Edfu Temple

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Temple of Horus in hieroglyphics
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House of Horus Behdeti
Edfu temple pylon 01.JPG
Pylon of the Temple of Edfu

The Temple of Edfu is an ancient Egyptian temple complex on the western edge of the city of Edfu in Upper Egypt . The city is located on the west bank of the Nile , about 100 kilometers north of Aswan and 85 kilometers south of Luxor . The temple is considered to be one of the best preserved in Egypt .

The temple complex of Edfu was dedicated to the local god Hor-Behdeti , the "Horus of Edfu", and was built during the time of the Ptolemies' rule over Egypt. Horus also appeared there in other manifestations of the god. The subsidiary form Behdeti refers to the naming of the entire region surrounding Edfu as "southern Behdet". In Greco-Roman times the place was called Ἀpóllônos pólis megálê or Apollinopolis Magna , which Dieter Kurth , project manager of the Edfu project of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen , explains as equating: "The local god Horus was identified with the Greek god Apollon ."


Edfu Temple (Egypt)
Djeba / Mesen / Behdet (Edfu)
Djeba / Mesen / Behdet
Location in Egypt

The place Edfu had been the capital of the second Upper Egyptian Gau ( Wetjes-Hor ; "Horus-Thron-Gau" or "Falkengau") since the 5th dynasty of the Old Kingdom . The forecast of Horus in Edfu was here one of his biggest fights against Seth . During the Middle Kingdom , Hor-Behdeti was the god of the "Horus-Thron-Gaus", in Greco-Roman times Behdeti took over this function.

Reconstructed temple facade (pylon)

The temple of "Horus of Edfu" was built between 237 and 57 BC. Built in BC. In Greek antiquity , the time of the Ptolemies, Edfu was called Ἀpóllônos pólis megálê , named after the god Horus of Buto , who was particularly worshiped here. In the temple of Edfu, two triads of gods were incorporated into local theology ; on the one hand Hor-Behdeti , Hathor of Dendara and Ihi and on the other hand Isis , Harsomtus and Harsomtus-pa-chered . Horus also appeared in several guest roles in Edfu, for example as " Der von Behdet ", Hor-heri-wadjef , Hor-pa-chered , Hor-Behdeti-em-cheperuef-en-Re , Hor-Behdeti-em-set -wenep , Hor-Behdeti-Re-Min , Horus von Buto in Edfu ( Apollon in Edfu), Harsiese in Falkengau and Harsiese in Edfu .

Besides the temple of Hor-Behdeti there are still considerable remains of the ancient city. For a long time, the temple of Edfu was covered with sand up to the capitals , which explains its good state of preservation. In the 19th century, houses of the local Fellach stood on the sand masses along its side . Almost one hundred of the buildings were demolished from 1860 when the temple complex was exposed under Auguste Mariette .

In the recent history of Egypt, the location of the temple complex developed into a point of attraction for tourism . The visit to the temple of Edfu is an integral part of the river journeys on the Nile between the northern Luxor and the southern Aswan. The landing stage for the cruise ships operating on the Nile is about 850 meters east of the temple complex.

Building history of the temple

Model of the temple
Statue of Hor-Behdeti

The foundation of the temple of Edfu, referred to as the house of Hor-Behdeti with the nickname Hwt-kn ("House of the Strong"), took place in the tenth year of the reign of Pharaoh Ptolemy III. Euergetes I. , the year following the year of the Canopus Decree . According to today's calendar, the foundation stone was laid on August 23, 237 BC. Instead of (after Dieter Arnold ). An inscription on the temple building reads:

"This beautiful day in the 10th [year of government], (day) 7 of the month of Epiphi at the time of the majesty [of the son] of Re (Ptolemy III. Euergetes I) was the day of the Senut festival, when the dimensions (des Baues) on the ground, (it) was the first of all Senut festivals on the occasion of the rope tensioning at the foundation of the Great Seat of Re-Harachte (Edfu), the foundation of the throne seat of the protector of his father ( Edfu). The king himself and the goddess Seschat , the great, laid down the ground plan of the First Sanctuary (Edfu); the correct position of his rooms was determined by the gods of the word of creation together with the lord of the hedic plant ( Thoth ), the Khnum gods began to form, Ptah formed and the first primal gods broke out in jubilation all around. [...] The interior of the walls was decorated most excellently with reliefs, with the figures of the gods and the images of the goddesses as well as with (all) the splendor of the creator of glory (Edfu). "

- inscription Ptolemy III.

