The Temple of the Ramesseum was built by Ramses II as a funerary Temple in 1304-1207 B.C and was dedicated to the god Ra. Most of the Temple is in ruins today. The entrance to the temple once had two pylons that have since collapsed.
In the first courtyard, of the temple, only a colonnaded hall has survived. In front of the ruins of the first pylon, there once stood a colossal statue of Ramses that was more than 1000 Tons in weight and 18m high! You can still see the remains of it today.
Many other Kings have superimposed monuments in the Ramesseum such as Mernptah and Ramses III.
The Greeks identified this as the Temple of Memnonium (they associated the colossal statue in front of the Temple with their legendary hero, Memnon, the son of Aurora who's mother, Eos, was the Goddess of dawn. Also, they sometimes called it "the tomb of Ozymandias", a name that might have to be derived from the ancient Egypt word "User-Maat-Ra".
This huge temple later inspired a poetic verse by Percy Bysshe Shelley in his poem Ozymandias.
"I met a traveler 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.”
-Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792-1822
The Roman historian Diodorus was under the impression that the temple was the work of the legendary King Ozymandias, and that his tomb was located there. Diodorus even gives detailed descriptions of the tomb of Ozymandias and described the inscription that was at its entrance, which says: "I am Ozymandias, King of Kings. If anyone would know how great I am and where I lie, let him surpass any of my works."
The Temple measures 600 feet by 220 feet. The eastern pylon of the temple was the main entrance and was once decorated with scenes of the battle of Kadesh, but it is in ruins today. On the right wing of the pylon, you will find inscriptions that represent the 118 cities that Ramses III conquered during his military campaigns. You will also see scenes of prisoners taken to the King. On the left wing of the pylon, there are scenes of the famous battle between Ramses II and the
Hittites. After that, you will proceed to the first open courtyard, where you will see many damaged statues. Once there was a colossal statue of Ramses II, and at its feet, it read: "My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair."
In the great Hypostyle hall, there are 29 columns that are still standing. The ones in the middle are shorter than those on the sides to allow light into the temple. Here, on the left side, you can see more scenes of the battle of Kadesh. On the right of this hall, and outside the walls of the hypostyle hall, lies a much older Temple, built by Seti I and dedicated to the God Amon Ra. The second courtyard is in a much better condition than the first one, and you can see on both sides, two rows of Osiris columns, representing Ramses II. Further south there is another small hypostyle hall that once had 8 papyrus-bud columns. Here the Hall of Astronomy is located, where the first 12th-month calendar is illustrated. This hall is decorated with scenes of the offering
and scenes of the sacred boat of Amon Ra. On the western wall, you will see Ramses II sitting under the Tree of Life, where the God Thoth and the Goddess Seshat are recording his name, in the leaves of the tree, for long life.
If you go further on the western side you will find the ruins of two vestibules that lead you to a library, linen room, and the badly-ruined sanctuary, which was dedicated to the God Amon Ra.
To the south of the Temple, Ramses II built a great mud break palace where he stayed during his visits to the site. To the south of this section, lies the small Temple of Mern-Ptah, the successor of Ramses II. In 1896, the great Egyptologist, William Flinders Petrie, did extensive excavations at this site. Petrie found here a very important Stella, known as the "Israel Stella", which contained the first reference to the "Tribe of Israel". Because of this Stella, many archaeologists believe that Mern-Ptah is very likely to be the Pharaoh mentioned in the Book Of Exodus.