25 June 2024 11:51 PM

Greco-Roman monuments in Alexandria

Wednesday، 13 July 2022 - 02:10 PM

The Greco-Roman era in Egypt, which is nearly 1,000 years old, left many important monuments in various parts of the countries, especially Alexandria.


Alexandria includes the largest group of antiquities remaining from the Greco-Roman era in Egypt, and this is normal given that it was the capital of Egypt in that era. The most important of these monuments are:


-Caesareum Temple


It has been erected by Cleopatra VII in the name of "Mark Anthony”, and in front of its entrance were two obelisks that were transferred from the Ain Shams temple and bearing the names of the kings of the pharaohs Thutmose III, Seti I and Ramses II. One of those obelisks were transferred in 1877 to London and the second to New York.


-Roman theatre

This important monument is found in the "Kom El-Dikka" area. This building has been built at the beginning of the fourth century AD.


 Building Description

The building is listed in the shape of a (horse-shoe) or the letter U, and it was called (the theatre).


The (Roman Amphitheater) consists of 13 rows of marble stands numbered with Greek letters to organize the seating process. The first of which is from the bottom of pink granite consisting of durable stones, so the engineer used it as a basis for the rest of the stands.

 There are 5 cabins above these stands that were used for sleeping, of which only two remain.


The ceiling of these cabins had domes that rested on a group of columns. The terraces rested on a thick limestone wall surrounded by another wall.



The two walls have been linked by a set of arches and vaults, where the outer wall has been considered a strong support for the inner wall.The orchestra area was located in the middle of the amphitheater .It  was used as a place for playing music, fixed by two marble pillars, then two mosaic halls with geometric decorations at the entrance. It is located at the west.



-The catacombs of Kom El Shukafa

The Catacombs of Kom El-shokafa which date from the second century A.D are unique both for their plan and for their decoration which is a mixture of Egyptian and Greco-Roman elements .

Excavations in the site started in 1892, but the catacombs were not found until 1900 when by mere chance the falling of a donkey drawing a cart in a pit led to their discovery.


 The tomb consists of three stories cut in the rock, but the lower one gets filled with subsoil water and for this reason most of it has been filled with sand. A staircase (A) goes round a large shaft, down which the dead bodies used to be lowered by rops. The stair ends at the first floor with a vestibule (B) with a semi circular niche on each side. Each niche is fitted with a bench and roofed with a shell. This leads to a rotunda (C) with another large shaft in the middle surrounded by a parapet upon which stand eight pillars supporting the domed roof.


 At the bottom of the shaft were found five stone heads which were removed to the Museum (Hall 16) and casts of them were made and can be seen on the parapet.


To the left of the rotunda is the banquet hall (D) or triclinum, where relatives and friends of the dead could meet on special occasions . Here are cut in the rock three large benches on which they could recline upon mattresses while eating.


The tables have disappeared and were probably made of wood. From the rotunda a staircase (E) leads down to the second storey, the main part of the tomb, which consists of a vestibule and a burial chamber. The vestibule(F) has two fine columns with floral capitals and two pilastere with capitals of papyrus and acanthus intermingle, the four support a cornice adorned with a winged solar disk between two falcons and with a kind of denticulated friez. Above the cornice 18 a law arched pediment decorated in the middle with the solar disk. On both sides of the vestibule two niches in the shape of Egyptian door-ways are hewn in the rock with two statues lnelde, one of a woman (to the left) and the other one of a man (to the right). These two statues, except for the heads, were executed according to the rules of Egyptian art.

They are represented standing with one foot in advance to the other and with both hands stretche down on the sides.

 The woman in clad in a long tight dress which covers the body till just above the feet, while the man wears a kilt. The hair dress of them is typical Roman like those which date from the second century A.D.

 In the middle of the wall at the back of the vestibule is a door surmounted by a cornice decorated with the winged sun disk and a frieze of urael (cobras).