Another temple inscription, placed on the temple's naos , attributes the idea to the project to Imhotep , son of Ptah . However, since Imhotep was the vizier of Pharaoh Djoser , the second king of the 3rd dynasty of the Old Kingdom , who ruled from around 2720 to 2700 BC. BC Egypt ruled, there seems to be a symbolic claim here. Imhotep went down in history as the high priest of Ptah and the first great master builder of the Old Kingdom, responsible for the construction of the Djoser pyramid . As such, he was venerated by later architects as a mythical predecessor who was considered the divinely venerated son of the god Ptah in the New Kingdom even in Memphis and Thebes . The attribution of the Temple of Edfu should presumably give the guarantee for a perfect building.

The successor Ptolemy IV. Built 212 BC. The holiest of holies in the temple. In his 16th year of reign (206 BC), after the double doors were completed, shortly before they were hung in the gates, further activities were interrupted by the rule of the opposing kings Harwennefer and Anchwennefer and the unrest associated with them. Ptolemy VI did not take until 176 BC. Chr. The building again. In 147 BC The actual temple was completed under Ptolemy VII . The dedication of the sanctuary took place on September 10 v 142nd BC by Ptolemaios VIII. Subsequently, there was further work on the building complex, such as moving the pronaos , the vestibule (140 to 124 BC), and in the reign of Ptolemy IX. and Ptolemy X. the erection of the colonnade with the pylon in front of it (116 to 71 BC). In the 25th year of the reign of Ptolemy XII. the work was done on December 5th, 57 BC. Ended after 180 years of construction with the completion of the reliefs on the pylon.

Temple festivals

The temple of Edfu was a place of important festivals in honor of the gods of the Horus cult in Ptolemaic times. In addition to the New Year celebrations, the wedding of Horus of Edfu (Hor-Behdeti) with the Hathor of Dendara (Hut-Hor-Iunet) as well as the festival of the victory of Horus over Seth from the Osiris and Horus myths is celebrated here every year . In the temple, living falcons were raised in a bird house, the "falcon temple", of which one of the animals in the temple courtyard was crowned every year and made into a living symbol of Horus. There are no more traces of the bird house.

The inscriptions of the Edfu Temple are of great importance for philology as they are among the largest coherent collections of hieroglyphic texts of the Greco-Roman period . The Hamburg Edfu project has been translating these inscriptions since 1986 . So far, the texts of the pylon and the outside of the enclosing wall have been published in German.

Temple complexes

The Temple of Horus at Edfu

Western pylon tower
Eastern pylon tower

The temple of Edfu is 137 meters long in its north-south orientation and 79 meters wide at the pylon front. Originally the outer wall of the temple was completely surrounded by a brick wall separated by an open corridor, which is still partially preserved today. The 36-meter-high pylon at the southern temple entrance consists of two massive towers that are accessible on four levels inside with rooms that frame the main portal.

On both sides of the portal, two vertical recesses can be seen in the facade, which were used to hold flagpoles with standards planted on them . Between them there is a relief of the main god of the temple Hor-Behdeti ("Horus of Edfu") on each side and a smaller relief of the goddess Hut-Hor-Iunet (" Hathor of Dendara "), a local form of the Goddess Hathor of Dendara, 130 kilometers north of Edfu. The gods look outwards on two large reliefs on each side of the facade, where Pharaoh Ptolemy XII. (Neos Dionysus) offering prisoners as sacrifices. In front of the pylon there are two black granite falcon statues to the right and left of the temple entrance . These representations of Horus are missing their crowns, which a similar statue in the inner courtyard of the temple still wears.

After passing through the portal one reaches the forecourt of the temple, framed by 32 columns that form colonnades on the three sides in the east, south and west . The columns have different capitals , but those of the opposite columns are similar in shape. The inside of the pylon is decorated with reliefs above the southern row of columns like its facade. The forecourt, also known as the “broad court of libations”, is 49 meters long from the temple entrance to the pronaos and 42.6 meters wide in an east-west direction.

On the north side of the courtyard, the entrance to the pronaos, the vestibule, located in the middle between six columns, provides access to the actual temple building. The spaces between the columns next to the entrance are closed with intercolumned walls, which reach about half the height of the columns and are decorated with reliefs. On the left in front of the entrance to the building is the above-mentioned statue of a falcon with the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, made of black granite, as are the two statues in front of the pylon. On the right-hand side are the remains of a second similar statue.

The temple of Edfu's vestibule, known as the pronaos or first hypostyle hall, is 25 meters wide and nearly 14 meters long towards the sanctuary. It consists of 18 columns, including the six outer columns on the south side at the entrance. The columns form a total of three rows parallel to the entrance front, two of which are free-standing in the interior of the pronaos. To the left and right of the entrance are two small separate rooms within the vestibule. On the one hand, there is the “House of the Morning” on the west side, which the temple priests used to cleanse before the rite and to store objects for the “holy act”, and secondly, the liturgical library on the right side of the entrance whose former inventory lists are engraved on the walls on papyrus rolls .

