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Medinet Madi Temple

Medinet Madi Temple

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Medinet Madi Temple is an ancient Egyptian temple to the fierce crocodile deity, Sobek and his wife, Renenutet. At its peak, this temple would have been a place for breeding and nurturing sacred crocodiles in preparation for them to be mummified for sale to pilgrims.

Said by some to be the sole existing temple in Egypt from the times of the Middle Kingdom, Medinet Madi was the work of Amenemhat III and Amenemhat IV, both 12th Dynasty pharaohs from the mid to late 19th century BC. It would later be added to in the 4th century BC during the Ptolemaic period.

Today, the Medinet Madi Temple is open to the public. Visitors can see its rows of sphinxes and lions and crocodile pools as well as depictions of Sobek with his head of a crocodile and man’s body.

Medinet Madi Temple - History

The SCA held a conference entitled ” Medinet Madi: The Past, the Present and the Future”. This conference focused on the project’s efforts at the site of Medinet Madi in the Fayoum Oasis.The event hosted by the Supreme Council of Antiquities, the Italian Embassy and the UTL Office in Cairo. Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and Vice Minister of Culture, and HE Claudio Pacifico, Ambassador of Italy.

The ISSEMM Project began in 2005 and expanded to include training courses and on site administration in January 2009. It is acting withinn the framework of the Egyptian-Italian Environmental Cooperation Program Phase II, which is one of the international channels through which the Government of Egypt implements policies and actions to support and enhance cultural and environmental national heritage.

The ISSEMM Project is entirely funded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs-Directorate General for the Development Cooperation, who have allotted €3,500,000 to the budget. The Project is directed by His Excellency, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Dr. Zahi Hawass, and the Scientific Committee is chaired by Prof. Edda Bresciani, Accademica dei Lincei, and Prof. Ali Radwan. The Scientific Committee is supported by a Technical Director, as well as an Egyptian – Italian team of technical managers. The University of Pisa, Dipartimento di Scienze Storiche del Mondo Antico, has been appointed with the task of technical and scientific assistance to the Supreme Council of Antiquities, which is the Implementing Agency of the project.

The ruins of Medinet Madi contain a considerable number of monuments, including the only temple of the Middle Kingdom - with texts and engraved scenes – still remaining in Egypt. Achille Vogliano discovered this temple (Temple A) and the Greco-Roman additions, dated to the 4th-5th century, in 1935.

Medinet Madi was founded in the Middle Kingdom as an agricultural village called Dja. The temple was constructed during the reigns of Amenemaht III and Amenemaht IV, and was dedicated to the cobra goddess, Renenutet, and the crocodile god “Sobek of Scedet” - patron of the entire region and the capitol, Scedet. During the Ptolemaic period, Dja became known as Narmouthis, a Greek name meaning “the city of Renenutet-Hermouthis.” Its temple flourished and more monuments were built north and south of the 12th Dynasty temple.

Medinet Madi saw intense settlement during the Coptic period and life continued on the site into the 9th century. The Arabs called it Medinet Madi “the city of the past” and this is the name that still identifies the archaeological site today.

The University of Pisa has carried out exploration of Medinet Madi since 1978. They have focused their work in the southern or Coptic area and to date have identified ten churches dating to the 5th – 7th century. These finds have been extremely important in understanding the history of Fayoum’s ecclesiastical architecture. Thanks to a contribution from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2004, the Pisa mission was able to rescue blocks containing four Greek hymns to Isis. They were fully restored and are now on display at the Museum of Karanis.

Archaeological expeditions conducted between 1997 and 2004, in collaboration with the University of Messina, uncovered a new Ptolemaic temple (Temple C) dedicated to the worship of two crocodiles. A unique feature of the temple is a barrel-vaulted structure adjoining the temple, which was used for the incubation of crocodile eggs.

In recent years, methodical topographical survey, photo-interpretation of the site and geophysical exploration has contributed to an understanding of the urban tissue of the ancient village. These surveys also created a chronological stratification of the site from the Middle Kingdom to the Late Byzantine Period.

Egyptian Monuments

Medinet Madi, one of the most important archaeological sites of the Faiyum region is situated 30km south-west of Medinet el-Faiyum. Its modern name means ‘city of the past’ and in Graeco-Roman times it was known as ‘Narmouthis’. Excavators have discovered two separate towns at the site, but today the main monument at Medinet Madi is a small temple dedicated to Sobek, Horus and the serpent-goddess Renenutet, founded during the reigns of Amenemhet III and IV during Dynasty XII.

The temple remains are in a well-preserved condition, probably due to its isolated location, but are ever threatened by the encroaching sands of the desert. The inner chambers are the oldest part of the structure which is one of the few surviving monuments of the Middle Kingdom, a rare example of architecture from this period. A small columned hall leads to three shrines which contained statues of deities and the two kings. The Dynasty XII reliefs are very worn but it is possible to make out depictions of the pharaohs Amenemhet III and his son and co-regent Amenemhet IV offering to deities in the shrines as well as rare depictons of the cobra-headed goddess Renenutet.

The temple was restored during Dynasty XIX and greatly expanded during the Graeco-Roman Period. Back to back with the Middle Kingdom temple is a Ptolemaic addition which contains an altar and some Greek inscriptions. In this part there is also a large worn relief of the crocodile-god Sobek with a wonderful toothy grin! The Ptolemaic areas also comprise a paved processional way to the south, with an avenue of sphinxes (both Egyptian and Greek style) and lion statues guarding the route. A kiosk with eight columns was built on the processional route, which led to the twin-columned portico and transverse vestibule in front of the shrines. The temple walls today are only a few metres high but still show some of the inscribed hieroglyphic texts and scenes. There is an important Greek inscription from the temple in the museum at Alexandria. To the east of the temple there are remains of mudbrick store-rooms.

Italian teams of archaeologists have been working at Medinet Madi since the 1960s, uncovering a large Roman town and several early Christian churches. In 1995 a Ptolemaic gate was found to the east of the temple and on further investigation another temple dedicated to Sobek was discovered beneath the rubble. This second temple was built of mudbrick with stone doorways and lintels, with its axis at right-angles to the older temple. Tablets and papyri were also found in the debris, including an important oracular document written in demotic script. Recent excavations are allowing the Italian Mission to construct a three-dimensional model, a reconstruction of the monuments which highlights the important chronological development of the site from the Middle Kingdom to the Ptolemaic and Roman Periods.

The team from Pisa and Messina Universities have recently excavated a vaulted structure on the north side of the new temple, but the remains are poorly preserved. On the north side of the temple court, a crocodile nursery was discovered with dozens of eggs in different stages of maturation.

The temple at Medinet Madi is one of the most isolated and romantic sites of the Faiyum region, set in a long hollow in the desert. The walls, constructed from a pale golden limestone, are only a few metres high and the statues and sphinxes regularly appear and disappear with the windblown soft desert sands. Although the site is one of the most difficult to reach in the Faiyum, the ruins are very interesting and well worth the effort of getting there.

How to get there

About 30km to the south-west of Medinet el-Faiyum a road leads to the village of Abu Gandir, the closest approach to the site, which is about 2km away. The site, which is situated on a small hill, can be reached on foot or in a suitable vehicle across the intervening desert, but a guide is recommended as there are no marked tracks across the sands. On top of the rise there is a hut where you should find the gafir.


Religious Edit

Ancient Egyptian temples were meant as places for the gods to reside on earth. Indeed, the term the Egyptians most commonly used to describe the temple building, ḥwt-nṯr, means "mansion (or enclosure) of a god". [2] [3] A divine presence in the temple linked the human and divine realms and allowed humans to interact with the god through ritual. These rituals, it was believed, sustained the god and allowed it to continue to play its proper role in nature. They were therefore a key part of the maintenance of maat, the ideal order of nature and of human society in Egyptian belief. [4] Maintaining maat was the entire purpose of Egyptian religion, [5] and it was the purpose of a temple as well. [6]

Because he was credited with divine power himself, [Note 1] the pharaoh, as a sacred king, was regarded as Egypt's representative to the gods and its most important upholder of maat. [8] Thus, it was theoretically his duty to perform the temple rites. While it is uncertain how often he participated in ceremonies, the existence of temples across Egypt made it impossible for him to do so in all cases, and most of the time these duties were delegated to priests. The pharaoh was nevertheless obligated to maintain, provide for, and expand the temples throughout his realm. [9]

Although the pharaoh delegated his authority, the performance of temple rituals was still an official duty, restricted to high-ranking priests. The participation of the general populace in most ceremonies was prohibited. Much of the lay religious activity in Egypt instead took place in private and community shrines, separate from official temples. As the primary link between the human and divine realms, temples attracted considerable veneration from ordinary Egyptians. [10]

Each temple had a principal deity, and most were dedicated to other gods as well. [11] Not all deities had temples dedicated to them. Many demons and household gods were involved primarily in magical or private religious practice, with little or no presence in temple ceremonies. There were also other gods who had significant roles in the cosmos but, for unclear reasons, were not honored with temples of their own. [12] Of those gods who did have temples of their own, many were venerated mainly in certain areas of Egypt, though many gods with a strong local tie were also important across the nation. [13] Even deities whose worship spanned the country were strongly associated with the cities where their chief temples were located. In Egyptian creation myths, the first temple originated as a shelter for a god—which god it was varied according to the city—that stood on the mound of land where the process of creation began. Each temple in Egypt, therefore, was equated with this original temple and with the site of creation itself. [14] As the primordial home of the god and the mythological location of the city's founding, the temple was seen as the hub of the region, from which the city's patron god ruled over it. [15]

Pharaohs also built temples where offerings were made to sustain their spirits in the afterlife, often linked with or located near their tombs. These temples are traditionally called "mortuary temples" and regarded as essentially different from divine temples. In recent years some Egyptologists, such as Gerhard Haeny, have argued that there is no clear division between the two. The Egyptians did not refer to mortuary temples by any distinct name. [16] [Note 2] Nor were rituals for the dead and rituals for the gods mutually exclusive the symbolism surrounding death was present in all Egyptian temples. [18] The worship of gods was present to some degree in mortuary temples, and the Egyptologist Stephen Quirke has said that "at all periods royal cult involves the gods, but equally. all cult of the gods involves the king". [19] Even so, certain temples were clearly used to commemorate deceased kings and to give offerings to their spirits. Their purpose is not fully understood they may have been meant to unite the king with the gods, elevating him to a divine status greater than that of ordinary kingship. [20] In any case, the difficulty of separating divine and mortuary temples reflects the close intertwining of divinity and kingship in Egyptian belief. [21]

Economic and administrative Edit

Temples were key centers of economic activity. The largest required prodigious resources and employed tens of thousands of priests, craftsmen, and laborers. [22] The temple's economic workings were analogous to those of a large Egyptian household, with servants dedicated to serving the temple god as they might serve the master of an estate. This similarity is reflected in the Egyptian term for the temple lands and their administration, pr, meaning "house" or "estate". [23]

Some of the temple's supplies came from direct donations by the king. In the New Kingdom, when Egypt was an imperial power, these donations often came out of the spoils of the king's military campaigns or the tribute given by his client states. [24] The king might also levy various taxes that went directly to support a temple. [25] Other revenue came from private individuals, who offered land, slaves, or goods to temples in exchange for a supply of offerings and priestly services to sustain their spirits in the afterlife. [26]

