Essential Architecture-  Egypt

Temple Complex at Philae






4th century BCE-Ptolemaic


Ancient Egyptian




The original sacred island of Philae is now beneath Lake Nasser. Between 1972 and 1980 the temples on this island were dismantled and rebuilt on a higher nearby island, which has been renamed Philae. This temple complex was an important cult center in Greco-Roman times and a popular tourist spot for 18th and 19th century travelers. However, these visitors saw brightly painted capitals--before the temple complex was submerged in the waters of the Aswan Dam. The new Philae is generally approached from the north on the western side. The return boat trip is toward the north on the east side.

The largest and main temple on the island is the Temple of Isis, "started under Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-247 B. C.) and completed in all its essential details by Ptolemy III Euergetes I (247-221 B. C.) Its decoration, both inscriptions and reliefs, proceeded gradually" (Kamil 71).

Alan Lloyd explains that "one of the distinctive features of major state temples in the Ptolemaic and Roman periods was the provision of a small peripteral temple, invariably placed at right angles to the main temple, for which Champollion coined the term mammisi (an invented Coptic word meaning "birth house"). The Ptolemaic mammisi were usually surrounded by colonnades with intercolumnar screen walls, and they were used to celebrate the rituals of the marriage of the goddess (Isis or Hathor) and the birth of the child-god" (414). (See distant view from the west.) The block of granite set against the pylon commemorates donations of land Ptolemy VI made to the temple; the relief depicts the customary scene of the pharaoh before Isis and Hours.
With special thanks to the Digital Imaging Project
Images copyright Mary Ann Sullivan.