Behind the vestibule there is another hall, the second pillared hall, equipped with three rows of four pillars each. On the east wall, in the fourth register, the divine coronation of Ptolemy IV is shown as a ritual scene . The god Herischef , who is responsible for the office of the king, presents the king's headscarf as “Lord of Nemes ”. Herischef bears, among other things, the designation "King of the two countries and ruler of the banks, who began the kingship at the very beginning". Ptolemy IV approaches Herischef in the form of Harendotes and receives from him the Atef crown of Re-Harachte as "King with gripping power with regard to his enemies" . Herischef bears the nickname " Re at the place of his youth" at the handover and at this moment symbolizes the two gods Re and Osiris as well as the central motif of ancient Egyptian mythology : the " Feast of the Chopping of the Earth " from the Osiris myth relating to the killing of Seth through Horus.

Between the pillars you get further inside to the sanctuary. Three rooms lead off from the second portico. On the right is the room of the “liquid offerings” with an outside door to the colonnade around the outside wall of the temple building. On the left, on the west side, there are two entrances, one to the “fixed offerings” room, also with an outer door to the colonnade, and the other to a work room or laboratory in which the offerings for the ceremonies were prepared. The ingredients used for the rite are written on the walls of this room . After the preparatory work, the objects to be sacrificed were brought to the “room of the offerings” behind the second pillared hall in the direction of the sanctuary. Two flights of stairs lead from it to the terrace above.

The adjoining "middle hall" formed the religious center of the temple. In its center there is a self-contained, small building that housed the Sancta Sanctorum , the “Holy of Holies”. Around this separate building, chapels consecrated to individual deities of the Horus cult are grouped along the outer wall of the temple, the entrances to the “Corridor of the Mysteries”, which surrounds the building of the Holy of Holies. Both the chapels and the corridor are richly decorated with religiously designed bas- reliefs. The image of the main god was kept in the room of the holy of holies. It stood in a gray, four-meter-high granite block, a shrine , also known as a naos , which dates from the reign of Nectanebos II (360 BC) and is still in its original location. In front of the block there is now a sacred boat (also known as a sun ship ) that was previously kept in one of the ten rooms on the “Corridor of the Mysteries”.

The mammisi

"The beautiful / perfect rooms in the nurse's house" (Mammisi von Edfu)

About 60 meters southwest of the main portal is a small column-flanked building in front of the pylon of the Temple of Edfu. The single storey building was a sanctuary of the goddess Hathor of Dendara. During the reign of Pharaoh Ptolemy IX. erected, it initially belonged to the main temple, but then changed into a single Naïskos ( Greek  ναϊσκος " little temple").

The building, called Hut- Chenmet (“nurse's house”) in Ptolemaic times , was a so-called “birth house”, a mammisi (from Coptic , meaning “place of birth”). In the Mammisi of Edfu, the child god Hor-Semataui-pa-chered ("Harsomtus, the child") was worshiped next to Hathor as the heir to the main god of Edfu Hor-Behdeti . Here the miracle of the birth of the Hor-pa-chered was renewed every year , which is why this was a sacred place for pregnant women.

The interior of the Mammisi consisted of two small rooms and the sanctuary. A forecourt followed to the east. On both sides of the building stood - and for the most part still stand today - five columns each, forming a small colonnade. The rear wall of the Mammisi is built in the same way with three columns. Above the capitals of the columns, Bes , patron god of the child of God, i.e. the descendants of Pharaoh, is depicted.

The legend of the birth is depicted on the walls . The associated scenes have their mythological roots in the New Kingdom , where the divine birth of the king was an integral part of the pictorial programs in the temples of the New Kingdom. The Ptolemaic kings changed that birth myth . In all Mammisis of the Greco-Roman times , the respective new local form of a child god replaced the previously existing central royal motif of the New Kingdom. The name of the deities involved was based in the local Mammisis on the pantheon that existed there .


(sorted chronologically)

