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The Kom Ombo Temple in Egypt is a sacred Ptolemaic temple co-dedicated to the crocodile deity Sobek and falcon-headed Haroeris. This dual-dedication is quite atypical and is reflected in the symmetrical design of the Kom Ombo Temple.
Built under Ptolemy VI of the Ptolemaic Dynasty in the 2nd century BC, the Kom Ombo Temple was added to under the Romans.
Despite being damaged by earthquakes and other things over the centuries, the Kom Ombo Temple is still impressive and has much to see including a range of religious carvings as well as those depicting day-to-day scenes, a sacred well and many a mummified crocodile.
Kom Ombo Temple history
Close to the river Nile, the Kom Ombo Temple was built during the Ptolemaic period between 180 BC and 47 AD. The limestone temple was built by men on elephants and was dedicated to 2 primary Egyptian gods: Sobek and Horus the Elder, gaining it the dual names of ‘House of the Crocodile’ and ‘Castle of the Falcon’.
Egyptian temples were seen as the houses of the gods or kings to whom they were dedicated, and as such, Egyptians performed rituals inside to uphold maat – the divine balance of the universe. Those allowed inside would have been priests, although the temples were also sites for ordinary people to leave offerings, pray and seek guidance from outside.
The first pharaoh referenced in the temple is Ptolemy VI Philometer, although Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos continued work and had the exterior and interior Hypostyle halls built. During the Roman period when Egypt became a province in 30 AD, additions to the temple were made in the main court. Augustus built an outer wall, since lost.
As Christianity swept the Mediterranean empires, traditional Egyptian religion was persecuted and saw temple cults die out between the 4th and 6th centuries AD. A lot of the temple was defaced by the Coptic Church and it was not until the 19th century when European interest in Egyptology peaked and the temple was reconstructed.
Kom Ombo Temple today
Situated along the banks of the Nile, these twin temples remain glorious despite over a millennia of use, abuse and restoration. Expect to spend an hour or so wandering the temple remains admiring the craftsmanship and hieroglyphs on the palm-design columns, before visiting the mummified crocodiles inside the small Crocodile Museum.
The temple is particularly beautiful when lit up by the early morning or evening sun, the limestone glowing like fire and reminding us of the awe it would have inspired in ancient worshippers. Open between 6am and 5pm each day, this site is a must-see.
Getting to Kom Ombo Temple
Standing a short distance from the modern town of Kom Ombo, the temple is easily found. It is also a popular stop along Nile river cruises and minibus tours between Luxor and Aswan. The sleeper train between Cairo, Luxor and Aswan also stops at Kom Ombo.
Kom Ombo Temple
The Graeco Roman Temple at Kom Ombo
The temple at Kom Ombo is about 30 miles (48 km) north of Aswan and was built during the Graeco-Roman period (332 BC AD 395). There was an earlier structure from the 18th dynasty but little remains.
The temple is unique because it is in fact a double temple, dedicated to Sobek the crocodile god, and Horus the falcon-headed god. The layout combines two temples in one with each side having its own gateways and chapels.
SobekSobek is associated with the wicked god Seth, the enemy of Horus. In the Horus myth the allies of Seth made their escape by changing themselves into crocodiles.
Sobek and Horus
Sobek’s chief sanctuary was at Kom Ombo, where there were once huge numbers of crocodiles. Until recent times the Egyptian Nile was infested with these ferocious animals, who would lay on the riverbank and devour animals and humans alike. So it is not surprising that the local inhabitants went in fear.
They believed that as a totem animal, and object of worship, it would not attack them. Captive crocodiles were kept within the temple and many mummified crocodiles have been found in cemeteries, some of which can be seen in the temple sanctuary today.
Egyptian Temples for the iPad
The mystery of Egyptian cult temples explained, illustrated with videos, photos, drawings and 30 highly detailed computer generated reconstructions.
The Double Temple is built on a traditional plan but there is an invisible division down the middle. Two separate doorways extend its entire length, past the halls and antechambers, ultimately leading to two sanctuaries, one to Horus and the other to Sobek. There is evidence that construction and building continued for some four hundred years, the latest Roman emperor featured being Macrinus (AD 217). In addition to the main temple there is a Birth House and a Shrine to Hathor, both of which date to Roman period.
