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          Situated to the south of Aswan, the complex of Philae features the largest of temples dedicated to Isis.      

          Built during the 3rd century BC, this was the last bastion of ancient Egyptian religion, the place in which the last hieroglyphs were inscribed in 437 AD. 

          In 535 AD. The Roman emperor Justinian had the temple closed, the scribes & the priests were exiled & the temple fell into the hands of Christian hermits. The naos was profaned & the hypostyle hall became a Christian Church.


          The need of reservoir led to the construction in the late 19th century of the 1st dam at Aswan.

Then in 1960, a new threat appeared in the form of work on the construction of the High Dam (that created Lake Nasser).


          Between 1972 & 1980 the buildings at Philae were saved in a remarkable operation involving their transfer to the nearby island of Agilka.

Each individual stone was numbered & its position noted so as to allow a faithful reconstruction of the monuments.

The operation lasted almost 10 years & in 1980 Philae (or Agilka) was finally reopened to the public.


          In antiquity the region represented the interface between the Egyptians & the Nubian peoples.

During the centuries preceding the expansion of Christianity, the cult of the goddess Isis enjoyed unrivalled popularity that went well beyond the Egyptian borders & was to lead, particularly during the 1st centuries of the present era, to the erection of sacred buildings dedicated to the goddess in the Roman empire.


          The Philae complex is a group of temples, the largest of which is dedicated to the goddess Isis & characterized by an apparent disorder in the elements of which it is composed.

Each is set on its own axis & has its own direction, the colonnades are not parallel but each section has its raison d'etre. Isis is the goddess embodied life itself, & as life is not rational neither is it symmetrical or parallel.


The landing on the island is to the south, & the most famous architectural elements are:

  ** The pavilion of Nectanebo.

  ** The kiosk of Trajan on the east side of the island.

  ** The small temple dedicated to the goddess Hathor.

  ** The 1st pylon of the temple of Isis with two tall blocks either side of a small doorway.

  ** Large courtyard, on the west side of which is a free-standing building, the  mammisi, where Isis gave birth to her son Horus.

  ** The Hall with 10 columns, a cosmic site with mythical & astrological decoration linked to Isis.

  ** The 12 roomed naos.

  ** The chapel of Osiris (Isis consort) on the roof.



          In front of the island of Philae lies that of Biga which housed the Abaton, the tomb of Osiris. Today little remains of the temple which once stood there.

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