types, the Polygonal column, sometimes in error called the Protodoric, which was cut in the rock in imitation of a wooden column, and a second variety known as the Lotus column, which is employed inside, supporting the rock-cut roof, but having such slender proportions as to suggest that it was copied from the posts of a porch, round which the Lotus plant had been tied.
The culminating period of the Egyptian style begins with the kings of the eighteenth dynasty, their principal capital being Thebes, described by Herodotus as the “City with the Hundred Gates”; and although the execution of the masonry is inferior to that of the older dynasties, the grandeur of the conception of their temples, and the wealth displayed in their realization entitle Thebes to the most important position in the history of the Egyptian style, especially as the temples there grouped on both sides of the river exceed in number and dimensions the whole of the other temples throughout Egypt. This to a certain extent may possibly be due to the distance of Thebes from the Mediterranean, which has contributed to their preservation from invaders. We have already referred to the probable origin of the peculiar batter or raking side given to the walls of the pylons and temples, with the Torus moulding surrounding the same and crowned with the cavetto cornice. What, however, is more remarkable is the fact that, once accepted as an important and characteristic feature, it should never have been departed from, and that down to and during the Roman occupation the same batter is found in all the temples, though constructively there was no necessity for it. The strict adherence to tradition may possibly account for this, but it has resulted in a magnificent repose possessed by these structures, which seem built to last till eternity.
Fig. 1.—Plan of the Temple of Chons.
B, Great court.
C, Hall of columns.
D, Priest’s hall.
An avenue with sphinxes on both sides forms the approach to the temple. These avenues were sometimes of considerable length, as in the case of that reaching from Karnak to Luxor, which is 1½ m. long. The leading features of the temple (see fig. 1) were:—(A) The pylon, consisting of two pyramidal masses of masonry crowned with a cavetto cornice, united in the centre by an immense doorway, in front of which on either side were seated figures of the king and obelisks. (B) A great open court surrounded by peristyles on two or three sides. (C) A great hall with a range of columns down the centre on either side, forming what in European architecture would be known as nave and aisles, with additional aisles on each side; these had columns of less height than those first mentioned, so as to allow of a clerestory, lighting the central avenue. (D) Smaller halls with their flat roofs carried by columns. And finally (E) the sanctuary, with passage round giving access to the halls occupied by the priest.
Broadly speaking, the temples bear considerable resemblance to one another (see Temple), except in dimensions. There is one important distinction, however, to be drawn between the Theban temples and those built under the Ptolemaic rule. In these latter the halls are not enclosed between pylons, but left open on the side of the entrance court with screens in between the columns, the hall being lighted from above the screens. The temples of Edfu, Esna and Dendera are thus arranged.
The great temple of Karnak (fig. 2) differs from the type just described, in that it was the work of many successive monarchs. Thus the sanctuary, built in granite, and the surrounding chambers, were erected by Senwosri (Usertesen) I. of the twelfth dynasty. In front of this, on the west side, pylons were added by Tethmosis (Thothmes, Tahutmes) I. (1541-1516), enclosing a hall, in the walls of which were Osirid figures. In front of this a third pylon was added, which Seti (Sethos) I. utilized as one of the enclosures of the great hall of columns (fig. 3), measuring 170 ft. deep by 329 ft. wide, having added a fourth pylon on the other side to enclose it. Again in front of this was the great open court with porticoes on two sides, and a great pylon, forming the entrance. In the rear of all these buildings, and some distance beyond the sanctuary, Tethmosis III. (1503-1449) built a great colonnaded hall with other halls round, considered to have been a palace. All these structures form a part only of the great temple, on the right and left of which (i.e. to the north-east and south-west) were other temples preceded by pylons and connected one with the other by avenues of sphinxes. Though of small size comparatively, one of the best preserved is the temple of Chons, built by Rameses III. It was from this temple that an avenue of sphinxes led to the temple of Luxor, which was begun by Amenophis III. (1414-1379 B.C.), and completed by Rameses II. (1300-1234).
On the opposite or west bank of the Nile are the temple of Medīnet Abū, the Ramesseum, the temples of Kurna and of Deir-el-Bahri; the last being a sepulchral temple, which, built on rising ground, had flights of steps leading to the higher level (fig. 4), and porticoes with square piers at the foot of each terrace. In the rear on the right-hand side was found an altar, the only example of its kind known in Egypt. The halls behind this and the portico of the right flank had polygonal columns.
In the palace of Tell el-Amarna, built shortly before 1350 B.C. by the heretic king Akhenaton (whose name was originally Amenophis IV.), and discovered by Petrie, there were no special architectural developments, but the painted decoration of the walls and pavements assumed a literal interpretation of natural forms of plants and foliage and of birds and animals, recalling to some extent that found at Cnossus in Crete.
Ascending the river from Cairo, the first temples of which important remains exist are the two at Abydos. One of these has an exceptional plan, with seven sanctuaries in the rear. It was built by Seti I., and consists of an outer portico with square piers, a hall