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Philae: Temple of Isis, First Pylon (Desc. Egy. 1799)

Fig.1: (top) Temple of Isis, west elevation. (bottom) First Pylon, viewed from the south (Description de l'Egypte 1809).

Philae was a major temple site located on an island near Aswan, just above the first Nile cataract. The focus of the site was a remarkable temple of Isis rebuilt in the Roman period. Isis was the mother of Osiris, a major Egyptian god during the Dynastic era. In the Roman period the cult of Isis became widespread across the empire.

This drawing by an artist from the French expedition in 1799 shows an elevation of the temple at top, and a rendering of the relief-covered  First Pylon or gateway at bottom. The pylon reliefs, here as at Edfu,  show Ptolemy XII  defeating his enemies, and presenting them to the deities Isis, Horus, and Hathor.

Philae remained an active center of traditional Egyptian worship into at least the 4th century AD, when a Coptic missionary reported seeing a ceremony of the falcon god Horus,  still being worshipped there. The last examples of Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions were found at Philae, from 394 AD. The latest demotic grafitti or informal inscriptions were also found on Philae, dating from AD 452.


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