Egyptian Temples

Martina Minas‐Nerpel

in The Oxford Handbook of Roman Egypt

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780199571451
Published online November 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191750540 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Archaeology

 Egyptian Temples

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  • Archaeology of the Near East
  • Egyptian Archaeology
  • History of Art


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This article focuses on architecture, decoration, and certain questions of cult topography. In a rather smooth transition from the Ptolemaic to the Roman period, Egyptian temples continued to be built and decorated well into the second century ce and, on a much smaller scale, into the beginning of the fourth century. The Egyptian temples of the Graeco-Roman period mostly survive from Athribis in Middle Egypt up the Nile, including the Dodekaschoinos, and also in the deserts, mainly in the Kharga and Dakhla oases. The temples and their decoration were highly systematized, but theological and architectural variations were prevalent. The Roman pharaoh was the essential element of their iconographic system, but outside the pictorial context of the Egyptian temples he seems to have been conceptually dispensable. The Roman emperors therefore primarily played a rather fictitious role as 'cultic' pharaohs, though historical-political facts were reflected in the cult reliefs and inscriptions as late as the beginning of the fourth century.

Keywords: architecture; decoration; cult topography; Roman emperor; pharaoh; Graeco-Roman period

Article.  9114 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology of the Near East ; Egyptian Archaeology ; History of Art

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