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Luxor Temple in Egypt rose into prominence as the abode of various royal Egyptian dynasties. The kings honored the so-called god Amon. It became the main city of the kingdom. The Temple was managed by high military priests.
This research report summarizes the key events and historical background of Luxor Temple. It also sheds light on the building, the civilization and the culture prevalent in that period as well as the built environment. Moreover, it gives a comparison with the modern city of Luxor.
Luxor Temple in Egypt: An Introduction
The Luxor Temple was mainly constructed during the reigns of the rules, namely Amenhotep III and Ramses II. It is situated just about 3 kilometers south of Karnak on the east bank river at Thebes. Its exact rituals and ceremonies have always remained obscured, though research performed over the past few decades have shed led light on it. Throughout the early 1980's, the researcher Bell (1985, 1997) and the Chicago Epigraphic Surveys (1964, 1979, 1981, 1994, 1998, 2009) analyzed the site extensively and noted that the Temple was dedicated mainly to the religious group of the royal ka - the unique divine spirit which was handed down in the history from ruler and was shared by almost all Egyptian monarchs (Bell 1997, 157). As stated above, the royal ka was believed to have been handed over to each monarch by Amun-Kamutef, the so-called god of eternal kingship (Bell 1985, 258-259).
The researcher Bell believed that the royal power and the divine powers of Amun of Karnak, had to be yearly changed, which needed a joint visit by both of them to the so-called god of Luxor. Their re-establishment to full divinity, the author believed, was realized in the yearly festival event organized in Luxor in September, at the time of the arrival of River Nile (Murnane, 1981; Bell, 1997, 158; Kendall 122-124).
The so-called god of Luxor was known as Amun-ipet in which the word Ipet, now commonly known as Opet, implied the meaning “place of seclusion” or “harem” (Wilkinson 166; Pamminger 93-95). In one of the interior quarters of the temple there are sights depicting the supposed divine notion of Amenhotep III. These quarters are those in which every year throughout the Opet festival the king was symbolically born. The supposed god of Luxor was the creative feature of Amun of Karnak and was usually shown in the Luxor temple as a symbol of eternal kingship as well as the royal ka. The Luxor Temple represented the place of universal creation and a sanctuary at the Primeval Mound.
The name Luxor suggests both the modern city that was primeval Thebes, and the temple on the eastern bank which borders the town. The word "Luxor" originates from the Europeanized Arabic term, al-uksur, implying the "fortifications". The name was also modified from the Latin castrum which denoted the Roman fortress constructed all-around the temple in the 3rd century AD. It was known in prehistoric times as the private haven of the south. The temple of Luxor since the olden times has always been considered as a sacred place.
Luxor Temple was built on a mound that had never been unearthed and which might hide the earliest foundations. The temple was measured by 189.89 x 55.17 meters and comprised of an arcade, a court with doorways, an open hall of a distinctive type, four small hallways with side rooms, the shelter and the two memorials.
In contrast to most other Egyptian temples, Luxor’s main entrance hall did not face the river and its most noticeable affiliation was associated with the temples at Karnak on the regal axis rather than the heavenly one. The longitudinal axis of the Luxor temple was arched, built out of horizontal sections placed side by side. The hindmost section of the plan up to the open hallway had the same axis as the past temple of Tuthmosis III, perhaps along the riverbank. From the back of the open hallway, the axis diverged eastward to let it pass east of the past temple of Tuthmosis III and be connected to the axis of the processional passageway of sphinxes moving towards the Temple of Khonsu at Karnak. As well, the process of the gradient of the axis was linked to a twist of the different sections of the plan past the hallway into trapezoids or parallelograms to make allowances for symmetry along this axis. Similarly, the lines sloped to the axis did not run parallel to each other though they adhered to the curve in a bid to make them at 90-degree to that axis. The rounded axes were also utilized at Karnak and afterwards in the Temple of Philae.
In the prehistoric Egypt the temple region now well-known as Luxor was known as Ipt rsyt, meaning the southern haven, pointing out to the holy of holies at the temples southern end, in which the so-called god, Amun dwelt. Nevertheless, his name was afterwards reduced to Amenemope. The Amun was a so-called fertility god as well as a god of rejuvenation, and his statue was made similar to Min of Coptos. He also had strong links with both Karnak and West Thebes.
