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Philae: Kiosk of Trajan (Desc. Egy., 1799)


Fig.1: Drawing of the the south portico of the Kiosk of Trajan at Philae (Description de l'Egypte 1809).

In recording the ancient monuments of Egypt, the French army surveyors and artists went as far south as the Island of Philae, located just beyond Aswan and the first Nile cataract. Here, in 1799, they made the first detailed survey and drawings of this major temple site at the border of Egypt and Nubia. 

Philae had monuments dating from the Nubian-ruled 25th Dynasty, during the reign of Taharqa (690-664 BC), and from the final, 30th Egyptian Dynasty in the reign of Nectenebo I (380-362 BC). Remains have also been found of a temple of the deity Arensnuphis, dedicated jointly by the Meroitic king Arqamanni, and the Hellenistic ruler of Egypt, Ptolemy IV Philopater (220-200 BC). The main temple complex devoted to the goddess Isis was begun in the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-246 BC).

Most of the visible monuments on Philae date from the late Ptolemaic and Roman periods. One of the best preserved structures on the island was the so-called Kiosk of Trajan, built during the Roman period in the late 1st century AD.  This building was located at the eastern edge of the island, next to the Temple of Isis and the smaller Temple of Hathor. 

This drawing (fig.1) by an artist of the 1799 French expedition shows the south portico of Trajan's Kiosk, with column capitals typically shaped like papyrus plants. Just visible on the eastern side of the building, at right in the drawing, is an eagle standard in relief at at the top of the main portal. At left, portions of the first and second pylons of the Temple of Isis may also be seen.

With the flooding of Lake Nassar in the 1960s, the monuments of Philae including the Kiosk of Trajan were moved to higher ground on the nearby island of Agilkia.

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