Much of a temple's economic support came from its own resources. These included large tracts of land beyond the temple enclosure, sometimes in a completely different region than the temple itself. The most important type of property was farmland, producing grain, fruit, or wine, or supporting herds of livestock. The temple either managed these lands directly, rented them out to farmers for a share of the produce, or managed them jointly with the royal administration. Temples also launched expeditions into the desert to collect resources such as salt, honey, or wild game, or to mine precious minerals. [28] Some owned fleets of ships with which to conduct their own trade across the country or even beyond Egypt's borders. Thus, as Richard H. Wilkinson says, the temple estate "often represented no less than a slice of Egypt itself". [29] As a major economic center and the employer of a large part of the local population, the temple enclosure was a key part of the town in which it stood. Conversely, when a temple was founded on empty land, a new town was built to support it. [30]

All this economic power was ultimately under the pharaoh's control, and temple products and property were often taxed. Their employees, even the priests, were subject to the state corvée system, which conscripted labor for royal projects. [31] They could also be ordered to provide supplies for some specific purposes. A trading expedition led by Harkhuf in the Sixth Dynasty (c. 2255–2246 BC) was allowed to procure supplies from any temple it wished, [31] and the mortuary temples of the Theban Necropolis in the New Kingdom oversaw the provision of the royally employed tomb workers at Deir el-Medina. [32] Kings could also exempt temples or classes of personnel from taxation and conscription. [31]

The royal administration could also order one temple to divert its resources to another temple whose influence it wished to expand. Thus, a king might increase the income of the temples of a god he favored, and mortuary temples of recent rulers tended to siphon off resources from temples to pharaohs long dead. [33] The most drastic means of controlling the temple estates was to completely revise the distribution of their property nationwide, which might extend to closing down certain temples. Such changes could significantly alter Egypt's economic landscape. [34] The temples were thus important instruments with which the king managed the nation's resources and its people. [35] As the direct overseers of their own economic sphere, the administrations of large temples wielded considerable influence and may have posed a challenge to the authority of a weak pharaoh, [36] although it is unclear how independent they were. [37]

Once Egypt became a Roman province, one of the first measures of the Roman rulers was to implement a reform on land possession and taxation. The Egyptian temples, as important landowners, were made to either pay rent to the government for the land they owned or surrender that land to the state in exchange for a government stipend. [38] However, the temples and priests continued to enjoy privileges under Roman rule, e.g., exemption from taxes and compulsory services. On the official level, the leading officials of the temples became part of the Roman ruling apparatus by, for example, collecting taxes and examining charges against priests for violating sacral law. [39]

Early development Edit

The earliest known shrines appeared in prehistoric Egypt in the late fourth millennium BC, at sites such as Saïs and Buto in Lower Egypt and Nekhen and Coptos in Upper Egypt. Most of these shrines were made of perishable materials such as wood, reed matting, and mudbrick. [40] Despite the impermanence of these early buildings, later Egyptian art continually reused and adapted elements from them, evoking the ancient shrines to suggest the eternal nature of the gods and their dwelling places. [41]

In the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3100–2686 BC), the first pharaohs built funerary complexes in the religious center of Abydos following a single general pattern, with a rectangular mudbrick enclosure. [42] In the Old Kingdom (c. 2686–2181 BC) that followed the Early Dynastic Period, royal funerary monuments greatly expanded, while most divine temples remained comparatively small, suggesting that official religion in this period emphasized the cult of the king more than the direct worship of deities. [43] Deities closely connected with the king, such as the sun god Ra, received more royal contributions than other deities. [44] Ra's temple at Heliopolis was a major religious center, and several Old Kingdom pharaohs built large sun temples in his honor near their pyramids. [45] Meanwhile, the small provincial temples retained a variety of local styles from Predynastic times, unaffected by the royal cult sites. [46]

The expansion of funerary monuments began in the reign of Djoser, who built his complex entirely of stone and placed in the enclosure a step pyramid under which he was buried: the Pyramid of Djoser. For the rest of the Old Kingdom, tomb and temple were joined in elaborate stone pyramid complexes. [47] Near each pyramid complex was a town that supplied its needs, as towns would support temples throughout Egyptian history. Other changes came in the reign of Sneferu who, beginning with his first pyramid at Meidum, built pyramid complexes symmetrically along an east–west axis, with a valley temple on the banks of the Nile linked to a pyramid temple at the foot of the pyramid. Sneferu's immediate successors followed this pattern, but beginning in the late Old Kingdom, pyramid complexes combined different elements from the axial plan and from the rectangular plan of Djoser. [48] To supply the pyramid complexes, kings founded new towns and farming estates on undeveloped lands across Egypt. The flow of goods from these lands to the central government and its temples helped unify the kingdom. [49]

The rulers of the Middle Kingdom (c. 2055–1650 BC) continued building pyramids and their associated complexes. [50] The rare remains from Middle Kingdom temples, like the one at Medinet Madi, show that temple plans grew more symmetrical during that period, and divine temples made increasing use of stone. The pattern of a sanctuary lying behind a pillared hall frequently appears in Middle Kingdom temples, and sometimes these two elements are fronted by open courts, foreshadowing the standard temple layout used in later times. [51]

New Kingdom Edit

With greater power and wealth during the New Kingdom (c. 1550–1070 BC), Egypt devoted still more resources to its temples, which grew larger and more elaborate. [53] Higher-ranking priestly roles became permanent rather than rotating positions, and they controlled a large portion of Egypt's wealth. Anthony Spalinger suggests that, as the influence of temples expanded, religious celebrations that had once been fully public were absorbed into the temples' increasingly important festival rituals. [54] The most important god of the time was Amun, whose main cult center, the Precinct of Amun-Re at Karnak in Thebes, eventually became the largest of all temples, and whose high priests may have wielded considerable political influence. [55]

Many temples were now built entirely of stone, and their general plan became fixed, with the sanctuary, halls, courtyards, and pylon gateways oriented along the path used for festival processions. New Kingdom pharaohs ceased using pyramids as funerary monuments and placed their tombs a great distance from their mortuary temples. Without pyramids to build around, mortuary temples began using the same plan as those dedicated to the gods. [56]

In the middle of the New Kingdom, Pharaoh Akhenaten promoted the god Aten over all others and eventually abolished the official worship of most other gods. Traditional temples were neglected while new Aten temples, differing sharply in design and construction, were erected. But Akhenaten's revolution was reversed soon after his death, with the traditional cults reinstated and the new temples dismantled. Subsequent pharaohs dedicated still more resources to the temples, particularly Ramesses II, the most prolific monument-builder in Egyptian history. [53] As the wealth of the priesthoods continued to grow, so did their religious influence: temple oracles, controlled by the priests, were an increasingly popular method of making decisions. [57] Pharaonic power waned, and in the eleventh century BC a military leader Herihor made himself High Priest of Amun and the de facto ruler of Upper Egypt, beginning the political fragmentation of the Third Intermediate Period (c. 1070–664 BC). [58]

As the New Kingdom crumbled, the building of mortuary temples ceased and was never revived. [59] Some rulers of the Third Intermediate Period, such as those at Tanis, [60] were buried within the enclosures of divine temples, thus continuing the close link between temple and tomb. [61]

Later development Edit

In the Third Intermediate Period and the following Late Period (664–323 BC), the weakened Egyptian state fell to a series of outside powers, experiencing only occasional periods of independence. Many of these foreign rulers funded and expanded temples to strengthen their claim to the kingship of Egypt. [62] One such group, the Kushite pharaohs of the eighth and seventh centuries BC, adopted Egyptian-style temple architecture for use in their native land of Nubia, beginning a long tradition of sophisticated Nubian temple building. [63] Amid this turmoil, the fortunes of various temples and clergies shifted and the independence of Amun's priesthood was broken, but the power of the priesthood in general remained. [62]

Despite the political upheaval, the Egyptian temple style continued to evolve without absorbing much foreign influence. [65] Whereas earlier temple building mostly focused on male gods, goddesses and child deities grew increasingly prominent. Temples focused more on popular religious activities such as oracles, animal cults, and prayer. [66] New architectural forms continued to develop, such as covered kiosks in front of gateways, more elaborate column styles, and the mammisi, a building celebrating the mythical birth of a god. [67] Though the characteristics of the late temple style had developed by the last period of native rule, most of the examples date from the era of the Ptolemies, Greek kings who ruled as pharaohs for nearly 300 years. [68]

After Rome conquered the Ptolemaic kingdom in 30 BC, Roman emperors took on the role of ruler and temple patron. [69] Many temples in Roman Egypt continued to be built in Egyptian style. [70] Others, including some that were dedicated to Egyptian gods—such as the temple to Isis at Ras el-Soda—were built in a style derived from Roman architecture. [71]

Temple-building continued into the third century AD. [72] As the empire weakened in the crisis of the third century, imperial donations to the temple cults dried up, and almost all construction and decoration ceased. [73] Cult activities at some sites continued, relying increasingly on financial support and volunteer labor from surrounding communities. [74] In the following centuries, Christian emperors issued decrees that were increasingly hostile to pagan cults and temples. [75] Some Christians attacked and destroyed temples, as in the plundering of the Serapeum and other temples in Alexandria in AD 391 or 392. [76] [77] Through some combination of Christian coercion and loss of funds, temples ceased to function at various times. The last temple cults died out in the fourth through sixth centuries AD, although locals may have venerated some sites long after the regular ceremonies there had ceased. [78] [Note 3]

Temples were built throughout Upper and Lower Egypt, as well as at Egyptian-controlled oases in the Libyan Desert as far west as Siwa, and at outposts in the Sinai Peninsula such as Timna. In periods when Egypt dominated Nubia, Egyptian rulers also built temples there, as far south as Jebel Barkal. [82] Most Egyptian towns had a temple, [83] but in some cases, as with mortuary temples or the temples in Nubia, the temple was a new foundation on previously empty land. [30] The exact site of a temple was often chosen for religious reasons it might, for example, be the mythical birthplace or burial place of a god. The temple axis might also be designed to align with locations of religious significance, such as the site of a neighboring temple or the rising place of the sun or particular stars. The Great Temple of Abu Simbel, for instance, is aligned so that twice a year the rising sun illuminates the statues of the gods in its innermost room. Most temples were aligned toward the Nile with an axis running roughly east–west. [84] [Note 4]

An elaborate series of foundation rituals preceded construction. A further set of rituals followed the temple's completion, dedicating it to its patron god. These rites were conducted, at least in theory, by the king as part of his religious duties indeed, in Egyptian belief, all temple construction was symbolically his work. [85] In reality, it was the work of hundreds of his subjects, conscripted in the corvée system. [86] The construction process for a new temple, or a major addition to an existing one, could last years or decades. [87]

