Archive | June, 2024

A Visit to the Dendera Temple of Hathor

Clockwise From Upper Left: Dendera Temple, Temple Ceiling, Trajan with Hathor, Cleopatra with Caesarion

            Today, in our continuing visit to Egypt, we travel 37 miles north of Luxor to the Temple of Hathor at Dendera, one of the best preserved of all Egyptian temples.

            Unlike the other temples we have visited previously, the Dendera temple was not built by the Egyptians.  Instead, it was begun in about 54 B.C. by Ptolemy XII, the Greek descendant of Ptolemy, the general who became the pharaoh of Egypt upon the death of Alexander the Great, who had conquered Egypt in 332 B.C.  Like Alexander, the succeeding Greek pharaohs considered themselves gods and built temples honoring themselves and their achievements.  Heroic reliefs carved on Dendera temple walls were apparently intended to represent Ptolemy XII, but he died in 51 B.C., before the images were identified.  His daughter, Cleopatra, continued building the temple.  She added her deified image to the temple’s rear wall, depicting herself as Hathor accompanying Caesarion, her son by Julius Caesar and chosen successor, pictured as the pharaoh.  After Cleopatra’s suicide in 30 B.C., Romans under Octavian killed Caesarion, ending the Ptolemaic Dynasty.  Roman emperors, including Trajan, then enhanced the Dendera temple and added images of themselves with the gods.  One image shows Trajan making an offering to Hathor.  Emperor Nero, who saw himself as a god, added his own likeness to the temple walls.

            The Dendera Temple of Hathor is famous for its magnificent wall reliefs and colorful ceilings.  One ceiling contains a replica of a representation of the Zodiac that was removed from the temple in 1820 by the French and is now in the Louvre.  Another famous relief shows Horus, the lover of Hathor, emerging from a lotus flower. The Dendera Temple of Hathor, surprisingly intact after more than 2,000 years, is a superb example of Greco-Egyptian temple architecture.  Rare images of Cleopatra and Caesarion are a bonus.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes