Definitely LUXOR, EGYPT – after an hour flight from Cairo we arrived in Luxor. We checked into the hotel, the Winter Palace. A hotel everybody should stay once – old charm, a lot of history – Churchill, Lord Cavanaugh, and Agatha Christie, to name just a few – ‘slept here.’ During lunch Ahmed, my vivacious, very knowledgeable Egyptologist who I was travelling with, suggested to postpone our visit to Luxor Temple until around 4 pm, when it would be cooler.
When we arrived at the Temple most of the tourists had already gone back to their hotels and the sun started to fade, leaving a soft, warm breeze. Ramses II two huge statues, standing on either side of the entrance look like the gatekeepers of the castle……
While we were walking through the passage leading into the main part of the temple, Ahmed, who never misses to point out anything along the way, was unusually quiet. I now think he did not want to distract me from what was to come. When we reached a large open space, he said “I have a surprise for you – look up, to the left.”
And there, from way up, a group of Roman faces looked down on us – Romans here? I must have looked really puzzled “You didn’t expect this, did you” Ahmed asked and then
explained that these frescos on lime plaster, were painted in the late 3rd century AD during the reign of Diocletian, and that this group of men are believed to be Roman senators in front of the imperial throne.
This is a rather recent discovery and thanks to the American Research Center in Egypt, the restorations began in 2005 – first it was not clear if there was enough preserved to justify the effort and expense. But when the project was completed in 2009 the results were spectacular.
I am grateful that I came to Egypt after 2009 and could see these Roman senators, who after more than 1700 years (third century 201 – 300 AD) still let us see their faces
showing their fear, their expectation, and their admiration for the one who is hidden from us.
More from Egypt soon
Those are not “Roman senators” but Roman soldiers dressed exactly like Roman soldiers.Entire scene is very well documented and its entire character is purely military.
Not only of this central wall showing Roman soldiers flanking from both sides central image of 4 Roman Emperors ruling at that time in joint rule(so called Tetrarchs,Diocletian,Maximian,Galerius and Constantius I who was father of Constantine the Great) but also other panel who no longer exist but are preserved in the form of water color paintings made in 19th century.So it is no mystery to whom those soldiers looks up.
They are looking on their Imperial masters as this is prime example of so called Imperial cult of Emperors.One of soldiers holds typical military banner a “Vexillum”.A blue oval shield with bronze umbo is also clearly visible.Another soldier presents his military belt to Emperors(military belt was of utmost importance to miliotary self-identity of any Roman soldier).Despite there can be no doubt what these frescoes depicts in reality two clearly erroneous identifications are still living their separate lives.
One is that about those “senators” and the second is even more absurd and yet that is what local guides are telling to especially western visitors-that those are Christian saints or Apostles.Its absurd since that scene is in fact absolute oppposite to Christian saints-its imperial cult at its best-the very thing Christianity considered unacceptable so it coused a lot of conflicts between Christians and the Roman state at that time still Pagan.Fresco is from the very end of the 3rd or very start of the 4th century and it might be related to visit of Emperor Diocletian and his Caesar Galerius to Egypt at that time.Similar scenes of Imperial cult where Roman army unit is shown on a “regimental photo” with Vexillarius(soldier holding a Vexillum flag) standing in a front and Gods or Emperors being subject of their worship are known also from other sites.
Thank you for your input and clarification
The people in on the fresco are walking to a niche that symbolizes devinised Tetrarchs .
They are not senators but soldiers(officers)
The color scheme and the military belt (cingulum) are an indication of that.
I stand corrected – no excuse but often the information one is given are not from people with your knowledge-
are you a historian or Egyptologist? thank for the information