BOOKS RECOMMENDED: Same as for Chapter II.
TEMPLES. The surpassing glory of the New Empire was its great temples. Some of
them were among the most stupendous creations of structural art. To temples rather
than palaces were the resources and energies of the kings devoted, and successive
monarchs found no more splendid outlet for their piety and ambition than the
founding of new temples or the extension and adornment of those already existing.
By the forced labor of thousands of fellaheen (the system is in force to this day and is
known as the corvée) architectural piles of vast extent could be erected within the
lifetime of a monarch. As in the tombs the internal walls bore pictures for the
contemplation of the Ka, so in the temples the external walls, for the glory of the
king and the delectation of the people, were covered with colored reliefs reciting the
monarch's glorious deeds. Internally the worship and attributes of the gods were
represented in a similar manner, in endless iteration.
FIG. 9.--TEMPLE OF EDFOU. PLAN.
THE TEMPLE SCHEME. This is admirably shown in the temple of Khonsu, at
Karnak, built by Rameses III. (XXth dynasty), and in the temple of Edfou (Figs. 9 and
10), though this belongs to the Roman period. It comprised a sanctuary or sekos,
a hypostyle (columnar) hall, known as the "hall of assembly," and a forecourt
preceded by a double pylon or gateway. Each of these parts might be made more or
less complex in different temples, but the essential features are encountered
everywhere under all changes of form. The building of a temple began with the
sanctuary, which contained the sacred chamber and the shrine of the god, with
subordinate rooms for the priests and for various rites and functions. These
chambers were low, dark, mysterious, accessible only to the priests and king. They
were given a certain dignity by being raised upon a sort of platform above the general
level, and reached by a few steps. They were sumptuously decorated internally with
ritual pictures in relief. The hall was sometimes loftier, but set on a slightly lower
level; its massive columns supported a roof of stone lintels, and light was admitted
either through clearstory windows under the roof of a central portion higher than the
sides, as at Karnak, or over a low screen-wall built between the columns of the front
row, as at Edfou and Denderah. This method was peculiar to the Ptolemaic and
Roman periods. The court was usually surrounded by a single or double colonnade;
sometimes, however, this colonnade only flanked the sides or fronted the hall, or
again was wholly wanting. The pylons were twin buttress-like masses flanking the
entrance gate of the court. They were shaped like oblong truncated pyramids,
crowned by flaring cornices, and were decorated on the outer face with masts
carrying banners, with obelisks, or with seated colossal figures of the royal builder.
An avenue of sphinxes formed the approach to the entrance, and the whole temple
precinct was surrounded by a wall, usually of crude brick, pierced by one or more
gates with or without pylons. The piety of successive monarchs was displayed in the
addition of new hypostyle halls, courts, pylons, or obelisks, by which the temple was
successively extended in length, and sometimes also in width, by the increased
dimensions of the new courts. The great Temple of Karnak most strikingly illustrates
this growth. Begun by Osourtesen (XIIth dynasty) more than 2000 years B.C., it was
not completed in its present form until the time of the Ptolemies, when the last of the
pylons and external gates were erected.
FIG. 10.--TEMPLE OF EDFOU. SECTION.
The variations in the details of this general type were numerous. Thus, at El Kab, the
temple of Amenophis III. has the sekos and hall but no forecourt. At Deir-el-Medineh
the hall of the Ptolemaic Hathor-temple is a mere porch in two parts, while the
enclosure within the circuit wall takes the place of the forecourt. At Karnak all the
parts were repeated several times, and under Amenophis III. (XVIIIth dynasty)
a wing was built at a nearly right angle to the main structure. At Luxor, to a
complete typical temple were added three aisles of an unfinished hypostyle hall, and
an elaborate forecourt, whose axis is inclined to that of the other buildings, owing to
a bend of the river at that point. At Abydos a complex sanctuary of many chambers
extends southeast at right angles to the general mass, and the first court is without
columns. But in all these structures a certain unity of effect is produced by the lofty
pylons, the flat roofs diminishing in height over successive portions from the front to
the sanctuary, the sloping windowless walls covered with carved and painted
pictures, and the dim and massive interiors of the columnar halls.
