Site to Behold
though most of the monuments at this site were built during
the Greek-Roman Period, the origins of the temple of Dendera
can be dated at least to the time of Pepi I of the 6th Dynasty.
Some reliefs in the temple still refer to cultic images showing
Pepi I worshipping Hathor.
The central building at the temple-complex of Dendara is the
temple of the goddess Hathor, the goddess of love, music,
wine and procreation. A large part of its decoration was done
during the reign of Cleopatra VII. A relief on the back of
the temple's outside wall shows her, along with her son Caesareon,
presenting offerings to Hathor.
pronaos, or first columned hall located before the actual
sanctuaries of the temple, consists of 9 columns on each side
of the central axis. The columns are decorated with 4 heads
of Hathor, each facing a cardinal point. The symbolism of
this type of column is very powerful: it represents Hathor
viewing the entire world. These columns were also made to
resemble a sistrum - a musical instrument making a rattling
sound not only dedicated to but also viewed as a symbol of
Hathor. The shaft of the columns represents the handle of
the sistrum, and Hathor's crown denotes where the elements
that made the rattling sound were located.
A typical feature of all Egyptian temples, except solar temples,
was that they get lower, narrower and darker the closer one
get to the actual sanctuary. The second columned hall is lower
than the pronaos. It has the same type of columns as the pronaos.
In the background, some ritual reliefs can be distinguished.
of the rooms next to the actual sanctuary was open to the
sky. The chapel next to it is called "wabet", the "pure one".
A typical part of an Egyptian temple, these two rooms played
an essential part in the New Year's celebration, during which
the cultic objects of the temple were ritually recharged with
decoration of the inside of the so-called new-year chapel
is typical of the era: relatively small rectangular scenes
that represent the king performing a ritual for a god. Opposite
this chapel, an entrance leads to a labyrinth of staircases
and store rooms and ultimately to the roof of the temple.
was not unusual for temples of this era, the walls of the
temples are hollow and contain crypts, store rooms and staircases,
some of which lead all the way up to the roof of the temples.
The hidden and most inaccessible parts of the temple were
probably used as storage areas for sacred symbols and statues,
although a more symbolic purpose may also have been intended.
The crypts are often long and narrow rooms in the walls of
the temple, in its roof or underneath the ground. Most of
them are decorated with ritual scenes. They show that the
presence of a ritual scene in a room does not imply that such
a ritual was performed at that place (how would one proceed
in slaying a bull in such a narrow place?). Their presence
made sure that the ritual would be performed on a magical
level, even if there were no physical ritual activity in the
other buildings also form part of the complex including a
mamisi (birth-temple) and a sanatorium. Traces of a Coptic
church have also been found here.
The Greek-Roman mamisi was built to replace a slightly older
mamisi that became obsolete when the surrounding wall was
built. The foundations of the original mamisi still remain,
next to the Greek-Roman building.