Constructed when: late 12th to early 13th century
Constructed by: King Jayavarman VII
Architectural style: Bayon
Location: 15 kilometers north of Siem Reap town and approx. 2 kilometers north of Angkor Wat
The ancient Angkor capital city of Angkor Thom was built in the late 12th and early 13th Century by Jayarvarman VII and his descendants. Angkor Thom is a part of the Angkor Archaeological Park, but it is so self-contained (with a formidable wall surrounding it) and has a history all it's own, so I have made it a separate category on this website.
Angkor Thom - gates - South, West, North, Victory, and East gates
Bayon - a very special and magical place, most of the 37 surviving towers have four giant faces of Jayarvarman VII or possibly a combination of himself and the compassionate Buddha, Loksavara. Whoever they are supposed to represent, you will never forget your meeting with them.
Baphuon - Still under construction this large temple-mountain and the surrounding gardens are pretty impressive.
Terrace of the Elephants - 300 meter long terrace that was built and used by Jayarvarman VII and his followers.
Terrace of the Lepper King - small terrace, not too impressive on the outside but an older terrace within the wall has some incredible stone carvings.
Phimeanakas - large pyramid which was the king's temple and stands inside the Royal Palace compound.
Preah Palilay - Buddhist temple in the shape of a tower, behind the Terrace of the Lepper King
Tep Pranam - small Buddhist shrine next to the Terrace of the Lepper King
Preah Pithu Group - nice place to relax and explore a few smaller temple sites, very quiet
North & South Kleang - buildings in front of the Terrace of the Elephants, possibly guest houses for visiting dignitaries
Prasats Suor Prat - a row of twelve small towers that could have played a role in an early justice system as confinement cells.
Map of the ancient city of Angkor Thom, showing the outer wall and the location of the five city gates, South, West, North, Victory, and East.
Angkor Thom was the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire. It was established in the late twelfth century by king Jayavarman VII. It covers an area of 9 km², within which are located several monuments from earlier eras as well as those established by Jayavarman and his successors. At the centre of the city is Jayavarman's state temple, the Bayon, with the other major sites clustered around the Victory Square immediately to the north.
Angkor Thom was established as the capital of Jayavarman VII's empire, and was the centre of his massive building programme. One inscription found in the city refers to Jayavarman as the groom and the city as his bride.
Angkor Thom seems not to be the first Khmer capital on the site, however. Yasodharapura, dating from three centuries earlier, was centred slightly further northwest, and Angkor Thom overlapped parts of it. The most notable earlier temples within the city are the former state temple of Baphuon, and Phimeanakas, which was incorporated into the Royal Palace. The Khmers did not draw any clear distinctions between Angkor Thom and Yashodharapura: even in the fourteenth century an inscription used the earlier name. (Higham 138) The name of Angkor Thom — great city — was in use from the 16th century.
Bayon temple, Angkor Thom
The last temple known to have been constructed in Angkor Thom was Mangalartha, which was dedicated in 1295. Thereafter the existing structures continued to be modified from time to time, but any new creations were in perishable materials and have not survived. In the following centuries Angkor Thom remained the capital of a kingdom in decline until it was abandoned some time prior to 1609, when an early western visitor wrote of an uninhabited city, "as fantastic as the Atlantis of Plato" which some thought to have been built by the Roman emperor Trajan. (Higham 140) It is believed to have sustained a population of 80,000-150,000 people.
Historical information and some descriptions of temple sites are sourced from the Angkor series of Wikipedia articles. This text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. The main Wikipedia page on Angkor can be found at - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angkor