A vintage photo of a man standing among the reeds in front of the Colossi of Memnon. These ancient seated statues are of Amenhotep III who built them in his own image in 1350 BC.

The two colossi reach a height of around 18 meters and weigh a staggering 720 tonnes each. They are made out of quartzite sandstone. As you can see they are both quite badly damaged. The features from the waist up are now virtually unrecognisable.

They originally stood guard at the entrance to Amenhotep’s huge temple which was situated on the bank of The Nile. This huge complex was even larger than Ramesses II’s Ramesseum. It must have been a truly incredible sight.

Unfortunately, the relentless inundations of The Nile river gnawed away at its foundations and eventually, it fell into ruin. Most of the temple was scavenged by future pharaohs who needed the precious materials to build their own monuments.

Several earthquakes are also responsible for the degradation of the colossi. Seismology tests have concluded that a huge tremor badly damaged them around 1200 BC and another in 27 BC. Roman authorities repaired the statues as best they could after this second quake.

I find this Roman repair to be quite beautiful. The colossi were already ancient pieces of art in 27 BC and the Romans had the courtesy and respect to rebuild and keep them upright. Even Egypt’s enemies respected the old pharaohs.