After two days in Luxor, our boat set sail south for Esna passing the Nile lock before continuing to Edfu which was a flourishing Greek city in the ancient times. It has been settled from 3000 BC onwards. Most tourists come here to visit the Temple of Horus. We disembarked early in the morning and were taken from our boat by horse-drawn carriage to the temple passing by the main part of Edfu town with people starting their day.
The town of Edfu is known for the large Ptolemaic Temple of Horus built by Ptolemy III in 237 BC and completed by Ptolemy XII, father of Cleopatra VII, in 57 BC. Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris and husband to Hathor, was worshipped in ancient Egypt as the God of the Sky and later identified as Apollo by the Greeks. He was usually depicted as a falcon or a falcon-headed man whose right eye was the sun and the left eye was the moon. According to ancient Egyptian royal traditions, the ruling pharaoh was always considered the living form of Horus and when he died, he became Osiris, the god of the dead and the father of Horus. He was also considered the god of war and the king’s protector resulting in many images with Horus hovering above the king’s head. The Temple of Horus was built on the site of an earlier New Kingdom temple and is the largest temple dedicated to Horus in ancient Egypt. It is also said to be the most completely preserved temple remains in Egypt. It was buried under 12 meters of desert sand and Nile river silt with houses and streets built right above it. Only until the mid 19th century did excavation work begin to free the Temple of Horus from the sands and restore it to its former glory.
As you approached the temple, the sandstone walls covered in giant hieroglyphics is a sight to behold. Guarding the 36-meter high entrance pylon are a pair of granite falcons. Reliefs on the pylon intended to awe the king’s subject depict Ptolemy XII holding his enemies by their hair before Horus, ready to kill them. I felt absolutely minute and indeed awed craning my neck to take it all in.
Beyond the pylon is a large forecourt surrounded on three sides by 32 columns decorated with floral and palm capitals. This was where offerings were made on an altar to the gods. On the walls are reliefs of Horus and Hathor and their annual reunion. On the left of the entrance into the outer hypostyle hall is one of a pair of the black granite statue of Horus wearing the double crown of Egypt. The outer hypostyle hall has 12 columns with two small rooms, one is the Hall of Consecration and the other the library where ritual texts were stored. In the Hall of Consecration is a beautiful relief depicting Horus and Thoth pouring sacred water over the king. Inside the 12-column inner hypostyle hall leading to the inner sanctum are two small chambers with the left hand chamber functioning as the laboratory where incense and perfumes were prepared and stored and the ingredients and formulas written on the walls. The first antechamber was the offering chamber where daily offerings of flowers, fruits, wine, milk, etc were made to the gods by the priests. The first antechamber leads to the second antechamber and then to the inner sanctuary which once housed the golden statue of Horus. In one of the chambers here is a replica of the wooden barque used to carry the statue of Horus during festivals and processions.
Behind the main temple is an inner passageway entered from the Hypostyle Hall with reliefs depicting the battle between Horus and Set where Set is depicted as a hippopotamus. According to Egyptian mythology, Set killed his brother Osiris and usurped his throne. Osiris’s wife, Isis, resurrected her dead husband long enough for him to posthumously conceive their son, Horus. Horus sought revenge upon Set as he contends for the throne. Triumphant, Horus restores order to Egypt. The Osiris myth is one of the most elaborate and important myths in ancient Egypt with its concepts of kingship and succession, good and evil, order in society, and ideas of the afterlife. Also here in the inner passageway is the remains of the Nilometer which was used by the ancient Egyptians to measure the level of Nile river and help predict the coming harvest.
After our short visit to Edfu, we boarded our cruise and continued south towards Kom Ombo. Stay tuned!
Thanks for stopping by!
Click the “Follow” button to signup for email subscription or keep checking back for more blog posts to come.