Introduction Temple of Khnum at Esna

Firstly, The Egyptian settlement of the present Esna city was established in the location of ancient Latopolis; Is is now the site of a beautiful temple dedicated to the Ram God Khnum. It was ancient Iunyt or Ta-senet (from whence the Coptic Sne and Arabic Isna stem). The city became the seat of the Third Nome of Upper Egypt under the Greeks and Romans. Apart from Khnum; the temple was dedicated to a number of other gods; the most notable of which were Neith and Heka. This was the ram deity that was worshiped throughout this region and was credited with creating humans from Nile mud on his potter’s wheel.

On the other hand, Esna lies around 50 kilometres south of Luxor. The temple is presently located in the heart of the contemporary city; some nine metres below the surrounding grounds. It was built on the site of a temple that may have been established as early as Tuthmosis III’s reign; according to texts. Some of the original 18th Dynasty structure’s blocks have been preserved. The current building comes from the Greek and Roman times and is one of the ancient Egyptians’ recent temples.


The French excavator Auguste Mariette dug the hypostyle hall only, which is well preserved. Other ruins of the temple can be found buried beneath the present town’s buildings. The hypostyle hall’s back wall, which was once the front of a Ptolemaic (Greek) temple; is the oldest portion of the structure. Both Ptolemy VI Philometer and Ptolemy VIII are depicted. The Romans completed the rest of the structure (from Claudius to Decius; and some of the decorations originate from the third century AD.

Then, the hall’s ceiling, which is still in good condition; is supported by four rows of six tall (twelve metres high) columns with composite floral caps of varied designs that preserve part of their original painted colour. Also, texts describing the town’s religious festivals and many Roman emperors in front of the gods adorn them. The Roman Emperor Trajan is depicted dancing in front of Goddess Menheyet on one of the columns.

Next, the hall’s facade is in the shape of an intercolumnar screen wall; similar to those found at Dendera and Edfu temples. Prior to its demise, this edifice may have mirrored those temples. Except for a small connected chamber on the southern side of the entryway; which may have served as a robe room for priests; the entire remaining edifice at Esna is exceedingly regular in construction and symmetrical. Edfu has this feature as well. Finally, this structure’s facade is approximately forty metres broad and seventeen metres high.


The Temple of Khnum’s sculptures and inscriptions are typically well-executed, and some are particularly interesting. On the north wall, there is a scene representing the king netting wild fowl; which are thought to represent unfriendly spirits, which maintains old Egyptian motifs. Other scenes, such as presenting gods monarch with a laurel wreath, which is represented on a column near the back of the hall are surely modern additions. Septimus Servus and his sons; Geta and Caracalla, had their portraits engraved on the south wall; representing them before various divinities. Finally, the hypostyle’s ceiling features Egyptian astrological figures on the northern half and Roman zodiac signs on the southern half.

Similarly, there is additional intriguing literature; including a couple of cryptographic hymns to Khnum; one written nearly entirely with ram hieroglyphs and the other with crocodile hieroglyphs. These are found near the little doorways used by the priests to enter and leave the temple; inside the hypostyle hall’s front corners. Other sources mention four minor temples in the area that are thought to have had cultic ties to this one, though none of them have survived. During Napoleon’s invasion; one of the lesser temples devoted to Isis, constructed by Ptolemy IX Soter II and Cleopatra Cocce on the East Bank of the Nile near el-Hilla (Contralatopolis); was noted. In 1828; it was destroyed by the erection of an administration building


Finally, Another temple referenced in this literature has been discovered south of Esna, near Kom Mer. In addition, a statue of the goddess Menheyet or Menhyt; a little-known lion-headed goddess who was the spouse of Khnum at Esna; stands in the courtyard in front of the temple. There are also a few blocks away from a historic Christian church. On the back of a block; Also, there is also writing from Emperor Decius declaring that Christians will die if they do not offer to the pagan gods.