The use of stone in Egyptian temples emphasized their purpose as eternal houses for the gods and set them apart from buildings for the use of mortals, which were built of mudbrick. [88] Early temples were built of brick and other perishable materials, and most of the outlying buildings in temple enclosures remained brick-built throughout Egyptian history. [89] The main stones used in temple construction were limestone and sandstone, which are common in Egypt stones that are harder and more difficult to carve, such as granite, were used in smaller amounts for individual elements like obelisks. [90] The stone might be quarried nearby or shipped on the Nile from quarries elsewhere. [91]

Temple structures were built on foundations of stone slabs set into sand-filled trenches. [92] In most periods, walls and other structures were built with large blocks of varying shape. [93] [Note 5] The blocks were laid in courses, usually without mortar. Each stone was dressed to fit with its neighbors, producing cuboid blocks whose uneven shapes interlocked. [95] The interiors of walls were often built with less care, using rougher, poorer-quality stones. [96] To build structures above ground level, the workers used construction ramps built of varying materials such as mud, brick, or rough stone. [97] When cutting chambers in living rock, workers excavated from the top down, carving a crawlspace near the ceiling and cutting down to the floor. [98] Once the temple structure was complete, the rough faces of the stones were dressed to create a smooth surface. In decorating these surfaces, reliefs were carved into the stone or, if the stone was of too poor quality to carve, a layer of plaster that covered the stone surface. [99] Reliefs were then decorated with gilding, inlay, or paint. [100] The paints were usually mixtures of mineral pigments with some kind of adhesive, possibly natural gum. [99]

Temple construction did not end once the original plan was complete pharaohs often rebuilt or replaced decayed temple structures or made additions to those still standing. In the course of these additions, they frequently dismantled old temple buildings to use as fill for the interiors of new structures. On rare occasions, this may have been because the old structures or their builders had become anathema, as with Akhenaten's temples, but in most cases, the reason seems to have been convenience. Such expansion and dismantling could considerably distort the original temple plan, as happened at the enormous Precinct of Amun-Re at Karnak, which developed two intersecting axes and several satellite temples. [101]

Like all ancient Egyptian architecture, Egyptian temple designs emphasized order, symmetry, and monumentality and combined geometric shapes with stylized organic motifs. [102] Elements of temple design also alluded to the form of the earliest Egyptian buildings. Cavetto cornices at the tops of walls, for instance, were made to imitate rows of palm fronds placed atop archaic walls, while the torus molding along the edges of walls may have been based on wooden posts used in such buildings. The batter of exterior walls, while partly meant to ensure stability, was also a holdover from archaic building methods. [103] Temple ground plans usually centered on an axis running on a slight incline from the sanctuary down to the temple entrance. In the fully developed pattern used in the New Kingdom and later, the path used for festival processions—a broad avenue punctuated with large doors—served as this central axis. The path was intended primarily for the god's use when it traveled outside the sanctuary on most occasions people used smaller side doors. [104] The typical parts of a temple, such as column-filled hypostyle halls, open peristyle courts, and towering entrance pylons, were arranged along this path in a traditional but flexible order. Beyond the temple building proper, the outer walls enclosed numerous satellite buildings. The entire area enclosed by these walls is sometimes called the temenos, the sacred precinct dedicated to the god. [105]

The temple pattern could vary considerably, apart from the distorting effect of additional construction. Many temples, known as hypogea, were cut entirely into living rock, as at Abu Simbel, or had rock-cut inner chambers with masonry courtyards and pylons, as at Wadi es-Sebua. They used much the same layout as free-standing temples but used excavated chambers rather than buildings as their inner rooms. In some temples, like the mortuary temples at Deir el-Bahari, the processional path ran up a series of terraces rather than sitting on a single level. The Ptolemaic Temple of Kom Ombo was built with two main sanctuaries, producing two parallel axes that run the length of the building. The most idiosyncratic temple style was that of the Aten temples built by Akhenaten at Akhetaten, in which the axis passed through a series of entirely open courts filled with altars. [106]

The traditional design was a highly symbolic variety of sacred architecture. [107] It was a greatly elaborated variant on the design of an Egyptian house, reflecting its role as the god's home. [23] Moreover, the temple represented a piece of the divine realm on earth. The elevated, enclosed sanctuary was equated with the sacred hill where the world was created in Egyptian myth and with the burial chamber of a tomb, where the god's ba, or spirit, came to inhabit its cult image just as a human ba came to inhabit its mummy. [108] This crucial place, the Egyptians believed, had to be insulated from the impure outside world. [104] Therefore, as one moved toward the sanctuary the amount of outside light decreased and restrictions on who could enter increased. Yet the temple could also represent the world itself. The processional way could, therefore, stand for the path of the sun traveling across the sky, and the sanctuary for the Duat where it was believed to set and to be reborn at night. The space outside the building was thus equated with the waters of chaos that lay outside the world, while the temple represented the order of the cosmos and the place where that order was continually renewed. [109]

Inner chambers Edit

The temple's inner chambers centered on the sanctuary of the temple's primary god, which typically lay along the axis near the back of the temple building, and in pyramid temples directly against the pyramid base. The sanctuary was the focus of temple ritual, the place where the divine presence manifested most strongly. The form in which it manifested itself varied. In Aten temples and traditional solar shrines, the object of ritual was the sun itself or a Benben stone representing the sun, worshipped in a court open to the sky. [111] In many mortuary temples, the inner areas contained statues of the deceased pharaoh, or a false door where his ba ("personality") was believed to appear to receive offerings. [112]

In most temples, the focus was the cult image: a statue of the temple god which that god's ba was believed to inhabit while interacting with humans. [Note 6] The sanctuary in these temples contained either a naos, a cabinet-like shrine that housed the divine image, or a model barque containing the image within its cabin, which was used to carry the image during festival processions. [114] In some cases the sanctuary may have housed several cult statues. [115] To emphasize the sanctuary's sacred nature, it was kept in total darkness. [116] Whereas in earlier times the sanctuary lay at the very back of the building, in the Late and Ptolemaic periods it became a freestanding building inside the temple, further insulated from the outside world by the surrounding corridors and rooms. [104]

Subsidiary chapels, dedicated to deities associated with the primary god, lay to the sides of the main one. When the main temple god was male, the secondary chapels were often dedicated to that god's mythological consort and child. The secondary chapels in mortuary temples were devoted to gods associated with kingship. [117]

Several other rooms neighbored the sanctuary. Many of these rooms were used to store ceremonial equipment, ritual texts, or temple valuables others had specific ritual functions. The room where offerings were given to the deity was often separate from the sanctuary itself, and in temples without a barque in the sanctuary, there was a separate shrine to store the barque. [118] In late temples the ritual areas could extend to chapels on the roof and crypts below the floor. [105] Finally, in the exterior wall at the back of the temple, there were often niches for laymen to pray to the temple god, as close as they could come to its dwelling place. [119]

Halls and courts Edit

Hypostyle halls, covered rooms filled with columns, appear in temples throughout Egyptian history. By the New Kingdom they typically lay directly in front of the sanctuary area. [121] These halls were less restricted than the inner rooms, being open to laymen at least in some cases. [119] They were often less dark as well: New Kingdom halls rose into tall central passages over the processional path, allowing a clerestory to provide dim light. The epitome of this style is the Great Hypostyle Hall at Karnak, whose largest columns are 69 feet (21 m) tall. In later periods, the Egyptians favored a different style of hall, where a low screen wall at the front let in the light. [121] The shadowy halls, whose columns were often shaped to imitate plants such as lotus or papyrus, were symbolic of the mythological marsh that surrounded the primeval mound at the time of creation. The columns could also be equated with the pillars that held up the sky in Egyptian cosmology. [122]

Beyond the hypostyle hall were one or more peristyle courts open to the sky. These open courts, which had been a part of Egyptian temple design since the Old Kingdom, became transitional areas in the standard plan of the New Kingdom, lying between the public space outside the temple and the more restricted areas within. Here the public met with the priests and assembled during festivals. At the front of each court was usually a pylon, a pair of trapezoidal towers flanking the main gateway. The pylon is known from only scattered examples in the Old and Middle Kingdoms, but in the New Kingdom it quickly became the distinctive and imposing façade common to most Egyptian temples. The pylon served symbolically as a guard tower against the forces of disorder and may also have been meant to resemble Akhet, the hieroglyph for "horizon", underscoring the temple's solar symbolism. [123]

The front of every pylon held niches for pairs of flagpoles to stand. Unlike pylons, such flags had stood at temple entrances since the earliest Predynastic shrines. They were so closely associated with the presence of a deity that the hieroglyph for them came to stand for the Egyptian word for "god". [123]

Enclosure Edit

Outside the temple building, proper was the temple enclosure, surrounded by a rectangular brick wall that symbolically protected the sacred space from outside disorder. [124] On occasion, this function was more than symbolic, especially during the last native dynasties in the fourth century BC, when the walls were fully fortified in case of invasion by the Achaemenid Empire. [125] In late temples, these walls frequently had alternating concave and convex courses of bricks, so that the top of the wall undulated vertically. This pattern may have been meant to evoke the mythological waters of chaos. [126]

The walls enclosed many buildings related to the temple's function. Some enclosures contain satellite chapels dedicated to deities associated with the temple god, including mammisis celebrating the birth of the god's mythological child. Sacred lakes found in many temple enclosures served as reservoirs for the water used in rituals, as places for the priests to ritually cleanse themselves and as representations of the water from which the world emerged. [105]

Mortuary temples sometimes contain a palace for the spirit of the king to whom the temple was dedicated, built against the temple building proper. [127] The Mortuary Temple of Seti I at Abydos incorporates an unusual underground structure, the Osireion, which may have served as a symbolic tomb for the king. [128] Sanatoria in some temples provided a place for the sick to await healing dreams sent by the god. Other temple buildings included kitchens, workshops, and storehouses to supply the temple's needs. [129]

Especially important was the pr ꜥnḫ "house of life", where the temple edited, copied, and stored its religious texts, including those used for temple rituals. The house of life also functioned as a general center of learning, containing works on non-religious subjects such as history, geography, astronomy, and medicine. [130] Although these outlying buildings were devoted to more mundane purposes than the temple itself, they still had religious significance even granaries might be used for specific ceremonies. [129]

Through the enclosure ran the processional path, which led from the temple entrance through the main gate in the enclosure wall. The path was frequently decorated with sphinx statues and punctuated by barque stations, where the priests carrying the festival barque could set it down to rest during the procession. The processional path usually ended in a quay on the Nile, which served as the entrance point for river-borne visitors and the exit point for the festival procession when it traveled by water. [131] In Old Kingdom pyramid temples, the quay adjoined an entire temple (the valley temple), which was linked to the pyramid temple by the processional causeway. [132]

Decoration Edit

The temple building was elaborately decorated with reliefs and free-standing sculpture, all with religious significance. As with the cult statue, the gods were believed to be present in these images, suffusing the temple with sacred power. [133] Symbols of places in Egypt or parts of the cosmos enhanced the mythical geography already present in the temple's architecture. Images of rituals served to reinforce the rituals' magical effect and to perpetuate that effect even if the rituals ceased to be performed. Because of their religious nature, these decorations showed an idealized version of reality, emblematic of the temple's purpose rather than real events. [134] For instance, the king was shown performing most rituals, while priests, if depicted, were secondary. It was unimportant that he was rarely present for these ceremonies it was his role as an intermediary with the gods that mattered. [135]

