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dendera temple, hathor temple

Dendera Temple: Discover the wonders of the Temple of Hathor

The Temple of Dendera is a beautiful, mysterious, and well-kept temple in Egypt. The Dendera temple is very close to Luxor, and it is also straightforward to get to. However, compared to other temples along the Nile, it is not very popular, so there won’t be many people there.

The Hathor Temple of Dendera is the most important place of worship of the sky and love goddess Hathor and is still relatively young compared to other ancient buildings on the Nile. The temple was built from 125 B.C. to 60 A.D. in classical Egyptian style by the Ptolemies and Romans. The Hathor Temple is also known as the Temple of Dendera, which is 55 km north of the Egyptian city of Luxor in Upper Egypt. This temple is one of the most important places of worship in Egypt and was also an important religious center during some periods of Egyptian history.

The Greeks identified Hathor with the goddess Aphrodite. At the annual New Year festival, the statue of Hathor on the roof was symbolically brought to the sun god. The temple’s top offers a beautiful view of the complex and the surrounding landscape. The Hathor Temple is one of the best-preserved temple complexes in the world.

Dendera Temple History

On top of an old temple, the Greeks and Romans built the Dendera Temple between 30 BC and 14 AD. It is a shrine to Hathor, the Egyptian cow goddess, one of the most important goddesses. The cow goddess was the one who stood for fertility, giving birth, and motherhood. The sick went to her to get better. It has been worshipped since before the dynasties and stands for love, beauty, lust, and happiness.

So that it stands out in the hieroglyphs, showing it as two horns holding the sun disc. In the tops of the Dendera temple’s columns, it looks like it has a woman’s head and a cow’s ears.

If you see a cow in a hieroglyph, look to see if its body is full of stars. If it is, it is also her. The Dendera Temple has been kept in great shape. Since desert sands covered it for many years, it is the only Egyptian temple still with the colors it had when it was first built.

Napoleon and his army took over Egypt in 1798. They set up their tents near where the temple. One of his soldiers dropped a box of bullets on the ground, making it fall. When they returned to get it, the temple would still be there and have its original colors.

The 3 Stages of Hathor Temple

Although the temple dates back to the Graeco-Roman era of the Egyptians, the complex is based on previous structures that date back to the Old Kingdom. The Hathor cults performed in Dendera can be traced back to some sources and finds from the prehistoric period.

The founding charter of the Hathor Temple is said to have been written as early as the predynastic period. In the time of Cheops, the document is said to have turned up in a chest in the royal palace of Memphis. The early temple was expanded during Pharaoh Pepi I. Pepi I was the first pharaoh to bear the title “son of Hathor, lady of Dendera.”

The earliest structural remains come from the Middle Kingdom, in the ka chapel of Mentuhotep II. The temple festivals in Dendera are mentioned for the first time in the decree of Amenemhet I.

Still, stone blocks reused in the expansion also bear witness to the building activities of Mentuhotep II in the Middle Kingdom. to Schebitko, the 3rd pharaoh in the 25th dynasty. Under Thutmosis III., in the 18th dynasty, reconstruction took place. The decoration was carried out by various rulers in the New Kingdom, with the work of Amenhotep III, Ramses II, and Ramses III. can be proven with certainty.

The old predecessor buildings were demolished in the late Ptolemaic period. At the same time, the main temple was rebuilt entirely. However, this new construction took place in 3 stages.

The first stage started on July 16, 54 BC. The main building was built under Ptolemy XII, and Neos Dionysus was erected. Around 29 BC, the temple was almost completed. The priests and temple employees could therefore take over from this point in time. Under Tiberius, a Roman Emperor, work began constructing the pronaos, the vestibule, with the famous Hathor capital columns, where the names of Caligula, Claudius, and Nero can be found.

The Discovery of the Hathor Temple

From the temple until the 19th cent. It was buried, and it was well preserved. After the Ptolemaic period, the temple railings were repeatedly used and settled to form a massive mound of rubble.

This reached the temple’s roof and incorporated it into the settlement area. The other three sides were less populated, but the sacred lake and the Mammisi were buried wholly. The oldest story about Dendera comes from 1737 by Officer Frederic Louis Norden, who could never visit Dendera on land.

In 1816 Giovanni Battista Belzoni described the temple complex as being covered with mountains of rubble and rubble.

Another exposure took place in 1859. The rubble hill was removed in the 20th century by grave robbers who searched the temple for antiquities.

The inscriptions were examined by Johannes Dümichen from 1865 to 1875, by Mariette in 1879, and by Heinrich Brugsch in 1880. In the 1920s, the rubble from the east side was cleared and dug deep underground.

