Temple of Esna: Started by Egyptians, Finished by Romans

Located in the town of Esna which is on the west bank of the Nile, the Temple of Esna is one of the most well-preserved examples of Ancient Egyptian architecture. Egyptians also call it the Temple of Khnum. Despite taking quite a damage, this structure has withstood the test of time.

Temple of Esna exterior

One of the most peculiar aspects of the temple is that it is one of the 6 surviving temples from the Greco-Roman Egypt era. Moreover, this influence is what gives the temple its first name: Esna. Esna means “the city of fish” in Greek. The Greeks saw this name as appropriate since the city was very close to the Nile.

Temple of Esna exterior side

The other name of the temple comes from the Egyptian deity to which the temple is dedicated. Egyptians believed that Khnum was the deity of creation and the source of the Nile River. Khnum was a huge part of Egyptian mythology due to his association with the Nile which is arguably the biggest symbol of life in Egypt. While the construction of the temple started with King Tuthmosis III around 1400s BCE, it ended with the Romans nearly more than a millennium later. Both during the times of the pharaohs and the Romans, the city and the temple were quite important locations. They both served as places of religious worship and trade, due to which Esna prospered.

Temple of Esna exterior carving

It is no news that Ancient Egypt produced some of the best architectural pieces in the world. Most of these pieces, such as pyramids and sphinx, have quite magnificent appearances. Unlike them, the true beauty of the Temple of Esna lies in its interior, since its exterior received some damage over time.

Temple of Esna columns

The damaged exterior of the Temple of Esna is full of carvings and hieroglyphs. Additionally, the interior of the temple is home to marvelous items as well. Aside from the extensive and very detailed hieroglyphs and carvings depicting various stories and historical accounts, the temple is mainly famous for its columns.

Temple of Esna ceiling

Inside the Temple of Esna, there is a hall of columns with 24 pillars decorated with flowers and carvings. An interesting fact about these columns is that aside from the pharaohs, there are also hieroglyphs of Roman Emperors wearing traditional Egyptian dresses and offering sacrifices to Khnum. This is the utmost proof of the multiculturalism of Roman Egypt.

Temple of Esna columns and ceiling
the hieroglyphics on the ceiling
hieroglyphics and carvings on the exterior
columns and carvings
carvings on the wall