Philae is currently an island in the reservoir of the Aswan Low Dam, downstream of the Aswan Dam and Lake Nasser, Egypt. Philae was originally located near the expansive First Cataract of the Nile River in southern Egypt, and was the site of an Ancient Egyptian temple complex. These rapids and the surrounding area have been variously flooded since the initial construction of the Old Aswan Dam in 1902. The temple complex was later dismantled and relocated to nearby Agilkia Island as part of the UNESCO Nubia Campaign project, protecting this and other complexes before the 1970 completion of the Aswan High Dam.


Temple of Isis
The most ancient was a temple for Isis, built in the reign of Nectanebo I during 380-362 BC, which was approached from the river through a double colonnade. Isis was the goddess to whom the initial buildings were dedicated.

In front of the propyla were two colossal lions in granite, behind which stood a pair of obelisks, each 13 metres (43 ft) high. Beyond the entrance into the principal court are small temples, one of which, dedicated to Isis, Hathor, and a wide range of deities related to midwifery, is covered with sculptures representing the birth of Ptolemy Philometor, under the figure of the god Horus. The story of Osiris is everywhere represented on the walls of this temple, and two of its inner chambers are particularly rich in symbolic imagery. Upon the two great propyla are Greek inscriptions intersected and partially destroyed by Egyptian figures cut across them.

The inscriptions do not at all belong to the Macedonian era, and are of earlier date than the sculptures, which were probably inserted during that interval of renaissance for the native religion which followed the extinction of the Greek dynasty in Egypt in 30 BC by the Romans.

The monuments in both islands indeed attested, beyond any others in the Nile valley, the survival of pure Egyptian art centuries after the last of the Pharaohs had ceased to reign. Great pains have been taken to mutilate the sculptures of this temple. The work of demolition is attributable, in the first instance, to the zeal of the early Christians, and afterward, to the policy of the Iconoclasts, who curried favour for themselves with the Byzantine court by the destruction of heathen images as well as Christian ones.[citation needed] It’s notable that images/icons of Horus are often less mutilated than the other carvings. In some wall scenes, every figure and hieroglyphic text except that of Horus and his winged solar-disk representation have been meticulously scratched out by early Christians. This is presumably because the early Christians had some degree of respect for Horus or the legend of Horus – it may be because they saw parallels between the stories of Jesus and Horus (see Jesus Christ in comparative mythology).

The soil of Philae had been prepared carefully for the reception of its buildings–being leveled where it was uneven, and supported by masonry where it was crumbling or insecure. For example, the western wall of the Great Temple, and the corresponding wall of the dromos, were supported by very strong foundations, built below the pre-inundation level of the water, and rested on the granite which in this region forms the bed of the Nile. Here and there steps were hewn out from the wall to facilitate the communication between the temple and the river.

At the southern extremity of the dromos of the Great Temple was a smaller temple, apparently dedicated to Hathor; at least the few columns that remained of it are surmounted with the head of that goddess. Its portico consisted of twelve columns, four in front and three deep. Their capitals represented various forms and combinations of the palm branch, the doum-palm branch, and the lotus flower. These, as well as the sculptures on the columns, the ceilings, and the walls were painted with the most vivid colors, which, owing to the dryness of the climate, have lost little of their original brilliance.