Temple of Horus known as “Temple of Edfu” is considered the best-preserved cult temple in Egypt. It was built in the Ptolemaic era from 237 to 57 BC on Nile River Valley between Esna and Aswan.
The temple of Horus was built in Ptolemaic times on an older temple already there at the time of Thutmosis Ill. Its imposing size, 1 37 meters long with a pylon 36 meters high and 79 meters wide, makes it second in importance only to the temple of Karnak. The layout is extremely homogeneous and it can be considered the archetype of the Egyptian temple, with its rooms that get smaller and smaller and darker and darker as they approach the intimacy of the sanctuary, the "holy of holies".
Two fine statues in black granite, representing Horus as a falcon, guard the entrance. The name of the god derives from the word "hr", which means "falcon". Behind the two statues the exterior walls of the temple, with large figures of Horus and Hathor, rise up. The grooves at the side of the portal were meant to hold the staffs of the banners.
Before arriving at the temple a visit to the mammisi is of interest. It stands on the left and was built under Ptolemy IX Soter 11, and was initially to be part of the temple of Horus but ended up by being an independent building. A peristyle surrounds the vestibule flanked by two small chambers and a sanctuary: the capitals of the pillars, with the head of Bes, a birth divinity, are quite singular.
The term mammisi, in fact, derives from the Copt and means "place of birth": every year, symbolically, the mystery of the birth of Horus was renewed , and it therefore became a sacred site for all women in childbirth . In its theatrical setting and pure Ptolemaic style, the temple also has provided us with information on almost all its vicissitudes, thanks to the many inscriptions and detailed bas-reliefs which narrate its story.
The "corner stone" was laid on the 7th of the month of Epiphi, in the tenth year of the reign of Ptolemy Ill Euergetes 1: in other words on August 23, of the year 237 BC The bas-reliefs once more tell us when the temple was finished: on the 5th of December in 57 BC It took almost two centuries to realize this enormous sanctuary, which rose on a shrine that already existed in the time of Thutmosis Ill. An inscription set on the naos tells us that the project was planned by lmhotep, son of Ptah.
Now this is not possible, for lmhotep was the vizier of Zoser, the builder of the step pyramid of Saqqara, who lived twenty-three' centuries earlier! The explanation may 1ie in the fact that the priest-architects of this temple considered Imhotep as a symbol to whom reference was made in their project, and they saw him as a sort of mythical predecessor who ensured the perfection of their work. Attributing the temple of Edfu to him, in other words, meant the certainty of a perfect work.
As at Dendera and Kalabshah, here too an enclosure wall in sandstone surrounds the temple wall, and between the two there was a sort of guard walk. The facade of the temple still stands in all its grandeur with the magnificent pylon , comprised of two massive towers which flank the entrance door.
The pylon, with its long grooves for flag staffs, is divided inside into four levels of rooms and scenes of Ptolemy Xii sacrificing prisoners to Horus and Hathor are engraved on the outside. n either side of the entrance door are the two black granite statues of Horus. Then comes the court, called the "wide libation court", surrounded by columns on three sides: the capitals are all different, but each has its exact correspondent in the column on the opposite side. At the back of the court, almost as if guarding the pronaos, is the beautiful and majestic statue in black granite of the falcon Horus, his head surmounted by the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt.
The hypostyle hall which follows has eighteen columns, twelve of which are set in two rows and preceded by the other six which are joined halfway up by screen walls, off which two small chambers open on either side of the entrance. The one on the left - the "house of the morning" served for the purification of the priests before the ritual, and everything the priests needed during the holy offices was kept here .
The one on the right was the liturgical library and on the walls the catalog of the papyrus scrolls kept here was engraved. From here on to the second hypostyle hall, smaller than the first one, with three rows of four columns, and communicating with the chamber of the 'dry offerings' and with the chamber of the "wet offerings' . Still another room served as laboratory where the offerings were prepared: on the walls is the list of ingredients which were used during the ritual.
Adjacent to this room is the offering chamber, from which the terrace above can be reached, via two staircases. rossing still another chamber, the central hall or intermediate hall, to the left of which is the entrance to the chapel of the god Min, the symbolic and evocative flight of rooms, ever smaller and darker, finally lead to the sanctuary , in which the image of the god was kept. The last room still has the naos, a magnificent monolithic shrine in grey granite four meters high, built in 360 B.C., at the time of Nectanebo 11 and therefore part of the older temple.
Around the sanctuary runs the "corridor of the mysteries", off which ten chambers open. Each of these has its specific attributes and is dedicated to the divinities associated with the cult of Horus, such as Osiris, Sokar, Khonsu, etc. The rich decoration of the interior also continues on the outer walls of the great corridor. The scenes are highly interesting and all are religious in subject: among other things, the laying of the cornerstone is described, and there is the hymn to Mut, the birth and cult of Horus, his victory over the enemies of his father Osiris. Many liturgical scenes are depicted.