Saturday, November 3, 2007

Day 8: The Lesser Temple

Ihab gathered us around the Blue Flag


and gave us a little talk, then turned us loose to explore. We decided to see the Lesser Temple first. This temple is maybe my favorite temple of all the ones we saw. It was built by Ramses the Great at the same time as he was building the much larger one to himself. This one is dedicated to his most beloved wife, Nefertari, as the cow goddess Hathor.


I love this temple. For one thing, there's kind of an ironic synergy going on right there on the facade. Egyptian art has this thing called "hierarchical proportion" which means that, artistically speaking, the more important you are, the bigger they draw/carve you.


Though even the king's children carved in his shadow are bigger than me! So the fact that he made her statues the same size as his on her temple


shows his love and respect for her. On the other hand, there are twice as many statues of him as of her on her own temple. See what I mean?

It's not all that big inside, compared to his; the whole thing consists of one hypostyle hall (that's a large roofed room with columns), one sort of corridor behind it, and the sanctuary. The thing that made it special was the sunken relief carvings all over the interior space. Not much of the original color remains, but side-lighting brings out the graceful shapes of the carvings.

The same weird double standard I noticed before continues in these reliefs. (Again, we can't take our own pictures, so I'll link you to some.) One entire wall is taken up with a carving of Ramses smiting some enemies. (Remember the Narmer Palette? These pharaohs - always smiting!); other walls show both Ramses and Nefertari offering things to the gods. There's also one of him adoring his own deified self (that self is deified as a fertility god, in profile, so I'll leave you to imagine it yourself.) The entire place is a cross between a love poem to Nefertari and uncontrollable episodes of self-aggrandizement on the part of Ramses!

The carvings on the back sides of the pillars in the Hypostyle Hall were out of direct sunlight and retained much more of their original color. My travel journal says they were "breathtaking", but sadly I have forgotten what they looked like [I'm actually typing this in March - it's taking a while to get this written up!].

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