The entrances face south. The left hand tower, which is mostly destroyed, depicted scenes relating to the triad headed by Horus the Elder with Isis as his wife and Horus, ?son of isis?, as his son. The righ hand tower shows scenes relating to the triad headed by Sobek with Hathor as his wife, and Khonsu as their son. The triads are depicted on the lower parts of the wall. The court is spacious. It has eight columns on each side and an altar near the center.
The Great Hypostyle Hall has 10 columns supporting a roof that is decorated with flying vultures along the two main aisles, and astronomical figures beneath the architrave. Attention is drawn to the elegance of the capitals, and their variety of decorative motives. Many show elaborate palm frond and flower capitals. The wall reliefs are well preserved they show all the Ptolemaic rulers who contributed to the decoration of the temple: Ptolemy VI, Ptolemy IX, Ptolemy XII. The reliefs on the inside of the temple, which date to Ptolemaic times, are finer than the crude sunken reliefs on the outer walls of the temple, which date to Roman times.
Unfortunately the two sanctuaries are in a poor state of preservation. Horus's granite pedestal stood to the east, and Sobek's to the west. Between the 2 sanctuaries, a hidden corridor has been built into the thickness of the wall. This secret place could only be approached from a chamber situated immediately to the rear, where a portion of the floor could be raised to admit a priest to a passage below ground level. The priest must have played a part in the oracular power attributed to the two deities. The inner corridor leads to seven chambers to the rear of the temple the entire corridor is decorated with reliefs some of them are unfinished. The outer corridor is also decorated throughout and can be approached from the court. The scenes here on the left-hand corridor relate to Horus and those to the right to Sobek.
Components of Kom Ombo Temple
The construction of Kom Ombo temple is very rare and unusual as is consisting of two matching sectors next to each other while each being independent of the other for the purpose of worship. The temple was built in the shape of a rectangle using limestone like most of the temples in Ancient Egypt. The design of the temple is almost perfectly symmetrical with two twin sanctuaries and two parallel passageways leading to the exterior of the temple. It consists of a front courtyard, a hypostyle hall, three inner halls, many antechambers like the all of offerings, small rooms used for various ritual and purposes and the two main sanctuaries for Horus and Sobek. The temple contains many beautiful images and decoration walls and columns including Ptolemy VIII & XII kneeling in front of the Nile deities. The Ptolemaic dynasty worked on improving the temple over the ages as a symbol of their glory.
The History Blog
/>The team of archaeologists currently working to lower the high groundwater level at the Kom Ombo Temple in Aswan found two ancient sandstone stele this Sunday, one depicting King Seti I (r. 1290–1279 B.C.), second pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty. The other has far more recent iconography. Its subject is King Ptolemy IV Philopator (r. 221-204 BC), the fourth pharaoh of the Ptolemaic Dynasty.
The Seti stele is 7.5 feet high, 3.3 feet wide and one foot thick. It was found broken into two pieces. The inscriptions are in good condition despite the damage. The Ptolemy stele was found broken in several pieces. Antiquities Ministry conservators were able to put the broken sections back together revealing an impressively large relief 10.7 feet high, 3.8 feet wide and one foot thick.
Seti I is depicted standing in front of Horus, the falcon-headed god of divine kingship, and the crocodile god Sobek. Above them is a winged sun, the protective symbol of the solar deity Ra. Beneath the figures is a 26-line hieroglyphic inscription. The cartouche of King Horemheb, the last pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty who reigned approximately from 1319 B.C. to 1292 B.C., appears in the inscription multiple times.
/>The second stele depicts Ptolemy IV in the form of Horus standing with a sekhem scepter in his hand. Ptolemy’s wife Arsinoe III is standing behind him. The backdrop is the divine triad of the temple (the merged deity Sobek-Horus and his parents Isis and Osiris). Above them too is the winged sun. The hieroglyphic inscription below them is 28 lines long.
