Sunday, January 26, 2014

Philae, Dendur and Kalabsha in the Augustan Period

Figure 1 - Kiosk of Augustus at Philae
     The Egyptological Seminar of New York had their first meeting of 2014 this past Friday. The guest speaker was Erin Peters, who gave a talk entitled "Philae, Dendur and Kalabsha in the Augustan Period".

     Ms. Peters had some interesting material and talked about a number of things that I was not previously aware of, including:

  • Augustus negotiated a peace with the kingdom of Kush in the winter of 20 - 21 B. C.
  • This treaty split the area between the first and second cataracts between the two empire

     The temples that were discussed contain many inscriptions on them from a variety of sources. Official inscriptions were, of course, in Egyptian hieroglyphs. But a number of worshipers left inscriptions in Demotic, Greek and even Meroitic.

     At Philae representations of Augustus were carved on the exterior walls of the innermost building of the temple. Augustus also made some additions to the temple including the well-known kiosk (figure 1). Also at Philae, but not built by Augustus, were temples to Imhotep (the deified builder of Djoser's step pyramid in the Third Dynasty), temples to two Nubian gods and a Roman style temple built by Diocletian.

     Kalabsha temple was dedicated to the Nubian god Mandulis and there is a carving on that temple's walls showing Horus, Isis and Mandulis receiving offerings from Augustus. The gods are separated from Augustus by an offering table and Augustus is shown wearing the double crown of the Pharaoh. But the double crown is very unusually represented in a frontal view, rather than in the normal profile view.

     Augustus is also shown on the walls of the temple of Dendur offering to two young men who drowned in the Nile.

     All three of these temples were moved as part of the rescue mission that took place when the Aswan High Dam was constructed. The dam would have completely flooded these temples if they had not been moved. Portions of the Kalabsha temple are now in Berlin and the Temple of Dendur is in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Philae is, of course, still in Egypt, but in a new location where is is safe from flooding.

All photos copyright (c) 2014 by John Freed

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