The ancient site of Behbeit el-Hagara, the lseum or lsidis Oppidum of classical times, lies near the provincial capital of El-Mansura in the northern part of the Nile Delta. The modern name derives from the ancient Egyptian Hebet or Per-Ehbet, the "house of the god of Hebet" (i.e. Horus).Lying within the Saite nome, the place was much revered by the kings of the 30th Dynasty, who stemmed from the neighboring town of Sebennytus, as a center of the cult of Isis, her brother and husband Osiris and their son Horus.
Useful tips: ACCESS. 6.5mi/10km southwest of El-Mansura by road.
Temple of Isis
Within a precinct measuring 87yd/80m by 60yd/55m enclosed by brick walls, still well preserved on two sides, now used as a place of burial, rises a large heap of ruins - the remains of the once splendid Temple of Isis. Built by Nectanebo II (30th Dynasty) and Ptolemy II Philadelphus, probably on the site of an earlier temple, it is now in a state of total collapse, either as the result of an earthquake or by deliberate demolition. It was built mainly of gray granite, with some red granite, which must have been transported here from a considerable distance. The ruins form a highly picturesque mass of blocks of stone, fragments of columns, broken architraves and other architectural elements, the original function and disposition of which can be established only by an expert.
Temple of Isis Reliefs
The reliefs, all dating from the time of Nectanebo I and II (both 30th Dynasty), Ptolemy II Philadelphus and Ptolemy III Euergetes I, are of high quality far superior to those in the Graeco-Roman temples of Upper Egypt. One of them makes it possible to identify the position of the sanctuary. It depicts the King offering incense before the sacred barque of Isis, in a form otherwise preserved only in bronze. The boat resembles a two storied house; above, the goddess, with the cow's horns and solar disc, seated on a lotus flower and flanked by two winged goddesses. To the west of this, near the original entrance, is a large slab of gray granite veined with red on which the King is depicted offering a gift of land to Osiris and Isis. To the north is an unusually large granite Hathor capital. All round are innumerable fragments of pillars, architraves, friezes with heads of Hathor and waterspouts in the form of crouching lions. Near by a section of staircase built into the walls can be seen.
Some 7.5mi/12km southwest of Behbeit, to the west of the little town of Samannud (pop. 15,000), are the scanty remains of ancient Sebennytus, the place of origin of the 30th Dynasty kings and the home of Manetho (third C. B.C.), the historian to whom we owe much of our knowledge of the rulers of ancient Egypt. On a hill are some remains of a temple dedicated to the local deity Onuris-Shu, probably dating from the time of Nectanebo II to Ptolemy II Philadelphus.
Five mi/8km farther south, on a by-road, is the village of Abusir, occupying the site of the ancient Djedu, chief town of a nome, later known as Per-Usir ("House of Osiris") and to the Greeks as Busiris. This was revered as the place of burial of Osiris, the scene of an annual pilgrimage. Nothing remains of the ancient town nor of the Temple of Osiris which is mentioned by Herodotus.
The Temple of Isis' sacred lake can still be identified in the village of Behbeit, northwest of the ruins.