The Temple of Kom Ombo was built by Ptolemy IV as a double temple dedicated to the worship of Horus and Sobek. There was a previous temple to Sobek on the site built by 18th Dynasty pharaoh Thutmose III (1479–1425 B.C.), but it was largely gone by the time Ptolemy embarked on his ambitious double-temple project. Last Ptolemies enlarged and built on to the Temple of Kom Ombo. Today only a sandstone doorway in a brick wall remain from the original temple. It is integrated into the Ptolemaic temple.
The Ministry of Antiquities has not commented on whether the Seti relief comes from the older temple and was redeployed by the Ptolemies in the new temple, but that seems the likeliest scenario to me. It’s possible that it could have been freshly by the carved Macedonian pharaohs as a tribute to the ancient deified king, I suppose, but then Ptolemy’s name would be all over it, not Horemheb’s.
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Temple of Kom Ombo
Kom Ombo, one of the most famous cities in Egypt not only nowadays but also in ancient times, the importance of this city not just because of its temple, which exists on the east bank of the Nile, and the principal temple in each Nile cruise program, but also for significant strategic arguments.
First of all city of Kom Ombo was dedicated to the second province in Egypt . according to hierarchy and Egypt’s map and administrative divisions: this city was associated with the second province in Egypt . in ancient Egyptian from the first dynasty in ancient Egypt, this country had 42 provinces, each province had his governor, whom the kings nominate, ruling this province under the domination of king and the central government in the capital of Egypt . and administrative division of Egypt was formulated excitingly, they numbered the provinces from south to the north, in other words, it is connected with river Nile, which floods from the south to the north, from the first cataract of the Nile in Aswan till Meditteranean sea.
So the first province in Egypt was Aswan. The second province was Edfu, and the second province of Egypt was the related city Kom Ombo.
The etymology of Kom Ombo
Kom means hill or small mountain. Many cities and villages named kom because these hills were the perfect settlements for the ancient Egyptian because of the annual Nile flood. Ombo derived from the ancient Egyptian word inbw, which means gold since there was much gold in this city in ancient Egypt.
History of the city
The city has a very long history, from the predynastic period until now, was for the local god Sobek and Horus.
Archaeologists and geologists found many traces from this era that reflect how ancient this place is and the god Sobek cult.
In this city was a tremendous military zone. Many soldiers had their practice for military mission s in this city and workshops to make military equipment and primary weapons. They organized expeditions to India through the eastern desert till the ancient port on the red sea “Berenice “nearby Marsa Alam.
To bring the Indian elephant, which was utilized during their military expedition, Egypt lies in Africa, and closer to them could be African elephants.
However, they preferred the Indian because it is easier to tame than the African. Meanwhile, this city had an exciting feature. The river Nile’s torsion in front of this city. this torsion and the annual flood of river Nile were naturally created island through cumulative mud and sand brought by the rivers flood. On this island settled crocodiles. Through observations of crocodile’s behaviors, the ancient Egyptians noticed that it is an extraordinary animal, divined it, and chose to represent the god soul of god Sobek.
The map of the temple
The main difference between the temple of Kom Ombo and other temples is that: this is a double temple, has two entrances, two halls of columns, and two sanctuaries for two gods Horus and Sobek.
The temple was constructed for over 380 years. It is a Greco-roman temple, which was built during the reign of the Ptolemaic family. However, the temple is hugely demolished till now, one can recognize the temple’s map from the first pylon till the sanctuary of the temple and the outer corridor which surrounded the whole temple.
Wear comfortable shoes and brings sunscreen.
If visiting independently, try to arrive just before 9:00 AM or after 4:30 PM to avoid the crowds as this is a favorite stop on the River Nile cruises.
If you visit on a Tuesday or Thursday, you can combine a visit with a camel market in the nearby town of Daraw.
Snacks and refreshments are available but always a good idea to bring some with you.
I was at the Temple of Kom Ombo as a guest of On the Go Tours on the Abu Simbel Sun Festival Tour, which is an easy, and a very enjoyable way to experience Egypt. Also, On the Go is offering an exclusive deal for LifePart2 readers – save $100 off any Egypt tour with On The Go Tours! Head over to their website to find your perfect itinerary and get in touch, quoting “LifePart2” to get your discount.
