Kom Ombo Temple - History and Facts | History Hit

Kom Ombo Temple

Naj al Shatb al Kabir, Aswan Governorate, Egypt

The Kom Ombo Temple is a sacred Ptolemaic temple co-dedicated to the crocodile deity Sobek and to the falcon-headed Haroeris.

Peta Stamper

22 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Kom Ombo Temple

The Kom Ombo Temple in Egypt is a sacred Ptolemaic temple co-dedicated to the crocodile deity Sobek and falcon-headed Haroeris. This dual-dedication is quite atypical and is reflected in the symmetrical design of the Kom Ombo Temple.

Built under Ptolemy VI of the Ptolemaic Dynasty in the 2nd century BC, the Kom Ombo Temple was added to under the Romans.

Despite being damaged by earthquakes and other things over the centuries, the Kom Ombo Temple is still impressive and has much to see including a range of religious carvings as well as those depicting day-to-day scenes, a sacred well and many a mummified crocodile.

Kom Ombo Temple history

Close to the river Nile, the Kom Ombo Temple was built during the Ptolemaic period between 180 BC and 47 AD. The limestone temple was built by men on elephants and was dedicated to 2 primary Egyptian gods: Sobek and Horus the Elder, gaining it the dual names of ‘House of the Crocodile’ and ‘Castle of the Falcon’.

Egyptian temples were seen as the houses of the gods or kings to whom they were dedicated, and as such, Egyptians performed rituals inside to uphold maat – the divine balance of the universe. Those allowed inside would have been priests, although the temples were also sites for ordinary people to leave offerings, pray and seek guidance from outside.

The first pharaoh referenced in the temple is Ptolemy VI Philometer, although Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos continued work and had the exterior and interior Hypostyle halls built. During the Roman period when Egypt became a province in 30 AD, additions to the temple were made in the main court. Augustus built an outer wall, since lost.

As Christianity swept the Mediterranean empires, traditional Egyptian religion was persecuted and saw temple cults die out between the 4th and 6th centuries AD. A lot of the temple was defaced by the Coptic Church and it was not until the 19th century when European interest in Egyptology peaked and the temple was reconstructed.

Kom Ombo Temple today

Situated along the banks of the Nile, these twin temples remain glorious despite over a millennia of use, abuse and restoration. Expect to spend an hour or so wandering the temple remains admiring the craftsmanship and hieroglyphs on the palm-design columns, before visiting the mummified crocodiles inside the small Crocodile Museum.

The temple is particularly beautiful when lit up by the early morning or evening sun, the limestone glowing like fire and reminding us of the awe it would have inspired in ancient worshippers. Open between 6am and 5pm each day, this site is a must-see.

Getting to Kom Ombo Temple

Standing a short distance from the modern town of Kom Ombo, the temple is easily found. It is also a popular stop along Nile river cruises and minibus tours between Luxor and Aswan. The sleeper train between Cairo, Luxor and Aswan also stops at Kom Ombo.

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