The most important form of decoration was relief. [136] Relief became more extensive over time, and in late temples, walls, ceilings, columns, and beams were all decorated, [137] as were free-standing stelae erected within the enclosure. [138] Egyptian artists used both low relief and sunken relief. Low relief allowed more subtle artistry but involved more carving than sunken relief. Sunken relief was therefore used on harder, more difficult stone and when the builders wanted to finish quickly. [99] It was also appropriate for exterior surfaces, where the shadows it created made the figures stand out in bright sunlight. [87] Finished reliefs were painted using the basic colors black, white, red, yellow, green, and blue, although the artists often mixed pigments to create other colors, [99] and Ptolemaic temples were especially varied, using unusual colors such as purple as accents. [139] In some temples, gilding or inlaid pieces of colored glass or faience substituted for paint. [100]

Temple decoration is among the most important sources of information on ancient Egypt. It includes calendars of festivals, accounts of myths, depictions of rituals, and the texts of hymns. Pharaohs recorded their temple-building activities and their campaigns against the enemies of Egypt. [136] The Ptolemaic temples go further to include information of all kinds taken from temple libraries. [140] The decoration in a given room either depicts the actions performed there or has some symbolic tie to the room's purpose, providing a great deal of information on temple activities. [141] Interior walls were divided into several registers. The lowest registers were decorated with plants representing the primeval marsh, while the ceilings and tops of walls were decorated with stars and flying birds to represent the sky. [109] Illustrations of rituals, surrounded by text related to the rituals, often filled the middle and upper registers. [142] Courts and exterior walls often recorded the king's military exploits. The pylon showed the "smiting scene", a motif in which the king strikes down his enemies, symbolizing the defeat of the forces of chaos. [143]

The text on the walls was the formal hieroglyphic script. Some texts were written in a "cryptographic" form, using symbols in a different way than the normal conventions of hieroglyphic writing. The cryptographic text became more widespread and more complex in Ptolemaic times. Temple walls also frequently bear written or drawn graffiti, both in modern languages and in ancient ones such as Greek, Latin, and Demotic, the form of Egyptian that was commonly used in Greco-Roman times. Although not part of the temple's formal decoration, graffiti can be an important source of information about its history, both when its cults were functioning and after its abandonment. Ancient graffiti, for instance, often mention the names and titles of priests who worked in the temple, and modern travelers often inscribed their names in temples that they visited. [144] Graffiti left by priests and pilgrims at Philae include the last ancient hieroglyphic text, inscribed in AD 394, and the last one in Demotic script, from AD 452. [145]

Large, free-standing sculpture included obelisks, tall, pointed pillars that symbolized the sun. The largest, the Lateran Obelisk, was more than 118 feet (36 m) high. [146] They were often placed in pairs in front of pylons or elsewhere along the temple axis. Statues of the king, which were similarly placed, also reached colossal size the Colossi of Memnon at the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III and the statue of Ramesses II at the Ramesseum are the largest free-standing statues made in ancient Egypt. [147] There were also figures of gods, often in sphinx form, that served as symbolic guardians of the temple. The most numerous statues were votive figures donated to the temple by kings, private individuals, or even towns to gain divine favor. They could depict the god to whom they were dedicated, the people who donated the statue, or both. [148] The most essential temple statues were the cult images, which were usually made of or decorated with precious materials such as gold and lapis lazuli. [149]

Painted relief on doorframes and ceilings at Medinet Habu. Twelfth century BC.

Frieze of sculpted uraei, or rearing cobras, atop a wall at the pyramid complex of Djoser. Twenty-eighth century BC.

Relief on a screen wall between columns at Dendera, with images of marsh plants at the base, torus moldings framing the relief, and a cavetto cornice with a winged sun emblem topped by a frieze of uraei. First to second century AD. [64]

Obelisk of Senusret I at Heliopolis. Twentieth century BC.

Statue of Pinedjem I, the High Priest of Amun at Karnak, as a pharaoh. Eleventh century BC.

A temple needed many people to perform its rituals and support duties. Priests performed the temple's essential ritual functions, but in Egyptian religious ideology, they were far less important than the king. All ceremonies were, in theory, acts by the king, and priests merely stood in his place. The priests were therefore subject to the king's authority, and he had the right to appoint anyone he wished to the priesthood. In fact, in the Old and Middle Kingdoms, most priests were government officials who left their secular duties for part of the year to serve the temple in shifts. [150] Once the priesthood became more professional, the king seems to have used his power over appointments mainly for the highest-ranking positions, usually to reward a favorite official with a job or to intervene for political reasons in the affairs of an important cult. Lesser appointments he delegated to his vizier or to the priests themselves. In the latter case, the holder of an office named his own son as his successor, or the temple clergy conferred to decide who should fill an empty post. [151] Priestly offices were extremely lucrative and tended to be held by the wealthiest and most influential members of Egyptian society. [152] In the Greco-Roman period, priestly offices continued to be advantageous. Especially in rural areas, Egyptian priests distinguished themselves from other inhabitants by means of income and privileges attached to priestly offices, but also by their education in reading and writing. High-ranking offices were, still, so lucrative that some priests fought over their occupation in lengthy court cases. However, that may have changed in the later Roman period, when Egypt was subject to large-scale processes of economic, social, cultural and religious change. [153]

The requirements for the priesthood differed over time and among the cults of different gods. Although detailed knowledge was involved in priestly offices, little is known about what knowledge or training may have been required of the officeholders. Priests were required to observe strict standards of ritual purity before entering the most sacred areas. They shaved their heads and bodies, washed several times a day, and wore only clean linen clothing. They were not required to be celibate, but sexual intercourse rendered them unclean until they underwent further purification. The cults of specific gods might impose further restrictions related to that god's mythology, such as rules against eating the meat of an animal that represented the god. [154] The acceptance of women into the priesthood was variable. In the Old Kingdom, many women served as priests, but their presence in clergies declined drastically in the Middle Kingdom before increasing in the Third Intermediate Period. Lesser positions, such as that of a musician in ceremonies, remained open to women in even the most restrictive periods, as did the special role of a ceremonial consort of the god. This latter role was highly influential, and the most important of these consorts, the God's Wife of Amun, even supplanted the High Priest of Amun during the Late Period. [155]

At the head of the temple hierarchy was the high priest, who oversaw all the temple's religious and economic functions and in the largest cults was an important political figure. Beneath him might be as many as three grades of subordinate priests who could substitute for him in ceremonies. [156] While these higher ranks were full-time positions from the New Kingdom onward, the lower grades of priesthood still worked in shifts over the course of the year. [157] Whereas many priests did a variety of menial tasks, the clergy also contained several ritual specialists. [158] Prominent among these specialized roles was that of the lector priest who recited hymns and spells during temple rituals, and who hired out his magical services to laymen. [159] Besides its priests, a large temple employed singers, musicians, and dancers to perform during rituals, plus the farmers, bakers, artisans, builders, and administrators who supplied and managed its practical needs. [160] In the Ptolemaic era, temples could also house people who had sought asylum within the precinct, or recluses who voluntarily dedicated themselves to serving the god and living in its household. [161] A major cult, therefore, could have well over 150 full or part-time priests, [162] with tens of thousands of non-priestly employees working on its lands across the country. [163] These numbers contrast with mid-sized temples, which may have had 10 to 25 priests, and with the smallest provincial temples, which might have only one. [164]

Some priests' duties took them beyond the temple precinct. They formed part of the entourage in festivals that traveled from one temple to another, and clergies from around the country sent representatives to the national Sed festival that reinforced the king's divine power. Some temples, such as those in the neighboring cities of Memphis and Letopolis, were overseen by the same high priest. [165]

At certain times there was an administrative office that presided over all temples and clergies. In the Old Kingdom, kings gave this authority first to their relatives and then to their viziers. In the reign of Thutmose III the office passed from the viziers to the High Priests of Amun, who held it for much of the New Kingdom. [166] The Romans established a similar office, that of the high priest for all Egypt, which oversaw the temple cults until their extinction. [167]

Daily rituals Edit

The daily rituals in most temples included two sequences of offering rites: one to clean and dress the god for the day, and one to present it with a meal. The exact order of events in these rituals is uncertain and may have varied somewhat each time they were performed. In addition, the two sequences probably overlapped with each other. [168] At sunrise, the officiating priest entered the sanctuary, carrying a candle to light the room. He opened the doors of the shrine and prostrated himself before the god's image, reciting hymns in its praise. He removed the god from the shrine, clothed it (replacing the clothes of the previous day), and anointed it with oil and paint. [169] At some point the priest presented the god's meal, including a variety of meats, fruits, vegetables, and bread. [170]

The god was believed to consume only the spiritual essence of this meal. This belief allowed the food to be distributed to others, an act that the Egyptians called the "reversion of offerings". The food passed first to the other statues throughout the temple, then to local funerary chapels for the sustenance of the dead, and finally to the priests who ate it. [171] The quantities even for the daily meal were so large that only a small part of it can have been placed on the offering tables. Most of it must have gone directly to these secondary uses. [172]

Temple artwork often shows the king presenting an image of the goddess Maat to the temple deity, an act that represented the purpose of all other offerings. [169] The king may have presented a real figurine of Maat to the deity, or the temple reliefs depicting the act may have been purely symbolic. [173]

Other offering rituals took place at noon and at sunset, though the sanctuary was not reopened. [169] Some ceremonies other than offerings also took place daily, including rituals specific to a particular god. In the cult of the sun god Ra, for instance, hymns were sung day and night for every hour of the god's journey across the sky. [174] Many of the ceremonies acted out in ritual the battle against of the forces of chaos. They might, for instance, involve the destruction of models of inimical gods like Apep or Set, acts that were believed to have a real effect through the principle of ḥkꜣ (Egyptological pronunciation heka) "magic". [170]

In fact, the Egyptians believed that all ritual actions achieved their effect through ḥkꜣ. [175] It was a fundamental force that rituals were meant to manipulate. Using magic, people, objects, and actions were equated with counterparts in the divine realm and thus were believed to affect events among the gods. [176] In the daily offering, for instance, the cult statue, regardless of which deity it represented, was associated with Osiris, the god of the dead. The priest performing the ritual was identified with Horus, the living son of Osiris, who in mythology sustained his father after death through offerings. [177] By magically equating himself with a god in a myth, the priest was able to interact with the temple deity. [176]

Festivals Edit

On days of particular religious significance, the daily rituals were replaced with festival observances. Different festivals occurred at different intervals, though most were annual. [178] Their timing was based on the Egyptian civil calendar, which most of the time was far out of step with the astronomical year. Thus, while many festivals had a seasonal origin, their timing lost its connection with the seasons. [179] Most festivals took place at a single temple, but others could involve two or more temples or an entire region of Egypt a few were celebrated throughout the country. In the New Kingdom and later, the festival calendar at a single temple could include dozens of events, so it is likely that most of these events were observed only by the priests. [180] In those festivals that involved a procession outside the temple, the local population also gathered to watch and to celebrate. These were the most elaborate temple ceremonies, accompanied by the recitation of hymns and the performance of musicians. [181]

