A Hellenistic Macedonian family ruled Egypt during the Ptolemaic
Dynasty (305-30 BC). Under their rule, a revival of Egyptian
traditions & forms occurred, but with a change – instead of the
temples’ previous “public majesty”, they were now darkened and
mysterious. Large building projects were carried out, temples were
rebuilt or enlarged, and Egyptian religious beliefs were preserved by
The basic elements of temple construction & room arrangement were
still used, with the pronaos and a free-standing central
sanctuary (instead of against the back wall) added to them. Under
the later kings of this dynasty, the temples still provided a strong
social function, serving as the town’s focus, and giving it
administrative & economic value as well as spiritual value.
The Temple of Edfu was built from sandstone on the Nile’s west bank
in Edfu, over a period of 180 years. Its layout was complex, but streamlined.
Temple of Edfu.
Statues of Horus outside the entrance (close-up).
Stairways inside the pylons led to the roof. The entrance led to a
large courtyard, after which was the pronaos, hypostyle hall,
small antechamber, and finally a free-standing sanctuary, surrounded
by a corridor.
Decorative hieroglyphic texts state that the temple was built
according to the ancient ideal, which re-emphasized its dedication to
Edfu was dedicated to Horus (the falcon god), and displays all the
typical major temple elements: broken-lintel doorway (two partial
lintels reach only a short way, with a large gap in the middle);
elaborate column capitals; a screen wall across the hypostyle hall;
and the roof was used for ritual.
A winged sun-disc over the pylon entrance represented Behdet, the
creator & protector of the world. The courtyard is flanked by
colonnaded porticoes. It gave an impressive public aspect to the
temple, with elaborate, brightly-decorated capitals, and the large
statue of Horus as a falcon at the back.
Courtyard (looking back to the pylons).
The pronaos was also called the Hall before the Great Seat”.
This is the temple’s fore-hall (i.e. before the hypostyle hall). It
has three rows of six columns each. The only light came in through a
square aperture in the roof, thus emphasizing the transition between
the physical & spiritual worlds.
Behind the first row of columns is a screen wall, to restrict the
amount of light entering the pronaos. This created an
environment for cleansing before approaching the sanctuary. The
screen wall is made of thin stone, and is highly-decorated with
images of the king & queen, cult themes, and mythological motifs,
thus emphasizing the cult of the pharaoh.
In the courtyard, looking to the first row of columns.
The Temple of Hathor in the Dendera Temple Complex was built during
the 00’s BC. The columns supporting its hypostyle hall were crowned
with 4-sided Hathor-head capitals. The upper part of the capitals
depicted the mammisi (birth house), which was identified with
divine descent. Hathor was the goddess of love.
Temple of Hathor.
Columns in the hypostyle hall.
The cornice was a projecting ornamental moulding, on along the
top of pylons and temple walls. It was a standard part of Egyptian
decoration. The earliest designs were simple mud-brick and reed, and
later elaborate designs were of detailed cult symbolism, such as the
striking cobra and sun-disc. Cornices gave elegance to monumental