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Dionysias: Plan of town in Ptolemaic and Roman periods

Plan of Dionysias, based on 1940s archaeological survey (Schwartz and Wild 1950, pl.2)

Dionysias was located on the west side of lake Moeris (today's Lake Qarun), in the ancient district (meris) of Themistos, marking the western edge of the Fayum region. The town was on the same altitude as the ancient Lake Moeris and much closer to it than today. The site was first identified with the modern site named Qasr Qarun  by Grenfell and Hunt (1899). This was later confirmed by the discovery of the Roman fort just west of the town (Schwartz and Wild 1950). The fort, built in the late 3rd c. AD, controlled the access to the Fayum from the western desert, and served to prevent raids from the Blemyes and other bedouin nomadic groups.

The town, first recorded in Coptic documents of about 230-225 BC, was inhabited at least through the end of the 4th century AD. 
The maximum population was probably about 1200-2000 persons.  Three main streets of about 6.5 m width ran parallel from northwest to southeast, with the causeway (dromos) of the Temple of Sobek in the center.  Smaller streets ran at right angles, creating a grid of blocks 50 x 50 m in area. Areas of houses from the late Ptolemaic and Roman periods have been excavated. The main street (called Royal street in a papyrus from AD 114 [P.Lond. II 293]) represented the main road from the western desert toward the Fayum region. Location along the caravan route provided a distinct commercial advantage to the town.

At least three baths have been located, one near the Roman Fort, another on Royal Street, and a third, called the Public Baths, in the southern section of Dionysias. The town also had a granary, a mausoleum, a glass factory, and other public buildings. Traces of a Ptolemaic temple to Bubastis, and other Greek altars have also been found.

Agricultural land lay south and southeast of the town, where traces of ancient canals have been found. The modern canal called Bahr Qarun, which passes the site to the northeast, follows part of the course of ancient canals. Near the mausoleum at the eastern edge of town a bifurcating canal is still visible on the ground, and this may be the feeder canal, with traces of smaller canals also visible to the south of it. Remains of an ancient quay were found just south of Dionysias by Schwartz and Wild (1950), showing that the canal was navigable throughout.


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