Madinat Habu Temple (Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III) in Luxor

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Madinat Habu Temple (the Town of Habu Temple). Dominating the site is the Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III, Habu Temple is the second in size after the Great Temple at Karnak.

The temple was built on a sacred site already occupied by a small temple raised by Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis Ш, which ironically remained in use long after then the temple had fallen into decay. The small Temple of Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III, called Jeser Ast (Sacred Place) still stands to the SE of the main temple astride the two massive enclosure walls of Ramesses’ temple, the outer of mud-brick, the inner of stone The form of Amun worshipped here was from Hermopolis in Middle Egypt Under the foundations are the remains of an earlier temple dating to the beginning of the 18 Dyn. or perhaps even to the Middle Kingdom.

It was originally surrounded by a grove of acacia trees, which extended as far as the Colossi of Memnon, and which existed until 18C. Built on a platform, it was a peripteral building, designed so that a view of the whole could be obtained from all sides. Around the Sanctuary for the sacred bark of Amun are several pillared halls, open on three sides. Screen walls connect the pillars as far as the main entry. At the rear are several cult rooms which would have been closed. The open aspect was immediately spoilt by the building of a high mud-brick girdle wall by Hatshepsut. That she ordered it is evidenced by the stamped bricks and foundation deposits. Hatshepsut’s sanctuary was called the ‘Holiest of Places’, Under the floor, now missing, a large granite statue of Tuthmosis III and Amun was found. It probably stood here but was mutilated.

Inscriptions in this temple are extremely important. During the Amarna period, the names of Amun were erased, to be restored by Horemheb and Seti I. Ramesses III removed the enclosure wall so that the temple could be incorporated within his larger temple complex.

During the 25 Dyn. the Great Royal Votress Amenordais, sister of King Shabaka, undertook modifications to the interior. Because of the status of the building several high officials were interred here at this time. Further work was undertaken during the 26 Dyn when the earliest pylon was erected

Madinat Habu Temple in Luxor plan

in front of the temple, joined to the temple by an inappropriately long narrow hallway. At the same time, the enclosure wall was rebuilt. After the Persian occupation the 30 Dyn. added to the structure, including the replacement of the mud-brick enclosure wall with one of stone. Nectanebo I had an open columned porch with screens and wooden beams supporting the roof built in front of the pylon, which served as a reception room for the sacred procession before it passed into the temple.

In the Ptolemaic period, further alterations were made and a large stone pylon was erected in front of the earlier one, with a portico. Antoninus Pius added the large forecourt (39.6m by 25.4m). The interior was used as a church during early Christian times and the walls still bear traces of Coptic wall paintings, including one of St. Menas.

Madinat Habu. An engaged colossus of the king Ramsis III in the first court

Immediately W is the Eastern fortified pavilion called the Syrian Gate, a free-standing sandstone structure, originally 22m high. It is a crenelated ornamental tower in the form of an Asiatic fortress, similar to those often” shown on Egyptian paintings. Scenes on the outside depict the usual struggle with the enemies of Egypt. There are three storeys, on the first of which it is assumed Ramesses had his private apartments, probably the abode of the harim, with scenes of women playing music and instruments and bringing flowers.

In the recess on the S side of the passage, Ramesses is shown offering a seated figure of the goddess Ma’at to Ptah and Sekhmet. The figure of Ptah was originally inset with faience. Messages addressed to this image by the ordinary people were passed on to the great god of the temple, Amun. Inside the gateway is a very large Forecourt, almost 81m across, and just to the W is the Saite Chapel of the Divine Votress of Amun, also called the Chapel of Amenordais I, the daughter of Kashta, King of Kush and last king of the 25 Dyn. for whom it was originally built. It is entered through a small forecourt with four columns which leads to a sanctuary surrounded by a processional corridor. A door on the N of the forecourt leads into another court in front of the Chapels of Nitocris (Shepenwepet Ш, daughter of Psamtik I), Shepenwepet II (daughter of Piankhy) and Mehit-n-usekht (Queen of Psarntik’ I). These chapels became a place of pilgrimage where small votive figures, mainly of Osiris, were left.

At the NE angle of the forecourt is the Sacred Lake, a stone-lined basin 18m long. On the W and S sides, stairs lead down into the lake which once possessed gates bearing the cartouches of Nectanebo II. Around the main temple are the remains of the mud-brick storerooms and priests’ houses.

