Medinet Habu


Temple of Ramses III at Medinet Habu

Ramses III dominated Egypt for 31 years (1184 –1153 BC) and like many pharaohs before him was a great constructor.  As well as greatly enlarging the Medinet Habu (Habu’s City) to become his mortuary palace, he constructed the wonderful Osiris courtyard in Karnak Temple. 

The Medinet Habu was a dedicated site long before Ramses III began building there.  It was a feared part of the creation myth and was conceived to be where the Ogdoad (eight previous gods) identified the egg from which the sun came, but Ramses’ acts made it the most beautiful of the Theban sites.  The temple, which is of a alike design to the Ramesseum, is second in size only to Karnak but has a thanksgiving and symmetry that Karnak lacks.  It was not only a mortuary temple as it unified Ramses’ palace where he lodged on his visits to Thebes, his joy rooms where he entertained his harem, his government offices, a devoted lake and a Nilometer which knowing the rise and fall of the river. The outer walls of the temple are likewise finely decorated and a mud-brick wall borders the total complex.  

Ramses III was the son and successor of Sethnakht who became the first King of the 20th Dynasty.  Sethnatkht’s path to the throne is obscure.  It is possible that there was a family relationship between him and Ramses II, but it is just as likely that he grabbed power when the opportunity grown just as Ay and Horemheb had earlier him.  Ramses made his own claim to the throne clear by having the words “I did not take my office by looting, but the crown was set upon my head willingly” inscribed on one of the temple pylons.

During his long dominate, Ramses III fought several campaigns including the battle with the sea peoples, which is established on the walls of secret walls of the first pylon.  However, even in passive times there was wide spread subversion and internal discord in Egypt.  This unrest might have led to the harem plot, which happened later in his reign, when several of his ministers and his wife Ty taken to have him dead during the Opet festival celebrations, intending to make Ty’s son king.  Despite the wide use of magic and imports, the plot looks to have failed as the culprits were caught and drawn to commit suicide, but as Ramses appears to have died before their trial was complete, who is to say that they did not follow in killing him after all.  He was buried in the Valley of the Kings [KV 11] in an particular tomb that was initially involved for his father.

Before entering the mortuary temple visitors pass below the windowed gateway where Ramses had his delight rooms and enter an open space which was once a magnificent garden.  Facing, is the deeply engraved first pylon, which points Ramses fighting imaginary battles against the enemies of Egypt but on the inner walls are scenes of battles that he really did fight and win.  To the right of the gateway is the templethat Hatshepsut built and on the left is the temple of the Divine Adoratrix, which was contributed at a later date.

Inside the first pylon is a large open court, and on the northern side stands rather fat-legged statues of Ramses in the form of Osiris with married women at his feet.  Unfortunately, many of these statues were removed to make way for a Coptic Church, which rested only the temple until the 19th century.