The Ramesseum is the memorial temple of Pharaoh Ramesses II .
It is located in the Theban necropolis in Upper Egypt, across the River Nile from the modern city of Luxor. The name – or at least its French form, Rhamesséion – was coined by Jean-François Champollion, who visited the ruins of the site in 1829 and first identified the hieroglyphs making up Ramesses's names and titles on the walls. It was originally called the House of millions of years of Usermaatra-setepenra that unites with Thebes-the-city in the domain of Amon.
The site was in use before Ramesses had the first stone put in place: beneath the hypostyle hall, modern archaeologists have found a shaft tomb from the Middle Kingdom, yielding a rich hoard of religious and funerary artifacts.
Unlike the massive stone temples that Ramesses ordered carved from the face of the Nubian mountains at Abu Simbel, the inexorable passage of three millennia was not kind to his "temple of a million years" at Thebes. This was mostly due to its location on the very edge of the Nile floodplain, with the annual inundation gradually undermining the foundations of this temple, and its neighbours. Neglect and the arrival of new faiths also took their toll: for example, in the early years of the Common Era, the temple was put into service as a Christian church.
This is all standard fare for a temple of its kind built at that time. Leaving aside the escalation of scale – whereby each successive New Kingdom pharaoh strove to outdo his predecessors in volume and scope – the Ramesseum is largely cast in the same mould as Ramesses III's Medinet Habu or the ruined temple of Amenhotep III that stood behind the "Colossi of Memnon" a kilometre or so away. Instead, the significance that the Ramesseum enjoys today owes more to the time and manner of its rediscovery by Europeans.