“Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
This famous line is from a 1818 sonnet by Percy Bysshe Shelley entitled “Ozymandias,” which talks about the remains of a huge statue in the desert depicting a once-proud king, Ramses II, who ruled Egypt more than 3,000 years ago.
Now, another massive statue of the pharaoh, also known as Ramses the Great, has been found submerged in groundwater in the Cairo working-class area of Matariya, among uncompleted buildings and mud.
Pictures show archaeologists, officials and local residents watching as a massive forklift pulls the statue’s head out of the water.
“We found the bust of the statue and the lower part of the head and now we removed the head and we found the crown and the right ear and a fragment of the right eye,” the antiquities minister, Khaled al-Anani, told Reuters of the new discovery.
The discovery of the 8-metre statue in quartzite was made near the ruins of Ramses II’s temple in the ancient city of Heliopolis, in the eastern part of modern-day Cairo.
Heliopolis, dedicated to the sun god, had one of the largest temples in Egypt, almost double the size of Luxor’s Karnak. It was destroyed in Greco-Roman times, and many of its obelisks moved to Alexandria or to Europe.
Ramses was one of the greatest pharaohs in ancient Egypt, ruling for 66 years from 1279 BC to 1213 BC. He led several military expeditions and expanded the Egyptian empire from Syria to the east of Nubia (northern Sudan).
Shelley wrote his sonnet after the British Museum acquired a large fragment of a statue of Ramses II. He created an iconic image of this massive and once great statue of a king falling from grace, in ruins and in the middle of the desert with nothing else around it.
“Ozymandias,” with all its references to the theme of collapse following greatness, is also fittingly the title of a key episode of the fifth season of Breaking Bad.
The line “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” is explicitly in reference to Walter White and his fallen empire.
Here’s the sonnet read by Bryan Cranston in full.