.
It is hard to find such place in Egypt, temple, Pylon, chamber in a temple does not bear the name of king Ramses. His monuments spread everywhere in Egypt from north till Nubia and from East to West.
The Ramesseum measures approximately 275 meters by 168 meters, though a large portion consisted of subsidiary buildings and storerooms.
Like Karnak temples or Madinet Habu, the temple was accessible by means of a canal which ends at a quay in front of the first pylon.
The first pylon measures 70 meters long and 22 meters high but unfortunately the pylon’s eastern side is today totally ruined like the sphinxes avenue and everything was in front of the pylon till the harbor.
The preserved western side of the pylon is traditionally decorated with war scenes from the 5th year of the king’s reign, scenes from the famous battle of Kadesh (a central Syrian city) waged against the Hittites.
Scenes of this war is decorated the temples of Abu Simbel, Karnak temples, Abydos temple and Luxor temple as the poem of Pentaour.
The first court is mostly in ruin. It is known that the entrance of the temple was at East side and the first courtyard is bordered to the north by 11 Osiris columns with engaged statue for the king and to the south by a double colonnade. (The south wall of the first court is also the façade of the king’s palace). The palace which was imitated later in Madinet Habu situated behind this portico.
The palace was built with mud bricks. It was accessible by two doors, and in the center of the portico, a window for royal appearance which opened onto the courtyard. Ramesses II sometimes appeared at that window. During the king’s lifetime the palace served as a royal sacristy when the king attended worship.
The palace was composed of a huge vestibule with 16 columns, a throne hall with 4 columns, and a dozen annex rooms. At the back of the palace, there were several residences.
Towards the rear of the first court and before the western gate to the right side, lie the remains of the colossus of Ramses which was called “Ramesses, Sun of Sovereigns”)
When the French expedition under Napoleon visited Egypt careful measurements were made of the various remaining parts and it was estimated that the statue’s total height must have been over 17 meters and its weight over 1,000 tons. To the south or to the left hand side there was the smaller colossus of Queen Tuya (around 9 m high).
We reach the second court through a ramp long the base of the colossus of Ramses linked the two courtyards because they were in different levels. It measures 53 meters by 43 meters. It has porticos on its four sides. There were 8 Osiris pillar on each side. In this court are very nice preserved scenes of Kadesh battle and the festival of god Min which was celebrated when the king came to the throne.
The second court is called sometimes the tomb of Ozymandias’ by Diodorus Siculus. Ozymandias, a corrupt form of User-Maat-Ra, one of the names of Ramses II. The two colossal monoliths of the king inspired Shelley to write his famous poem Ozymandias.
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunk less legs of stone
Stand in the desert… Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
the lone and level sands stretch far away.”
The hypostyle hall (40 x 30 m) is a model of the genre with its 48 papyri form columns laid out in six rows, 29 columns out of the 48 still standing.
The ones in the middle are shorter than those on the sides forming what is called clerestory openings, another Egyptian architectural invention, to let in light from the top of the outer walls. The interior walls show scenes of the capture of the Syrian fortress of Dapur and Ramses second receiving his scepters from Amon- Ra. And on the left side we can see scenes from the battle of Kadesh.
Smaller Hypostyle Hall
Second hypostyle hall – this small hall is known as “the hall of astronomy””. This room has the oldest known illustrations of a 12 month calendar. It once had 8 columns with papyrus buds decorated with scenes of offering.
On the rear right-hand wall Ramesses is seated beneath the sacred tree of Heliopolis, on the leaves of which his names are being written by Atum, who is seated on a throne to the left, with a goddess and Thoth to the right.
Another Hypostyle Hall
The second hypostyle hall is mostly in ruin. It has some sacrificial representations including a scene of Ramses burning incense to Ptah and the lion-headed Sekhmet.
This room is called “the Litanies Room” on account of the long list of offerings that are inscribed on the eastern wall. This room was considered by Champollion as the “library” that had been mentioned by Diodorus
The sanctuary was located along with the chapels dedicated to the Theban triad at the rear of the temple.
The temple followed the traditional pattern of the New Kingdom; which had two courtyards, a hypostyle hall, antechambers, and sanctuary and subsidiary rooms. The temple was accompanied by storehouses and workshops, and the entire complex was surrounded by a brick wall.
The history of the Ramesseum does not end with the reign of Ramesses II. This Pharaoh, who occupied the throne for 67 years, represented a model for his successors. The monument seems to have remained in activity during the entire Ramesside period (XX dynasty: 1189-1069 BC). At the time of Ramesses III it was still a place of worship, and it is mentioned in the so-called “Strike Papyri”. Ramesses VI still considered it important to have his name engraved there.