Once a year, a statue of the Amun who lived at Karnak was taken in a procession to Luxor Temple to meet Amun of the Opet and Amenemopet in a festival. The Temple was thought to be as one of the most important services on Egypt's religious calendar in the New Kingdom and all over the Pharaonic era. The procession linked to that event was shown on the exterior bulwarks of the Temple of Ramesses III in the so-called Great Court situated at Karnak, and on the ramparts of Amenhotep III's arcade at the Luxor Temple.
The primary purpose of the temple of Luxor supposedly devoted to the Theban Triad of Amun, Mut as well as their son Khonsu. Nevertheless, new premise suggests that the temple of Luxor was a set of unevenly developed construction started in the reign of Amenhotep III and which later developed, especially by Ramesses II, and was further developed in later eras. Moreover, it was considered a safe haven devoted to the festivals of the royal ka.
Accordingly, Luxor Temple was the powerhouse of the so-called divine king, and the principal national temple of the kings’ party. The principle of divine kingship distinguished the Egyptians from their neighboring peoples in Iraq and from the European medieval kings.
Kingship was considered to be designed by the so-called gods at the start of era in line with the well-organized state, integrity, honesty and the celestial order. The ruling king was also considered as the physical son of the so-called sun-god. This godly notion and birth was shown on the ramparts of Luxor Temple, and other imperial temples all over the Egypt. As well, the king was also an embodiment of the supposed dynasty god, namely Horus, and when died, the king was recognized as the father of Horus, Osiris. This so-called divine king was therefore a distinctive person, the living embodiment of divinity, a chosen intermediary, who could have the powers to act as priest for the whole country.
The original citation to the Luxor Temple is noted from a pair of stelae found in Maasara quarry, east of Memphis, written in the rule of Ahmose, about 1500 BC. The inscription records the mining of sandstone for various temples. However, the structural data of Luxor Temple are noted in the co-rule of Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III. These features of the Temple were built into the triple shrine constructed by Ramesses II, in about 1300 BC, the most significant remains of Luxor temples. The temple was built internally in the first court, and the recycled materials from the original chapel were devoted by Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III. The building had been the last of six baroque stations was constructed along the street that was used by Amun and his group from Karnak to Luxor each year in the Opet Festival.
Similar to the Karnak Temple Complex, the Temple of Luxor has experienced many modifications and renovations. The earliest building of the Temple might hinge on a no more visible older building dated back to the 12th Dynasty of the kings. Nevertheless, since neither the cult nor any section of the Luxor Temple seemed to predate the early 18th Dynasty; only some Middle Kingdom remains were noted here came from somewhere else and was shipped to Luxor when the original buildings were demolished. It is thought that there might have even been an Old Kingdom temple before that, though, these temples did acquire the same significance as the New Kingdom had, when the religious center and the palaces of the kings was placed at Thebes.
The Luxor temple was essentially built by two kings, Amenhotep III, and Ramesses II. Amenhotep III constructed the interior region of Luxor Temple in two stages. In the first stage, he built and adorned a multi-room complex on a high podium that was the southernmost section of the temple. Afterwards, in his reign the king attached an open peristyle courtyard to the northern side and also built a large arcade.
The construction work at the Luxor Temple was stopped in the rule of Amenhotep III's son, Amenhotep IV, who tried to demolish or eliminate the influence of Amun's temples, although he built a haven to the sun beside the Luxor Temple that was afterwards demolished by Horemheb. Indeed, the arcade of Amenhotep III was not finished and beautified till the era of Tutankhamun, who replaced Akhenaten and who formally reinstated the worship of Amun in Thebes.
For about half a century the Luxor Temple continued to exist unharmed in the era of Amenhotep III until it was finally expanded by Ramesses II. He constructed the vast pillared court and pylon on a new axis, which rocked to the east to support the Karnak. Ramesses II also constructed the triple temple, on the site of a past way station constructed by Hatshepsut, to hold the baroque’s of Amun, Mut and their son Khonsu when they paid a visit to Luxor.
Although no more extensions were made on the scale following the New Kingdom, Late Period kings, seemed to have built a large kiosk for Ramesses' gateway, and about three centuries later, Nectanebo I, who added a wide court in the same place previous to the gateway, maintained to be dynamic at Karnak. The significance of Luxor Temple could also be noted in the rejuvenation of the central baroque temple for King Alexander just after his invasion of Egypt, although Alexandria claimed to have carried out major renovation work to revive its glory of Amenhotep's era. It had, in fact, by that time acquired poor condition. Afterwards, it was changed as a fortress which was used by the Romans.
