The huge ancient Egyptian temple at Edfu in southern Egypt must be one of the best-preserved places of the many impressive buildings that have survived from that ancient civilisation. The temple is dedicated to the god Horus, and took many decades to build.
One of the unique aspects to the building is a long inscription, over 300 metres of hieroglyphics, around the wall of the temple. This inscription, made by an anonymous Egyptian priest are of great importance because they describe the building in great detail. It’s dimensions, it’s shape and layout, the purpose of the rooms.
The text’s language is strange to read – mingling references to kings and gods in an almost poetic way, which requires a detailed understanding of ancient Egyptian beliefs and history to get more than a rudimentary enjoyment and knowledge from it.
But this in itself is fascinating – the way clearly the Egyptians believed that there was a duality between rulers on Earth, and the Gods themselves.
Dieter Kurth has done amateur Egyptologists a favour by bringing this fascinating text together with maps and a history of the temple. Kurth’s introduction to the history of Edfu’s exploration by later archaeologists and the role of religion in ancient Egyptian society is also very useful. He also documents and builds on previous attempts to understand the inscriptions.
For anyone trying to get a glimpse into life 2000 years ago, towards the end of the Egyptian civilisations domination of North Africa, this book will give you a start.
But the last word should surely go to that unknown priest who wrote the words for the side of the building that speak down the centuries to us about a monument to a different world.
“They [the Gods] protect their beloved son (the king) because ofhis monument [Edfu] and they allow his image to endure on earth, the image of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt…whose Ka is granted power and strength on the Throne of Horus, at the head of the living, forever.”