Mons Claudianus | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Mons Claudianus

Safaga, Red Sea Governorate, Egypt

Lucy Davidson

08 Jun 2021

About Mons Claudianus

Mons Claudianus in Egypt houses an Ancient Roman quarry. It once consisted of a garrison, quarrying site, and civilian and workers’ quarters, with the remains of which still available to be seen today.

History of Mons Claudianus

Mons Claudianus is located in the mountains of the Egyptian Eastern desert, about midway between the Red Sea and Qena, in what is now the Red Sea Governorate.

The site was discovered in 1823.

Mons Claudianus was one of a few Roman quarries used to mine for granodiorite, a type of quartz only found in Egypt and which was used in many of the empire’s most famous buildings, including the Pantheon and Temple of Venus in Rome, and Emperor Hadrian’s villa in Tivoli, public baths, the floors and the columns of the Temple of Venus, and Diocletian’s Palace at Split.

Established and used in the first century AD, it is thought that Mons Claudianus may also have been a penal colony, with small habitable cells attesting to this.

The excavation of the site occurred over two centuries from the 1st century AD to the mid-3rd century AD. There is no evidence of any settlement at the site prior to it being used and settled upon as a quarry by the Romans.

The settlement resembled a fort with walls and projecting towers, and would have housed an estimated 1000 quarrymen and guards.

It was linked to the River Nile by a traceable surviving Roman road marked by way-stations – which resembled small defended ‘forts’ – spaced out at one-day intervals. The stones from the quarries were then taken along the road to the Nile Valley for trans-shipment to Rome.

Documents found on the site refer to 4 and 12-wheeled carts, and include a request for delivery of new axles.

Life for non-prisoners at the quarry would have been surprisingly good, with evidence of high pay and a rich and varied diet made up of at least 55 different food plants and 20 different sources of animal protein.

Mons Claudianus Today

The arid conditions of the desert have allowed the documents and organic remains of the site to survive.

What remains today are several fallen columns, a staircase which was intended to lead to an (unfinished) temple, and the ruins of a fort. Evidence of the quartz for which the Romans mined can also be seen at Mons Claudianus.

A number of texts written on broken pottery (ostraca) have also been discovered at the site.

Tours can be easily arranged in Hurghada, a nearby beach resort town which stretches around 40km along the coast of Egypt’s Red sea coast.

Getting to Mons Claudianus

From Hurghada, the site is an hour and a half drive via Al Hurghada – Qena/Hurghada – Safaga Rd/Route 65M and Al Hurghada – Qena/Qena – Safaga Rd/Route 60M. It is definitely recommended that you do this as part of a tour, since the desert site is fairly winding and complicated to reach.

 

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