In 1959 the Mammisi was published by Daumas. The excavations lasted until the end of the 20th century when the inscriptions of the Temple of Isis, the northern entrance, or the enclosing wall was published. Furthermore, in the temple of Dendera, as the Hathor temple is finally called.

Facts about Dendera Temple

The Temple of Dendera

The Egyptians have always chosen carefully where to build their temples, and Dendera was no different; its location depended on the stars’ location.

The temple is built with its central axis facing north. The place where the star Alpha Draconis appeared, which we now call the North Star, represents the principle of maternal power: Hathor.

There is a main door that can be used to keep track of where this star goes. Then they placed stones in the four corners and around the outside of the temple to make a 10-meter-high wall.

The second door leads to the temple, where the star Sirius, the symbol of Isis, ascended. After being hidden for 120 days, the sun rose on June 21, and this marked the beginning of the summer solstice and the beginning of the forty days during which the Nile flooded.

After Sirius went away, the Nile returned to its average level. Another Dendera building will be built there. It would be Iseo, which is the temple of the birth of Isis, which is also the one that is not preserved. At the top of each column is the god Bess, the guardian of the working woman and is always with Hathor.

In front of the main temple is a Roman birth house dating back to the era of Augustus, which was built for the son of Hathor and Horus, and his name was Hersumtus. Next is a Coptic church from the fifth century AD, and next is another mamisi from the time of Nktebo I.

The area of Dendera Temple is 40,000 square meters. You can see the entire enclosure, meaning you can go to all the nooks and crannies that only priests and pharaohs could visit then.

So you can see all the mysterious and hidden places in the temple, from the roof to the basement. The Dendera Temple contains many secrets I will tell you about later.

At one time, Dendera was also a sacred place where people would go to pay homage to the goddess Hathor and get better. And a part of the temple was dedicated to a hospital or sanatorium. In ruins, you can see where the sick were staying and what remains of a pond where pilgrims used to bathe because the water in it was believed to be sacred.

When you pass through the North Gate, which Emperors Domitian and Trajan built in the first century AD, you come to a courtyard with the main temple of Hathor.

What to See in Dendera Temple

In the temple of Dendera, one finds typical temple features of the later history of Egypt. Like many others, the temple complex is positioned towards the Nile. It is surrounded by a wall 280 m by 280 m long and 10 cm thick.

1- The Temple of Hathor

We first see six columns with historical peaks outside the Temple of Hathor. We see 18 massive pillars 15 meters high as we enter the first pillar room.

There is no simple piece. The walls, ceilings, and columns all have hieroglyphs that tell a story. The tops of the columns are shaped like a sistrum, which was Hathor’s tool. The pillars were topped with the head of the goddess.

On a turquoise-blue background, many hieroglyphs are all over the ceiling. You can see the sky goddess Nut bringing the sun to the earth. There are a lot of astronomical records and hieroglyphs on the walls that tell why the temple was built.

When the goddess Hathor left her seat during the ceremonies and processions in the temple, she stood in the second room with columns.

It consists of six columns that line the corridor on the right and left after the first room. On each side are small spaces, a treasure room, various display rooms, and storage rooms.

Four windows on the roof let light into this area. Inside the Temple of Hathor, there are several illuminated windows. In another room is the boat that carried Hathor in procession across the Nile to the Temple of Horus in Edfu.

I reached the most sacred part of the temple, where the statue of Hathor was located, by going down to it. Only the pharaoh and high priests were allowed to enter, and the whole city was surrounded by chapels where people could pray to the Goddess.

You have to go down a staircase that leads to a crypt to reach the bottom of the Hathor Temple. Here, the secret temple papyri were kept and stored.

There are two steps to get to the second floor. The spiral represents the ladder of light. On the summer solstice, the statue of Hathor is raised on a straight ladder to the roof. On the walls are pictures of priests offering gifts to the Goddess.

On the temple’s roof are two chapels: one for Osiris and the other where the zodiac Dendera was found. Outside the temple, on the southern wall, you can see the only and last image of the most famous pharaoh Cleopatra VII and her son Caesarion making an offering to Hathor.

2- The interior of the temple

Behind the pronaos is the small hypostyle, also called the Apparitions Hall. The goddess statue was paraded here, taken from the sanctuary for religious ceremonies and processions. The images on the walls show the founding ceremony of the temple, which the king also attended.

The three chambers on the side of the room were used as preparation rooms for daily rituals and to store cult objects. The opening on the east side was an offering entrance, but the west opened to the well.

One enters the inner temple from here, completed under several Ptolemaic kings. Many uninscribed cartouches are found on the walls, pointing to those troubled reigns in Egypt.

A small ramp brought the Egyptians from the Apparitions Hall to the Sacrificial Table Hall, where they made offerings to the goddess Hathor. The Hall of the Enneads, the Hall of the Ninth of the Gods, lies beyond. During the processions, this was the hall where the Egyptians assembled the statues of the gods.

