Temple of Isis (Philae)
The Temple of Isis at Philae, now located at the Agilkia Island, was built to honour the goddess Isis, this was the last temple built in the classical Egyptian style. Construction began around 690 BCE, and it was one of the last outposts where the goddess was worshipped.
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.
The first pylon consists of two 60 foot towers with a gate between them. There are grooves cut into each side of the pylon to support flag poles. In front of the main gateway to the first pylon stand two Roman style lions carved from pink granite. Parts of this pylon date back as early as to the time of Nectanebo I. At the base of the first pylon a series of small personified Nile figures present offerings.
The Second pylon is approximately 105 foot wide and 40 foot high and is not set parallel to the First Pylon. A series of small steps lead to the gateway between the two towers. The pylon towers depict scenes of Pharoahs making offerings to the gods. A staircase in the western tower leads to the roof and the “Osirian Chambers”. Both towers have grooves for flagpoles just like those on the First Pylon.
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.
On the eastern side of the inner courtyard (opposite the Mammisi) there is a colonnade with access to a few small storerooms and in the north the Second Pylon provides access to the main structure of the Temple of Isis.
Forecourt or the 'dromos' is the large, paved, trapezoidal area in front of the Temple of Isis. This forecourt is flanked by two colonnades on its eastern and western ends. The court, perhaps inspired by Hellenistic public spaces was created under Ptolemy VI or VIII and destined to receive visitors during festivities.
The 77 m long western colonnade with 32 columns and 12 openings in the rear wall was decorated under Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero and served as a pronaos of the sanctuaries located on the neighboring abaton.
The 42 meter long, largely unfinished first eastern colonnade with 16 columns functioned as a common vestibule for the sanctuaries located behind the rear wal, which were accessible through six doors.
Beyond the hypostyle hall there lie three vestibules, leading into the Inner Sanctuary of Isis.
Originally two granite shrines stood here, one containing a gold statue of Isis and another containing the barque in which the statue travelled, but these were long ago moved to Florence and Paris, and only the stone pedestal for the barque remains, inscribed with the names of Ptolemy III and his wife, Berenice.
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Procopius Bell. Pers. 1.19.37
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- The Greek inscription has been referred to by scholars as "OGI 137–139; SB 8396; Lenger, C. Ord. Ptol., 51 f.; A. Bern., 19".
- Historic England. "Obelisk 140m south west of Kingston Lacy House (1323828)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
- Dijkstra, Jitse H.F. (2004). "A Cult of Isis at Philae after Justinian? Reconsidering 'P. Cair. Masp.' I 67004". Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik. 146: 137–154. JSTOR 20191757.
Points of Interest