FIG. 11.--TEMPLE OF KARNAK. PLAN.
TEMPLES OF KARNAK. Of these various temples that of Amen-Ra is incomparably
the largest and most imposing. Its construction extended through the whole duration
of the New Empire, of whose architecture it is a splendid résumé (Fig. 11). Its
extreme length is 1,215 feet, and its greatest width 376 feet. The sanctuary and its
accessories, mainly built by Thothmes I. and Thothmes III., cover an area nearly 456
× 290 feet in extent, and comprise two hypostyle halls and countless smaller halls
and chambers. It is preceded by a narrow columnar vestibule and two pylons
enclosing a columnar atrium and two obelisks. This is entered from the Great
Hypostyle Hall (h in Fig. 11; Fig. 12), the noblest single work of Egyptian
architecture, measuring 340 × 170 feet, and containing 134 columns in sixteen
rows, supporting a massive stone roof. The central columns with bell-capitals are 70
feet high and nearly 12 feet in diameter; the others are smaller and lower, with lotus-
bud capitals, supporting a roof lower than that over the three central aisles.
A clearstory of stone-grated windows makes up the difference in height between
these two roofs. The interior, thus lighted, was splendid with painted reliefs, which
helped not only to adorn the hall but to give scale to its massive parts. The whole
stupendous creation was the work of three kings--Rameses I., Seti I., and Rameses
II. (XIXth dynasty).
FIG. 12.--CENTRAL PORTION OF HYPOSTYLE HALL AT KARNAK.
(From model in Metropolitan Museum, New York.)
In front of it was the great court, flanked by columns, and still showing the ruins of a
central avenue of colossal pillars begun, but never completed, by the Bubastid kings
of the XXIId dynasty. One or two smaller structures and the curious lateral wing
built by Amenophis III., interrupt the otherwise orderly and symmetrical advance of
this plan from the sanctuary to the huge first pylon (last in point of date) erected by
FIG. 13.--GREAT TEMPLE OF IPSAMBOUL.
The smaller temple of Khonsu, south of that of Amen-Ra, has already been alluded to
as a typical example of templar design. Next to Karnak in importance comes the
Temple of Luxor in its immediate neighborhood. It has two forecourts adorned with
double-aisled colonnades and connected by what seems to be an unfinished hypostyle
hall. The Ramesseum and the temples of Medinet Abou and Deir-El-Bahari have
already been mentioned. At Gournah and Abydos are the next most celebrated
temples of this period; the first famous for its rich clustered lotus-columns, the latter
for its beautiful sanctuary chambers, dedicated each to a different deity, and covered
with delicate painted reliefs of the time of Seti I.
GROTTO TEMPLES. Two other styles of temple remain to be noticed. The first is
the subterranean or grotto temple, of which the two most famous, at Ipsamboul
(Abou-simbel), were excavated by Rameses II. They are truly colossal conceptions,
reproducing in the native rock the main features of structural temples, the court
being represented by the larger of two chambers in the Greater Temple (Fig. 13)
Their façades are adorned with colossal seated figures of the builder; the smaller has
also two effigies of Nefert-Ari, his consort. Nothing more striking and boldly
impressive is to be met with in Egypt than these singular rock-cut façades. Other
rock-cut temples of more modest dimensions are at Addeh, Feraig, Beni-Hassan (the
"Speos Artemidos"), Beit-el-Wali, and Silsileh. At Gherf-Hossein, Asseboua, and Derri
are temples partly excavated and partly structural.
PERIPTERAL TEMPLES. The last type of temple to be noticed is represented by only
three or four structures of moderate size; it is the peripteral, in which a small
chamber is surrounded by columns, usually mounted on a terrace with vertical walls.