3- Bark Sanctuary

The central part of the inner temple was the Bark Sanctuary, which housed a portable bark and a shrine containing the stone statue of Hathor. The murals show that the bark of Horus was brought here from Edfu for extremely religious festivals. The barks of Harsomtus and Isis of Dendera were also in the room.

Eleven sacred chapels, dedicated to deities associated with Hathor, surround the barge sanctuary. The sacred sistrum and the menat collar are just a few of them. On the back wall of the temple in the middle chapel were religious cult images and symbols of the goddess, with the most sacred being tucked away in a wall niche to find.

A passage to the west of the Hall of Enneads led into the atrium and wabet where the coronation and clothing ceremonies of the statue of Hathor took place. On the ceiling of this room, you can see the image of the Birth of the Sun, and the small courtyard, located on the same level, was intended for the consecration of the festival offerings.

4- Roof of the Temple of Dendera

On the west side of the sacrificial hall is a long straight stairway leading to the temple roof. On the top, you will find a 12-column kiosk in a southwesterly direction. On the roof of the inner temple, there are three-roomed places of worship to the northwest and northeast, where the Egyptians celebrated the death and resurrection of Osiris.

A copy of the famous sign of the zodiac, the original found during Napoleon’s Egyptian expedition (1798-1801) and can now be admired in the Louvre, can be found in the central room of the northeastern enclosure. It not only shows astrological signs and symbols but also testifies to the immense knowledge that ancient Egypt had about cosmic processes.

Dendera Temple Mysteries

Many secrets about Dendera Temple have never been told. There are many ideas about what the hieroglyphs on the temple mean, especially among people who like mysteries.

1- The Crypts of Dendera Temple

But something else in the temple was very unusual for Egyptian architecture. The outer walls of the temple of Dendera are provided with a unique crypt system. These burial chambers also called “lower churches,” are located under the floors at the temple’s rear. They were intended to store temple treasures, and slabs covered their entrances.

2- Dendera’s lamps

How the Egyptians lit up inside tombs is one of the most critical questions that haven’t been answered yet. How did they bring light into tombs, temples, and pyramids? If they had used torches or lamps, the smoke would have left a mark on the walls or ceilings. But there has been no soot found on any of the Egyptian buildings.

Some say it’s because they used special oils that didn’t make smoke, while others say they used the light from the mirrors to see. But this last part is hard to figure out in many tombs, like those in the valley of the kings and deep or in the Dendera temple itself.

There is a crypt under the floor of the temple of Hathor, and you must go down a complicated staircase to get there. Once you get to the bottom, some passages lead to the Dendera lamps, one of the most mysterious bas-reliefs, giving mystery fans a lot to think about.

In one of the crypt’s hallways, two figures are holding something that looks like a light bulb or maybe even a big electric coil.

Many people thought that the Egyptians already knew about electricity because of this. Egyptologists have, of course, disproved this theory. They believe these hieroglyphs show an Egyptian myth about a djed pillar and a lotus flower representing Upper Egypt.

3- Dendera Zodiac

On the ceiling of one of the chapels showing the resurrection of Osiris is the Dendera Tower. One of Napoleon’s soldiers stole the Zodiac and brought it to France. This is a copy of the original in the Louvre.

This is the first time a tower has been shown in a circle. Before this, the buildings were made as a pyramid or squares. Four women raise the vault of heaven with the help of cow-headed spirits.

All signs of the Zodiac are in it. For the Egyptians, each figure stands for a season of the year. The 360 days that were the Egyptian year were divided into these seasons. Sirius, of course, is there too.

Interestingly, the Dendera zodiac shows the oldest date in the year that we know of. There is also talk of two eclipses. The Dendera Tower is mysterious because when they looked at where the stars should have been at the time, it did not match the date written in the hieroglyphs. The Zodiac shows a map of the sky that existed at least 650 years before the Zodiac was created.

Therefore, everyone who has studied it wonders if the calculations are correct or just code. In any case, the Dendera Tower is an example of how well the Egyptians knew the stars.

4- Statues of Hathor Bes

We leave you one last curious fact about this temple. All Egyptian gods and pharaohs were represented in portrait paintings and sculptures in bas-reliefs and frescoes. However, Hathor and the dwarf god Bes who always accompanies her, are carved here face to face.

In Dendera Temple, you can see the statue of Bez. This was a dwarf, satyr-like deity who protected children and women. He was associated with love and sexual pleasure, so his figure must have been in the birthing house.

About the author

Egypt Planners Team is a highly experienced travel agency specializing in memorable trips to Egypt. The team comprises expert travel planners and tour guides with a deep knowledge of Egypt's history, culture, and top tourist destinations.