Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Yesterday's Daily Photo - Temple of the Oracle

I have been asked to explain yesterday's set of photographs, so here's a short summary. The photos show Aghurmi and the Temple of the Oracle in Siwa Oasis.

The first photo (and the one on this post) shows Aghurmi, the ruined medieval town which grew up around the temple. The town was abandoned in the mid 1920s - the main surviving feature is the tower of a mosque which was in use until recently.

The temple, shown in the second photo, was built during the 26th Dynasty and was dedicated to Amun. The temple and its oracle (a physical representation of the god, which could be consulted) were famous throughout the Mediterranean during Greek and Roman times. An early visitor was Croesus of Lydia who consulted the Oracle at Siwa before his attack on Cyrus of Persia in 546BC. Herodotus tells a story of how the Persian pharaoh Cambyses II lost an entire army in the Western Desert, which he sent to destroy the Oracle. It was later visited by Alexander the Great from 332 to 323BC - which accounts for the fame of the site today. The second AD Greek writer Arrian claims that Alexander visited the Oracle in order to confirm that he was descended from the god Amun. Perhaps he felt, like Hatshepsut centuries before him, that being able to claim descent from a powerful Egyptian deity would reinforce his position as the leader of Egypt. His divine origins were apparently confirmed by a priest of the temple.

As you can see from the second photo, the walls of the temple survive, but the internal decoration has been damaged. If you click on the last three photos you will be able to make out some of the decoration that remains in the sanctuary. The first of the three shows the twin plumes of the god Amun. The main feature of the second image is the goddess Mut facing to the right and in the final photograph a lion-headed deity, perhaps Mahes, faces to the left.

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