Edfu Temple – Temple of Horus – Egypt Temples

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Edfu,The ancient city which stood here was Djeba, where Horus the Elder was worshipped, later called Apollinopolis Magna (to distinguish it from A. Parva, Le. Qus) by the Greeks who equated the solar aspects of Horus with those of Apollo. In myth it was here that Horus pierced Seth during their contention. Horus as worshipped here had the epithets the Bhtd, and the Winged Disk, and probably originated in Sambekedet in the Delta, but by the late period had become identified in many ways with the Younger Horus, son of Osiris and Isis. His consort was Hathor of Dendarah and their annual ritual marriage was one of the most important celebrations of the city. The winged disk associated with Edfu also stands as an emblem of United Egypt and was traditionally set up over temple doors in commemoration of the victory of Horus over Seth alter their country wide battles.

Mounds covering the ancient city spread over an area of  2km but are consistently being whittled away by the sabbakhin. There are Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Period tombs and evidence of remains from later periods but the largest monument is the Temple oi Horus, to the W of the town. Ancient precincts spread to the E and S. This is the most complete of all Egyptian temples and is the final Ptolemaic rebuilding in sandstone of a religious foundation which stretches back to early dynastic times.

Until the 1860s debris covered the temple, except for the pylons, and a large number of dwellings covered the roof. Much damage had been done to the interior by the inhabitants of the town, who had defaced many of the figures and cut holes in the walls. Mariette cleared the main temple and considerable restoration work was undertaken by Maspero, when iron girders were implanted to shore up the roof of the interior. However, it was not until 1903 that the mammisi and enclosure wall were fully cleared.

Texts on the walls give an account of the original foundations of the temple and are doubtless copied from much earlier wall texts. This site was considered to be that of one of the mounds that rose from the Waters of Nun where the falcon first perched on a slip of reed. To defend him against his enemy the snake two weapons appeared –  them mace called the ‘Great White’ and the spear – both of which figure prominently in the Edfu ritual. The main building was begun on 23 August 237 BC (under Ptolemy III Euergetes I) and took 25 years to complete. The reliefs and inscriptions took another five years. A revolt in Upper Egypt halted the construction and the door and fittings were not set in position until 3 February 176 BC. The plating and the inscriptions had to be completed and the opening ceremony took place on 10 September 105 BC. Even so, work continued on the reliefs in the Small Hypostyle Hall for another two years.

Festivals at Edfu the principal liturgical events of the year consisted of five main feasts. Two have already been mentioned: the New Year Festival common to all the temples of Egypt, embodying the ‘Union with the Disk’, and the ‘Play of the Divine Birth’ celebrated in and around the mammisi In addition there was the miracle play of Horus, sometimes called the Festival of Victory, showing his struggle with, and final vanquishing of, Seth. This was portrayed on the inside of the outer corridor of the temple on the W side. Part of this took place annually on the sacred lake where Seth was defeated as either a hippopotamus or a crocodile. One of the main feasts was the annual journey of Hathor to Edfu from Dendarah and her sacred marriage to Horus. This journey took about two weeks and was celebrated with great joy not only at Edfu, but also at the other sacred spots that the procession visited upon the way. The journey was by river and

many other deities joined the procession It also proceeded to various places in the neighbourhood of Edfü. Because the reigning king was regarded as Horus, the Festival of the Coronation which stood for the symbolic renewal of royal power also took place annually at Edfu, in the Temple of the Falcon, now largely destroyed, which stood in front of the main pylon. It was followed by a crowning ceremony in the main forecourt of the temple. The scenes representing this are shown on the back of the pylon.

The temple area is entered through a gate to the N at the rear of the building, and the wall of the main building is followed to the courtyard in front of the temple. To the S is the Mammisi of Horus, aligned E—W, the work of Ptolemies VII and XIII. The exterior is much damaged but the interior shrine has survived. On the S wall are some reliefs which retain their original colouring. Here once a year was performed the miracle play that represented the birth of Horus, and at the same time the birth of the divine heir to the throne of Egypt. Scenes on the walls represent the divine birth (better shown at Dendarah), the seven Hathors, Hathor suckling the young Horus or else shaking a sistrum. То the E and W the remains of the ancient enclosure wall can still be seen.

