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Θῆβαι), in the poets sometimes Thebé (Θήβη; Dor. Θήβα), later Diospŏlis Magna (Διόσπολις Μεγάλη, i. e. “Great City of Zeus”), in Egyptian Tuabu, in Scripture No or No The capital of Thebaïs, or Upper Egypt, and, for a long time, of the whole country. It was reputed the oldest city of the world. It stood in about the centre of the Thebaïd, on both banks of the Nile, above Coptos, and in the Nomos Coptites. It is said to have been founded under the first dynasty by Menes; but this is unsupported by any evidence. Others ascribed its foundation to Osiris, who named it after his mother, and others to Busiris. It appears to have been at the height of its splendour, as the capital of Egypt, and as a chief seat of worship of Ammon, about B.C. 1330 under the Nineteenth Dynasty. The fame of its grandeur had reached the Greeks as early as the time of Homer, who describes it, with poetical exaggeration, as having a hundred gates, from each of which it could send out 200 war chariots fully armed ( Il. ix. 381). Homer's epithet of “HundredGated” (ἑκατόμπυλοι) is repeatedly applied to the city by later writers. Its real extent was calculated by the Greek writers at 140 stadia (fourteen geographical miles) in circuit; and in Strabo's time, when the long transference of the seat of power to Lower Egypt had caused it to decline greatly, it still had a circuit of eighty stadia (Diod.i. 50; xv. 45; Strabo, pp. 805, 815). That these computations are not exaggerated is proved by the existing ruins, which extend from side to side of the valley of the Nile, here about six miles wide; while the rocks which bound the valley are perforated with tombs. These ruins, which are perhaps the most magnificent in the world, enclose within their site the four modern villages of Karnak, Luxor (El Uksur), Medînet Habou, and Kurna—the two former on the eastern and the two latter on the western side of the river. They consist of temples, colossi, sphinxes, and obelisks, and, on the western side, of tombs, many of which are cut in the rock and adorned with paintings, which are still as fresh as if just finished. These ruins are remarkable alike for their great antiquity and for the purity of their style. It is most probable that the great buildings were all erected before the Persian invasion, when Thebes was taken by Cambyses, who secured treasure to the amount of some $10,000,000, and burned the wooden habitations, after which time it never regained the rank of a capital city; and thus its architectural monuments escaped that Greek influence which is so marked in the edifices of Lower Egypt. Among its chief buildings, the ancient writers mention the Memnonium, with the two colossi in front of it, the temple of Ammon, in which one of the three chief colleges of priests was established, and the tombs of the kings. See Memnon.

To describe the ruins in detail, and to discuss their identification, would far exceed the possible limits of this article. Suffice it to mention among the monuments on the western (Libyan) side the three temples of Seti I., Rameses II., and Rameses III. Near the second is the fallen colossus of Rameses II., the largest statue in Egypt. (See Rameses.) Beyond is the terraced temple of Queen Hatasu of the Eighteenth Dynasty, near which a remarkable series of mummies and papyri were found by Brugsch in 1881. At Medînet Habou is a great temple of Rameses III., with interesting sculptures describing his victories over the Philistines, and also a calendar. Northwest of this are the cemeteries of the sacred apes and the Valley of the Tombs of the Queens (seventeen sepulchres). On the eastern bank at Luxor is the beautiful temple of Amenoph III., with an obelisk whose fellow now stands in the Place de la Concorde at Paris. At Karnak is a splendid group of temples built under the Twelfth Dynasty. The finest portion of this maze of architectural magnificence is the Great Hall, 170 by 329 feet, with twelve imposing columns 62 feet in height and 12 feet in diameter,

Terraced Temple of Queen Hatasu. (Restoration by Brune.)

and 122 minor columns, and two obelisks, of which one is the tallest in Egypt, being 108 feet in height. On the walls are fine sculptures depicting the battles of Seti I. and Rameses II. against the Hittites, Arabs, Syrians, and Armenians. In one of the porticos is recorded the expedition of Shishak I. against Jerusalem in B.C. 971.

In classical times Thebes was a great showplace, and was visited by both Greek and Roman tourists, among the latter being the emperor Hadrian.

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