Pompey’s Pillar (Ar. al-‘Amud al-Sawari) and Temple of Serapis


Temple of Serapis and Pompey’s Pillar (Ar. al-CAmud al-Sawari), raised in AD 300 in honour of Diocletian who saved the city from famine prior to his massive Christian persecutions. It received its popular name from medieval travellers under the mistaken impression that it marked the site of the temple where Pompey’s head was venerated. The Arabic name probably derives from the fact that the pillar still may have supported the equestrian statue of Diocletian when the Arabs invaded in the 7С and for some time after. It is set on a pedestal 8m sq., on the E face of which is a green granite inscription in Greek honouring Arsinöe, wife of Ptolemy II.

Pompey's Pillar (Ar. al-CAmud al-Sawari)
Pompey’s Pillar (Ar. al-CAmud al-Sawari)

On the W side is a recessed figure of Seti I. The column of red granite is 22m high and is crowned by an immense Corinthian capital. It may be one of the columns of the Temple of Serapis. То the SW are two great red granite Ptolemaic Sphinxes found in the area and an 8m statue of Isis Pharia found in 1961 in the sea” near Qâyt-bây’s Fort. There is also an 18 Dyn. black granite sphinx


the Temple of Serapis
the Temple of Serapis

(headless) and statues of Rameses II and Psamtik 1. 40m W are the remains of the Temple of Serapis, long tunnels in the rock with crypts leading to niches and some marble pillars, probably all that remains of the Serapeum Library, second only to that at the Museion. Along With the temples, it was destroyed and the innumerable scrolls dispersed during the Christian anti pagan riots in 391. To the N are the scattered remains of the Temple of Isis. Here also stood the annexe to the Great Library of the Museion. It survived much longer, but finally succumbed to the depredations of the monks of St. Cyril who razed it to the ground in 411.


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