Thursday, June 2, 2011

Page 14: Development, Glory and Decline

<<Page 11...

'He made it as a monument for his father Amun... making for him a splendid temple... a monument of eternity and everlastingness.' - Stela of Amenophis III
From ancient ritual structures built before the dawn of human history to the great mansions of the Egyptian gods which towered above the Nile, ancient Egyptian temples developed over thousands of years. At the behest of generations of kings, they grew ever larger and more glorious until, for a time, they threatened to eclipse the wealth and power of the very rulers who were their patrons and high priests.

Even after their eventual fall and dissolution, the influence of the ancient Egyptian temples continued to be felt - as heirs to sacred space they were numinous loci replete with traditions and associations which often served later religious well, and which shaped the youthful faiths in many ways as they grew. Christianity and Islam did not escape their sway, and the saints and festivals of today are sometimes surprisingly rooted in some temples' ancient past.

In secular history, kings and emperors of Persia, Greece and Rome visited Egypt's temples or sought knowledge of them, Greek philosophers studied in them and countless explorers, travellers and scholars from Renaissance times to the present century have been drawn to visit and study these buildings and to try to unlock their secrets. With the savants of Napoleon's great Egyptian Expedition, disciplined recording and study of ancient Egypt's temples began; and almost all the great names of Egyptology - from Champollion down to the present day - studied and worked in one or more of ancient Egyptian temples' sites.