Following the Egypt's pagan era, a Christian church and monastery was built here, and later, a mosque was built that has survived in the present times. Hence, for about three millenniums and at the present time, Luxor Temple has continued to be a revered building.
Thebes and the Modern Luxor
Modern Luxor in the present times is one of the biggest, richest, and best-known historical places all over the world. It is situated about 900 kilometers south of Cairo on the edge of the River Nile. On the Eastern Bank of the River lies the modern city of Luxor. Its remains of an old town in the period 1500-1000 BC was one of the most magnificent in Egypt, with a population of about 50,000 people.
Modern Luxor has earned a status as one of the remains of the world’s greatest cities. It has been inhabited constantly for the last thousand years. The first data of the Paleolithic in Africa were noted there. Nevertheless, the most significant era in the history of Modern Luxor was the five-century-long New Kingdom, when what the Egyptians termed this “model for every city” realized unmatched political and architectural importance. The new name for Thebes, “Luxor,” originates from the Arabic word al-Uqsur, implying “the castles,” which consequently may come from the Latin word “castra,” implying a military fort.
Between the River Nile and the desert border, the flood plains comprise of a wide strata of nutrient rich Nile silt which was dumped for thousands of years by the River. At present, the perennial irrigation produces several kinds of crops annually. Prior to the completion of the Aswan Dam project in the 1960s, which led to the prevention of the annual Nile flood, the river surged each year in June, and later for the next 4 months submerged the floodplain with 30-50 centimeter of water. The water filled the basins that were a consequence of irregular silt deposit all over the floodplain. Approximately, 6 basins were placed on the Luxor West Bank, each of these covering several square kilometers. When the floodwaters dropped, these water-filled basins were established and the crops were reaped in autumn and winter. The crops were vegetables of high quantity and quality, grown effortlessly, and the European tourists were amazed by about the extraordinary Egyptian soil. The valley’s legendary wealth became a proof of the special place Egypt had in the hearts of the so-called deities. The Egyptian soil was superbly rich; consequently the crops were quite abundant with the fields easily tended. At present, the Luxor area has a great fame for agricultural quality, and the tourists had an esteem of monuments and are equally admired its landscape.
The strong proximity of limestone cliffs and the opulence and extent of nearby farming regions assisted in maintaining the wealth and prestige of ancient Luxor Temple. However, the rationales that the modern Luxor Temple developed from a sleepy Old Kingdom town to a significant Middle Kingdom town and a formidable New Kingdom city were political as well as religious. The reunification of Egypt after the defeat of the Herakleopolitans at the end of the First Intermediate Period was largely the work of Theban rulers, and they appointed Theban officials to high government positions, thereby assuming control of the entire country. During the Second Intermediate Period, Theban rulers again achieved prominence; with the expulsion of the Hyksos in the 17th Dynasty, they again governed the Two Lands.
Luxor Temple is inopportunely situated too far south to rule a country growingly bound economically and politically to the western Asia. Nevertheless, the difficult location aside, Luxor Temple prospered and was respected.
Luxor Temple West Bank
The borders of the Luxor Temple West Bank have altered remarkably throughout the last century. In the common local practice, “The West Bank” has been mentioned the west bank of the Nile directly across from the city of Luxor, though the phrase implied no particular borders. The word Necropolis could also mention this region, though it was normally restricted to the desert lands that develop west from the farming into parts of a composite wadi system that possessed archaeological vestiges. Its northern and southern borders were not clearly delineated.
In the past, the designations of the West Bank were no less indistinct. The area was known as “West of Thebes’ and the “The Great West,” though its borders were never cited. At present, rather more correctly, “The West Bank” is described organizationally as the west bank of the Nile that was situated within the modern borders of Luxor Temple. The northern border is situated ahead of the modern township of al-Tarif and the center known as New Thebes. The southern boundary is near Armant. The western boundary is not stated, however, it extends into the desert past any archaeological places. The eastern border is the River Nile.
The area now termed as “antiquities land,” was developed into a law and was ratified in 1956. In 1956, a large part of Luxor Temple was claimed by the private sector and was integrated into antiquities land, creating a single, bordering archaeological area that consisted of the major center of the Luxor Temple.
Thebes was chosen as a World Heritage Site by United Nations in 1979, though none of the UN’s records precisely demarcated its boundaries. They were thought to have incorporated both the East Bank temples of Karnak and Luxor and the West Bank. For some strange motives, the World Heritage Convention for the boundaries does not comprise any important shrines, most remarkably, the Luxor Temple.
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