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Temple of Isis, Philae Island

Temples - The Buildings - Builders & Buildings

Interesting Facts

  • The Temple of Isis was considered as so holy that only members of the Priesthood were allowed to walk on the island. This was taken so seriously that in Ancient Greek, it was known as “the Unapproachable”
  • One of the Festivals which were held at Philae Island was when the Cult Statue of the Goddess Isis visited the grave of her Deity husband, God Osiris; this is said to have been performed with the priests conducting Funerary Rites for the dead God every 10 or so days
  • The Temple is known to be the last place where Egyptian Hieroglyphs were ever written in 394AD and also the last place where Demotic Inscriptions were ever written in 452AD
  • To the West of the original island of Philae was a larger island called Senmut, today it is referred to as Bigeh. This island was also considered holy by the Ancient Egyptians and there was a Temple also built here although today we do not have any real designs for the Temple, there are the remains of 2 huge Granite Statues and some of the Walls. Also, many of the rocks have inscriptions to the Pharaohs Amenhotep III, Ramses II, Psamtik II, Apries and Amasis II
  • Goddess Isis, in the form of her Cult Statue, would make visits to other local Temples in Upper Egypt for various Festivals even when Rome controlled Egypt as one of its Vassal States

What: The Temple home of the Goddess Isis on Philae Island, the location of the burial for her Deity husband, God Osiris. The Reliefs are almost solely dedicated to the story of the Goddess Isis and God Osiris. To learn more about this and the Legend of Osiris, click here. The Island also boasts small Chapels to the Goddess Hathor and midwifery, Imhotep, Harendotes, Mandulis, Arensnuphis; Kiosks to Nectanebo and Trojan; Hadrian’s Gateway; a Nilometer and the site of the small Temple of Harendotes

Where: Found on an island at the First Cataract of the Nile River, but when the Low Aswan Dam was built in 1902, the Nile would flood the island including the Temple throughout the year unless the sluices on the Dam were opened – usually from July to October. Rescue operations were suggested but nothing was taken further until 1960, when the UNESCO Nubia Campaign Project began by removing the Temple and its adjoining buildings, block by block, and rebuilt it again on Agilkia Island, completing the work by 1980. The original location, being close to the Tropic of Cancer, was infamous for the effects that the rising and setting sun had on the Reliefs that were created by the Egyptian Artisans

When: Commissioned in the 30th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt and built between 380-362BC, the Temple of Isis was the last fully functioning temple in Egypt. Other parts of the Complex were built during the Ptolemaic and Roman Periods including during the reigns of Pharaoh Ptolemy II, Ptolemy V and Ptolemy VI. The Temple complex was finally closed for worship in the 6th Century, officially in 537AD when commanded to do so by Justinian I of Byzantine, although Churches were still in use at this time

Who: The Temple was commissioned by Pharaoh Nectanebo I to whom a kiosk is also dedicated

Why: The site was a major place for pilgrimage, especially during the Ptolemaic Reigns with pilgrims coming from as far away as the northern Mediterranean although by the time of the Romans pilgrims from the north became scarce. Pilgrimages from Nubia continued including official envoys from the Nubian Capital of Meroe


Come with me on a tour of the Temple, click on the link you want to see!

Outer Courtyard, East & West Colonnades and Chapels           &        First Pylon      &     First Courtyard and Birth House

Second Pylon              &             Hypostyle Hall                &               Inner Sanctum

Other Areas, including:  Kiosk of Nectanebo, Gateway of Hadrian, Temple of Hathor & Kiosk of Trajan

Flooding of Temple after construction of the Aswan Dam

Looking out onto the River from the Temple

Exterior Wall

Coptic Chapel area inside the Hypostyle Hall in the Temple of Isis


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