Temple of Edfu

Edfu is about halfway between Luxor and Aswan. The temple here is dedicated to Horus, and is the most complete temple in Egypt. It is a greco-roman temple, begun by Ptolemy III in 237 BCE and took twenty-five years to finish. The final touches on the temple were added by Ptolemy XII.

Nearly the whole temple was buried in sand until the 1860s, with a village built over the top of the buried columns. It wasn’t clmpletely unburied and restored until the turn of the century. INhabitants of the town had used the buried halls as houses, and soot and smoke on the ceilings caused a lot of damage.


The entrance to the site is from the back end of the temple, so you have to walk along the huge walls to get to the “true” entrance in the first pylon. The enclosing wall is covered with reliefs of vultures and falcons.

Before you go in, check out the small mammisi — birth house — to the southwest. It was added by Ptolemy VII and Ptolemy VIII after the temple was finished. The birth house is decorated with figures of Bes, the got of fertility and childbirth. A rather grotesque figure, actually.

The grand pylon is fronted by statues of the falcon-god Horus. There are no traces of colossal statues. The reliefs on the pylon show various Ptolemys smiting their enemies. Inside, reliefs show the barque of Hathor and procession of Horus and Hathor. Steps in the pylon lead up to the roof.

The inner hall is covered with reliefs of the various festivals for the gods. The triad worshiped here includes Horus, Hathor, and Ihy (instaedo the Theban triad of Amun, Mut, and Khonsu).

The hypostyle hall is from the reign of Ptolemy VII and contained a library with hundreds of papryus documents when the temple was excavated. Many of the reliefs have been defaced.


There is a small festival hall, followed by a courtyard. The hall of offerings has a stairway that leads up to the roof, where the priests would go to perform the cereminotes — remember that people weren’t allowed into the depths of the temple, only inot the courtyard. Only priests and acolytes could enter the inner courtyards, and only teh high priest could enter the sanctuary of the god Horus.

The sanctuary is a collection of 10 smaller chambers, almost a small temple itself, surrounding the barque santuary.

Back outside is a narrow corridor between the inner and outer walls, decorated with reliefs of Horus and Seth, and leading to the nilometer near the rear.

One note – the horses here in Edfu were among the worst we had seen in Egypt. Try not to patronize caleche drivers with emaciated or sick horses.


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