  • Dieter Kurth (ed.): The inscriptions of the temple of Edfu. Leaflets . Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1991 ff., ISSN  0937-8413 .
  • Dieter Kurth with the collaboration of A. Behrmann, D. Budde, A. Effland, H. Felber, E. Pardey, S. Rüter, W. Waitkus, S. Woodhouse: Die insschriften des Tempels von Edfu. Department I: Translations. Volume 1: Edfou VIII . Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1998 (translation of all texts on the large pylon).
  • Dieter Kurth with the collaboration of A. Behrmann, D. Budde, A. Effland, H. Felber, J.-P. Graeff, S. Koepke, S. Martinssen-von Falck, e. Pardey, S. Rüter, W. Waitkus: The inscriptions of the temple of Edfu. Department I: Translation. Volume 2: Edfou VII . Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2000 (translation of all texts on the outside of the surrounding wall of the temple).
  • Dieter Kurth: meeting place of the gods, inscriptions from the temple of Horus by Edfu. Artemis & Winkler, Düsseldorf / Zurich 1998, ISBN 3-7608-1203-1 .
  • Dieter Kurth: Edfu. In: Kathryn A. Bard, Steven Blake Shubert: Encyclopedia of the archeology of ancient Egypt . Routledge, London 1999, ISBN 0-415-18589-0 , pp. 269-271.
  • Hans Bonnet : Apollinopolis. In: Lexicon of Egyptian Religious History. Nikol, Hamburg 2000, ISBN 3-937872-08-6 , p. 51.
  • Uwe Bartels: The representations on the outside of the surrounding wall and on the pylons. (= The inscriptions of the temple of Edfu. Section II: Documentation I. ). Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2009, ISBN 978-3-447-05834-6 .
  • Ulrike Fauerbach: The great pylon of the Temple of Horus in Edfu. Architecture and construction technology of a monumental gateway from the Ptolemaic period. (= Archaeological publications of the German Archaeological Institute. Volume 122). Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2017, ISBN 978-3-447-10610-8 .

Web links

Commons : Temple Complex of Edfu  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Marie Parsons: Edfu
  2. a b Dieter Kurth: Edfu . In: Encyclopedia of the archeology of ancient Egypt. London 1999, p. 269.
  3. Sandra Sandri: Har-Pa-Chered (Harpokrates): The genesis of an Egyptian god child (= Orientalia Lovaniensia analecta. Vol. 151). Peeters, Leuven 2006, ISBN 90-429-1761-X , p. 144.
  4. Christian Leitz u. a. Lexicon of the Egyptian gods and names of gods . (LGG) Vol. 5: Ḥ - ḫ (= Orientalia Lovaniensia analecta. Vol. 114). Peeters, Leuven 2002, ISBN 90-429-1150-6 , pp. 253-257.
  5. a b Giovanna Magi: A trip on the Nile - the temples of Nubia Esna, Edfu, Kom Ombo. Casa Editrice Bonechi, Florence 2008, ISBN 978-88-7009-246-2 , p. 13.
  6. a b The Horus Temple of Edfu - The building history of the temple according to the inscriptions ( Memento of February 8, 2006 in the Internet Archive ). On: meritneith.de
  7. Inscription of the Temple ( Memento of February 8, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) quoted on meritneith.de from: Dieter Kurth: Edfu. An Egyptian temple seen through the eyes of the ancient Egyptians. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1994, ISBN 3-534-12092-2 , pp. 38/39.
  8. ^ G. Magi: A journey on the Nile - the temples of Nubia Esna, Edfu, Kom Ombo. P. 17.
  9. ^ G. Magi: A journey on the Nile - the temples of Nubia Esna, Edfu, Kom Ombo. P. 34/35.
  10. ^ G. Magi: A journey on the Nile - the temples of Nubia Esna, Edfu, Kom Ombo. P. 18/20.
  11. ^ G. Magi: A journey on the Nile - the temples of Nubia Esna, Edfu, Kom Ombo. P. 24.
  12. Heinz Felber: The Demotic Chronicle . In: Andreas Blasius: Apocalyptic and Egypt. A critical analysis of the relevant texts from Greco-Roman Egypt (= Orientalia Lovaniensia analecta. No. 107). Peeters, Leuven 2002, ISBN 90-429-1113-1 , pp. 95-96.
  13. ^ G. Magi: A journey on the Nile - the temples of Nubia Esna, Edfu, Kom Ombo. P. 24/28.
  14. ^ G. Magi: A journey on the Nile - the temples of Nubia Esna, Edfu, Kom Ombo. Pp. 28-33.
  15. ^ Dieter Kurth: Edfu . In: Encyclopedia of the archeology of ancient Egypt. London 1999, p. 270.
  16. a b c G. Magi: A trip on the Nile - the temples of Nubia Esna, Edfu, Kom Ombo. P. 15.
  17. Variants: Sokar-teben-em-hut-chenmet and Hutnet-neferet-em-hut-chenmet ; according to Christian Leitz u. a .: LGG, vol. 5 , p. 86.
  18. Christian Leitz u. a .: LGG, vol. 5 , p. 289.
  19. a b Sandra Sandri: Har-pa-chered (Harpokrates). the genesis of an Egyptian god child. Leuven 2006, pp. 56-57.

Coordinates: 24 ° 58 ′ 41.4 ″  N , 32 ° 52 ′ 24.6 ″  E