Directly NE is the Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III, built-in sandstone as a mortuary temple but also as a memorial to the king’s Libyan and Asiatic wars.

Ramesses III’s admiration of his predecessor Ramesses II extended to his building; this temple is almost a direct copy of the latter’s mortuary temple at the Ramesseum. It is dedicated to ‘Amun—Lord-of-Eternity; His House of Millions of Years’. The temple was reached by a canal from the river ending in a T-shaped basin where the barks containing the sacred statues and boats could have been turned, but the whole course of the canal has not been traced.

On the exterior, the S wall has the remains of the Great Calendar of Feasts of the Temple, one of the longest inscriptions in existence. The W wall shows the Nubian wars while the N wall is the Sea Battle where the king is shown with the standards before Amun. Also depicted the Egyptian fleet and the overthrow of enemies including the Philistines and the Libyans.

A Pylon (65m long, 27m high), one of the best-preserved in Egypt, fronts the temple. The N side has lost several courses, reducing its height to 19m. Reliefs on the E wall show Ramesses on the right of the gate in front of Amun and on the right in front of Ptah. He is also seen ceremonially slaying prisoners in front of other gods. The gateway in the pylon leads through into the First Court (48m by 34m), flanked on the W by eight columns and on the E by seven Osiride pillars, those at the N only with the king. On the inner face of the pylon, the scenes represent the defeat of the Libyans in the 11th year of the reign. On the S wall, the king is shown counting hands and driving his chariot while on the W wall he provides Amun with three lines of captives

Ramesses III campaigns against the Libyans: a relief from the wall of his mortuary temple. The Libyans are recognizable by their long garments, sidelocks, beards, and four-spoked chariots. Among the mercenaries fighting for the Egyptians (in the bottom register) are Hittites with feathered headdresses and Sherden with horned helmets.

(including the Philistines with feathered headdresses). On the N wall, Ramesses attacks an Asiatic city and offers Amun two strings of captives, Asiatics, Libyans, and Philistines.

The king smiting captives before (1) Amun-Re, (2) Ptah, (3) Re-Harakhte, and (4) Amun-Re. (5) The king adores Ptah, Sokar and Osiris. (6) Text of Year 2, battle with the Libyans (7) The king going to the Feast of the Valley. (8) The king in a chariot, and five registers of the marching army. (9) Ramesses III. (10) The king leads six rows of prisoners to Amun and Mut; those in the third row are Philistines. (11) Text of Year 8. (12—13) Upper register, the king offers to various gods; lower register, battle scenes. (14) Texts usurped by Ramesses VI. (15) Osiride pillar with bound Philistine at the base. (16) Baboons.

South of the first court is the Palace, built of mud-brick with stone used only for lintels and doorposts. It was rebuilt at least twice, at first consisting of a simple series of rooms, scarcely adequate for a protracted royal stay. However, late in the reign, a new enclosure wall was built and the palace enlarged As it now stands it contains three suites at the rear for the harim, the royal suite beside them. In front is the audience chamber, from which steps lead to the window of appearances opening into the First Court, where the king could show himself, and reward his favorites. This was part of the earlier palace but was incorporated into the later building. This feature is portrayed in many of the New Kingdom reliefs, especially at Al Amarna period, but this is the only complete one to have survived, although an earlier one was found in the Mortuary Temple of Tuthmosis IV on the West Bank at Thebes. The doors to the E and W of this window were used by the king during the Feast of Opet and Feast of the Valley.

The Second Court, entered by a ramp, has a gallery of eight engaged king’s figures on the S side, five columns on the N and S sides, and a double row of columns on the W side. This court appears smaller than the First Court but is actually larger. During the period of the Coptic occupation, the Church of Jeme was situated here. Some of the standing figures of the king were cut away to fit it in and much damage was done to the decorations of the temple. Scenes on the walls are mainly religious in character; on the N wall is the Feast of Min and on the S wall is the Feast of Sokar. The W wall shows the king before divinities with his name being written by Thoth. This was fronted by a wooden balcony (destroyed).

