One of the best preserved temples in Egypt is the Temple of Horus located in Edfu; also known as the Temple of Edfu. The city Edfu is located about 65 miles north of Aswan and 33 miles south of Esna.
During ancient times in Upper Egypt nome, this region was known as Tboth. In Coptic times it was known as Atbo and during the Graeco-Roman period it was known as Apollinopolis Magna. Today this city has a religious standing and is also recognized as a commercial hub. Modern day Polish teams have excavated ancient city remains which appear to be Old Kingdom mastabas and those of Byzantine houses.
The temple was built and dedicated to the god Horus which is identified as the falcon headed god. This temple appears to be built during the Ptolemaic Period and has withstood the test of time. It is likely that it was left almost intact because it was covered in sand for centuries. Information of how and when this particular temple was constructed is well known because of the reliefs that were carved into the outer walls depicting these many details. This temple appears to be constructed over the site of a smaller New Kingdom temple. This smaller inside temple faced the river and was oriented towards the east and west; whereas, the later built structure faces north to south.
The construction began in 237 BC by Ptolemy III and was completed in 57 BC under the reign of Ptolemy XII. This timeline puts us into the reign of Cleopatra VII. It is also the second largest temple still left standing from Ancient Egypt; Karnak is the first. Legend has it that the Temple of Horus was built on this particular site because it captured the battle between Horus and Seth. Seth was a god who represented the desert, storms and foreigners but in later stories he began to represent the god of darkness and chaos. There are inscriptions and scenes within the walls that discuss the “Sacred Drama” and tell of the age-old conflict between these two gods. The translations were captured by the German Edfu project.
The remains of this ancient settlement have provided us with insight into the development of Edfu’s provincial structure from the end of the Old Kingdom up through the Byzantine Period. It shows us what an important role this ancient location played within the region and how it was one of the few settlements that thrived during this time when others were in economic decline. The written details provide us with information on the language and myths of that time. These details also provide information on the religious practices during the Greco-Roman period in ancient Egypt.
Today, there is a twenty meter high mound of archaeological history dating back to the Old Kingdom and up through the Graeco-Roman period. It is this information that has enriched us with particulars of Ancient Egyptian society. It is this 3,000 year old history that gives us a more bird’s eye view of the development of this city and how the people co-existed. There are, however, no remains that have been found dating earlier than the 5th Dynasty.
Initially, this temple was comprised of a pillared hall, two transverse halls, and a sanctuary. As time passed and other pharaohs came into power, new construction was begun and completed to extend the size of the temple. Today this temple is one of the highest visited archaeological finds from Ancient Egypt and in 2005 a visitor center was added. In 2006, a sophisticated lighting system was constructed in order to allow the public to visit at night.