1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dendera

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DENDERA, a village in Upper Egypt, situated in the angle of the great westward bend of the Nile opposite Kena. Here was the ancient city of Tentyra, capital of the Tentyrite nome, the sixth of Upper Egypt, and the principal seat of the worship of Hathor [Aphrodite] the cow-goddess of love and joy. The old Egyptian name of Tentyra was written ’In·t (Ant), but the pronunciation of it is unknown: in later days it was ’In·t-t-ntr·t, “ant of the goddess,” pronounced Ni-tentôri, whence Τέντυρα, Τέντυρις. The temple of Hathor was built in the 1st century B.C., being begun under the later Ptolemies (Ptol. XIII.) and finished by Augustus, but much of the decoration is later. A great rectangular enclosure of crude bricks, measuring about 900 × 850 ft., contains the sacred buildings: it was entered by two stone gateways, in the north and the east sides, built by Domitian. Another smaller enclosure lies to the east with a gateway also of the Roman period.

The plan of the temple may be supposed to have included a colonnaded court in front of the present façade, and pylon towers at the entrance; but these were never built, probably for lack of funds. The building, which is of sandstone, measures about 300 ft. from front to back, and consists of two oblong rectangles; the foremost, placed transversely to the other, is the great hypostyle hall or pronaos, the broadest and loftiest part of the temple, measuring 135 ft. in width, and comprising about one-third of the whole structure; the façade has six columns with heads of Hathor, and the ceiling is supported by eighteen great columns. The second rectangle contains a small hypostyle hall with six columns, and the sanctuary, with their subsidiary chambers. The sanctuary is surrounded by a corridor into which the chambers open: on the west side is an apartment forming a court and kiosk for the celebration of the feast of the New Year, the principal festival of Dendera. On the roof of the temple, reached by two staircases, are a pavilion and several chambers dedicated to the worship of Osiris. Inside and out, the whole of the temple is covered with scenes and inscriptions in crowded characters, of ceremonial and religious import; the decoration is even carried into a remarkable series of hidden passages and chambers or crypts made in the solid walls for the reception of its most valuable treasures. The architectural style is dignified and pleasing in design and proportions. The interior of the building has been completely cleared: from the outside, however, its imposing effect is quite lost, owing to the mounds of rubbish amongst which it is sunk. North-east of the entrance is a “Birth House” for the cult of the child Harsemteu, and behind the temple a small temple of Isis, dating from the reign of Augustus. The original foundation of the temple must date back to a remote time: the work of some of the early builders is in fact referred to in the inscriptions on the present structure. Petrie’s excavation of the cemetery behind the temple enclosures revealed burials dating from the fourth dynasty onwards, the most important being mastables of the period from the sixth to the eleventh dynasties; many of these exhibited a peculiar degradation of the contemporary style of sculpture.

The zodiacs of the temple of Dendera gave rise to a considerable literature before their late origin was established by Champollion in 1822: one of them, from a chamber on the roof, was removed in 1820 to the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. Figures of the celebrated Cleopatra VI. occur amongst the sculptures on the exterior of the temple, but they are purely conventional, without a trace of portraiture. Horus of Edfu, the enemy of the crocodiles and hippopotami of Set, appears sometimes as the consort of Hathor of Dendera. The skill displayed by the Tentyrites in capturing the crocodile is referred to by Strabo and other Greek writers. Juvenal, in his seventeenth satire, takes as his text a religious riot between the Tentyrites and the neighbouring Ombites, in the course of which an unlucky Ombite was torn to pieces and devoured by the opposite party. The Ombos in question is not the distant Ombos south of Edfu, where the crocodile was worshipped; Petrie has shown that opposite Coptos, only about 15 m. from Tentyra, there was another Ombos, venerating the hippopotamus sacred to Set.

See A. Mariette, Dendérah (5 vols. atlas and text, 1869-1880); W. M. F. Petrie, Denderah (1900); Nagada and Ballas (1896).

(F. Ll. G.)