History of The Temple of Philae


Embark on a voyage through time as we delve into the mysteries of The Temple of Philae, an architectural marvel dedicated to the goddess Isis, which stands as a testament to the devotion and ingenuity of ancient civilizations. Its origins can be traced back to the Pharaonic era, with construction likely initiated by Taharqa or Psamtik II in the 7th or 6th century BC.

Over the centuries, Philae evolved under the influence of various rulers, particularly during the Ptolemaic era, when significant contributions were made by Ptolemy II Philadelphus around 280 BC. The temple complex was completed in the Roman period, reflecting a blend of Egyptian, Greek, and Roman architectural styles. 

However, the construction of the Aswan Low Dam in the early 1900s threatened Philae’s existence, submerging the island and its treasures. It wasn’t until the UNESCO Nubia Campaign in the 1960s that Philae was saved through an unprecedented international rescue effort. The temple was meticulously dismantled and relocated to the higher grounds of Agilkia Island, ensuring its preservation for future generations.

A Sanctuary of Stone and Symbolism


The architecture of the Temple of Philae is a fascinating blend of Egyptian, Greek, and Roman design elements, reflecting the diverse cultural influences that touched this ancient site. At its heart, the Temple of Philae was a sanctuary dedicated to the goddess Isis. The temple complex was originally located on Philae Island but was moved to Agilkia Island to protect it from the rising waters of the Nile River due to the Aswan Low Dam.


The Pylons and the Birth House


Visitors to the temple are greeted by two majestic pylons. The first pylon features two towers and leads to an open forecourt, which then guides you to the second pylon. This second pylon opens up to a Hypostyle Hall with ten columns, each intricately carved with hieroglyphics and religious iconography. Beyond this hall lies the inner sanctum, the most sacred space dedicated to Isis.


Read more about Horus and his temple, Edfu temple.


Intricate Carvings and Hieroglyphics

The walls and columns of Philae are adorned with carvings that depict scenes from ancient Egyptian mythology, including the stories of Isis bringing Osiris back to life and the divine birth of their son, Horus. These carvings not only serve as religious symbols but also provide valuable insights into the beliefs, rituals, and daily life of the ancient Egyptians.


The Kiosk of Trajan

One of the architectural highlights of Philae is the Kiosk of Trajan, also known as Pharaoh’s Bed. This elegant structure features 14 columns with screen walls and was likely used for ceremonial purposes. Its design is a testament to the Roman influence on the temple complex.


The Divine Mother and Protector


Isis is one of the most significant deities of ancient Egyptian religion, revered not only in Egypt but across the Greco-Roman world. Her worship began in the Old Kingdom (c. 2686 – c. 2181 BCE) and she played a central role in the Osiris myth, where she resurrects her slain husband, Osiris, and raises their son, Horus.

She was known as the divine mother of the pharaoh, likened to Horus, and was considered a protector of the kingdom and the natural world. Her powers were believed to be greater than all other gods, and she was often invoked in healing spells and funerary rites to assist the dead in the afterlife.


Discover our 8 day cairo and Nile cruise tour and visit The Temple of Philae and more...


What is the difference between Agilkia Island and Elephantine Island?


Agilkia Island:

  • It is the current location of the ancient Egyptian temple complex of Philae, which was moved from its original location on Philae Island to save it from flooding due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam.
  • The island was remodeled to resemble the original Philae Island as part of the UNESCO project to preserve the temples.
  • Agilkia is smaller and less inhabited, primarily serving as a tourist destination due to the temple complex.


Elephantine Island:

  • Elephantine Island is one of the oldest inhabited areas in Egypt, with a history that dates back to the predynastic period.
  • The island is known for the Temple of Satet, ruins, Nilometer, and the Aswan Museum, which showcase its historical and cultural significance.
  • Elephantine serves as a cultural and archaeological site, as well as a living community with a vibrant Nubian heritage.


Philae Temple in Aswan invites intrepid explorers to unravel the enigmas of Egypt's past. As you plan your journey, Horizon Travel offers Egypt vacation packages, ensuring you witness the splendor of the Philae Temple and other historical wonders.