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Egypt Travel - Aswan: The Temple of Isis at Philae


The Temple of Isis at Philae
(the Temple of Isis and Horus the Child, Harpocrates)

Beyond the Vestibule of Nectanebos I at Philae, the western colonnade follows that edge of the island and is the most complete. Here, no two capitals are the same, while the eastern colonnade, even after 800 years of building, was never completed. There are several structures just outside the eastern colonnade. Outside the Southern end is the ruins of a Temple of Arenanuphis. Midway is the Chapel of Mandulis, and at the Northern end of the colonnade is a Temple of Imhotep, which is very complete and has Images on the forecourt walls depict Ptolemy IV before Imhotep along with other gods including Khnum, Satet, Anukis, Osiris and Isis.


The first pylon consists of two sections which were begun by Ptolemy II Philadelphos and completed by Ptolemy I Euergetes. The actual portal dates to Nectanebo I and is older There is an inscription in the portal commemorating the victory of General Desaix over the Mamelukes in 1799. There were once two granite obelisks here, including one which contained Cleopatra's Cartouche, but now only a pair of granite lions remain. On the east side of the pylon and set at a right angle to it is the gate of Ptolemy II. Upon the facade of the pylon are traditional scenes of battle and offering. They include images of Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos, Hathor, Horus of Edfu, Unnefer (Osiris after his resurrection), Isis and Harsiesis. The western Pylon is split, allowing entrance to the mamissi (birth house). The rear of the first pylon has images of priests carrying Isis barque.

Inside the first pylon there is a Birthouse (Mamissi) to the left and quarters for the priests and guards to the right. Birth Houses became important after Hatshepsuts depiction at Deir el Bahri of her divine birth. It then became popular for each pharaoh to legitimize his rule by demonstrating his descent from Horus. The birth house in this temple serves that purpose, and is similar to those at Dendera and Edfu. A pronaos leads into three rooms consisting of two vestibules and the sanctuary. There are traditional scenes of Isis the Elder being worshipped by the mother of Hathor in the second vestibule. It is interesting that on the inside of the back wall are scenes of Horus wearing the double crown rising up in triumph, while on the outside of this same wall are images of Isis nursing the infant Horus in the swamp. Around the birth house are colonnades . Here, one will find inscriptions dating from Euergetes II, Neos Dionysos, Augustus and Tiberius. On the shore of the island closest the Birth House is a Nilometer.

On the east wall of the forecourt are images showing the King dragging the barque of Soker, and behind the wall are four rooms believed to have been used by either priests or guards. A fifth room is called the library and has Baboon and ibis forms of Thoth.

The second Pylon is offset to the east of the first and angled so as to change the axis of the structure. In eastern front of the pylon is a small Roman Chapel, with inscriptions of Ptolemy IV behind. The pylon entrance leads into a hypostyle hall of typical style for the Ptolemaic period. The columns are of high quality with fine workmanship. There are images on the ceiling depicting the vulture of Upper and Lower Egypt, and the barques of night and day.

The hall leads into three antechambers, which then lead into the Sanctuary. There is a pedestal that once supported the royal barque of Isis, dedicated by Ptolemy III and his wife, Bernice. In the first antechamber there is a staircase which leads to the Chapel of Osiris, where there are religious ritual scenes depicting Osiris, as well as Isis, Nephthys and Osiris-Wenennefer and in an inner room, scenes of the resurrection of Osiris with Horus, Nephthys, Selket, Douait and Sokar, all gods related to that myth.

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