Isis temple

Isis temple

Isis temple This is the main temple (1) on the island,Its construction was started under Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-247 B.C.) and completed in all its essential details by Ptolemy III Euergetes I (247- 221 B.c.).

Its decoration, both inscriptions and reliefs, proceeded gradually.

Two granite lions with damaged faces guard the entrance to the temple.

Behind them rises the huge entrance pylon (P.1), eighteen meters high and forty-five meters wide.

Each of the two towers is decorated with reliefs of Neos Dionysos (Ptolemy XII) in his role as a pharaoh of Egypt.

In the reliefs he wears the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt.

He clasps his enemies by the hair in one hand, while raising a club above their heads in the other, preparing to smite them in the presence of lsis and Nephthys, Horus and Hathor.

Isis temple

Isis temple

A hymn on this pylon describes Isis as “the Lady of Philae . Q . who prolongs the years of him who is submissive to her.” In other words, she has power over the lives of her adherents.

On the lintel of the gateway between the two towers of the pylon is a representation of Nektanebo I making offerings to Osiris, Isis, Khnum, and Hathor.
Birth House The western tower of the entrance pylon gives access (h) to the Birth House or Mammisi-which may also be approached through the first court (g).

It is an elegant building comprising a forecourt leading to three inner chambers flanked by colonnades. Its architectural history baffled some scholars.

Fortunately, during the dismantling and re-erection of the structure clues have come to light.

It now seems certain that the plan of the building was not homogeneous but underwent various changes during construction, especially between the reigns of Ptolemy V (who recorded his suppression of an Upper Egyptian revolt on the east wall of the vestibule) and Ptolemy VIII.

Isis temple

Isis temple

Birth houses started to be constructed toward the end of the pharaonic period, and were regular features of temples through – out Greco-Roman times.

The reliefs related to the divine birth of the pharaoh as Horus, and its importance for the line of succession.

The reason for stressing this ancient tradition was to show that Horus (who was identified with Egypt’s earliest pharaohs) was the offspring of the gods. Consequently, any sovereign who recognized this tradition showed that he, too, should be regarded as a descendant of Horus who ruled by divine sanction.

Foreign rulers followed this tradition.
Beyond the entrance portico (supported by four column s) are three chambers, one behind the other.

All contain well-preserved reliefs now illuminated by floodlights slanting upward from ground level. _ In the third chamber there are two particularly interesting scenes.

The first is on the lower reaches of the rear wall.

It shows Isis giving birth to her son Horus in the presence of Amun-Re and Thoth, the god of wisdom. Behind the former are the serpent goddess Wadjet of Lower Egypt and Thoth.

Behind the latter are Nekhbet the vulture goddess of  Upper Egypt and Sheshat the god of reason.

On the upper register, Horus, as a hawk, stands among the papyrus plants crowned with the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt.

The second scene, on the left-hand wall, shows the standing child Horus suckling from the breast of lsis. Ptolemy lXh ands two mirrors to Hath or, who places her hands in blessing on the head of the child.

Isis temple First Court

The first court of the temple (g) is irregular in shape because of the angle at which the second pylon (P. 2) is set.

lt is slightly higher than the court and is reached by a stairway.

To the right (i) is a large granite rock built into the base of the right-hand tower.

The fact that the rock was not cut away for the construction of the pylon suggests that it was regarded as sacred.

This is a similar idea to the tiny shrine left beneath the temple of Satis on Elephantine (p.48).
We now enter the pronaos Qi) with ten columns still showing traces of color on the capitals.

Isis temple The walls

are adorned with colored reliefs. In order to build this hall, the earlier temple of Amasis (p.60) had to be dismantled and the rocks leveled.

This part of the temple was converted into a church during the Christian period.

Representations of the ancient Egyptian key of life, the ankh.

(which s`cholars agree was the origin of the Christian ansate cross) have been converted into crosses in several places.

Some Christian grafiiti remain.

Between the columns to the left side is an altar with niche and decorations carved out of the wall of the temple.

The surrounding area was covered with stucco and painted with pictures of saints.

There is an almost illegible Greek inscription on the right-hand side of the doorway leading to the ante-chamber (1) which reads: “This work {i.e. covering up or destroying the pagan reliefs] was done by the Abbot Bishop Theodore.

The Cross conquered and will ever conquer.” Later, in 1841, Pope Gregory Xl/l sent an archaeological expedition, and in commemorating it he, too, disfigured the ancient monument.

The ante-chamber that follows is small, but excellently illuminated to reveal some fine representations, particularly of Isis.

