Essential Architecture-  Egypt

Ramesseum -the Mortuary Temple of Ramses II






New Kingdom: 19th Dynasty; Ramses II's reign: 1279-1213 BCE


Ancient Egyptian




Tomb, Mausoleum Temple
This mortuary temple is the standard Egyptian type with two pylons and two courtyards which precede the hypostyle hall; then the most sacred area is at the rear. None of these photographs give a view of the whole complex. The first pylon and the ruined first courtyard are never pictured on this site. The second pylon (only the north tower remains) is pictured at the bottom of this page and would be to the far left in the left photograph below. The temple is on an east-west axis with the sacred end (rear) to the west. See this site for a plan and aerial view.

The front and back (or the east and west ends) of the second courtyard were lined with Osiris pillars. Only those on the north sides remain. The fallen fragments to the right of the north pylon are what remains of the colossal statue of the so-called Ozymandias, a corruption of one of Ramses II's names (User-maat-Re) by the first century BCE Greek historian Diodorus Siculus. (This is the same Ozymandias memorialized by the British romantic poet Shelley.) It would have been one of the largest free-standing statues in Egypt, an estimated 17 ½ meters (taller than the Colossi of Memnon).

The back surface of the north tower of the pylon depicts the Battle of Kadesh, a conflict occurring with the Hittites in Syria in the fifth year of Ramses II's reign. We see Ramses (larger than his men) dashing into battle and the dead and wounded lying chaotically on the ground (see below).

Ramesseum--the Mortuary Temple of Ramses II
New Kingdom: 19th Dynasty; Ramses II's reign: 1279-1213 BCE

View from the second courtyard looking northwest; detail of colonnade with Osiris pillars--a mummy form with arms crossed holding a flail and scepter

The central staircase was flanked by two granite colossi of Ramses II. What now remains is the pedestal (throne) of the southern statue (the rest of the figure is now in the British Museum) and the head of the northern statue. Head photographed by William J. Sullivan (my husband).

The rear wall of the portico--at the top of the stairs from the rear of the second courtyard
The bottom register depicts 11 of Ramses' sons; the middle row (left) shows "the hawk-headed Montu holding the hieroglyph for life before the King's face and (right) the king kneels before the Theban triad while Thoth, who is behind him, writes his years on a palm leaf" (Kamil 89). In the top register Ramses sacrifices to Ptah, while to the right Ramses offers incense to an ithyphallic Min (Haag 313).

The hypostyle hall has three aisles with taller columns in the center and lower ones on the sides, thus permitting light to enter through "windows" set up on the architraves of the rows of shorter columns. The hall originally had 48 columns (6 rows of columns) but only 29 stand today.

The taller columns have calyx capitals whereas the short ones have bud capitals.

Works Cited:
Michael Haag. Egypt. London: Cadogan Books, 1998.
Jill Kamil. Luxor. A Guide to Ancient Thebes. London: Longman, 1983.

With special thanks to the Digital Imaging Project
Images copyright Mary Ann Sullivan.