Festival ceremonies entailed reenactment of mythological events or the performance of other symbolic acts, like the cutting of a sheaf of wheat during the harvest-related festival dedicated to the god Min. [182] Many of these ceremonies took place only within the temple building, such as the "union with the sun disk" festival practiced in the Late Period and afterward, when cult statues were carried to the temple roof at the start of the New Year to be enlivened by the rays of the sun. In festivals that involved a procession, priests carried the divine image out from the sanctuary, usually in its model barque, to visit another site. The barque might travel entirely on land or be loaded onto a real boat to travel on the river. [183]

The purpose of the god's visit varied. Some were tied to the ideology of kingship. In the Opet Festival, an extremely important ceremony during the New Kingdom, the image of Amun from Karnak visited the form of Amun worshipped at Luxor Temple, and both acted to reaffirm the king's divine rule. [184] Still other celebrations had a funerary character, as in the Beautiful Festival of the Valley, when Amun of Karnak visited the mortuary temples of the Theban Necropolis to visit the kings commemorated there, while ordinary people visited the funerary chapels of their own deceased relatives. [185] Some may have centered on ritual marriages between deities, or between deities and their human consorts, although the evidence that ritual marriage was their purpose is ambiguous. A prominent example is a festival in which an image of Hathor from the Dendera Temple complex was brought annually to visit the Temple of Edfu, the temple of her mythological consort Horus. [186] These varied ceremonies were united by the broad purpose of renewing life among the gods and in the cosmos. [187]

The gods involved in a festival also received offerings in much larger quantities than in daily ceremonies. The enormous amounts of food listed in festival texts are unlikely to have been divided among the priests alone, so it is likely that the celebrating commoners also participated in the reversion of these offerings. [188]

Sacred animals Edit

Some temples kept sacred animals, which were believed to be manifestations of the temple god's ba in the same way that cult images were. Each of these sacred animals was kept in the temple and worshipped for a certain length of time, ranging from a year to the lifetime of the animal. At the end of that time, it was replaced with a new animal of the same species, which was selected by a divine oracle or based on specific markings that were supposed to indicate its sacred nature. Among the most prominent of these animals were the Apis, a sacred bull worshipped as a manifestation of the Memphite god Ptah, and the falcon at Edfu who represented the falcon god Horus. [189]

During the Late Period, a different form of worship involving animals developed. In this case, laymen paid the priests to kill, mummify, and bury an animal of a particular species as an offering to a god. These animals were not regarded as especially sacred, but as a species, they were associated with the god because it was depicted in the form of that animal. The god Thoth, for instance, could be depicted as an ibis and as a baboon, and both ibises and baboons were given to him. [190] Although this practice was distinct from the worship of single divine representatives, some temples kept stocks of animals that could be selected for either purpose. [191] These practices produced large cemeteries of mummified animals, such as the catacombs around the Serapeum of Saqqara where the Apis bulls were buried along with millions of animal offerings. [192]

Oracles Edit

By the beginning of the New Kingdom, and quite possibly earlier, the festival procession had become an opportunity for people to seek oracles from the god. Their questions dealt with subjects ranging from the location of a lost object to the best choice for a government appointment. The motions of the barque as it was carried on the bearers' shoulders—making simple gestures to indicate "yes" or "no", tipping toward tablets on which possible answers were written, or moving toward a particular person in the crowd—were taken to indicate the god's reply. [193] In the Greco-Roman period, and possibly much earlier, oracles were used outside the festival, allowing people to consult them frequently. Priests interpreted the movements of sacred animals or, being asked questions directly, wrote out or spoke answers that they had supposedly received from the god in question. [194] The priests' claim to speak for the gods or interpret their messages gave them great political influence and provided the means for the High Priests of Amun to dominate Upper Egypt during the Third Intermediate Period. [193]

Popular worship Edit

Although they were excluded from the formal rituals of the temple, laymen still sought to interact with the gods. There is little evidence of the religious practices of individual people from early Egyptian history, so Egyptologists' understanding of the subject derives mostly from the New Kingdom or later periods. [195] The evidence from those times indicates that while ordinary Egyptians used many venues to interact with the divine, such as household shrines or community chapels, the official temples with their sequestered gods were a major focus for popular veneration. [196]

Unable to address the cult image directly, laymen still attempted to convey their prayers to it. At times they related messages to priests to deliver to the temple deity at other times they expressed their piety in the parts of the temple that they could access. Courts, doorways, and hypostyle halls might have spaces designated for public prayer. [119] Sometimes people directed their appeals to the royal colossi, which were believed to act as divine intermediaries. [197] More private areas for devotion were located at the building's outer wall, where large niches served as "chapels of the hearing ear" for individuals to speak to the god. [119]

The Egyptians also interacted with deities through the donation of offerings, ranging from simple bits of jewelry to large and finely carved statues and stelae. [196] Among their contributions were statues that sat in temple courts, serving as memorials to the donors after their deaths and receiving portions of the temple offerings to sustain the donors' spirits. Other statues served as gifts to the temple god, and inscribed stelae conveyed to the resident deity the donors' prayers and messages of thanks. Over the centuries, so many of these statues accumulated within a temple building that priests sometimes moved them out of the way by burying them in caches beneath the floor. [198] Commoners offered simple wooden or clay models as votives. The form of these models may indicate the reason for their donation. Figurines of women are among the most common types of votive figures, and some are inscribed with a prayer for a woman to bear a child. [199]

Festival processions offered a chance for laymen to approach and perhaps even glimpse the cult image in its barque, and for them to receive portions of the god's food. [200] Because the key rituals of any festival still took place within the temple, out of public sight, Egyptologist Anthony Spalinger has questioned whether the processions inspired genuine "religious feelings" or were simply seen as occasions for revelry. [201] In any case, the oracular events during festivals provided an opportunity for people to receive responses from the normally isolated deities, as did the other varieties of oracle that developed late in Egyptian history. Temples eventually became a venue for yet another type of divine contact: dreams. The Egyptians saw dreaming as a means of communion with the divine realm, and by the Ptolemaic period many temples provided buildings for ritual incubation. People slept in these buildings in hopes of contacting the temple god. The petitioners often sought a magical solution to sickness or infertility. At other times they sought an answer to a question, receiving the answer through a dream rather than an oracle. [202]

After their original religious activities ceased, Egyptian temples suffered slow decay. Many were defaced by Christians trying to erase the remnants of ancient Egyptian religion. [203] Some temple buildings, such as the mammisi at Dendera or the hypostyle hall at Philae, were adapted into churches or other types of buildings. [204] Most commonly the sites were left disused, as at the Temple of Khnum at Elephantine, while locals carried off their stones to serve as material for new buildings. [205] The dismantling of temples for stone continued well into modern times. [206] Limestone was especially useful as a source of lime, so temples built of limestone were almost all dismantled. Sandstone temples, found mostly in Upper Egypt, were more likely to survive. [207] What humans left intact was still subject to natural weathering. Temples in desert areas could be partly covered by drifts of sand, while those near the Nile, particularly in Lower Egypt, were often buried under layers of river-borne silt. Thus, some major temple sites like Memphis were reduced to ruin, while many temples far from the Nile and centers of population remained mostly intact. With the understanding of the hieroglyphic script lost, the information about Egyptian culture that was preserved in the surviving temples lay incomprehensible to the world. [208]

The situation changed dramatically with the French campaign in Egypt and Syria in 1798, which brought with it a corps of scholars to examine the surviving ancient monuments. The results of their study inspired a fascination with ancient Egypt throughout Europe. In the early nineteenth century, growing numbers of Europeans traveled to Egypt, both to see the ancient monuments and to collect Egyptian antiquities. [209] Many temple artifacts, from small objects to enormous obelisks, were removed by outside governments and private collectors. This wave of Egyptomania resulted in the rediscovery of temple sites such as Abu Simbel, but artifacts and even whole temples were often treated with great carelessness. [210] The discoveries of the period made possible the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs and the beginnings of Egyptology as a scholarly discipline. [211]

Nineteenth-century Egyptologists studied the temples intensively, but their emphasis was on the collection of artifacts to send to their own countries, and their slipshod excavation methods often did further harm. [213] Slowly the antique-hunting attitude toward Egyptian monuments gave way to careful study and preservation efforts. The government also took greater control of archaeological activity as Egypt's independence from foreign powers increased.

Yet even in recent times, the ancient remains have faced threats. The most severe was the construction of the Aswan Dam in the 1960s, which threatened to submerge the temples in what had been Lower Nubia beneath the newly formed Lake Nasser. [214] A major effort by the United Nations disassembled some of the threatened monuments and rebuilt them on higher ground, and the Egyptian government gave several of the others, such as the Temple of Dendur, Temple of Taffeh, and Temple of Debod, as gifts to nations that had contributed to the preservation effort. Nevertheless, several other temples vanished beneath the lake. [215]

Today there are dozens of sites with substantial temple remains, [216] although many more once existed, and none of the major temples in Lower or Middle Egypt are well preserved. [217] Those that are well preserved, such as Karnak, Luxor, and Abu Simbel, draw tourists from around the world and are therefore a key attraction for the Egyptian tourist industry, which is a major sector of the Egyptian economy. [218] Three temple sites—Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis, Memphis and its Necropolis, and the Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae—have been designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. The Egyptian government is working to balance the demands of tourism against the need to protect ancient monuments from the harmful effects of tourist activity. [219] Archaeological work continues as well, as many temple remains still lie buried and many extant temples are not yet fully studied. Some damaged or destroyed structures, like the temples of Akhenaten, are even being reconstructed. These efforts are improving modern understanding of Egyptian temples, which in turn allow a better understanding of ancient Egyptian society as a whole. [220]

  1. ^ Many Egyptologists, such as Wolfgang Helck and Dietrich Wildung, have argued that the Egyptians did not believe their kings were divine. Nevertheless, the divinity of the king is constantly emphasized in official writings: the products of the royal court and religious establishment. Therefore, regardless of whether ordinary Egyptians believed in it, the king's divine nature is key to the ideology of the Egyptian temple. [7]
  2. ^ The phrase "mansion of millions of years" is often taken as the Egyptian term for a mortuary temple. In several instances the Egyptians used this phrase to refer to sacred buildings that are not generally regarded as "mortuary", such as Luxor Temple and the Festival Hall of Thutmose III at Karnak. [16] Patricia Spencer suggests that the term applied to "any temple in which the cult of the king was observed, even if the temple was dedicated, in the first instance, to the chief god of the area." [17]
  3. ^ Many temples were abandoned during or before the third century, although mentions of priests in papyrus texts show that some cults continued to exist until at least the 330s. [79] The Temple of Isis at Philae, at Egypt's southern frontier with Nubia, was the last fully functioning temple. Scholars have traditionally believed, based on the writings of Procopius, that it was closed in about AD 535 by a military expedition under Justinian I. Jitse Dijkstra has argued that Procopius's account of the temple closure is inaccurate and that regular religious activity there ceased shortly after the last date inscribed at the temple, in AD 456 or 457. [80] Eugene Cruz-Uribe suggests instead that during the fifth and early sixth centuries the temple lay empty most of the time, but that Nubians living nearby continued to hold periodic festivals there until well into the sixth century. [81]
  4. ^ Because the axis was aligned at 90 degrees from the river's generally north-south flow, irregularities in the Nile's course meant that the orientation did not always conform to true directions. [84]
  5. ^ In their earliest stone constructions the Egyptians made small blocks shaped like mud bricks. Large blocks were typical of all other periods, except in the Amarna period, when temples to the Aten were built with small, standardized talatat blocks, possibly to speed up construction. [93] Ptolemaic and Roman temples were built in regular courses, with the blocks within each course cut to the same height. [94]
  6. ^ No surviving statues of deities are known for certain to have been cult images, although a few have the right characteristics to have served that purpose. [113]

