Medinet Habu Temple is properly the memorial temple of the Ancient Egyptian pharaoh Ramses III. This pharaoh ruled Egypt from 1185 to 1153 BC. The concept of a funeral temple typically originated during the glorious era of the New Kingdom, 1550-1069 BC. Historically, this period witnessed the most extraordinary flourishing of statehood and the establishment of many temples and monuments. The Ancient Egyptians built such temples as separate complexes and did not regard them as tombs. All the ruling pharaohs could perpetuate their strength and power in those magnificent temples. Undoubtedly, the Temple of Ramses III at Medinet Habu remains a striking example that has survived to our time.
Location of Medinet Habu Temple
Religious Significance of Medinet Habu
The village of Medinet Habu was the birthplace of the ancient Egyptian god Amun. The exact date of the appearance of Amun is unknown to anyone. However, there is an assumption that it was in 2100 BC. One of the variants of the translation of the word “Amon” is “secret, hidden.” The ancient Egyptians exalted the god Amun and considered him the most important, who stood above all the gods.
Erection of Medinet Habu Temple
After Pharaoh Ramses III had taken the throne and began to rule, he started constructing the temple. He fully completed it in 1156 BC. This temple is very similar to the Ramesseum. Yet, it is significantly inferior in its majesty, luxury and size.
Ramses III built this temple to defend against enemy tribes, the Syrians and Libyans. These enemies tried to invade the country and disturb the people. Therefore, he ordered to initially build a single wall along with the structures made of bricks. After some time, they built another one located 12 meters from the first wall. Behind these mighty walls were various buildings and warehouses and workshops and barns. A pool was also built there, which flowed into the canal. Thanks to this canal, the ruler could move by boat to his building without touching the ground.
In the 3rd century BC., the Ptolemies completed the main facade of the Temple of Amun. Also, they made an ornament in the form of a winged solar disk. Ancient Egyptians obtained the funds for constructing the temple through the numerous campaigns of Ramses. He was considered an outstanding military leader who could create excellent strategies, thanks to which ancients built quickly enough Medinet Habu. He first erected this memorial temple. The northern part of the side was decorated with a portico with eight columns, and on the opposite side was the entrance to the castle. Passing through the gate, we step into a large courtyard. On the right side, you can see the ruins of the temple, built by Queen Hatshepsut. While on the left side, you will see the chapel of the 25th dynasty.
Plan and Decoration
The Temple of Ramses III at Medinet Habu is unique in its size. The following features show its plan and decorations on the walls:
The first tower has many decorations showing Ramses III. You can see images and inscriptions about the campaigns of the pharaoh and his battles with enemies. At the same time, you will see depictions of his victories and defeats. There are unique slots for flags on two towers. On the tower located to the north, the ruler shows up in a red crown and stands in front of Ra-Kharhat. The ruler appears in a traditional pose, holding his enemies one step away from death. He grabs them by their hair and strikes them with his mace.
However, on the southern tower, the pharaoh in a white crown destroys his captives in front of Amon-Ra. These two gods lead entire groups of prisoners forward. The Ancient artists depicted the lands of captured armies in round forts. Also, they inscribed the names of the cities of these enemies and crowned them with captured prisoners.
The second tower leads further into the second courtyard; there are four more entrances. Later, earlier Christians converted this courtyard into a church. Since Christians covered all pagan paintings with lime, the images have been preserved in good condition.
From one side and the other side of the courtyard, one can contemplate fantastic procedural scenes. On the walls located on the right side, the paints describe the Great Festival of God Min. Nevertheless, the walls on the left show the Ptah Sokaris Festival scene. On these walls, the Ancient Egyptians depicted fascinating reliefs. In the first scene – Ramses attacks the Libyans. This ruler shoots arrows from a bow, and the enemies scatter in all directions. The second scene shows Ramses returning from a battle with three prisoners he shackled and tied to himself. Also, the scene indicates that two porters follow him. In the third scene – Pharaoh leads his captives to Amon and Mut.
Behind this courtyard is a large hypostyle hall, filled with columns in 6 rows. The builders originally covered it with a vast roof; they supported 24 columns. These columns stand in four rows of six columns, with a double row of central and thicker columns than the others. Shown here are images of the pharaoh with deities. All sides of the hall have passages to other rooms. Ancient Egyptians kept expensive things in the rooms on the left side, musical instruments and jewellery. If you go further, then there are two more halls of columns, and next to them are chambers with sanctuaries.
The Ancient Egyptian painters decorated the walls of this castle with a large number of reliefs. These reliefs show scenes of battles with enemies and are dedicated to the wars of that time. However, at the back of the temple, reliefs depict the fight of Ramses with the Nubians. On the northern part of the wall, ten scenes show the wars against the Libyans and the victory over the Sea People. On the south side of the border, there is the festival calendar. This calendar includes lists of sacrifices dating back to the reign of Ramses III.
In the old days, Ancient Egyptians decorated all images with bright colours. However, some dull shades on these images eventually make them less noticeable in our time. You can enter the castle through the South gate. On the left side, there is a temple of the priests of Amun. And if you look closely at the ceiling and walls, you can see notes praising the ruler.
Death of Ramses III
Ramses III was killed immediately. Scientists, who examined the pharaoh’s remains, found out the murderer had cut his throat. Many sources indicate the murderer could well have become the pharaoh’s son himself. The reason behind it, Ramses III did not leave him as the heir to the entire state.