The Memnonium 1857

View of the second court of the Ramesseum, the mortuary temple of Rameses II (1279-1213 BC), with its Osiris pillars. Large masonry debris in the foreground. The temple was the site where a torso of a seated colossal statue of Rameses II was discovered. The statue, originally around 20 metres high, was known as Ozymandias colossus after a Greek transliteration by Diodorus Siculus (first century BC) of the first part of Rameses’s prenomen, Usermaatre Setepenre (‘Powerful one of Maat, the justice of Re is powerful, chosen of Re’), carved on the shoulder. This is said to have inspired the sonnet ‘Ozymandias’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), published in 1818. In the same year, London saw the arrival of the colossal statue of Rameses II from the Ramesseum which was later displayed at the British Museum where it is still exhibited today. At the time, the statue was known as the ‘Younger Memnon’ after the two colossal statues of Amenhotep III (1390-1352 BC), standing not far from the mortuary temple, which had been associated with Memnon since classical times (and still commonly known today as the Colossi of Memnon). The association with the Homeric character lies on the fact that an earthquake, occurred in 27 BC, damaged the northern colossus, creating a sort of flaw in the stone which started producing a characteristic whistling sound each morning and which was interpreted as Memnon singing to Eos, his mother, the goddess of the dawn. The statue was repaired in the third century and the phenomenon stopped occurring. As a result of the association of the colossi with Memnon, though, the whole are was known as Memnonia and the Ramesseum as the Memnonium.

Object Details

The Memnonium 1857

Francis Frith




Albumen print

15.6 x 20.9 cm

Acquired by King Edward VII when Prince of Wales