They were mere chapels, but are among the most graceful of existing ruins. At Philæ
are two structures, one by Nectanebo, the other Ptolemaic, resembling peripteral
temples, but without cella-chambers or roofs. They may have been waiting-courts for
the adjoining temples. That at Elephantine (Amenophis III.) has square piers at the
sides, and columns only at the ends. Another by Thothmes II., at Medinet Abou,
formed only a part (the sekos?) of a larger plan. At Edfou is another, belonging to the
LATER TEMPLES. After the architectural inaction of the Decadence came a
marvellous recrudescence of splendor under the Ptolemies, whose Hellenic origin and
sympathies did not lead them into the mistaken effort to impose Greek models upon
Egyptian art. The temples erected under their dominion, and later under Roman rule,
vied with the grandest works of the Ramessidæ, and surpassed them in the rich
elaboration and variety of their architectural details. The temple at Edfou (Figs. 9,
10, 14) is the most perfectly preserved, and conforms most closely to the typical
plan; that of Isis, at Philæ, is the most elaborate and ornate. Denderah also possesses
a group of admirably preserved temples of the same period. At Esneh, and at
Kalabshé and Kardassy or Ghertashi in Nubia are others. In all these one notes
innovations of detail and a striving for effect quite different from the simpler majesty
of the preceding age (Fig. 14). One peculiar feature is the use of screen walls built
into the front rows of columns of the hypostyle hall. Light was admitted above these
walls, which measured about half the height of the columns and were interrupted at
the centre by a curious doorway cut through their whole height and without any
lintel. Long disused types of capital were revived and others greatly elaborated; and
the wall-reliefs were arranged in bands and panels with a regularity and symmetry
rather Greek than Egyptian.
FIG. 14.--EDFOU. FRONT OF HYPOSTYLE HALL.
ARCHITECTURAL DETAILS. With the exception of a few purely utilitarian vaulted
structures, all Egyptian architecture was based on the principle of the lintel. Artistic
splendor depended upon the use of painted and carved pictures, and the decorative
treatment of the very simple supports employed. Piers and columns sustained the
roofs of such chambers as were too wide for single lintels, and produced, in halls like
those of Karnak, of the Ramesseum, or of Denderah, a stupendous effect by their
height, massiveness, number, and colored decoration. The simplest piers were plain
square shafts; others, more elaborate, had lotus stalks and flowers or heads of
Hathor carved upon them. The most striking were those against whose front faces
were carved colossal figures of Osiris, as at Luxor, Medmet Abou, and Karnak (Fig.
15). The columns, which were seldom over six diameters in height, were treated with
greater variety; the shafts, slightly tapering upward, were either round or clustered in
section, and usually contracted at the base. The capitals with which they were
crowned were usually of one of the five chief types described below. Besides round
and clustered shafts, the Middle Empire and a few of the earlier monuments of the
New Empire employed polygonal or slightly fluted shafts, as at Beni Hassan and
Karnak; these had a plain square abacus, with sometimes a cushion-like echinus
beneath it. A round plinth served as a base for most of the columns.
CAPITALS. The five chief types of capital were: a, the plain lotus bud, as at Karnak
(Great Hall); b, the clustered lotus bud (Beni-Hassan, Karnak, Luxor, Gournah, etc.);
c, the campaniform or inverted bell (central aisles at Karnak, Luxor, the Ramesseum);
d, the palm-capital, frequent in the later temples; and e, the Hathor-headed, in which
heads of Hathor adorn the four faces of a cubical mass surmounted by a model of a
shrine (Sedinga, Edfou, Denderah, Esneh). These types were richly embellished and
varied by the Ptolemaic architects, who gave a clustered or quatrefoil plan to the bell-
capital, or adorned its surface with palm leaves. A few other forms are met with as
exceptions. The first four are shown in Fig. 16.
FIG. 15.--OSIRID PIER (MEDINET ABOU).
Every part of the column was richly decorated in color. Lotus-leaves or petals
swathed the swelling lower part of the shaft, which was elsewhere covered with
successive bands of carved pictures and of hieroglyphics. The capital was similarly
covered with carved and painted ornament, usually of lotus-flowers or leaves, or
alternate stalks of lotus and papyrus.
FIG. 16.--TYPES OF COLUMN.
a, Campaniform; b, Clustered Lotus-Column;
c, Simple Lotus-Column; d, Palm-Column.
The lintels were plain and square in section, and often of prodigious size. Where they
appeared externally they were crowned with a simple cavetto cornice, its curved
surface covered with colored flutings alternating with cartouches of hieroglyphics.
