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Philae Temple of Isis - Table of Contents.

Outer Courtyard and First Pylon
Philae Temple of Isis

Agilika, Egypt

Map of Philae Temple

Pronunciation of Philae: FI lee

Click on illustrations for larger size -- and additional information


East colonnade

West colonnade

Bundled papyrus
with volutes

Bundled papyrus stalks
with volutes

Cavetto cornice

Papyrus and
palm capitals

Palm column


Ptolemy XII offers incense
Isis and the child, Horus

Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos
holds a group of enemies of Egypt

Solar disc


Portal, First Pylon

Ptolemy XII and deities

Granite guardian lion

Philae was the place where Isis found the heart of Osiris and that she, after having collected his shattered body, buried him on the Island of Bigeh, just across the narrow stretch of water to the west. It was probably a temple site since the 4th century B.C. It was not officially closed until AD 550 by the Byzantine emperor, Justinian. It was the last pagan temple to exist in the Mediterranean world (although a Roman temple to Isis remained in England).

Philae was a seat of the Christian religion as well as of the ancient Egyptian faith. Ruins of a Christian church were discovered and a chapel dedicated to Osiris was later dedicated to Christ. The Philae temple was converted into a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, until that was closed by Muslim invaders in the 7th century.

In 1960 UNESCO started a project in order to try and save the buildings on the island from the destructive effect of the ever increasing waters of the Nile. It was dismantled and reassembled on Agilika Island about 550 meters from its original home on Philae Island in the wake of the High Dam. Philae is now covered by the waters of Lake Nasser.

Outer Courtyard and First Pylon

The first pylon was constructed by Ptolemy XII. It consists of two 60 foot towers with a gate between them. There are grooves cut into each side of the pylon to support flag poles. Construction of the pylon was begun by Ptolemy II Philadelphus and finished by Ptolemy III Euergetes I, but decorations were also added by their successors.

The front of the right, or eastern tower is depicted with a huge figure of Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos who holds a group of enemies of Egypt by the hair and raises his club to smite them. This, of course, is a common pose of the pharaoh dating back to the earliest times in Egyptian history, and repeated by almost every pharaoh. To the left of him stands Isis, watching the king, together with the falcon headed Horus of Edfu and Hathor.

Above this scene are two reliefs. To the right, Ptolemy XII presents the crown of Upper and Lower Egypt to Horus and Nephthys. To the left, he offers incense to Isis and the child, Horus.

An additional entrance was built through the pylon on the left side for passage to the Birth House.

Photos and their arrangement © 2009 Chuck LaChiusa
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