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.
Philae, in Egyptian mythology the neighboring island of the burying-places of Osiris (island of Bigeh), was held in high reverence both by the Egyptians to the north and the Nubians to the south. Philae was dedicated preeminently to Isis, sister-wife to Osiris, and patroness of the Ptolemaic rule. Although Isis was the major deity honored on Philae, the location of the island on the frontier between Egypt and Nubia meant that cults of Nubia were also featured on the island, represented by significant cult buildings. It was deemed profane for any but priests to dwell there. Temples to Isis began in the 30th dynasty and continued through the Ptolmaic Dynasties into Roman times. Isis is a very important figure in the ancient world. She is associated with funeral rites but as the enchantress who resurrected Osiris and gave birth to Horus she is also the giver of life, a healer and protector of kings. She was known as “Mother of God” (meaning mother of the pharaoh and was represented with a throne on her head). During the Roman period her cult spread throughout Greece and the Roman Empire. There was even a temple dedicated to her in London. Partially to completely flooded by the old dam's construction in 1902, the Philae complex was dismantled and relocated to Agilkia island, as part of a wider UNESCO project related to the 1960s construction of the Aswan High Dam. The relocation of these structures was done in a manner to mimic the original island of Philae.
Sekhmet, the Lion-Headed Goddess of War
He was the sort of man
who wouldn’t hurt a fly.
Many flies are now alive
while he is not.
He was not my patron.
He preferred full granaries, I battle.
My roar meant slaughter.
Yet here we are together
in the same museum.
That’s not what I see, though, the fitful
crowds of staring children
learning the lesson of multi-
cultural obliteration, sic transit
and so on.
I see the temple where I was born
or built, where I held power.
I see the desert beyond,
where the hot conical tombs, that look
from a distance, frankly, like dunces’ hats,
hide my jokes: the dried-out flesh
and bones, the wooden boats
in which the dead sail endlessly
in no direction.
What did you expect from gods
with animal heads?
Though come to think of it
the ones made later, who were fully human
were not such good news either.
Favour me and give me riches,
destroy my enemies.
That seems to be the gist.
Oh yes: And save me from death.
In return we’re given blood
and bread, flowers and prayer,
and lip service.
Maybe there’s something in all of this
I missed. But if it’s selfless
love you’re looking for,
you’ve got the wrong goddess.
I just sit where I’m put, composed
of stone and wishful thinking:
that the deity who kills for pleasure
will also heal,
that in the midst of your nightmare,
the final one, a kind lion
will come with bandages in her mouth
and the soft body of a woman,
and lick you clean of fever,
and pick your soul up gently by the nape of the neck
and caress you into darkness and paradise.