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Philae Temple Complex

Philae Temple Complex (مجمع معبد فيلة), now located on Agilkia Island, was originally built near the expansive First Cataract of the Nile in Upper Egypt on the Philae Island. The main temple on the island of Philae is the Temple of Isis, but there also a number of smaller temples and shrines dedicated to other deities and Pharaohs and at least two known Nilomemters.


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Since Philae was said to be one of the burying-places of Osiris, it was held in high reverence both by the Egyptians to the north and the Nubians (often referred to as "Ethiopians" in Greek) to the south.

The temple complex was dismantled and moved to Agilkia Island as part of the UNESCO Nubia Campaign project, protecting this and other complexes before the 1970 completion of the Aswan High Dam. Philae, being accounted one of the burying-places of Osiris, was held in high reverence both by the Egyptians to the north and the Nubians.

The conventional name (Philae) is Greek, but locally the site is known as Qaṣr Anas al-Wujūd, for a hero of The Thousand and One Nights.

Notable Structures

circa 1279 BCE

Temple of Isis
The Temple of Isis is the central and largest structure on the Island. The temple was primarily dedicated to Isis but her husband Osiris and her son Horus were also worshipped here. It was erected during the third and second centuries BCE and decorated from the time of Ptolemy II onward. The current Temple of Isis is predominantly a Ptolemaic structure.

circa 1279 BCE

Kiosk of Nectanebo
Nectanebo’s Kiosk is a pillared, roofless hall that originally had 14 columns, of which six remain. Kiosk of Nectanebo I was built on the southern end of the island, it stands at the main entrance to the colonnade. It was built in the 30th dynasty, to honor Isis, and it is clear that it was the prototype for the later kiosks on the island and elsewhere. The remaining columns have two capitals — the ornate floral capitals, and above them hathor-headed square columns. The walls of this vestibule are decorated with reliefs of the king sacrificing various items to the gods. Screen walls of the Kiosk are connected by Hathor columns and topped with uraei (serpentine) carvings.

circa 1279 BCE

Kiosk of Trajan
The Kiosk of Trajan lies some 20 meters south of the Temple of Hathor. Once it may have served as the main entrance from the river. The structure, locally known as the Pharaoh's bed, was not finished. Only the southern screen walls were decorated with two offering scenes under this emperor; the actual building may date to the reign of Augustus. It probably served as a resting point during processions.

circa 1279 BCE

Byzantine Temple
This relatively small temple was built during Byzantine era, it was later converted and used as a church.

circa 1279 BCE

Gateway of Hadrian
Gateway of Emperor Hadrian, is actually a long corridor-like passage with decorated side walls and a now lost columned porch attached to its west exit. It is the latest cultic building on Philae with proper, though not fully completed temple reliefs, datable to between c. 117 and 180 CE. Originally, the gate was located opposite the mooring chapel on Biga and served as a departure point for the bark procession of Isis to the tomb of Osiris on the abaton. Among other things, it bears the abaton decree with regulations concerning the cult of Osiris on Biga and a text recording the donation of a vineyard to the Temple of Isis.

circa 1279 BCE

Undecorated Chapel
At the western end of the path that linked the kiosk with the Gate of Philadelphus there is a small undecorated Roman chapel.

circa 1279 BCE

Gate of Ptolemy II
The Gate of Ptolemy II Philadelphus lies between the Temple of Imhotep and the first pylon of the Temple of Isis, north of the first colonnade. The gate is decorated with images of the Pharaoh being led forward by Isis. It may have already been erected in the 30th Dynasty for the Late Period Temple of Isis. Later it was decorated by Ptolemy II and joined to the Ptolemaic first pylon of Isis.

circa 1279 BCE

Large Nilomemter

circa 1279 BCE

Shrine of Psamtik II
The earliest known cult building dedicated to Isis, was a small shrine built by Psamtik II (during the Saite period). Amasis (also of the Saite Period) built a small temple on the island. As a result it is generally agreed that the Saite kings brought the worship of Isis to Philae.

circa 1279 BCE

The Mammisi (birth-house) is located on the western flank of the inner courtyard. It is surrounded on three sides by a colonnade of floral topped columns each crowned with a sistrum and Hathor-headed capital. The Mammisi (birth house) was a common feature of Ptolemaic temples and the example on Philae is similar in layout and decoration to examples at Dendera and Edfu.

circa 1279 BCE

Temple of Imhotep
Temple of Imhotep was located behind the northern end of the rear wall of the first eastern colonnade. It was dedicated by Ptolemy V, possibly in gratitude for the birth of his son Ptolemy VI.

circa 1279 BCE

Temple of Hathor
On the east side of the Temple of Isis stands the temple of Hathor which was decorated under Ptolemy VI, Ptolemy VIII, and Augustus and once had its own mud-brick enclosure wall. A block built into walls close to the temple also mentions Ptolemy XII. The columned vestibule on its west was added under Augustus or earlier, rather than Tiberius. In the mid-first century CE, a quay-platform was annexed on the east side. The cult of the temple focused on Hathor as embodiment of the Sun’s Eye that was brought back from Nubia.

circa 1279 BCE

Temple of Harendotes
A short distance north of the Gate of Hadrian lies the temple of Harendotes which was decorated by Claudius. Today only the pavement and lowest course of blocks remain; many blocks were reused in the Western Church.

circa 1279 BCE

Temple of Arensnuphis
The modest temple of the Nubian god Arensnuphis, located on the southern end of the eastern colonnade, was erected on the remains of an older building. It goes back at least to Ptolemy IV; after that king, Arkamani (Ergamenes) II, Ptolemy V, Ptolemy VI or VIII, and Tiberius enlarged or decorated the temple. The sanctuary of Arensnuphis, who had a cult association on the island and whose worship is rarely attested further north is a tribute to the Nubian-Egyptian cultural environment in which Philae is embedded.

Christian Church

circa 1279 BCE

The pronaos of the abandoned Isis Temple . Obviously this was regarded as a remarkable event, as it is recorded in several inscriptionswas turned into a church of St. Stephanos by bishop Theodorus. Some of the minor sanctuaries of Philae were also transformed into churches (temples of Arensnuphis and Hathor, and maybe the temple of Imhotep as well).

Philae Obelisk

circa 1279 BCE

The Philae obelisk is one of twin obelisks discovered in 1815 at Philae in Upper Egypt. It was discovered nearly intact, while its twin had broken into pieces in antiquity. Both were soon afterwards obtained by William John Bankes, an acquisition which included an important bilingual inscription. The inscriptions record a petition by the Egyptian priests at Philae and the favourable response by Ptolemy VIII Euergetes and queens Cleopatra II and Cleopatra III. The obelisk has been dated to approximately 118 or 117 BCE.


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Points of Interest