Edfu was one of several temples built during the Ptolemaic period, including Dendera, Esna, Kom Ombo and Philae. Its size reflects the relative prosperity of the time and it remains one of the best preserved temples. The present temple, which was begun in 237 BCE, initially consisted of a pillared hall, two transverse halls, and a barque sanctuary surrounded by chapels built on the west side of the Nile. The building was started during the reign of Ptolemy III and completed in 57 BC under Ptolemy XII. It was built on the site of an earlier, smaller temple also dedicated to Horus, although the previous structure was oriented east-west rather than north-south as in the present site. A ruined pylon lies just to the east of the current temple; inscriptional evidence has been found indicating a building program under the New Kingdom rulers Ramesses I, Seti I and Ramesses II. We can also clearly see the mast grooves for the flags which would have fluttered at the entrance. The site of Edfu Tell was known as Wetjeset-hor (classical name Apollinopolis Magna), the place where the god Horus was worshipped and where the battle between Horus and his traditional enemy Seth in ancient mythology took place. Of all the temple remains in Egypt, the Temple of Horus at Edfu is the most completely preserved. Built from sandstone blocks, the huge Ptolemaic temple was constructed over the site of a smaller New Kingdom temple, oriented east to west, facing towards the river.
Hapi (Hep, Hap, Hapy) was probably a predynastic name for the Nile, and the name was later changed to the Nile or iterw, simply meaning “the river”. Thus the Nile God became “the river” or iterw while Hapi then became the god of the annual flooding of the Nile in ancient Egyptian religion. The name “Nile” comes from the Greek corruption “Neilos” of the Egyptian “nwy” which means water. He was mentioned in the Pyramid Texts (“who comest forth from Hep”) where he was to send the river into the underworld from certain caverns located at the first cataract. The annual flood deposited rich silt (fertile soil) on the rivers banks, allowing the Egyptians to grow crops or flooded too much and washed away their mudbrick homes. Hapi was the mighty one in his cavern, whose true name was unknown. He was “lord of the fishes and birds of the marshes” who “greens the two banks”. He was the “maker of barley and wheat”, the “master of the river bringing vegetation”. Like the Greek and Roman Gods that followed, he had a good personae as the God of plenty but also had a dark side as an unpredictable destructive God, hopefully influenced by the pharoah who was himself a living god. He was also considered a “friend of Geb” the Egyptian God of the earth, and the “Lord of Neper”, the God of grain.