Citations Edit

  1. ^Arnold 1999, pp. 119, 162, 221.
  2. ^Spencer 1984, pp. 22, 43.
  3. ^Snape 1996, p. 9.
  4. ^Dunand & Zivie-Coche 2004, pp. 89–91.
  5. ^Assmann 2001, p. 4
  6. ^Shafer 1997, pp. 1–2.
  7. ^Haeny 1997, pp. 126, 281.
  8. ^Shafer 1997, p. 3.
  9. ^Wilkinson 2000, pp. 8, 86.
  10. ^Dunand & Zivie-Coche 2004, pp. 103, 111–112.
  11. ^Meeks & Favard-Meeks 1996, pp. 126–128.
  12. ^Wilkinson 2000, p. 82.
  13. ^Teeter 2001, p. 340.
  14. ^Reymond 1969, pp. 323–327.
  15. ^Assmann 2001, pp. 19–25.
  16. ^ abHaeny 1997, pp. 89–102.
  17. ^Spencer 1984, p. 25.
  18. ^Shafer 1997, pp. 3–4.
  19. ^Quirke 1997b, p. 46.
  20. ^Haeny 1997, pp. 123–126.
  21. ^Shafer 1997, pp. 2–3.
  22. ^Wilkinson 2000, pp. 90–93
  23. ^ abSpencer 1984, p. 17.
  24. ^Sauneron 2000, pp. 52–53.
  25. ^Katary 2011, pp. 7–8
  26. ^Haring 1997, pp. 142–143.
  27. ^Wilkinson 2000, p. 88.
  28. ^Haring 1997, pp. 372–379.
  29. ^Wilkinson 2000, pp. 50, 75.
  30. ^ abKemp 1973, pp. 661, 666–667.
  31. ^ abcKatary 2011, pp. 4–7.
  32. ^Haring 1997, p. 395.
  33. ^Haring 1997, pp. 392–395
  34. ^Quirke 2001, p. 168.
  35. ^Haring 1997, pp. 389, 394–396.
  36. ^Sauneron 2000, pp. 169–170, 182.
  37. ^Kemp 2006, pp. 297–299.
  38. ^Monson 2012, pp. 136–141.
  39. ^ Sippel, Benjamin (2020). Gottesdiener und Kamelzüchter: Das Alltags- und Sozialleben der Sobek-Priester im kaiserzeitlichen Fayum. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. pp. 208–227, 253–257. ISBN978-3-447-11485-1 .
  40. ^Verner 2013, pp. 511–515.
  41. ^Snape 1996, pp. 15–17.
  42. ^Arnold 1997, pp. 32, 258.
  43. ^Dunand & Zivie-Coche 2004, p. 78.
  44. ^Goedicke 1978, pp. 121–124.
  45. ^Quirke 2001, pp. 84–90.
  46. ^Kemp 2006, pp. 113–114, 134–135.
  47. ^Quirke 2001, pp. 118–119.
  48. ^Lehner 1997, pp. 18–19, 230–231.
  49. ^Lehner 1997, pp. 228–229.
  50. ^Lehner 1997, p. 15.
  51. ^Wilkinson 2000, pp. 22–23.
  52. ^Bell 1997, p. 144, 147.
  53. ^ abWilkinson 2000, pp. 24–25.
  54. ^Spalinger 1998, pp. 245, 247–249.
  55. ^Sauneron 2000, pp. 52, 174–176.
  56. ^Snape 1996, pp. 29–33, 41.
  57. ^Sauneron 2000, pp. 182–183.
  58. ^Kemp 2006, pp. 299–300.
  59. ^Arnold 1999, p. 28.
  60. ^Verner 2013, pp. 334–341.
  61. ^Gundlach 2001, p. 379.
  62. ^ abSauneron 2000, pp. 183–184.
  63. ^Arnold 1999, pp. 46, 308.
  64. ^ abArnold 1999, p. 256–257.
  65. ^Finnestad 1997, pp. 188–189.
  66. ^Arnold 1999, pp. 65, 308.
  67. ^Arnold 1999, pp. 282–286, 298.
  68. ^Arnold 1999, pp. 143–144.
  69. ^Wilkinson 2000, p. 27.
  70. ^Arnold 1999, p. 226.
  71. ^Naerebout 2007, pp. 524–529, 545–547.
  72. ^Monson 2012, p. 227.
  73. ^Bagnall 1993, pp. 261, 267–268.
  74. ^Frankfurter 1998, pp. 72–76.
  75. ^Lavan 2011, pp. xxii–xxiv.
  76. ^Hahn, Emmel & Gotter 2008, pp. 3–5.
  77. ^Hahn 2008, pp. 344, 353.
  78. ^Dijkstra 2011, pp. 398–409, 423–425.
  79. ^Bagnall 1993, pp. 261–267.
  80. ^Dijkstra 2011, pp. 421–430.
  81. ^Cruz-Uribe 2010, pp. 505–506.
  82. ^Wilkinson 2000, pp. 100, 233, 234.
  83. ^Wilkinson 2000, p. 16.
  84. ^ abWilkinson 2000, pp. 36–37, 226.
  85. ^Wilkinson 2000, p. 38.
  86. ^Arnold 1991, p. 4.
  87. ^ abWilkinson 2000, pp. 43–44.
  88. ^Assmann 2001, p. 30.
  89. ^Wilkinson 2000, pp. 19, 42.
  90. ^Arnold 1991, pp. 27, 36.
  91. ^Wilkinson 2000, p. 40.
  92. ^Arnold 1991, pp. 109–113.
  93. ^ abArnold 1991, pp. 120–122.
  94. ^Arnold 1999, pp. 144–145.
  95. ^Arnold 1991, pp. 115–122.
  96. ^Arnold 1991, p. 148.
  97. ^Arnold 1991, pp. 80–81, 86.
  98. ^Arnold 1991, p. 213.
  99. ^ abcdRobins 1986, pp. 20–25.
  100. ^ abUphill 1973, pp. 730–731.
  101. ^Dunand & Zivie-Coche 2004, pp. 77–79.
  102. ^Arnold 2001, pp. 113–114.
  103. ^Arnold 2003, pp. 28, 46.
  104. ^ abcAssmann 2001, pp. 31–33.
  105. ^ abcDunand & Zivie-Coche 2004, pp. 79–82.
  106. ^Snape 1996, pp. 44–51, 56.
  107. ^Wilkinson 2000, p. 76.
  108. ^Assmann 2001, pp. 38, 43–44.
  109. ^ abWilkinson 2000, pp. 76–79.
  110. ^Arnold 1999, pp. 169–171.
  111. ^Quirke 2001, pp. 64–65, 88, 159.
  112. ^Arnold 1997, pp. 71–72.
  113. ^Kozloff 2001, pp. 242–243.
  114. ^Dunand & Zivie-Coche 2004, p. 80.
  115. ^Eaton 2013, pp. 26–27.
  116. ^Dunand & Zivie-Coche 2004, pp. 86–87.
  117. ^Wilkinson 2000, pp. 70, 82, 178–179.
  118. ^Wilkinson 2000, pp. 69–70.
  119. ^ abcdTeeter 2011, pp. 77–84.
  120. ^Arnold 1999, p. 251.
  121. ^ abArnold 2003, pp. 113, 180.
  122. ^Wilkinson 2000, pp. 65–66.
  123. ^ abWilkinson 2000, pp. 60–62.
  124. ^Shafer 1997, p. 5.
  125. ^Arnold 1999, p. 93.
  126. ^Arnold 2003, p. 256.
  127. ^Arnold 2003, p. 169.
  128. ^Snape 1996, p. 47.
  129. ^ abWilkinson 2000, pp. 74–75.
  130. ^Sauneron 2000, pp. 132–142.
  131. ^Wilkinson 2000, pp. 54–55.
  132. ^Arnold 2003, pp. 227, 252.
  133. ^Assmann 2001, p. 43.
  134. ^Gundlach 2001, pp. 369, 371–372.
  135. ^Eaton 2013, pp. 28, 121.
  136. ^ abGundlach 2001, p. 371.
  137. ^Finnestad 1997, p. 191.
  138. ^Hölzl 2001, pp. 320–322.
  139. ^Arnold 1999, p. 149.
  140. ^Finnestad 1997, p. 194.
  141. ^Arnold 2003, p. 205.
  142. ^Eaton 2013, pp. 16–17.
  143. ^Wilkinson 2000, pp. 44–46.
  144. ^Wilkinson 2000, pp. 46–47.
  145. ^Dijkstra 2011, p. 423.
  146. ^Quirke 2001, pp. 62, 134–135.
  147. ^Wilkinson 2000, pp. 57–60.
  148. ^Kozloff 2001, pp. 242–245.
  149. ^Wilkinson 2000, p. 70.
  150. ^Sauneron 2000, pp. 32–35.
  151. ^Sauneron 2000, pp. 43–47.
  152. ^Johnson 1986, pp. 81–82.
  153. ^
  154. Sippel, Benjamin (2020). Gottesdiener und Kamelzüchter: Das Alltags- und Sozialleben der Sobek-Priester im kaiserzeitlichen Fayum. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. pp. 1–6, 249–257. ISBN978-3-447-11485-1 .
  155. ^Sauneron 2000, pp. 35–43.
  156. ^Doxey 2001, pp. 69–70.
  157. ^Teeter 2011, pp. 25–26.
  158. ^Doxey 2001, pp. 71–72.
  159. ^Sauneron 2000, pp. 60, 70–71.
  160. ^Ritner 1993, pp. 220, 232.
  161. ^Wilkinson 2000, p. 92.
  162. ^Dunand & Zivie-Coche 2004, pp. 306–310.
  163. ^Janssen 1978, pp. 121–124.
  164. ^Haring 1997, p. 175.
  165. ^Sauneron 2000, pp. 53–54.
  166. ^Sauneron 2000, pp. 105–107.
  167. ^Sauneron 2000, pp. 176–177, 186.
  168. ^Monson 2012, p. 220.
  169. ^Eaton 2013, pp. 41–49.
  170. ^ abcDunand & Zivie-Coche 2004, pp. 90–91.
  171. ^ abThompson 2001, p. 328.
  172. ^Englund 2001, p. 566.
  173. ^Janssen 1978, p. 512.
  174. ^Eaton 2013, pp. 24–25.
  175. ^Quirke 2001, p. 54.
  176. ^Bleeker 1967, p. 44.
  177. ^ abRitner 1993, pp. 247–249.
  178. ^Assmann 2001, pp. 49–51.
  179. ^Spalinger 2001, p. 521.
  180. ^Spalinger 1998, pp. 257–258.
  181. ^Wilkinson 2000, pp. 95–96.
  182. ^Sauneron 2000, pp. 92–94, 96.
  183. ^Bleeker 1967, pp. 25, 40.
  184. ^Verner 2013, pp. 17–18.
  185. ^Bell 1997, pp. 158, 174–176.
  186. ^Teeter 2011, pp. 66–73.
  187. ^Stadler 2008, pp. 4–6.
  188. ^Bleeker 1967, p. 22.
  189. ^Janssen 1978, pp. 513–514.
  190. ^Meeks & Favard-Meeks 1996, pp. 129–130.
  191. ^Ray 2001, p. 346.
  192. ^Dunand & Zivie-Coche 2004, p. 21.
  193. ^Davies & Smith 1997, pp. 116–120, 123.
  194. ^ abKruchten 2001, pp. 609–611.
  195. ^Frankfurter 1998, pp. 148–152.
  196. ^Dunand & Zivie-Coche 2004, pp. 107, 110.
  197. ^ abLesko 2001, pp. 337–338.
  198. ^Dunand & Zivie-Coche 2004, pp. 112–113.
  199. ^Wilkinson 2000, pp. 62–64, 99.
  200. ^Teeter 2011, pp. 87–90.
  201. ^Dunand & Zivie-Coche 2004, pp. 116–118.
  202. ^Spalinger 1998, pp. 245, 249–250.
  203. ^Dunand & Zivie-Coche 2004, pp. 119–120, 135–136.
  204. ^Baines 1997, p. 234.
  205. ^Dijkstra 2011, pp. 405–406, 427.
  206. ^Dijkstra 2011, pp. 420–421.
  207. ^Fagan 2004, pp. 27–29, 179.
  208. ^Quirke 1997a, p. ix.
  209. ^Wilkinson 2000, pp. 29, 102, 114.
  210. ^Fagan 2004, pp. 55–57.
  211. ^Fagan 2004, pp. 103, 126, 179–181.
  212. ^Fagan 2004, pp. xi, 160–162.
  213. ^Wilkinson 2000, pp. 161, 240–242.
  214. ^Fagan 2004, pp. 177–181.
  215. ^Fagan 2004, pp. 250–251.
  216. ^Wilkinson 2000, pp. 219–220, 230, 242.
  217. ^Wilkinson 2000, Part V, passim.
  218. ^Baines 1997, p. 226.
  219. ^Egypt State Information Service.
  220. ^Fagan 2004, pp. 252–253.
  221. ^Wilkinson 2000, pp. 7, 240–242.

