Temple of Horus, Edfu
The 2,000 year old Temple of Horus, almost perfectly preserved, creates an overwhelming impression. Built on the site of an earlier temple, it was dedicated to the sun god Horus, Hathor of Dendera and their son the youthful Harsomtus (Hersemtawi), "Uniter of the Two Lands". The history of its construction and a description of the whole structure are set forth in long inscriptions on the outside of the enclosure wall, particularly at the north end of the east and west sides.
Entrance fee in EGP: Adult £20.00
The great Pylon originally stood within an inner enclosure wall of brick, and the entrance was closed by a double door. It is covered on all sides with reliefs and inscriptions. Particularly notable are the reliefs on the front: below, King Neos Dionysos smiting his enemies, whom he holds by the hair, with the falcon headed Horus and Hathor looking on; in the top two rooms the King making offerings to Horus, to Hathor and Horus, "Uniter of the Two Lands", and to other divinities. On each side of the main entrance are two perpendicular recesses for flagstaffs, which were secured in position by clamps fastened to the holes still to be seen in the masonry directly above. The other small rectangular apertures are windows designed to admit light and air to the interior of the temple.In each tower a passage leads to the outside of the enclosure wall, which is decorated with religious reliefs (Ptolemy X Alexander I before the gods of Edfu) and inscriptions, as well as the inscriptions relating to the temple itself which have already been referred to. In front of the pylon are two colossal falcons of black granite; in front of the left-hand one is the figure of a priest in Roman dress.
The colonnaded Forecourt between the pylon and the vestibule of the temple is paved with stone slabs and surrounded on three sides by a total of 32 columns. In the middle there once stood the great altar upon which offerings were made to the gods of Edfu in the presence of the assembled people. The columns have rich flower and palm capitals, and the incised reliefs show the King (whose name has been left blank in the inscriptions) before Horus and the other deities of Edfu.
The rear walls of the colonnade are covered with three rows of large reliefs depicting the Pharaoh (Ptolemy IX Soter II or Ptolemy X Alexander I) holding converse with the gods or in the person of the victorious god Horus. Similar representations are repeated all over the temple. On the sides of the pylon the King is shown, with the Lower Egyptian crown on the west side and the Upper Egyptian crown on the east side, proceeding to the temple and being sprinkled with the water of consecration by Horus and Thoth. The doors to right and left of these reliefs lead to the staircases inside the pylon; the east and west exits are walled up. Outside the east exit are the remains of a building dating from the reign of Ramesses III.
Facade of the Vestibule
At the far end of the forecourt is the handsome facade of the vestibule, topped by a cavetto cornice. Between the columns on either side of the large central doorway are low stone screens, on which King Euergetes II is depicted in the presence of the falcon headed Horus (on the four outermost screens) and of Hathor (on the two middle screens) making offerings or standing with his arms hanging by his sides.
The Vestibule has 12 columns with elaborate floral capitals. The ceiling is covered with astronomical representations, now blackened beyond recognition. On the walls are four rows of incised reliefs showing Euergetes making offerings to the gods or performing ritual acts (e.g. laying the foundation stone of the temple, in the bottom row on the left hand wall). Above are a band of astronomical representations and an ornamental frieze consisting of the names of the King guarded by two falcons. Below, just above the floor, are Euergetes, his wife Cleopatra and a long file of local gods bringing offerings to the three principal divinities of Edfu. The door in the east wall leads into the inner passage round the temple. On each side of the entrance is a chapel. The one on the left (west) is the Hall of Consecration, as the reliefs on the rear wall (Horus and Thoth pouring the sacred water on the King) suggest; the one on the right was a Library, with a list of books it contained inscribed on the wall and, to the left, a figure of Seshat, goddess of writing. On the architrave of the door leading into the Hypostyle Hall is an interesting relief of the solar barque, guided by two falcon headed Horus figures, with the sun worshiped by Thoth and Neith. At the sides, in the attitude of prayer, are Ptolemy IV Philopator (left) and the Four Senses to the right sight and hearing, to the left taste (symbolized by the tongue) and reason.
The Hypostyle Hall, the roof of which is supported by 12 columns with elaborate floral capitals, is lit by apertures in the walls and roof and has reliefs similar to those in the vestibule. There are two small chambers on each side. The nearer one on each side leads into the inner passage round the temple; the second on the left served as a laboratory, and the second on the right gave access to the east staircase up to the temple roof.
