Published: January 31st 2012January 31st 2012
The temple of Karnak was known as Ipet-isut (Most select of places) by the ancient Egyptians. It is a city of temples built over 2000 years and dedicated to the Theben triad of Amun, Mut and Khonsu.
This derelict place is still capable of overshadowing many of the wonders of the modern world and in its day must have been awe inspiring.
For the largely uneducated ancient Egyptian population this could only have been the place of the gods. It is the mother of all religious buildings, the largest ever made and a place of pilgrimage for nearly 4,000 years. Although todays pilgrims are mainly tourists. It covers about 200 acres 1.5km by 0.8km Karnak ReconstructionThe area of the sacred enclosure of Amon alone is 61 acres and would hold ten average European cathedrals.The great temple at the heart of Karnak is so big, St Peter's, Milan and Notre Dame Cathedrals could be lost within its walls. The Hypostyle hall at 54,000 square feet with its 134 columns is still the largest room of any religious building in the world. In addition to the main sanctuary there are several smaller temples and a vast sacred lake.
Karnak is the home of the god Amun who was an insignificant local god until the 12th dynasty when Thebes became the capital of Egypt. He was represented in his original state as a goose and later as a ram, at the height of his power he was shown as a human with a head dress of feathers - all that remained of the goose.
In ancent times wars were not fought between countries but were considered as contests between gods. One deity subduing and replacing another, the victorious god and its people growing in strength. This is how Amon, with the help of Thutmose III and various other New Kingdom kings, rose to become the Eastern Gateway - oil paintingfirst supreme god of the known world and was hailed as God of gods. Little is know of him, unlike most other gods he has no legends or miracles to impress his worshippers and seems to be closer to an abstract idea of a godhead. His followers came from all the strata of society and he was known to some as 'Vizier of the poor.'
All Egyptian temples had a sacred lake, Karnak's is the largest. It was used during festivals when images of the gods would sail across it on golden barges. Karnak was also the home of a flock of geese dedicated to Amun.
The Eastern Gateway which once lead to a huge temple built by Akhenaten (the heretic king). In an attempt to obliterate his memory, Akenaten's enemies destroyed this shrine after his death.
Karnak temple, Luxor sightseeing, Luxor tours
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.
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.
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.
Luxor temple, Luxor sightseeing, Luxor tours