Ancient Egypt / Religion / Cult centres /
Ancient Egyptian: P-aaleq
The cults and the location at this point was originally purely within Egyptian theology, in which Osiris had his cult at the nearby Biga Island, and the source of the Nile was defined to come from a cavern beneath it. Gradually, however, it would emerge as a cultic centre to unite Egyptian and Nubian religions, thereby also the two lands.
The present Philae was relocated from the original inundated island of Philae, and has been rebuilt on Anglika Island, 550 metres away. Even the size and formation of the island, is built to match the original temple area. It now lies in the artificial lake between the new and old Aswan Dams, immediately south of modern Aswan.
The present name, Philae, is from the Greek.
The Temple of Isis was built over a period starting around 680 (Taharqa) and finished around 230 BCE, although decorations were added up to 250 years later. The temple remained active until the reign of the Byzantine emperor, Justinian 1, in the middle of the 6th century. This means that it remained active a few centuries into the era of a Christian Egypt, and it would for long remain the only temple of the old religious traditions. When it was closed, however, it was converted into a church dedicated to Virgin Mary. A century later, this church would be closed by Muslim invaders.
Into the surrounding walls of the Temple of Isis, the Temple of Harendotes has been built in. In front are the temples of Imhotep and Arensnuphis (Dedun), as well as a chapel of Mandulis (see Kalabsha). To the east, there is an impressive Kiosk of Trajan. Further north, scant remains of a Temple of Hathor and a Temple by Augustus can be found.
The location of the Temple of Isis has long been admired, but the reasons have changed in the course of time. Originally, the island always rested over the Nile floodings. In the 18th century a hostile tribe lived here, keeping all visitors on a distance. Since the building of the first Aswan Dam, the temple was flooded from October to July; in summer the sluices were opened. Still it was visited, tourists would admire it beneath the translucent water.
The relocation of the temple structures were carried out from 1972 to 1980 by UNESCO and EAO. Lost, however, is the closeness to Biga Island, where Osiris was worshiped.
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