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Philae island (Agilkai) Philae island (Agilkai)
Photo by Victor Kondos © 2009 Your Egypt

The complex on the island is dedicated to IsisWho is this deity?, goddess of fertility and motherhood. It was the center of her cult that flourished from the 3rd century BC to the 4th century AD. Her worship was famous enough to spread all over the Mediterranean particularly in Rome until Christianity finally replaced paganism.

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The original island of Philae is a slight south to the current island. The complex was located on that island. This was visited by tourists from all over the world from ancient times, especially pagan tourists who sought healing miracles of Isis.

At early last century, the construction of Aswan dam resulted in its partial submerge of water. The construction of the High Dam in 1960 resulted into the total submerge of the island. Egypt made an international appeal through UNESCO to salvage the monument. Finally a project was approved to dismantle the temple and re-erect it at the near-by island of Agilka which was on a higher land level. Meanwhile the shape of the island was re-formed by adding more stones in imitation of the original island.

The project was finished in 1980 incorporating more tourist facilities and the monuments rose again on the Agilka island, which in turn was renamed Philae.
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Nectanebo gate (kioskWhat does it mean?):
It is on the west of the modern landing stage (See Image 2). This gate was once the original entrance of the island.
The remaining 6 columns have double floral and sistrumWhat does it mean?-HathorWho is this deity? capitals. They were originally 14 columns. The kiosk is dedicated to Nectanebo I's "mother Isis."

The outer court:
The outer court of the main Isis temple is about 100 meters (330ft) long and is edged by colonnadesWhat does it mean? on the east and west sides.

The columns on the west are superbly carved (See Image 3). They have different capitals and not one capital is like another. The shafts behind the columns bear the inscription of Roman Emperor Tiberius in the presence of deities.
The eastern colonnade, however, was never completed.

Three shrines are aligned with the eastern colonnades; the first -southernmost- is dedicated to Arihesnefer (or Arensnuphis), a NubianWhat does it mean? deity. The second -midway- is dedicated to lion-god MandulisWho is this deity?, a Nubian deity honored by local Egyptians, and the third -northernmost- is dedicated to ImhotepWho is this deity?, the vizierWhat does it mean? and architect who built Djoser's step pyramid and deified as a physician god later. The latter is in a good state of preservation.

Main Isis temple:
Its construction was began by Ptolemy II Philadelphus and it was nearly completed by Ptolemy III Euergetes I. Their successors contributed to it.
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First pylon:
The first pylon is about 18 meters (60 ft) in height and 45 meters (178 ft) in width (See Image 5). Its reliefs show Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos striking his enemies before deities. Two granite lions flank the main portal of the pylon. The back wall shows priests carrying the barqueWhat does it mean? of Isis.
The portal has inscriptions commemorating Napoleon Bonaparte's victory over the Mamluks in 1799.
Another gate in the west tower leads to the Birth House which is located in the temple's courtyard.

Birth HouseWhat does it mean? (MammisiWhat does it mean?):
It is located on the west of the courtyard (beyond the first pylon) (See Image 6). It is accessible through a subsidiary gate in the first pylon.
The Birth House has a forecourt. This leads to two sequent vestibules and a sanctuary. They are flanked by screened colonnade.

The courtyard:
The courtyard is edged to the east with a colonnade with its back wall bearing inscription. There is a small Roman chapel in the courtyard in front of a sacred granite stone incorporated in the body of the second pylon. This has inscriptions of Ptolemy IV.

Second pylon:
The second pylon is on a higher land level than the first court and is reached by a stairway. The pylon is set at an angle aimed to change the temple's axis slightly to the east.

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Temple proper:
The second pylon opens into the hypostyleWhat does it mean? hall graced with ten exquisitely carved columns (See Image 8). The hall had once been converted into a church in the Christian era and attempts to disfigure pagan reliefs were adopted by Christians. There are traces of Coptic-style crosses inscribed on the walls and there is a Christian altar on the east wall of the hall (See Image 9).

Three antechambersWhat does it mean? follow and finally the sanctuary (See Image 10). The latter still houses the pedestal that used to support the sacred barque of Isis dedicated by Ptolemy III and Berenice, his wife. There are two small windows in the roof intended to admit light to the room. Other side rooms are allocated for the usage of priests.

Stairways to the west of the temple lead to the rooms of OsirisWho is this deity? upstairs. The reliefs there show the collecting of Osiris dismembered limbs and later his resurrection, according to the ancient Egyptian legend.

Hadrian's arch:
The arch is to the west of the main temple. It was constructed in the first half of the 2nd century AD (See Image 11).
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The reliefs here are particularly interesting. They illustrate the source of the Nile. A vulture and a falcon -in representation of upper and lower Egypt- stand on piles of stone, while the Nile-god HapiWho is this deity?, circled by a serpent below the stone piles, pours water streams from two vessels forming the Nile. There are also depictions of Roman Emperor Hadrian with gods.

Temple of Harendotes:
The temple is to the west of Isis temple and to the north of Hadrian's arch. It was built by Emperor Claudius but was later destroyed by early Christians and stone blocks were taken from it for reuse.

Temple of Hathor:
The temple lies to the east of Isis temple (See Image 12). The Hathor shrine has a hall, a colonnade and several small rooms. Its construction was begun by Ptolemy IX and ended under Emperor Augustus. Its restored colonnade shows interesting musical scenes: Bes, a dwarf-deity plays a tambourine and a harp and an ape strumming lyre.

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Trajan's kiosk:
Also called "Pharaoh's bed." It is the most remembered monument of Philae and is an unroofed structure flanked by 14 columns connected with screen walls. The columns have floral capitals that support the cornice. The kiosk has two entrances.
Inside are reliefs showing Trajan as a pharaoh making offerings to Osiris, Isis and HorusWho is this deity?.
The kiosk was left unfinished though. Building began in the 2nd century AD by Emperor Trajan. It is evident that the Roman art style is predominating the construction.

Northern tip of the island:
In the north there are ruins of a temple of Augustus (See Image 13), a Roman gate and a Roman quay (See Image 14).

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