(17—18) Architrave, the king before Delta goddesses and Amun. (19—24) Upper register, a procession of Sokar. (20) Defeat of Temehu. (21—22) Counting of hands. (23—24) Lower register, the text of Year 5. (25—26) Upper register, the king offering to divinities; lower register, princes, and princesses. (27) Above the door, the king kneeling on the symbol of Upper and Lower Egypt. (28) The king before Seth who has been defaced and changed into Horus, the king with four bags before Nekhbet, goddess of Upper Egypt. (29—30) Lower register, Feast of Amun, above are representations of the Feast of Min with the god carried on a canopied structure. (31) The king was purified by Seth and Horus of Edfu. (32-33) The king led by Wadjet and Nekhbet and the Souls of Pe and Nekhen before the Theban Triad. (34) The king before Nekhbet.

The W door leads into a Hypostyle Hall (much destroyed). At the base of the entry, walls are 13 of the royal princesses with their names, and two of the princes and ten names. Above the door, the king kneels on the symbols of Upper and Lower Egypt. In this upper gallery, quite a lot of color remains in the reliefs. Here there was a central aisle of eight large columns, presumably with clerestory windows, with a further eight columns on either side, deeply incised and filled with colored faience decoration, fragments of which yet remain, although the columns are broken off short.

The only rooms that have survived more or less intact are the Treasury to the N and the rooms surrounding it. The scenes on the walls show the king offering gold and precious stones to Amun-Rec. In the adjoining rooms, he presents coffers, pectorals, and vases. On the opposite side in rooms 14 and 15 the animal sacrifices were made. The texts read: ‘coming to make a pure sacrifice of oxen, cows, calves and beasts before Amun who has conferred royalty upon His Majesty’. Fat bulls are shown coming to be slaughtered, their heads decorated with plumes and collars of lotus blossoms around their necks. After being purified by water, natron and incense the animals are killed and the flesh is offered to Re Harakhte, Amun, Atum, Osiris, and Isis. Wine is poured and offerings are also made to Min, Amun, Mut, and Khonsu. A long marrow chamber (9) opening directly off the hall was sacred to the deified Ramesses II, another example of Ramesses III’s admiration of his predecessor. Here the king is depicted censing a sacred bark consecrated to Ramesses II United with Eternity. Other rooms on the N side are sacred to Ptah-Sokar (16) and Ptah (18). The first room (19) on the right to the N of the hall is dedicated to the deified Ramesses III, who is shown seated on a throne followed by an unnamed queen receiving the homage of his children.

Behind the last hall is the First Vestibule (again badly damaged) and off the S side is a room (21) also sacred to the dead king where he is shown wearing Osiride symbols, the Atef crown, crook, and flail. On the N side is the Chapel of Rec (17). In the Second Vestibule are two groups of statues on each side of the central aisle. On the N side is a room (31) with niches for the Ennead worshipped in the temple, Amun, Mut, Khonsu, Ptah, Sekhmet, Nefertum, Rec-Harakhte, Min, and Sokar. The Sanctuary has four square pillars (also damaged). There are further small rooms around and behind the sanctuary. It is possible that the extensive damage throughout was caused by the severe earthquake of 27 BC. Many of the fallen stones were used by the Copts to build their town.

(35) The king receives Heb-sed from Amun and Khonsu. (36) The king with prisoners and treasure before the Theban Triad. (37) The king offers precious stones to Amun. (38) The king offers gold to Amun. (39) The king offers a fortress, harp, and statue to Amun. (40) The king presents caskets to Amun. (41) The king, with Thoth, presents treasure to Amun Re. (42) Three registers of vases and pectorals as offerings. (43) The king presents treasure to Amun. (44) Names of the gods of the districts of Egypt. (45) Upper register, the king and baboons adoring Isis and Nephthys. (46) Four registers showing the bringing of fat cattle, their purification, sacrifice, and dismemberment, the king offers to Osiris, Atum, Amun, Isis.

The outer facades of the temple are highly decorated with scenes of the exploits of the king.

On the outer facade, the scenes are: (47) The king hunting wild bulls and antelopes. (48—49) Calendar of religious feasts. (50) Text of Year 12. (51—52) Benefits conferred on Amun by the king. (53—54) Nubian war. (55—56) Libyan war, (57) The king charging Libyans. (58) The king addressed princes with captives and the counting of hands. (59) The king starts the war. (60) Battle with the Philistines. (61) Lion hunt. (62—63) Naval battle. (64) The king with Philistine prisoners. (65) Amorite war. (66) Libyan war. (67) Storming Hittite fortresses.

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