For most of their long history the Colossi of Memnon have faced the dawn alone; the great royal worship temple of Amenhotep III—which they originally fronted—was shaken apart by earthquake and then pillaged in pharaonic times for handy stone and fine statuary.
Another earthquake in 27 B.C. shattered the northernmost statue at the waist, and it began to emit an eerie moaning sound in the early morning as the stone warmed with the rising sun. Admirers came from throughout the Classical world to witness the "Singing Memnon".
However, the famous statue didn’t always perform on cue. Roman Empress Sabina (wife of Hadrian) was visibly angry at not hearing the voice on her first visit. Her displeasure was recorded by graffiti inscribed on the statue by one of her attendants: "Having failed to hear Memnon yesterday, we prayed to him not to be again unfavourable to us, nor withhold his Divine Sound; for the venerable features of the Empress were inflamed with anger."
This striking image was taken in April 1914 by 36-year-old Austrian, Theodor Kofler, a pioneer of aerial photography. Photo courtesy of the Egyptological Archives and Library, Università egli Studi di Milano.
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