Two more ante-chambers lead to the sanctuary (rn), where the sacred barge bearing the statue of the goddess once stood.

lt has tiny windows and a large pedestal.

According to the inscriptions, the latter was installed by Ptolemy II and his wife Berenice. _ Surrounding the sanctuary are storerooms and chambers for the priests.

Above, on the upper level of the temple, are the so-called Osiris chambers, approached from a stairway to the left of the temple.

These four chambers are shrines that date from Ptolemaic times.

Isis temple

Isis temple

The reliefs relate parts of the Osiris myth, the most complete version of which was given by Plutarch, the Greek writer (c. /\.D. 46-126). Those in the chamber to the southwest are the most interesting.

They show offerings made to Osiris while Isis and Nephthys spread their wings around him.

 Isis temple The body of Osiris

lies on a bier being embalmed by Isis, Nephthys, and thejackal-headed Anubis.

Isis in the form of a ba-bird hovers above Osiris to receive his seed and beget Horug_Hadrian’s Arch Hadrian’s Arch, or Gateway (2), was built in the first half of the second century /\.D.

It stands on the bank of the river.

On the lintel is a representation of`Hadrian sacrificing to the gods.

One relief is particularly worth noting, the famous relief’ that relates to the source of’ the Nile.

It is a small representation in the chamber to the north, on the right-hand wall. Blocks of stone are heaped one upon the other.

Standing on top is a vulture (representing Upper Egypt) and a hawk (representing Lower Egypt).

Beneath the rocks is a circular chamber outlined by the contours ofa serpent, within which Hapi the Nile-god crouches. He clasps a vessel in each hand ready, at the appointed time, to
pour the water toward each of the Two Lands of Upper and Lower Egypt.

Isis temple Temple of Harendotus

This temple of Harendotus (3) is a small structure to the west of the main temple. Both the building and the decoration are attributed to the emperor Claudius.

It was largely destroyed in the early Christian period and many of its blocks were reused in a small Coptic church built nearby.

Isis temple Temple of Hathor

The temple of Hathor (4) lies due east of the main temple and is in fact no more than a shrine. It comprises a hall, vestibule, and several small chambers.

It was constructed partly in the
reign of Ptolemy IX, and rebuilt under Augustus.

There are Greek inscriptions on the walls in which Hathoris equated with Aphrodite. The reliefs are more in the Hellenic than the Egyptian tradition, with lively and charming representations of flute-players, the laughing dwarf-deity Bes (who plays a tam~bcurine and a harp), and scenes of’ apes playing the lyre while priests carry an antelope.

Isis temple The Kiosk

Trajan’s Kiosk (5) is also known as Pharaoh’s Bed.

It was built in the second century ‘ and is one of the most beautifully proportioned and most graceful buildings on the island, and the one for which Philae is most often remembered.

lt is an unroofed structure that seems to have been of Roman rather than Ptolemaic inspiration.

Entry is through two doorways to the east and west.

The fourteen columns are connected by screen walls enclosing a rectangular space that has no flooring, The structure was left unfinished.

The only completed reliefs show Trajan burning incense before Isis and Osiris.

The columns have floral capitals,

which support blocks that carry the architraves and cornice.

These blocks were undoubtedly planned to be carved into sistrum capitals, but they were never completed.

To the south and east of the Isis temple complex was the area occupied by the dwellings of the people who served the temple.

In the sixth century, when the cult of lsis ceased, lay residents of Philae took over these dwellings and began also to encroach on the west.

Eventually the area to the south of the great pylon (which had hitherto been reserved to accommodate devotees of Isis on festive occasions) was also occupied by residents on the island, now officially Christian.

one for which Philae is most often remembered.

lt is an unroofed structure that seems to have been of Roman rather than Ptolemaic inspiration.

Entry is through two doorways to the east and west.

The fourteen columns are connected by screen walls enclosing a rectangular space that has no flooring, The structure was left unfinished.

The only completed reliefs show Trajan burning incense before Isis and Osiris.

The columns have floral capitals,

which support blocks that carry the architraves and cornice.

These blocks were undoubtedly planned to be carved into sistrum capitals, but they were never completed.

To the south and east of the Isis temple complex was the area occupied by the dwellings of the people who served the temple.

In the sixth century,

when the cult of Isis ceased, lay residents of Philae took over these dwellings and began also to encroach on the west.

Eventually the area to the south of the great pylon (which had hitherto been reserved to accommodate devotees of Isis on festive occasions) was also occupied by residents on the island, now officially Christian.

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