The Colossi of Memnon are two gigantic statues representing the pharaoh Amenhotep III and were built to preside over his funerary temple on the west bank of the Nile, in the city of Luxor (formerly Thebes). They were erected 3,400 years ago and show the pharaoh in a relaxed pose, with his hands resting on his knees and gazing at the rising sun.


Amenhotep III, also known as Amenophis III, was crowned pharaoh when he was just a child, at an age estimated between 6 and 12 years old. And he was one of the rulers with one of the longest periods of rule, in a time of peace in which Egypt ratified its commercial power in the area. He was also the father of the famous Akhnaton and left an important architectural legacy of temples and buildings, the most famous of which are the Colossi of Memnon.

In the lower part of the sculptures there are two more representations. On the one hand, is sculpted his mother, Queen Mutemwiya, who was key to Amenhotep III could not only come to power as a child but also managed to stay in it. And, on the other, there is the Pharaoh’s wife, Queen Tiy.

The purpose of the Colossi of Memnon was that they were the protectors of the remains of the pharaoh in his eternal rest (for that reason they crowned the entrance of the funerary temple) and were also used to worship Amenhotep III as an earthly god. That there are two represents the dominion of the pharaoh in the two parts of Egypt: the Upper and Lower Nile.

Each of the giants is 14 meters high and weighs 700 tons. They are mounted on 4 meter high pedestals, each weighing 600 tons. This entire structure is 18 meters high and weighs 1,300 tons for each statue, with its respective pedestal. Some archaeologists claim that parts of the head and headdress of the statues may have been lost or plundered and, if true, the actual height of each colossus would be up to 21 meters.

They are built from a single block of granite that was brought from quarries near the city of Cairo, in Guiza, 675 kilometers from Luxor, another reason for which successive debates have been opened throughout history and which is the subject of many mysteries. How did the ancient Egyptians, with the precarious technologies they had, carry so many tons of weight for so many kilometers? All the answers lead to the Nile River, where, of course, other questions open up: What kind of ships could carry so many tons on board for so many kilometers of navigation? There are many things about the years of the pharaohs that remain a mystery.

Why are they called the Colossi of Memnon and not the Colossi of Amenhotep III or Amenophis III? Because to the first Greeks who documented its existence, Amenophis’ Greek name, Phamenoth, reminded them of Memnon, a character who appears in Homer’s Iliad and who was defeated by Achilles in his attempt to help Troy.

More colossi similar to those of Memnon, but not as large, were found in this area. There is a second pair of 15 meters high and a third pair of 11 meters high, so there are six giants at Luxor. Today they are in the process of restoration, as is part of the temple of Amenophis III, destroyed by an earthquake in 1200 BC.

The statue that sings

There is a fascinating legend surrounding the Colossi of Memnon that many historians document as real. In 27 B.C. an earthquake toppled a large part of one of the statues. Then, the other colossus (the one located further south) began to sing every morning at dawn.

It remained like this for many years until in the third century A.D. and with the Roman Empire dominating the whole area, the emperor Septimius Severus ordered to rebuild the missing part of the other colossus to the fear and superstition of the new invading peoples, who saw something sinister in that sung lament of the colossus. Once the statue was rebuilt, his partner stopped singing.

There could be a logical explanation for this phenomenon and that is that, at the beginning of each day, the change in temperature caused the water to evaporate and, when it came out of the fissures of the colossus, it produced that peculiar sound. But the mystical explanation is also interesting: imagine the twin of the Colossus of Memnon crying for so many decades in sorrow until, at last, seeing his brother again in perfect condition restored his peace.

How to get to the Colossi of Memnon

Luxor can be reached by plane to its international airport and also by train, with a daily two-shift service connecting the city with Aswan and Cairo.

Through the bridge that connects the east and west banks can be crossed to either side by car or bus, while by the river there are still some rafts with which you can cross as it was done since ancient times.

Timetable for visiting the Colossi of Memnon

The area is open daily from 6 am to 5 pm.

Visit prices

It is one of the few things that is free in Egypt, although we recommend hiring a guided tour service with a specialist to explain details of the statues. Some Nile cruise packages, both starting and ending in Luxor, include as an extra a visit to the Colossi of Memnon.

Photos of the Colossi of Memnon

Other articles that may interest you...

Great Sphinx of Giza

Undoubtedly, the Great Sphinx of Giza is, along with the pyramids, the most recognized symbol of Ancient Egypt. And it

Cairo Tower

The Cairo Tower is one of the modern icons of the Egyptian capital, with its stylized appearance and a lattice