The Temple of Edfu
Edfu is situated 132 km to the south of Luxor. It was the capital of the second Nome of Upper Egypt. In ancient times, it was called ‘Behdet’, but in the Graeco-Roman Period, it was called ‘Apollinopolis Magna’ because the Greeks identified their god Apollo with the local god of Edfu, Horus of Behdet, who is represented as a winged solar-disk.
The triad of Edfu consists of Hor Behdety, his wife Hathor and their son Horus sm3-t3wy.
The most important monument in Edfu is its temple which is now situated at the center of the city.
Edfu is situated on the west bank of the Nile. Its ancient name was Djbat which means ‘to adorn’ or ‘robing chamber’, then called Behdet. This temple dates back to the prehistoric period. Other monuments dating back to the Ramesside period as well as the 25th and 26th Dynasties were found there.
This temple was intended as replica of the great temple of Heliopolis.
Description of the temple:
It dates back to the Ptolemaic Period, and it is the biggest and greatest pylon of all Egyptian temples. Its height is about 36 m while its width is about 64 m. The pylon is usually considered the gate to the residence of the deity on earth. This pylon consists of two towers. Each tower is surmounted with a cavetto cornice. The two towers are connected together with ‘the Terrace of Appearance’ on which the falcon was set free during ‘the Festival of the Coronation of the Hawk’. Each tower has a staircase which consists of 145 steps and each tower is also divided into 4 inner storeys. Each staircase leads to some inner rooms in the pylon and to the roof.
In front of the pylon, there are two granite statues of falcons wearing the Double Crown and representing Horus Behdty. It is also believed that there were two obelisks in front of the temple. There are also remains of a smaller pylon which dates back to the Ramesside Period and it is situated at a right angle on the eastern tower of the Ptolemaic pylon.
In front of the pylon, on the eastern side, there are remains of the ‘House of Horus’. It was used for breeding the falcons, one of which was chosen a falcon each year by the high priest during the ‘Festival of the Coronation of the Hawk’.
The Open Court:
It is surrounded on three sides by composite floral capital columns, which are decorated with scenes representing the king while making offerings to various deities of Egypt. On the back wall of the pylon, there are scenes representing the Sacred Marriage Festival.
On the left side, scenes representing the arrival of Hathor, goddess of Dendera, on her sacred bark in Edfu to see her husband Horus Behdety.
To the right side, there are scenes representing the return of Hathor to her temple at Dendera.
I. The Pronaos:
The back wall of the court forms the façade of the pronaos. Its entrance is guarded by two falcons, but one of them is broken.
The façade of the pronaos consists of six columns connected together with screen walls. They are decorated with scenes representing King Ptolemy II while standing between god Horus and god Djhwty, who are pouring water over him in order to purify him. Then, there is another scene representing goddess Nekhbet and goddess Wadjet while supervising the coronation of the king.
The roof of the pronaos is supported by twelve columns representing the twelve hours of the night. On the right and left of this hall, there are two square rooms. Each side measures 2.2 m.
The first room is called the ‘pr ankh’ ‘ pr-md3t’or the library (right). The second room is called ‘pr-wcbt’ or ‘pr- dw3t’ the ‘House of Purification’ (left), in which the high priest was purified before performing the religious rituals in the temple.
The most important scenes on the walls of the pronaos are those representing the foundation of the temple. Other scenes depict the king while dancing before Horus of Behdet during the foundation of the temple.
II. The Naos:
It consists of a hypostyle hall, hall of offerings, a hall of deities/ennead and the sanctuary which is surrounded by an ambulatory and side- chambers.
– The Hypostyle Hall:
It has twelve pillars arranged in three rows and each row consists of four columns, with composite floral capitals. The walls are decorated with scenes dating back to the reign of King Ptolemy IV (Philopator). The style of carving in this hall is higher than that of the pronaos.
On either side of this hall, there are two doors:
On the eastern side, the first door leads to the ambulatory, while the second door leads to a staircase which leads to the roof of the temple.
On the western side, the first door leads to the Nile room which was used for keeping the jars containing water for daily use. The scenes on its walls depict the king while offering the sacred water to Horus, Hathor and other deities. The Nile god Hcpy is also frequently depicted. The second door leads to the Perfume Room (Laboratory), the walls of which are decorated with scenes representing the offering of perfumes, unguents and incense.
– The Hall of Offerings:
It is also known as ‘the Hall of the First Reception Room’.
The scenes on its walls depict offerings of meat, fish and fowls. There is a door in this room which leads to another room with another door which leads to a room known as ‘the Treasury Room’.
The walls of this room are covered with scenes of jewelry and precious objects.
There is also a door in this room which leads to a small hall with two floral capital columns.
– The Presentation Hall:
On the walls of this hall, there is a scene representing king, queen and priests carrying different standards representing nomes of Egypt while shaking sistra.
On the western side of this room, there is a staircase leading to the descending passage used during the processions of the New Year Festivals. The western staircase reaches the roof in one straight flight while the eastern one makes several 90 degree turns.
– The Hall of Deities:
It is situated in front of the sanctuary and its walls are decorated with scenes representing the king while making offerings to different deities.
The Wˁbt Hall:
In the east of the transversal hall that leads to the ambulatory, a door opens into the wˁbt hall, the sanctuary used for the celebration of the merging of Horus with the sun disc. It consists of an open court and a cult chapel which is approached by steps. This court is known as ‘the Court of the New Year’ or ‘the Hall of Nut’. It is a small chapel approached by a flight of 6 steps. The roof of this hall is decorated with a scene representing goddess Nut. The court itself is decorated with a scene representing Ptolemy I and his wife Berenice while adoring different deities of Egypt.
– The Sanctuary:
At the middle of the sanctuary, there is a pedestal on which was placed the sacred bark of god Horus Behdety. There is also a naos which contained a statue of god Horus Behdety.
The Side Chambers:
The sanctuary is surrounded by 10 side chambers and the name of each chamber is written on the lower part of its outer wall. For example:
1. The central chamber at the back of the sanctuary is called ‘the Cradle Room’ because the scenes on the wall are represented with the bringing up of Horus Behdety.
2. The side chamber to the west is depicted with Osiris and god Khentiamentiu.
3. Another room is called ‘the Costume Room’.
The Outer Corridor:
This temple is surrounded by an outer corridor. The walls of this corridor are decorated with the ‘Legend of Horus and Seth’.
This legend is depicted as a play of three acts:
The first act: 10 priests wearing the mask of Horus and holding a spear.
The second act: depicts the priest while slaying the hippopotami.
The third act: the king is shown while cutting the hippopotamus, symbol of god Seth, into small pieces while people celebrate this event.
On the opposite wall or the outer wall of the temple are scenes representing the Legend of Horus Behdety.
It is also known as ‘the sacred well’. It is situated to the east of the temple.
It was constructed by King Ptolemy VIII (Eurgetes II) and Ptolemy IX (Soter II). It is similar in design to a temple from the Graeco-Roman Period. It consists of a pronaos and a naos which consists of:
i. Hall of Offerings.
ii. Hall of the Ennead.
iii. The sanctuary surrounded by: an ambulatory and the side chambers. The walls of this mammisi are decorated with scenes representing the Divine Birth of Horus.