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8km after Helnan Auberge Hotel, you will find the coffee shop “Waahit ilSalaam” on your right turn left into Ibshaway Tourist Road and go straight.


After 5km, you will arrive in Abuksah turn right at Al Abudi Square marked by a fountain-like structure continue straight.


You will reach Ibshaway Market situated in the heart of Downtown Ibshaway. The market begins right after the building of National Bank of Egypt on your right side avoid taking the street on Thursdays during the busy weekly market a minibus is the maximum vehicle size that can get through the narrow market street.

El Mustafa Restaurant

Shortly after the National Bank of Egypt, you will see El Mustafa Restaurant. It serves very clean and fresh Egyptian breakfast (foul beans and falafel).

In case you need further directions to find the restaurant, contact one of the staff Mustafa
Mobile: 01002757811.


Continue straight after El Mustafa Restaurant and you will arrive at a crossroads right at the end of Ibshaway Market take the first street to the right to head for Nazla then, continue straight.

From Al Abudi Square to this spot takes about 4 km.

Brick factory

On the way to Nazla, you will see a brick factory on the right side marked by a high and round-shape chimney at this point, the valley of Nazla begins continue straight.


Turn left at the square called “Kushk” marked by a fork junction divided by a triangle shape building from Ibshaway Market to Kushk Square takes around 4 km then go straight.

Mousa Misar Mosque

At Mousa Misar Mosque (in the shape of a Pharaonic temple with Minaret) turn left at the curve, go left and down for around 500m and you will find the Nazla Pottery Workshops down in the valley the entrance to the workshops is marked by pottery displayed on the road.

It takes around 4km from Kushk Square to the Nazla Pottery Workshops.

Nazla Pottery

From the Nazla Pottery Workshops,
go back to Mousa Misar Mosque right after the Mosque, turn left (going right would take you back to Kushk Square) to head for Abu Gandir and Medinet Madi go all the way straight.

Contact of the Nazla Pottery Workshops:
BRAVO Field Project Facilitator, Hosni Younis, Mobile: 01004146582.

There are badly maintained public toilets right at Nazla Pottery Workshops.

Rounded balconies

Coming from the Nazla Pottery Workshops, you will reach a fork junction turn right and go straight.

The landmark at the fork junction is the building on the corner with rounded balconies.

Abu Gandir

When you reach Abu Gandir, turn right after the school surrounded by a creamy coloured wall it takes around 7km from Mousa Misar Mosque to the school continue straight.

After 3km, you will get to a canal and the drinking water station of Abu Gandir turn right.

After 1km, turn left and cross the canal.

After around 100m, turn left and go straight.

Medinet Madi

Turn left into Medinet Madi marked by a sign.


After visiting Medinet Madi, go back to Kushk Square and there turn left (going right would take you back to Nazla and Ibshaway) and then all the way straight on Ibshaway / Qarun Street until you reach Tunis the first entrance to Tunis from Ibshaway Street is marked by the two signs “Tunis Pottery Welcome” and “Hotel Sobek”.

From Kushk Square to Tunis takes around 14km.

Contact in Tunis:
BRAVO Field Project Facilitator
Khairy, Mobile 01003656773.

The history of the archaeological park of Medinet Madi (“Ancient City”) started in 2000 BC when the Pharaohs began to cultivate the Fayoum region. Its discovery was one of the greatest in Egypt in the 20th century. Medinet Madi is also known as the Luxor of Fayoum and closely connected to the protected area of Wadi El Rayyan. It is the only temple of the Middle Kingdom with inscriptions. The park and its visitor centre offer a unique visitor experience.


Renenutet (also known as Termuthis, Ernutet, Renenet) was a cobra goddess from the Delta area. She was a powerful goddess, whose gaze destroyed her enemies. However, the ancient Egyptians had no reason to fear her, as she offered them protection in many areas of their life.

She was depicted either as a woman, a cobra, or a woman with the head of a cobra wearing a double plumed headdress or the solar disk. Renenutet was also depicted with a lion’s head, like Hathor in her form of the “Eye of Ra”. In the underworld she became a fearsome fire-breathing cobra who could kill with one gaze.

Her name may derive from the words “rnn” (to bring up, or nurse) and “wtt” (snake), but others have suggest that “rnnt” can mean “fortune” or “riches”.

A further possibility is that the first syllable is “rn”, translated as “name”. This would certainly fit with her role in naming children, but those who support this view tend to translate her name as “She who is in the name” which doesn’t actually fit the rest of the hieroglyphs. This brings us to a further possibility. Some sources refer to a separate snake goddess named Renenet, who was a goddess of nursing. They may well be one and the same, or they could have become merged over time, but it is also possible that the two have simply become confused by historians.

Renenutet was sometimes considered to be the wife of Geb (the earth god) and the mother of Nehebkau (the snake god who guarded the entrance to the underworld and protected Ra as he passed through every night), but other traditions held that she was married to Sobek or Shai, the god of destiny. She was the mother of Nepri, the personification of corn, who was closely associated with Osiris. However, as an example of perfect motherhood, she was merged with Isis (Osiris’s wife) as Isermithis or Thermouthis.

To the ancient Egyptians, names were words of great power. As the Goddess of suckling, Renenutet gave each newborn baby a secret name along with its mother’s milk. In this role she was given the epithet “She Who Rears”. She also protected children from curses. In fact, the child was said to “have Renenutet upon his shoulder from his first day”. In this role she was linked with Meskhenet, a goddess of childbirth, who actually oversaw the labour.

The ancient Egyptians believed that in order for a person to enjoy eternal life, their image and their name must survive. As Renenutet gave each person their name, she was linked with Shai, as a goddess of fate. Ramesses II stated that he was the “Lord of Shai and Creator of Renentet” as an indication of his power to control his own fate.

Renenutet and Shai were often depicted with Thoth and were sometimes named “the hands of Thoth”. In the Litany of Re (New Kingdom) she appears in the underworld as the “Lady of Justification”, associating her with the goddess Ma’at.

According to the Pyramid Texts, Renenutet was the goddess of plenty and good fortune. Snakes were often seen in the fields around harvest time, hunting the rodents who would threaten the crop. As a result, Renenutet was considered to protect the harvest and given the epithets “Goddess of the Double Granary”, the “Lady of Fertile Fields”, and the “Lady of Granaries”.

Amenemhet III and Amenemhet IV dedicated a temple to Renenutet, Sobek, and Horus at Dja (known to the Greeks as Narmouthis or Harmounthis and now called Medinet Madi) which was expanded during the Ptolemaic Period. In this temple an annual harvest festival was held in her honour during which a quantity of the best quality produce was dedicated to her, and throughout Egypt shrines to her were built in areas where wine was brewed.

Renenutet was also linked to the coming of the inundation and by the later period presided over the eighth month of the ancient Egyptian calendar known to us by the Greek name “Parmutit”.

From the early period, she was seen as protector of the pharaoh in the netherworld, with the epithet “Nourishing Snake”. Renenutet imbued his clothing with power which repelled his enemies. By the New Kingdom her power extended to the mummification ritual during which she imbued the mummy wrappings with magical power, and in the Ptolemaic Period this role was honoured with the epithet “The Lady of the Robes”.

Ptolemy II Philadelphus

Ptolemy II was the youngest son of Ptolemy I Soter. He had two elder brothers, Ptolemy Keraunos and Meleager, both of whom were Macedonian kings. He became his father’s co-regent in 284 BC and took over as the sole king of Egypt in 282 BC when his father died. During his reign, the Ptolemaic empire reached its greatest extent and Egypt was both wealthy and powerful.

Ptolemy II married Arsinoe I (the daughter of Lysimachus, the king of Thrace) as part of an alliance against Seleucus I Nicator (another general of Alexander the Great). She was the mother of his three legitimate children, Ptolemy III Euergetes (his successor), Lysimachus, and Berenice Phernopherus.

Lysimachus was married to Ptolemy II’s sister, Arsinoe II, but when he died she briefly married Ptolemy II’s elder brother Ptolemy Keraunos. When that alliance soured, Arsinoe II fled to Egypt to the protection of Ptolemy II. Shortly afterwards (and most likely at the instigation of Arsinoe II) Arsinoe I was accused of treason and exiled. Ptolemy II divorced Arsinoe I and married Arsinoe II and adopted the epithet Philadelphus (brother or sister-loving).

Ptolemy II was the first pharaoh to marry his full sister, but this form of marriage became standard for the remainder of the Ptolemaic dynasty. His marriage to Arsinoe II does not seem to have provoked any scandal. It was probably likened to the relationship between Osiris and Isis, and Zeus and Hera.

