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Statue of a Ptolemaic ruler

Statue of a Ptolemaic ruler
© BA Antiquities Museum/M. Mounir

Statue of a Ptolemaic ruler

Category:
Sculpture in the round, colossi
Date:
Graeco-Roman Period (332 BCE-395 CE)
Provenance:
Lower Egypt (The trunk was lifted in 1995, the head and left arm in 1996)
Material(s):
Rock, granite, pink granite
Height of the crown: 
1.4 m;
height of the head: 
1.4 m;
trunk to knees: 
4.55 m
BA Plaza


Description

Colossal statue of a Ptolemaic king represented as pharaoh in Egyptian style. The statue stands in striding stance with left leg forward and the arms by the sides. Clothed with a traditional kilt, the colossus is bare-chested and has a rounded belly with well-defined stomach muscles. The king wears a ribbed Nemes headdress, leaving his hair clearly visible, topped by the white crown of Upper Egypt. The eyes were originally inlaid, the mouth seems to have been fleshly in appearance and is distinctly down-turned in the frontal and profile views. The statue is supported by an uninscribed back pillar.

The Salvage and the Owner of the Colossal Statue 

The colossal statue salvaged on several stages; one part was discovered and extracted by the Egyptian navy in 1962, the trunk (from neck to knees) was raised in 1995, the head and arms were finally rescued in 1996.

Unfortunately, the statue bears no inscriptions referring to its owner. It was commonly believed that it depicts either Ptolemy I or Ptolemy II. However, by looking at the facial features and hairstyle, it is possible to identify it also as representing Ptolemy IX or Ptolemy X. 

By comparing this statue to another one—lifted from the same site—that could belong to a Ptolemaic queen represented as Isis, one may suggest that the original height for the colossus of Ptolemy may have reached 13 meters. This is because some scholars believe that both colossi constituted a royal couple which might have flanked the entrance to the ancient Lighthouse.

The Lighthouse of Alexandria

The Lighthouse of Alexandria was built on the island of Pharos during the reigns of Ptolemy I and II. It was about 120 meters high and was designed to guide mariners. 

The tower was built in three floors, the lowest was square, the next octagonal, and the top cylindrical with a mirror that may have functioned as a reflector for sunlight during the day and for fire light at night.  

The lighthouse was totally demolished by an earthquake during the 14th century CE. Interestingly, the granite foundations of the lighthouse were reused in the construction of the Fort of Qaitbay during the 15th century CE. This fort stands now right on the site of the ancient Lighthouse.


The information given here is subject to modification/update as a result of ongoing research.

References
  • Sally-Ann Ashton, Ptolemaic royal sculpture from Egypt: the interaction between Greek and Egyptian traditions. British archaeological reports, International series, 923 (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2001):28, cat. no. 20.
  • Jean-Yves Empereur, “Les fouilles sous-marines au phare d’Alexandrie”, Égypte, Afrique et Orient 6 (1997): 2-8.
  • Jean-Yves Empereur, Alexandria Rediscovered, translated by Margaret Maehler, photographs by Stéphane Compoint (London: British Museum Press, 1998): 5-6.
  • Jean-Yves Empereur, "Diving on a Sunken City", Archaeology, Vol. 52, No. 2 (March / April 1999).
  • Jean-Yves Empereur, Le phare d’Alexandrie: la merveille retrouvée (Paris: Gallimard, 2004): 64-69.
  • Franck Goddio and Manfred Clauss, eds., Egypt’s Sunken Treasures, photographs by Christoph Gerigk (London: Prestel, 2006): 26-29.
  • Nicolas Grimal et al., La gloire d'Alexandrie: Exposition, Paris, Musée du Petit Palais, 7 mai-26 juillet 1998 (Paris: Association française d'action artistique, 1998): 307, 314-315.
  • William La Riche, Alexandria: Septième merveille du monde, photographs by Stéphane Compoint (Paris: France Loisir, 1996): 21-29, 84-95, 114-116.
  • Selim Morcos et al., Towards Integrated Management of Alexandria’s Coastal Heritage, Coastal Region and Small Island Papers 14 (Paris: UNESCO, 2003): 45.
  • Mostafa Hassan Mostafa, Nicolas Grimal and Douglas Nakashima, eds., Underwater Archaeology and Coastal Management: Focus on Alexandria, Coastal Management Source Books 2 (Paris: UNESCO, 2000): 43-46.
  • François Queyrel, “Iconographie de Ptolémée II”, in Alexandrina 3, edited by Jean-Yves Empereur, Études alexandrines 18 (Cairo: Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale, 2009): 7-61.
  • Kyriakos Savvopoulos and Robert Steven Bianchi. Alexandrian sculpture in the Graeco-Roman Museum (Alexandria: Bibliotheca Alexandrina, 2012): 18-19.
  • Jeffrey Spier, Timothy Potts and Sara E. Cole, eds., Beyond the Nile: Egypt and the Classical World (Los Angeles, CA: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2018): 131.
  • Paul Edmund Stanwick. Portraits of the Ptolemies: Greek kings as Egyptian pharaohs (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003): 77, cat. no. C22.

 

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