The Temple of Kom Ombo was restored along with many other ancient sights by French Director of Antiquities, Jacques de Morgan, at the end of the 19th century. It still yields fascinating archaeological discoveries today. In 2018 a project to drain groundwater from the temple uncovered a magnificent sandstone sphinx sculpture and two sandstone stelae. One depicts King Ptolemy IV alongside his wife and a triad of gods while the other depicts the much older King Seti I standing in front of Sobek and Horus the Elder. It is possible (although not yet confirmed) that the latter originates from the temple of Thutmose III.
There is significant evidence that the area had been settled since the Predynastic Period and there are Old Kingdom tombs nearby, but the current temple was not built until the Ptolemaic Period. Champollion apparently found evidence of an Eighteenth Dynasty gateway in the south enclosure wall, and a few New Kingdom blocks have been recovered from the site, so there was probably a temple at the site from at least the New Kingdom if not before.
The first pharaoh referred to in the temple is Ptolemy VI Philometor. A number of his successors including Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos and Ptolemy XIII (who built the outer and inner hypostyle halls) also added to the site.
There were also additions to the decorations in the forecourt during the Roman Period and an outer corridor was added to the structure. The outer enclosure wall and part of the court were built by Augustus sometime after 30 BC, and are mostly gone.
The Temple was converted into a Coptic church but unfortunately the Copts defaced many of the reliefs when adopting the building. Eventually the temple was harvested for building materials. As a result, it is in a fairly advanced state of ruin.
Temple of Kom Ombo, Complete Guide
The Upper Egyptian town of Kom Ombo rose to greatness under the rule of the Ptolemaic kings, who made it the capital of the Ombite nome and selected it as the site for the double temple now known as the Temple of Kom Ombo. Built on the east bank of the River Nile on an outcrop once frequented by basking crocodiles, the temple is unique in that it has two identical entrances, two linked hypostyle halls, and twin sanctuaries dedicated to two different gods Sobek and Horus the Elder. It is perfectly symmetrical along the main axis and its remaining walls and columns are the first ancient sight to greet Nile cruisers traveling north from Aswan to Luxor.
History of the Temple of Kom Ombo
The existing Ptolemaic temple was pre-dated by an older temple built in the same spot during the rule of 18th-dynasty pharaoh Thutmose III. All that’s left of this temple is a sandstone doorway built into one of the current structure’s walls. The Temple of Kom Ombo as we know it today was constructed under the orders of King Ptolemy VI Philometor, who lived from 186-145 BC. His successors added to the temple and many of its elaborate reliefs are credited to King Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos, the father of Queen Cleopatra VII.
The western half of the temple is dedicated to Sobek, the crocodile god of fertility. Ancient Egyptians worshipped him to ensure the fertility of both people and crops, and to protect themselves against the real-life crocodiles living in the River Nile. The eastern half of the temple is dedicated to Horus the Elder, one of the oldest gods in the Egyptian pantheon. A creator god, Horus is usually depicted with a falcon’s head. Over the centuries the temple has been damaged by river flooding, earthquakes, and looters who used its stones for other building projects.
The Temple of Kom Ombo was restored along with many other ancient sights by French Director of Antiquities, Jacques de Morgan, at the end of the 19th century. It still yields fascinating archaeological discoveries today. In 2018 a project to drain groundwater from the temple uncovered a magnificent sandstone sphinx sculpture and two sandstone stelae. One depicts King Ptolemy IV alongside his wife and a triad of gods while the other depicts the much older King Seti I standing in front of Sobek and Horus the Elder.
It is possible (although not yet confirmed) that the latter originates from the temple of Thutmose III.
Things to See
Your visit to the Temple of Kom Ombo starts in the forecourt, where the remains of a double altar and a three-sided colonnade can clearly be seen. Inside, the inner and outer hypostyle halls boast 10 columns each, all with exquisitely carved palm or floral capitals. Everywhere you look there are magnificent reliefs carved into the walls, the ceiling, and the columns themselves. Some still retain traces of their original color. The reliefs depict hieroglyphs, deities, kings and queens, and several of the Roman emperors (including Trajan, Tiberius, and Domitian).