Colossi of Memnon : The Statues that Sings

April 24, 2017 Author: Abhi Velani
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    The Colossi of Memnon, also known as Colossus of Memnon, are two massive statues about 18 meters high on the west bank of the River Nile, opposite the modern city of Luxor, in Egypt. The statues represent Pharaoh Amenhotep III, who reigned ancient Egypt around 3,400 years ago.

    The twin statues depict the pharaoh in a seated position, his hands resting on his knees and his gaze facing eastwards towards the river weighing about 700 tonnes each.

    They once stood at the entrance gate of Amenhotep's memorial temple, a massive construct built during the pharaoh's lifetime, where he was worshiped as a god-on-earth.

    Annual flooding of the Nile took away at its foundations until later pharaohs decided to demolish the entire temple and reuse the stone blocks for other buildings.

    In 27 BCE, a large earthquake shattered the northern colossus, collapsing it from the waist up and cracking the lower half. After its rupture, the remaining lower half of this statue started to produce a strange musical sound, usually at dawn, probably caused by the rising temperatures and the evaporation of dew playing with the cracks on the statue.

    Early Greek and Roman tourists who came to hear the sound gave the statue the name of ‘Memnon’.

    Memnon was said to be the son of Eos, the goddess of dawn, and after his death, his mother is said to have shed tears —or dew drops— every morning.

    The “singing” of the statues was attributed to his mother mourning for her son, or perhaps, Memnon singing to his mother.

    Accounts vary on what the sound is like, but it has been likened to everything from an adult man speaking to the striking of a lyre.

    The earliest written reference to the singing statues comes from the Greek historian and geographer Strabo, who claimed to have heard the sound during a visit in 20 BCE. Strabo said it sounded "like a blow". Others described it as the striking of brass or whistling.

    For more than two centuries the singing statues brought tourists from land far-off, including several Roman Emperors.

    Around 199 CE, Roman Emperor Septimius Severus, repaired the statue and the singing was never heard again.

    Today, a modern road runs along the ruins of the temple, just a few feet from the edge of Amenhotep III’s statues, demoting a mere roadside attraction.

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