Beyond the hypostyle hall is the First Antechamber, with staircases on either side leading to the roof. As at Dendera, the mural reliefs depict the procession of priests, headed by the King, ascending (east side) and descending (west side). The rooms on the east side of the roof, probably serving the cult of Osiris, are of little interest.
On the east side of the Second Antechamber is a small Court of Offerings, and to the left of this an elegant little Kiosk, the roof of which is supported on two columns with floral capitals; on the ceiling is the sky goddess Nut, with the various figures of the sun in boats beneath her. On the other side of the Second Antechamber is a small room dedicated to the cult of the god Min.
In the Sanctuary, which is lit by three small square apertures in the roof, the most interesting reliefs are those in the bottom row on the right hand wall. The King (Philopator) is depicted removing the lock from in the Temple of Horus, Edfu Horus's chapel; opening the door of the chapel; standing before the god in a reverential attitude with his arms hanging by his sides; offering incense to his deified parents, Euergetes I and Berenice; and offering incense before the sacred barque of Hathor. On the rear wall is a relic of the Pre Ptolemaic temple, a granite shrine with a pointed roof dedicated to Horus by Nectanebo II. In front of this is a base of black granite (found elsewhere in the temple) intended to support the sacred barque, with an inscription indicating that it was presented by a private citizen.Round the sanctuary runs a corridor, off which open ten small and poorly lit chambers decorated with reliefs (some with well preserved colors) which served either as store rooms for ritual utensils or for some cult purpose. In the two corner rooms are openings in the floor (formerly closed by stone slabs) leading down to the crypt.
Round the temple as a whole runs an inner passage, entered from the Hypostyle Hall, which is also decorated with reliefs and inscriptions. On the outside of the temple wall are lions' heads as waterspouts and four rows of religious reliefs. At the foot of the wall are the King, Queen and priests proceeding in procession into the presence of the three chief divinities of Edfu. On the inner side of the enclosure wall are (east wall) the King before the divinities of Edfu; (north wall) similar scenes and long hymns to the god of Edfu; and (west wall) striking reliefs depicting Horus's contests with his enemies, who are represented as crocodiles and hippopotamuses.Particularly notable among the reliefs on the west wall are the following: (first scene, below, right) the King tries to spear a hippopotamus, which turns aside; Horus does the same, holding a chain in his left hand and a spear in his right, with his mother Isis beside him and a small Horus at the helm of the boat to the rear; (second scene) the King stands on land, on the left, with two ships in front of him, in which are Horus and an attendant; Horus holds the hippopotamus with a chain and plunges his spear into its head; (fifth scene) the hippopotamus lies on its back with its hind legs chained; (seventh scene) Horus, in a sailing boat, aims his spear at a hippopotamus, whose hind leg is tied in a cord held by Horus and its head in a cord held by Isis, kneeling in the bow of the boat; the King, standing on the shore with two attendants, aims his spear at the animal's head; (farther left, opposite the pylon) the King, the ram headed god Khnum, the falcon-headed Horus and the ibis headed Thoth haul in a net in which are caught not only marsh birds, fish and a stag but also two Asiatics and a number of Negroes, Egypt's hereditary foes.
The description of the Nilometer by the Greek geographer Strabo (ca. 63 B.C.-A.D. 20) is still accurate:"The Nilometer is a well built of regular hewn stone on the bank of the Nile, in which is recorded the rise of the stream: not only the highest and the lowest rises but also those in between, for the water in the well rises and falls with the stream. On the side of the well are marks, measuring the height sufficient for irrigation and other water levels. These are observed and made known to all.... This is of importance to the peasants for the management of the water, the embankments, the canals and so on, and also to the officials for the purpose of taxation; for the higher the rise of the water the higher are the taxes."A subterranean staircase leads from the east side of the inner passage to an ancient Nilometer, a shaft outside the temple encircled by a spiral staircase which could formerly also be reached from outside. The scale on the wall of the shaft gives the depths in demotic characters. The Nilometer is no longer connected with the Nile.
An ascent to the top of the pylon is very well worth the trouble. A staircase on the south side of the forecourt has 242 easy steps in 14 flights. The staircase and the small chambers, which open off the landings, are lit by windows. The staircases in the two towers are connected with one another by a passage running above the central doorway, and in each tower is a door giving access to the roof of the colonnades round the forecourt.
On the roof of the west colonnade are workmen's drawings of the cavetto cornice on the pylon. From the platform there are extensive views of the temple complex itself, the Nile Plain with its green fields and its villages fringed by palms and mimosas, framed by the desert hills in the distance.
More Temple of Horus Pictures