The Young Memnon, British Museum

The Younger Memnon is one of a pair of colossal granite heads from the ancient Egyptian Ramesseum mortuary temple in Thebes. It depicts the 19th Dynasty Pharaoh Ramesses II wearing the Nemes head-dress and a circlet of uraei. The back pillar is inscribed with vertical registers of hieroglyphs giving the name and titles of the king and part of a dedication to Amun-Ra.

It was excavated in 1815 by Giovanni Belzoni under the direction of the British Consul General Henry Salt, who donated it to the British Museum in 1821. In London, it acquired its name ‘The Younger Memnon’ after the ‘Memnonianum’, the name in classical times for the Ramesseum and its association with the Colossi of Memnon.

In antiquity, Ozymandias was a Greek name for Ramesses II, and in 1817 the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley began writing ‘Ozymandius’ after the British Museum’s announcement that they had acquired the statue.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.


Location: British Museum, G4/B9
Period: 19th Dynasty
Created: c. 1270 BCE
Findspot: Ramesseum, Thebes
Material: Red granite, granodiorite
Size: Height 267 cm, width 203 cm
Location: The British Museum
Museum number: EA19
Registration number:19

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