Many of the gods worshipped by ancient Egyptians are represented in the
well-preserved walls of Dendera Temple ( also spelled Dandera, or Dandara).
However, Dendera was considered the most important center for the worship of
Hathor (the cow-headed goddess of the sky). The area surrounding Dendera was
a center for the worship of Hathor well before the Ptolemy's ruled Egypt
(i.e. before 300 BC).
Hathor is depicted
in Dendera as a beautiful woman with cow ears in some representations and in
others as a beautiful woman with cow ears and a crown with horns that wrap up towards
solar disk. Hathor is often thought of as an earth mother figure, as
well as a protector of women. In Ptolemaic times, it appears that
Hathor was associated with the Greek goddess Aphrodite and was adapted to be
a goddess of joy and love. In the Egyptian mythology of her exploits, she is not always seen as a protector, but
sometimes as a destroyer of
When the temple was active, a statue of Hathor that resided in the
sanctuary at Dendera Temple and thought to contain the spirit of the
goddess, was transported by barge on the Nile to
Edfu and its temple honoring Horus, so that he and his consort (through
their statues) could
enjoy a conjugal visit. This event was celebrated yearly and was
recorded as time of great joy and celebration in ancient Egypt
The entrance to Dendera is through a tall, but unimposing arch whose
gateway facing the main temple is all that remains of the temple's
pylon. Behind this is a courtyard that is now empty, although there are
minor temples to the right. The first temple on the right is a Roman Mammisi or
birth house. The Dendera complex is surrounded by intricately
constructed walls that add an air of mystery
and formality to the monument.
Click the image above for a photo tour of Dendera Temple
As you enter the Hypostyle Hall you will pass under the
“winged solar disk of hover” was a celebration of the form
that the god Horus took
in battle. This symbol is often used over the doorways of temples,
where is was posted as a warning that the
gods protected all who entered. At Dendera Temple the symbology
additional importance, since Hathor was often depicted as the wife of Horus.
The Hypostyle Hall of Dendera is filled with
columns whose capitals are faced with the image of Hathor. The ceilings and walls
of this area are covered with representations of gods, goddesses and
hieroglyphics related to the gods worshipped in this modest
temple. On the ceilings of the Hypostyle Hall you can find a marvelous
representation of the goddess Nut, the goddess of the sky, who daily
gave birth to the sun. In addition, you can see the detail of the
solar boats carrying the gods and Ra as he makes his nightly journey through
the Underworld, so that the sun can rise in victory each day. Dendera
Temple is relatively unique in that the ceiling of its Hypostyle Hall
remains intact. Be sure to look up as it is quite stunning and
worthy of your attention.
You will note that the ceiling of temple is blackened in many areas, as
it was slowly coated with soot when the temple was used the temple a place
for holding religious ceremonies and as residence by
In one of the rooms of the upper story of the temple you can see a
rather poorly executed replica of the well-known Zodiac of Dendera, which
incorporates the goddess Nut. The original Denderan Zodiac is now in the
Louvre in Paris, France.
Behind the Hypostyle Hall are two minor halls, with rooms used for
storage and religious purposes, that eventually funnel to the
Sanctuary, where the goddess Hathor was believed to reside in a statute that
represented her form. There is an upper story to the temple that includes areas where
the same statue of Hathor was taken to the roof for exposure to sunlight
from Ra, before her
journey to Edfu for her visit with Horus. This is one of the few
temple ceilings in Egypt that remains strong enough to support the weight of
We mentioned the Roman influence on the temple and much of this can be
seen on the exterior walls. In the photo tour provided
above, an image is included that shows Cleopatra and one of her sons offering gifts to the god Horus and goddess Hathor. The
outside walls of the main temple contain numerous reliefs of scenes that are quite
interesting and if you look closely you will see the figures of several
Roman emperors who ruled Egypt near the end of the Pharaonic period.
Egyptian Gods, Goddesses and Mythological Stories
The mythology of the deities of Ancient Egypt are as fascinating as they
are complex. For a fabulous, concise review of the gods worshipped by
the pharaohs read the book - Gods and Myths of Ancient Egypt by
Robert A. Armour
Other Luxor Area Attractions
For details on specific attractions in the Luxor area, follow these
Karnak Temple, the
Theban Necropolis (Valley
of the Kings,
Colossi of Memnon).
Click this link if you are interested in learning about a hot-air
balloon ride that will float you over many of the temples in the Theban
Necropolis (including the Valley of the Dead) as the sun rises over the Nile.
Click this link for information on shopping for
alabaster bowls and vases.
Or click a link in the box on the upper right of this page to
another area of Egypt for exploration.
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