14th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-14)

San Francisco, CA, USA
August 1-7, 1999

Memnon, the Vocal Statue

Massimo Pettorino

Istituto Universitario Orientale, Napoli, Italia

The most famous talking statue of the past is the “colossus of Memnon”, the sandstone colossus still rising over 65 feet in front of Luxor, the ancient Thebes. For about two centuries, at dawn, when the sun rays touched the statue, a plaintive sound came out of the stone. The 108 epigraphs carved on the legs of the colossus, together with the words of Strabo, Tacitus and Pausanias, are the reliable witnesses of the phenomenon. Up to now, among the various hypotheses, the most common ascribes the sound to natural causes, such as the temperature, the rarefaction of the air and so on. The results of recent researches give a new interpretation of the fact. A careful exam of the chronology of the epigraphs confirms that the death of Antinous, Hadrian's favourite, has to do with the secret of the statue.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Pettorino, Massimo (1999): "Memnon, the vocal statue", In ICPhS-14, 1321-1324.