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The History and Secrets of Philae Temple

May 24
Deep in the heart of Egypt lies a mesmerizing temple that has been wowing visitors for over 3,500 years. This ancient wonder, known as Philae Temple, is a breathtaking testament to the incredible architectural feats of the pharaohs. From the grand entrance to the intricate carvings on the walls, every inch of Philae Temple is steeped in history and intrigue. Join us on a journey through time as we explore this remarkable temple's impressive details and stunning design.

Introduction and Location of Philae Temple

Welcome to Philae Temple, a magnificent temple complex located on an island in the reservoir of the Nile River downstream of the Aswan Low Dam in Egypt. The island, with a length of only 450 metres and a width of less than 150 metres, captured the imagination of countless travellers to Egypt. It was famed for its natural beauty, with palm trees and plants growing from the fertile deposits in the crevices of the bedrock. The surrounding area has been variously flooded since the initial construction of the Aswan Low Dam in 1902. The temple complex was dismantled and moved to its current location on the nearby island of Agilka as part of the Nubia Campaign project that aimed to protect this and other complexes before the 1970 completion of the Aswan High Dam.

The Philae Temple was a sacred place for Egyptians and the Nubians due to its association with Osiris. It was one of the burying places of Osiris and was held in high reverence. According to tradition, only the priests were allowed to dwell there, and it was sequestered and denominated the Unapproachable. It was believed that neither birds flew over it nor fish approached its shores. The island was also remarkable for the special effects of light and shade resulting from its position near the Tropic of Cancer. Visitors to the temple saw the shadows from the projecting cornices and mouldings of the temples sink lower and lower down the plain surfaces of the walls, forming a striking contrast with the fierce light that illuminated all surrounding objects.

The most conspicuous feature of both islands was their architectural wealth. Monuments of various eras, extending from the Pharaohs to the Caesars, occupy nearly the whole area. The principal structures, however, lay at the south end of the smaller island, where visitors can find the most ancient temple for Isis, which was approached from the river through a double pylon. Other structures on the island included temples to two Nubian deities: Mandolis and Arhesnoter, a temple for Nekhtnebef, and a temple for the builder of Zoser’s step pyramid, Imhotep, who was later deified. In a word, Philae Temple is a place that reflects the richness of ancient Egyptian and Nubian cultures, where visitors can immerse themselves in the grandeur of the past. [1][2]

History of Philae Temple Complex

If you were to explore the Philae Temple complex, you would discover a fascinating history that spans thousands of years. Originally located on an island near the expansive rapids of the Nile River in Egypt, the temple complex was dedicated to the goddess Isis and considered one of the country's most important religious sites. However, as the land surrounding the temple complex was flooded due to the construction of the Aswan Low Dam in the early 20th century, the complex was dismantled and moved to its current location on Philae Island, where it remains today.

The temple complex includes structures dating back to the reign of Pharaoh Tuthmosis III and those constructed during the Ptolemaic period. Visitors to the island can still view the impressive ruins of the temple for Osiris, built in the 4th century BC, and the temple for Harendotus, son of King Ptolemy II. But the most impressive feature of the complex is the temple dedicated to the goddess Isis. It was constructed in the 2nd century BC and underwent many renovations and embellishments over the centuries, making it one of Egypt's most beautiful and important temples.

The temple complex at Philae was not just a religious site, however. It was also an important centre of commerce between Egypt and Nubia, with a gallery or road constructed in the rocks along the east bank of the Nile for the convenience of traders. The islands of Philae were also home to a population of miners and stonemasons who worked in the nearby quarries.

Despite its many impressive features, the Philae Temple complex was almost lost forever due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam in the mid-20th century. The impending flooding of the area threatened to destroy the temple complex once again, but a massive international effort was launched to save it. The complex was dismantled and moved to higher ground nearby, ensuring it would remain a valuable part of Egypt’s cultural heritage for generations.

Today, visitors to the Philae Temple complex can marvel at its impressive architectural features and learn about its important role in Egypt’s history. From the legendary goddess Isis to the stunning structures and intricate hieroglyphics, the temple complex at Philae remains an important reminder of Egypt’s rich cultural heritage. [3][4]

Construction of the Temple of Isis

Are you curious about how the magnificent Temple of Isis was built? Well, look no further! This guide will take you through how this temple, one of North America's largest collections of Egyptian artefacts, was constructed.

1. Planning and Design: The construction of the Temple of Isis began during the reign of Ptolemy II, Egypt's Greco-Roman Period. The temple was designed to honour the goddess Isis, Osiris, and Horus.