Sometimes, especially on the screen walls of the Ptolemaic age, this was surmounted
by a cresting of adders or uræi in closely serried rank. No other form of cornice or
cresting is met with. Mouldings as a means of architectural effect were singularly
lacking in Egyptian architecture. The only moulding known is the clustered torus
(torus = a convex moulding of semicircular profile), which resembles a bundle of
reeds tied together with cords or ribbons. It forms an astragal under the cavetto
cornice and runs down the angles of the pylons and walls.
FIG. 17.--EGYPTIAN FLORAL
POLYCHROMY AND ORNAMENT. Color was absolutely essential to the decorative
scheme. In the vast and dim interiors, as well as in the blinding glare of the sun,
mere sculpture or relief would have been wasted. The application of brilliant color to
pictorial forms cut in low relief, or outlined by deep incision with the edges of the
figures delicately rounded (intaglio rilievo) was the most appropriate treatment
possible. The walls and columns were covered with pictures treated in this way, and
the ceilings and lintels were embellished with symbolic forms in the same manner.
All the ornaments, as distinguished from the paintings, were symbolical, at least in
their origin. Over the gateway was the solar disk or globe with wide-spread wings,
the symbol of the sun winging its way to the conquest of night; upon the ceiling were
sacred vultures, zodiacs, or stars spangled on a blue ground. Externally the temples
presented only masses of unbroken wall; but these, as well as the pylons, were
covered with huge pictures of a historical character. Only in the tombs do we find
painted ornament of a purely conventional sort (Fig. 17). Rosettes, diaper patterns,
spirals, and checkers are to be met with in them; but many of these can be traced to
DOMESTIC ARCHITECTURE. The only remains of palaces are the pavilion of
Rameses III. at Medinet Abou, and another at Semneh. The Royal Labyrinth has so
completely perished that even its site is uncertain. The Egyptians lived so much out
of doors that the house was a less important edifice than in colder climates. Egyptian
dwellings were probably in most cases built of wood or crude brick, and their
disappearance is thus easily explained. Relief pictures on the monuments indicate the
use of wooden framing for the walls, which were probably filled in with crude brick
or panels of wood. The architecture was extremely simple. Gateways like those of the
temples on a smaller scale, the cavetto cornice on the walls, and here and there a
porch with carved columns of wood or stone, were the only details pretending to
elegance. The ground-plans of many houses in ruined cities, as at Tel-el-Amarna and
a nameless city of Amenophis IV., are discernible in the ruins; but the
superstructures are wholly wanting. It was in religious and sepulchral architecture
that the constructive and artistic genius of the Egyptians was most fully manifested.
MONUMENTS: The principal necropolis regions of Egypt are centred about Ghizeh and
ancient Memphis for the Old Empire (pyramids and mastabas), Thebes for the Middle
Empire (Silsileh, Beni Hassan), and Thebes (Vale of the Kings, Vale of the Queens) and
Abydos for the New Empire.
The Old Empire has also left us the Sphinx, Sphinx temple, and the temple at Meidoum.
The most important temples of the New Empire were those of Karnak (the great temple,
the southern or temple of Khonsu), of Luxor, Medinet Abou (great temple of Rameses III.,
lesser temples of Thothmes II. and III. with peripteral sekos; also Pavilion of Rameses
III.); of Abydos; of Gournah; of Eilithyia (Amenophis III.); of Soleb and Sesebi in Nubia;
of Elephantine (peripteral); the tomb temple of Deir-el-Bahari, the Ramesseum, the
Amenopheum; hemispeos at Gherf Hossein; two grotto temples at Ipsamboul.
At Meroë are pyramids of the Ethiopic kings of the Decadence.
Temples of the Ptolemaic period: Philæ, Denderah.
Temples of the Roman period: Koum Ombos, Edfou; Kalabshé, Kardassy and Dandour in
3. See Goodyear's Grammar of the Lotus for an elaborate and ingenious
presentation of the theory of a common lotus-origin for all the conventional forms
occurring in Egyptian ornament.
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