Ancient Egypt – Philae

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The temple devoted to the goddess Isis was located on Philae, an island, but in the 1960s, was threatened (like a few other temples) when the British proposed to develop a dam to control the flow of water in the Nile. To save the temple, an additional dam was built around the temple in 1972, in the hopes of preventing water from coming in, while they dismantled the ancient structure block by block. A nearby higher region, called Agilkai was altered to best resemble the original Philae. After the relocation, the temple was finally reopened to the public in 1980.

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View from the Nile of the Temple of Philae.

Construction began in the third century BC, and was allegedly the last bastion of ancient Egyptian religion and hieroglyphs. There were also additions that were made from the subsequent Ptolemaic, Roman, Christian and Muslim eras. The temple of Isis in particular was a product of the less ancient Egyptian civilization of the Ptolemaics. It was believed that the original island of Philae was one of the many burial locations spanning across Egypt of Osiris, god and husband of Isis.

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The temple at Philae was nearly lost under water when the high Aswan dam was renovated in the 1960s.

Isis is a very important figure in the ancient Egyptian world. She is associated with funeral rites but more importantly as the enchantress who resurrected Osiris, god of the afterlife, and gave birth to a son, Horus. She is also the giver of life, a healer and protector of kings – she was known as ‘Mother of God’. When female figures appeared in the historical texts and references of the ancient Egyptian civilizations, they were indeed influential and important in the evolution of its history.

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