2. Building Materials: The temple's walls were built with limestone, sandstone, and granite sourced from nearby quarries. These materials were transported to Philae Island via the Nile River.

3. Construction Techniques: The temple's builders used cutting, exfoliation, and polishing techniques to shape and finish the stones used to construct the temple. They would also use pulleys, ramps, and levers to transport and position the massive stones.

4. Interior and Exterior Detailing: The temple's walls were decorated with hieroglyphs and carvings depicting Egyptian mythology, such as the resurrection of Osiris and the birth of Horus. The temple's pillars and statues were also intricately carved with various symbols and hieroglyphs.

5. Addition of Smaller Temples: Along with the main temple, smaller temples and shrines dedicated to other Egyptian deities, including Imhotep, Hathor, Osiris, Horus, and Nephthys, were added to the island complex.

6. Relocation: In the 20th century, the temple was in danger of being submerged forever by constructing the new Aswan Dam. Fortunately, the Egyptian government and UNESCO worked together to relocate the entire temple stone-by-stone (50,000 stones!) to a nearby island called Agilka.

By following these steps, you can understand the complexity and beauty of constructing the Temple of Isis. It is a testament to ancient Egyptian builders' and architects' ingenuity and skill. Visitors can still marvel at this stunning monument and learn more about its history and construction techniques. [5][6]

Dedication and Importance of Goddess Isis

Are you curious about the goddess Isis and her significance in Egyptian history? Let's journey back in time and explore her dedication and importance.

1. Her Name and Symbolism - Isis is a Greek rendering of her name in Ancient Egyptian, which means "throne". She was commonly depicted wearing a throne on her head, symbolizing her role as the mother goddess. She was also often shown breastfeeding her son Horus, representing her nurturing and protective qualities.

2. Goddess of Fertility and Motherhood - Isis was primarily known as a goddess of fertility and motherhood. She was often invoked by women seeking help with childbirth or protection for their children. She was also associated with the annual flooding of the Nile River, which brought fertile soil and abundance to the land.

3. Wife of Osiris - In Egyptian mythology, Isis was the wife of Osiris, the god of the afterlife. When Osiris was murdered and dismembered by his brother Seth, Isis searched for his remains and used her magic to bring him back to life. This act of resurrection made her a symbol of hope and renewal.

4. Symbol of Magic and Healing - Isis was also a skilled magician and healer. She was believed to have great power over the natural world and could control the elements. She was associated with the healing powers of herbs and incantations, and her cult spread throughout the Mediterranean region.

5. Devotion and Worship - Isis was one of the Egyptian pantheon's most popular and widely worshipped goddesses. Her cult spread beyond Egypt and reached as far as Greece and Rome. She was often associated with other deities, such as Osiris, Horus, and Hathor. Her devotees would visit temples and offerings in her honour, seeking protection and blessings.

The dedication and importance of the goddess Isis can be seen throughout Egyptian history and beyond. She was a symbol of femininity, fertility, and power, and her cult continues to inspire spiritual seekers today. Whether you visit the Temple of Isis at Philae or explore her many myths and legends, the goddess Isis remains a fascinating and enduring figure in human history. [7][8]

Ptolemaic and Roman Era Additions to the Temple

When you visit the Philae Temple, you will see the fascinating additions made during the Ptolemaic and Roman eras. Among them is the Temple of Isis, built by Ptolemy II Philadelphus and his successor Ptolemy III Euergetes. It was completed with the help of Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius, but their decorations were never finished. The Roman emperor Hadrian also contributed to the temple by adding a gate to the complex's west. In addition to the Temple of Isis, other smaller temples and shrines are dedicated to Egyptian deities such as Imhotep, Hathor, Osiris, Horus, and Nephthys.

The temple walls are adorned with scenes from Egyptian mythology depicting events such as the resurrection of Osiris, the birth of Horus, and the mummification of Osiris after his death. You can also see the remains of obelisks in front of the temple, which were removed by British Consul Henry Salt and his assistant Giovanni Belzoni in 1918. These obelisks now stand in a garden in Dorset, England.

The Philae Temple was threatened with submersion forever due to the construction of the Aswan Dam in the 1960s. Still, fortunately, the Egyptian government and UNESCO worked together to pump the area dry and relocate the entire temple to a nearby island called Agilka, stone by stone.

Today, you can still see the incredible additions to the Philae Temple during the Ptolemaic and Roman eras. Each temple area honours different Egyptian deities with intricate carvings and beautiful architecture. It is truly a sight to behold and a testament to the rich history of ancient Egypt. [9][10]