God Save Us All From Good Intentions

More than a thousand years of floods and the successive lootings and pickings for other construction projects had left the once spectacular mortuary temple of Amenhotep III little more than a pile of stones. All that was left intact were the twin colossi, each 60’ tall, which stood lonely guard at the entrance of the ruins. For the most part, the statues were ignored. Compared to the remaining structures at the Theban acropolis, and the temple complexes of Luxor and Karnak across the Nile, it was a rather unremarkable eyesore.

And then, sometime around February 5th, 27 BC it became remarkable again. A small earthquake struck Egypt. It did little damage to the southern statue but it cut the northern twin off at the waist and left a deep crack through its base. Soon after, the statue became… ”talkative.”
It didn’t always speak, but when it did, it would always be at sunrise. And though it sounded more like the plucking of a lyre string than a voice, word spread across the empire of the amazing vocal statue. Strabo, Pausanias, and Pliny all attested to its wonder. By the time that Emperor Septimius Severus arrived in 199 AD, the statue already had over a hundred bits of Greek and Latin graffiti carved into it.

Severus had been advised to curry favor with the statue by his wife, Julia Domna, the high-priestess of the temple of Elagabalus, the Syrian sun-god. When it didn’t speak for him, he assumed the damaged condition of the statue to be the reason. So he ordered his soldiers to “repair” it and five rows of stone blocks were stacked upon it. It’s been mute ever since.

Art history is replete with the destructive effect of good intentions, and gods, whether Amenhotep or Jesus, are not immune.


Enbrethiliel said...


It's even worse when you're dealing with liturgy. Some things just cannot be undone.

But you already knew that.

cyurkanin said...

Forward march.