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PHILAE

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 373 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PHILAE  , an islet in the

Nile above the First Cataract, of
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great beauty and
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interest, but since the completion of the
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Assuan
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dam in 1902 submerged except for a few months yearly during High Nile (
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July to
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October), when the
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water is allowed to run freely through the sluices of the Assuan dam . Philae is the nearest island to the point where the ancient
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desert road from Assuan rejoins the
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river south of the cataract . It marks also the end of the cataract region . Below it the channel is broad and straight with rocky granite islands to the west . The name in
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Egyptian was Pilak, " the angle (?) island ": the
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Arabs call it Anas el Wagud, after the hero of a romantic tale in the Arabian Nights . Ancient graffiti abound in all this
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district, and on Bigeh, a larger island adjoining Philae, there was a temple as early as the reign of Tethmosis III . The name of
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Amasis II . (57o-J35 B.C.) is said to have been found at Philae, and it is possible that there were still older buildings which have been swallowed up in later constructions . About 350 B.C . Nekhtnebf, the last of the native kings of
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Egypt, built a temple to Isis, most of which was destroyed by floods . Ptolemy Philadelphus reconstructed some of this
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work and began a large temple which Ptolemy Euergetes I. completed, but the decoration, carried on under later
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Ptolemies and Caesars, was never finished . The temple of Isis was the chief sanctuary of the Dodecaschoenus, the portion of
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Lower
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Nubia generally held by the Ptolemies and Romans .

The little island won great favour as a religious resort. not only for the Egyptians and the Ethiopians and others who frequented the border district and the

market of Assuan, but also for Greek and
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Roman visitors . One temple or
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chapel after another sprang up upon it dedicated to various gods, including the Nubian Mandulis . Ergamenes (Arkamane), king of Ethiopia, shared with the Ptolemies in the
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building . Besidesthe temple of Isis with its birth-temple in the first court, there were smaller temples or shrines of Arsenuphis, Mandulis, Imuthes,
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Hathor, Harendotes (a form of Horns) and Augustus (in the Roman style), besides unnamed ones . There were also monumental gateways, and the island was protected by a stone quay all round with the necessary staircases, &c., and a Nilometer . The most beautiful of all the buildings is an unfinished kiosque inscribed by Trajan, well known under the name of " Pharaoh's Bed." Graffiti of pilgrims to the shrine of Isis are dated as
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late as the end of the 5th century A.D . The decree of
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Theodosius (A.D . 378) which suppressed pagan worship in the
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empire was of little effect in the extreme south . In A.D . 453 Maximinus, the general of the emperor Marcian, after inflicting a severe defeat on the Nobatae and Blemmyes who were settled in Lower Nubia, and thence raided Upper Egypt, made peace on terms which included permission for these
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heathen tribes to visit the temple and even to borrow the image of Isis on certain occasions . It was not till the reign of Justinian, A.D . 527-565, that the temple of Philae was finally closed, and the idols taken to Constantinople .

Remains of

Christian churches were disclosed by the thorough exploration carried out in 1895-1896 in view of the Barrage scheme, under the direction of Captain Lyons . The accumulations of rubbish on the island were cleared away and the walls and
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foundations of the stone buildings were all repaired and strengthened before the dam was completed . The
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annual flooding now appears to be actually beneficial to the stonework, by removing the disintegrating salts and incrustations . The tops of most of the buildings and the whole nucleus of the temple of Isis to the floor remained all the
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year round above the water level until the dam was raised another 26 ft.—a work begun in 19o7—when the temples were entirely submerged except during July-October . But the beauty of the island and its ruins and palm trees, the joy of travellers and artists, is almost gone . See H . G . Lyons, A Report on the Island and Temples of Philae (Cairo, 1896), with numerous plans and photographs; a seco,:d report, A Report on the Temples of Philae (1908), deals with the condition of the ruins as affected by the immersions occasioned by the filling of the Assuan dam; Baedeker's Egypt; and on the effects of the submersion, &c., reports in Annales du service
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des antiquites, vols. iv. v . (F . LL .

End of Article: PHILAE
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