The orientation of the main temple is from N-S. The two decorated Pylons are engraved with scenes of Ptolemy XIII smiting his enemies before Horus the Elder (1—2). The recesses in the pylons were intended for flagstaffs which always stood before late Egyptian temples. E of these pylons are the bases of two pylons of the earlier temple of Ramesses III, aligned E—W. In front of the gate stand hawks of Horus. Inside the door, which must originally have been wood plated with bronze, is the forecourt, the Court of Offerings with a colonnade of 32 columns covered with reliefs showing the king worshipping the deities of the temple.

Steps lead from the forecourt to the top of the pylons with, after a somewhat exhausting ascent, a fine View of the temple and town (recently these stairs have been inaccessible). The forecourt gives onto the Hypostyle Hall with another two hawks flanking the door, the roof supported by 18 with various types of capitals, once brightly coloured, but only traces of paint now remain. The six screen walls dividing the hall from the forecourt show Ptolemy IX making offerings to Hator and Horus. To the E of the main entry is a small chamber which contained a small library (13), scrolls of the temple ritual and the lists of principal feasts. This was not the main temple library as there are only two niches for rolls, and they may have contained only those to do with the daily service. An inscription over the door states that this was the library of Horus, and that the rolls were in the charge of the chief ritual priest. W of the door is a small room, the Chamber of Consecration or Vestry (12), where the ritual vases were kept. Many of the rooms are lit by vertical slits in the roofing blocks, providing a diffused light for the interior of the temple. As at Esna the columns contained shortened versions of the main festivals, offerings and Observances carried out in the temple. The smaller Inner Hypostyle Hall, called the Festival Hall, lying behind, has two additional entries, one to the W and one to the E, from which entered the dry and wet offerings which formed part of the daily service. This hall has rather slender columns. Off this were small chambers in which the sacred amulets were kept, and many of the special utensils.

Behind the two Hypostyle Halls lies the Outer Vestibule or Court of Offerings, a transverse hall containing the Altar of Offerings. Here the daily offerings were made, and it must have been crowded with altars, offering tables, fruit, flowers, joints of meat, wine and milk. Stairs lead to the roof, where originally as at Dendarah there must have been a ‘Chapel of the Disk’ for the revitalising of the statues in the Union with the Disk ceremony, but this has been removed at some time. Scenes on the stairs still recall the priestly procession carrying images of the gods wending its way to the roof. The stairway to the E was for the ascending procession, that to the W for the descent. On the E side is the Inner Vestibule. Beyond is the New Year Chapel with a figure of Nut upon the ceiling. The Sanctuary, as is the case with other late temples, is almost a separate building within the main structure. The scenes on the walls decorated by Ptolemy IV Philopater show offerings to the two gods of the temple, Horus and Hathor, in their sacred boats, and various scenes of the ritual opening of the shrine and the offerings made. At the rear of the sanctuary, predating the main temple building, stands a small granite shrine or Naos of Nectanebo. In front of it is a grey granite pedestal intended as a support for the sacred boat of Horus, given as a votive offering by a private individual to Horus.

A corridor extends round the Sanctuary, off which open ten rooms concerned with the cult, some normally served as store rooms, but others are associated with deities, scenes above the doors indicating the purpose. From the W, the first is the room of Horus, protector of Osiris (H). The next is that of the sun god Re (G) then the chamber of Hathor (F), from which leads the Khonsu room (E). The room directly behind the sanctuary was that of Horus the Harpooner. The next three rooms are connected with the worship of Osiris (B—D). Nearly all the temples have chapels of this kind. Also on the W side is the Room of the Throne of the Gods, and the Linen (A) and Silver rooms.

(3—4) Hathor’s voyage to Edfu (5) Ptolemy offering to Horus and Hathor. (6—7) The king before Horus, Hathor and Ihy. (8—9) Ptolemy X before the Edfu Triad. (10) Ptolemy VIII offers to Horus and Hathor. (11) Ptolemy XI offers a boat to Horus. (12) Vestry. (13) Library. (14) Deification ceremonies. (15) Foundation of the temple ceremonies. (16) Offering to the divinities of the temple. (17) Ptolemy before lnmutef. (18) Ptolemy IV offers to Amun and Mut. (19) Ptolemy offers four calves to Horus. (20) Offering scenes. (21) The king and Mnervis bulls before Horus. (22) Morning hymn to Horus. (23) Texts to Horus. (24) Liturgical texts and offering scenes. (25) Offering scenes, sacrifice of oryx, offering of ointment and driving four calves. (26—27) Mystery play of Horus. On the E wall of the corridor surrounding the temple are the remains of the Well.

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