Arsinoe II seems to have adopted her husband’s children by his former wife (Arsinoe I) and there is no evidence that she had any children by Ptolemy. Perhaps because their marriage was political in nature it is not surprising that Ptolemy seems to have had a large number of mistresses, the most influential of whom seems to have been Bilistiche with whom he may have fathered Ptolemy Andromachou and who may even have been deified by Ptolemy after her death.

He was educated by Strato (of the school of Aristotle) and Philitas of Cos (an Alexandrian poet and scholar) and during his reign the royal court reached new heights of artistic and material splendour.

In 280 BC he inaugurated the Ptolemaieia, a festival held every four years to honour both his father and their dynasty. This festival was in part to rival the Olympic Games and in part to reinforce the power and popularity of the Royal Family. He also staged a lavish procession in Alexandria in honour of Dionysius involving twenty-four chariots and a large number of exotic animals and apparently he assembled an impressive zoo in Alexandria.

The Great Library of Alexandria was founded by Ptolemy I but completed and extended by Ptolemy II. Ptolemy was keen to support scientific research and was a generous sponsor of the arts. His court included many artists and poets, including Callimachus and Theocritus of Syracuse (who lavished great praise on his sponsor).

Most importantly, he commissioned an Egyptian priest, Manetho, to consult the records in the temples of Egypt and compile a history of Egypt. Unfortunately we do not have a full copy of Manetho’s work, only a list of the kings divided into a series of dynasties and excerpts which appear in the works of Josephus, Africanus, and Eusebius, but its importance cannot be overstated. Manetho’s work was originally written in Greek (possibly because Ptolemy did not read hieroglyphs).

The Letter of Aristeas (also known as the Letter of Philocrates) tells that Demetrios of Phaleron, a librarian in the Great Library, urged Ptolemy II to obtain a Greek translation of Hebrew laws. The king apparently sent lavish gifts to Jerusalem and granted freedom to numerous Jewish slaves and in return six members of each of the twelve tribes of Israel travelled to Alexandria to translate the Torah. The validity of the text is questioned by many scholars but there was indeed a translation of the Pentateuch during the early Ptolemaic Period and the text may also contain the earliest reference to the Great Library of Alexandria.

During the Ptolemaic Period there were a number of edicts published in which the text was repeated in Egyptian hieroglyphs, demotic, and Greek. However, the reign of Ptolemy II is notable for the number of royal declarations which were produced purely in hieroglyphs. Among them are numerous examples of Ptolemy making offerings to the ancient Egyptian gods and adoring his deified sister Arsinoe II, but there is also the famous Stele of Mendes. This stele claims that Ptolemy made a pilgrimage to visit the sacred Ram of Mendes and stresses that his actions were in accordance with ancient rituals and traditions. It also confirms that he then took action to restore damage to the temple.

Ptolemy undertook a great deal of building work throughout Egypt. He enlarged the shrine of Renenutet at Medinet Madi, built a gate between the temple of Imhotep and the temple of Isis on Philae, made additions to the temples of Elephantine and Thebes, left his mark on the temple of Sobek at Medinet el-Fayyum, and built a new main temple at Koptos. He also completed the Great Lighthouse of Alexandria (also known as Pharos) and ordered the construction of a number of cities along the red sea coast (along with numerous temples and canals) which helped to strengthen trade links with the Mediterranean and boost the Egyptian economy.

Pliny the Elder also reported that Ptolemy established trade links with India, probably with the emperor Ashoka, as he is mentioned in the Edicts of Ashoka.

Ptolemy also undertook a reform of the tax system to increase his revenues. He introduced a new salt tax which was imposed on every woman and man with only a few exceptions. This tax may have replaced an earlier yoke-tax, which was only imposed on men but at a higher rate, and it is interesting to note that among those exempt to the new tax were teachers of writing and gymnastics and all of the winners in the Alexandrian games.

Ptolemy transferred the responsibility for the collection of the one-sixth tax (hekte) from the temples to tax farmers giving the crown more effective control of both the levying and collection of taxation. He also reformed bronze coinage, introducing new denominations and widening their circulation.

These moves were partly aimed at increasing state control over Egyptian society, but were also made necessary by the need to finance wars in Syria. However, although the measures may have increased revenues they also increased the scope for bribery and tax evasion which were rife throughout the Ptolemaic period.

Ptolemy reformed the judiciary and promoted royal law above Egyptian and Greek law. He created three distinct courts: the Chrematistai was the royal court and heard cases on an ad hoc basis the Dikasteria heard cases involving Greek speaking parties and Laokritai heard cases involving parties who spoke Egyptian and was overseen by Egyptian priests.

Informal disputes were still handled outside the courts under Egyptian law with no state interference. While there was a clear aim to centralise control of the legal system, Ptolemy also respected local traditions and much of the reform may in fact have been a codification of the existing situation.

Ptolemy had mixed military fortunes. Magas of Cyrene attacked Egypt from the west but was forced to withdraw by internal revolt. Shortly after, the Seleucid king, Antiochus I Soter, attacked Egypt in the First Syrian War (274-271 BC) but was soundly beaten by Ptolemy II who extended Egypt’s control to include most of Cilicia. Fearful that Macedonian power in the Aegean would prevent the expansion of his own power in the area, Ptolemy encouraged the other Greek states to enter into a coalition against Macedon which ultimately resulted in the Chremonidean War (267 BC – 261 BC).

Athens led the other states in declaring war against Macedon but they were defeated and besieged. Ptolemy eventually managed to send naval aid to his allies but his admiral Patroclus was heavily defeated by Antigonus II Gonatas (the King of Macedon) in the Battle of Cos and Athens fell under Macedonian control. Although many ships were lost in the battle and a useful ally defeated, this only really constituted a temporary lapse in Egypt’s position as the major naval power of the Aegean.

Ptolemy also suffered losses in the Second Syrian War against Antiochus II Theos (260-253 BC) but successfully negotiated a peace under which his daughter Berenice was married to the Seleucid ruler. Despite his mixed fortunes he showed himself to be both an able general and a skillful negotiator.

6 Things to Do in Fayoum

Located a 100 KM southwest of Cairo, the Fayoum Oasis is one of Egypt’s most biodiverse and scenic destinations. Brimming with ancient treasures and charms and nestled on the Nile Delta where the ecosystem is both colorful and rich, Fayoum has always been a refuge for local tourists from across the country.

Its ideal weather makes it an all-year-round destination for weary urbanites and globe trotters alike. And, like most good things in life, Fayoum has something for everyone. Whether you are searching for answers to the universe’s biggest mysteries or simply want to spend your days off lounging and indulging in Egyptian cuisine classics, Fayoum is the place for you.

See Evolution at Work in Wadi El Hitan

This UESCO World Heritage Site and National Park is one of Egypt’s finest paleontological sites as it is home to the fossil remains of Archaeoceti, “the earliest, and now extinct, suborder of whales,” according to UNESCO. It is considered the world’s most important site for the study of evolution because it helps reconstruct the events of a remarkable shift in our natural history: the whale’s transition from a lan-based mammal to a marine one.

A Day in Wadi El Rayan

Home to pristine waterfalls and one of the world’s few remaining populations of the endangered slender-horned gazelle species, this nature reserve is a popular site among bird watchers and sand boarding enthusiasts. This biodiverse protectorate consists of upper and lower lakes connected by waterfalls, the biggest in Egypt. The site, located 65 KM southwest of Fayoum, is surrounded by picturesque springs and sand dunes.

Pottery at Tunis Village

One of several such sites, but by far the most exciting, Medinet Madi holds the remains of an ancient town named Dja in the Middle Kingdom and Narmuthis during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. During the reigns of Amenemhat III and Amenemhat IV, a temple honoring the cobra goddess Renenutet was built in Narmuthis. Medinet Madi also holds the remains of two more temples said to honor the gods Sobek and Horus.

A Walk Through Natural History at the Petrified Forest

Located North of Lake Qarun, Fayoum’s Petrified Forest is one of the largest in the region. Its fossilized trees are believed to belong to an ancient forest that grew more than 30 million years ago. The area holds the remains of trees as tall as 30 meters long and features a fairly diverse array of fossils, most of which are perfectly preserved.

Medinet Madi Temple - History

Medinet Habu Temple is situated on the western bank of the Nile in Luxor, it is also called the Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III. This Temple of Ramses III (1186-1155 BC) who is buried in KV11 in the Valley of the Kings, modeled his great mortuary temple on the Ramesseum of his ancestor Ramses II.

First Pylon

The First Pylon of Medinet Habu is nearly same size as the one in the Luxor Temple on the eastern banks of the Nile. The temple has lots of well preserved reliefs from the Egypt’s ancient past. This reliefs depicts prisoners being held by their hair while being smited with a club. On the front of the great pylon, king is depicted slaughtering the groups of enemies before his god. On the inner wall of the First Pylon shows Ramesses III scatters the Libyans with his chariot.

A statue of Sekhmet goddess sits close to the entrance. She was originally the warrior goddess as well as goddess of healing for Upper Egypt. Often she was depicted as lioness who would assist the ancient Egyptians during the wars.

This reliefs on the external wall depicts prisoners being held by their hair while being smited with a club

First and Second Courts of Medinet Habu Temple

The First Court of Medinet Habu Temple has tall columns and statues in it and reliefs show great details of Egyptian wars and other historical events. A beautifully decorated door leads to the Second Court. Nekhbet is depicted on the ceiling of the door between the first and the Second Court. She was a goddess patron of the city of Nekheb.
Second Court of the Medinet Habu has colourful depiction of it’s past and a great effort was put in, in order to create reliefs and frescoes in this temple. In the past, this court was also used as a Christian Church in the past. When the church was active here, the walls of the temple were covered with the mud.

Medinet Madi

Medinet Madi is one of the most important archaeological sites in the area of Fayoum. In the Greco-Roman Period it was known as Narmothis. It is located about 30 km south-west of Fayoum, near Wadi Al-Rayyan Waterfalls, which was founded during the reign of Amenhemhit III and IV during the Twelfth Dynasty. Its modern name means "the city of the past".

It contains the ruins of the only central kingdom, the temple of Medinet Madi, which is one of the most important temples in Fayoum, because of its well preserved condition. It was dedicated to the third Subic (the Alligator God), Rinonute (the goddess of the harvest serpent), and Horace of Chidit.

The temple was originally built in the Twelfth Dynasty by Amenemhat III and IV. It was then restored during the 19th Dynasty. The name of the King of Usurcon of Dynasty 23 is also found on the walls of the temple.

Maidant Maid contains two temples and about a dozen Coptic churches dating back to the Roman era, as many additions were established to the northern and southern sides of the Central Kingdom during the Ptolemaic period.

The Ptolemaic extension of the temple included the avant-garde road to the south with its bosoms and sphinx (both Egyptian and Greek), which passed through a vertical booth leading eventually to the gallery of two ancient columns.

It has been suggested that an unusually good preservation of this temple complex, which was excavated by a team of archaeologists from the University of Milan in the 1930s, may be due only to relative isolation.

Watch the video: Traditional Pottery in El Fayoum, Egypt (July 2022).


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