Philae Temple

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Welcome to Philae, home of the Temple dedicated to Goddess Isis and constructed on the beautiful island of Philae. Philae the modern day name is greek but the ancient Egyptians called the island P-aaleq which amongst other definitions has the dual meaning of "end" and "creation". It is believed that the various structures contained on Philae Island took 800 years to build (mostly during the roman period). In addition to the priests practicing daily rituals the island was the home of various stone masons, carpenters, and other crafts men continuously building and extending structures.

However the building of the Aswan Dam (see Nile page) almost wiped out the Island and its history. Fortunately an amazing rescue mission saved Philae. Flooded Philae was pumped dry by the Egyptian government and UNESCO through the use of a coffer dam. Philae temple itself was carefully dismantled, so that it could be relocated away from danger. Interestingly each block of the temple was labelled and its position carefully recorded, so that it could be reconstructed in exactly the same format. Even the site on which the main Philae temple rests, was landscaped so that it would look like the site on which the temple was originally standing. The rescue mission took 10 years to complete and involved the movement of blocks weighing 27000 tons in total.


Philae is a magnificent example of modern day advancements enhancing historical monuments. One such event being the nightly Sound and Light show. During the show, buildings will be floodlit to produce silhouetes on the island's volcanic rocks and water.

Approaching from the south the first structure on the island belongs to Nectanebo. This vestibule originally had 14 columns of which only six remain. The double stairway leading to the vestibule has also been taken away by the Nile. After the vestibule there are two colonnades (the eastern colonnade and the western colonnade) which lead to the temple of Isis ( the main temple at Philea). The eastern colonnade was never finished.

philae3First pylon of the temple of Isis is at the end of the two colonnades. This pylon was built by Ptolemy XII and depicts the king overcoming his enemies and worshipping the Goddess Isis. The first pylon leads into the east courtyard which contains a birth house (mamissi) and a roman chapel. The birth house contains releifs of Isis suckling her son Horus. The eastern court also contains a colonnade. This colonnade has ten pillars, and five rooms each with two storeys. It is believed that these rooms had various functions including performing as a library, laboratory for sacred oils or simply as meeting rooms where priest gathered. philae1

At the end of the east court colonnade is the Taharqo altar. this altar is believed to be the oldest structure on the island. After the second Pylon the Hypostyle Hall is situated. The ceilings of the Hypostyle hall is illustrated with the vulture (the sign of upper and lower egypt) and the barques of day and night. Behind the Hypostyle hall there are three antechambers and a sanctuary. One of the antechambers contains a staircase which leads to a chapel dedicated to the God Osiris. This chapel contains releifs depicting the death and mourning of God Osiris. Interestingly the sanctuary still contains the pedestal on which the barque of Isis would have rested.

Outside the temple of Isis, the island of Philae houses various other structures including the Temple of the emperor Hadrian, Temple of Hathor and Trajan's kiosk (Pharaoh's bed). The temple of Hathor contains reliefs of the Bes the dwarf God (whom the ancient egyptians believed helped during childbirth and promoted fertility), musical scenes including an ape playing a musical instrument.


On the left is a photograph of Trajan's kiosk which is contained within the temple's grounds. The kiosk is named after the emporer who rebuilt it. The statue of Isis would undertake an annual procession down the river Nile. At the end of the annual journey the sacred barge transporting the statue of Isis would land on the kiosk. The kiosk has 14 columns with screen walls. The screen walls display images of Trajan making offerings to Isis, Osiris and Horus.

Philae Island is famous for the legend of Isis and Osiris . For example the pylons within the temple of Isis contains depictions of the deities involved in this famous ancient Egyptian myth. Goddess Isis is the wife of Osiris and mother of God Horus. In the myth Osiris was murdered by his brother the wicked God Seth. Seth scattered Osiris pieces in various places. Isis tireleslly searched for Osiris's body parts and then using her Goddess powers to join the pieces together and bring Osiris back to life. Following Osiris' resurrection Isis and Osiris conceived Horus. Osiris then adopted the role of "God of the under world and judge of the dead. At the end of the tale Horus grows up to avenges his father by defeating Seth in combat.

Philae became the legendary burial place of Osiris.

Isis is associated with funeral rites but as she resurrected Osiris and is the mother of of Horus she is also the giver of life, a healer and protector of kings. Osiris ("Mother of God') as represented with a throne on her head.




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