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Hermopolis: Temple Portico (French Exped. 1799)


Temple Portico at Hermopolis (drawing by Vivant Denon, in Description de l'Egypte 1802).

Hermopolis, the city of the god Hermes (whose older Egyptian counterpart was Thoth) is located in Upper Egypt, 290 km south of Cairo. The city was named Khmun in ancient Egyptian, meaning "8-town", representing a group of eight primeval deities. The city was a cult center for Thoth, god of healing and learning, and patron of scribes. Today the site is called el-Ashmunein.

During the Ptolemaic and Roman periods, the city held a large Greek settlement, with a Greek cemetery at nearby Tuna el-Gebel. A large Roman basilica or hall of justice was found in Hermopolis, the only example of its kind in Egypt (Baines and Malek 1988).

The French expedition visited the ruins of Hermopolis in 1799. The artist Vivant Denon sketched the remains of a Graeco-Eyptian temple portico with sculptured columns and capitals in the form of papyrus plants with unopened umbels or flower clusters. This typical Egyptian motif is also seen at Philae, Edfu, Luxor, and Kom Ombo, among other sites in Upper Egypt.

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