To the right and left of this door, on two pedestals in the form of an Egyptian naos, are two great serpents carved in the relief , wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. Each of the two serpents has on one side the pine-cone (Hyrsus), symbol of Dionysus, and on the other the serpent- wand (caduceus), symbol of Hermes. These serpents seem to represent not only Agathodemons (l.e good genii) but also the serpents sacred to the Egyptian gods of the dead Osiris and Isis and to Hermes, the guide of dead in the other world according to Greek mythology. Above the head of each of these two serpents is a head of Medusa on a round shield, intended, no doubt, to frighten and keep the robbers away from the tomb.


 The burial chamber(G) contains three large recesses on three sides. In each of them a sarcophagus is cut in the rock, complete with its lid.They closely resemble each other, and are decorated with festoons of flowers, masks and bulls-heads.


The lids are not separate and bodies were entered from opening in the passage behind. The back wall of the central sarcophagus shows a typical Egyptian scene of mummification; In the middle on a funerary-bed lies the mummy, while the jackal- headed Anubis, god of mummification, stands behind the bed with his right hand on mummy, while the left carries a vase.


Underneath the bed are three canopic jars Intended to contain the viscera of the deceased, one has a cover in the shape of a flacon’s head, the second a human head, and the third an ape’s head. At the head of the bed, which takes the shape of a lion`s head stands the lbis –headed Thoth, god of wisdom.

He holds in his right-hand avase and in the left a scepter. At the foot of the bed stands the falcon headed god Horus, who holds in his right hand a sceptre and in the left hand a vase.


The reliefs on the sides represent, to the right a woman standing, with the sun-disk on her head, sign of deification, up lifting both her hands in the gesture of adoration in front of a priest with two feathers on his head.

He offers her a lotus hud and a cup with a n ewer. Between the two is an altar decorated with lotus flower.


 The scene to the left represents a man standing, holding something in his right hand and uplifting his left hand in adoration. In front of him stands a lector priest holding a roll of papyrus in both hands. Between the two is an altar decorated with lotus flowers.


On the back wall of the niche to the right we see the king standing, wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt and holding a necklace in both hands which he offers to the sacred bull represented standing on a pedestal with a goddess behind, probably Isis, protecting the bull with her two outstretched wing. The right side represents a mummy standing with the sun-disk on its head, holding a long staff with both hands.


In front of it stands a jackal-headed god with the sun-disk on his head holding a long staff with both hands. Between the two is an altar with a vase on it.


 On the other side, to the left the left, we see the king standing, wearing headdress with the sun-disk encircled by the sacred cobra. His right arm is stretched down to his side, while he offers a feather (symbol of truth)by his left hand to the god standing in front of him, This god, most probably being in the form of a mummy, is represented standing with the sun disk on his head, holding a scepter with both hands. Between the two is an altar adorned with lotus flowers. The scene on the back of the niche on the left hand side is nearly the same as that on the right hand side.

It represents the king who offers a necklace to the sacred bull standing on a pedestal with a goddess behind protecting the bull with her outstretched wings.


On the lateral side, to the right, is represented the king standing with the sun disk and cobra on his head holding a long staff with both hands. In front of him the Falcon headed god Horus stands wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, holding a long staff with both hands. Between the two is an altar with a vase on it, on the lateral side to the left we see the king standing, wearing a kilt. He offers a feather with his right hand to a god standing in front of him.


This god is represented in the shape of a mummy with the sun disk on its head. Between the two stands an altar adorned with flowers. On both sides of the entrance to this burial chamber, on the way out, we see on the right hand side the Egyptian Jakal-headed god Anubis in a military uniform.


He is represented standing with the sun disk on his head, holding a long staff with his right hand. On the other side of the entrance, the same god is represented with the lower part of a dragon.


These divinities are again a mixture of Egyptian and Greco-Roman form, which makes this tomb a unique example in its kind. Surrounding this part of the tomb are narrow passages with more than 300 loculi in two rows for burial (H), of which those in room (J.) were for the followers of goddess Nemesis. In one of the loculi was found the mummy of a priestess of this goddess with a golden chain round her neck, adorned with the wheel of this goddess and other thin leaves of gold which covered the eyes, the breast, the tongue, the mouth, and even the nails of fingers and toes. We now return to the rotunda (C), and enter, through a breach in the rock, to an entirely different set of tombs.


These are lit by a square shaft at the bottom of which stands an altar. They could be reached directly from outside by a staircase hewn in the rock but it is now blocked.


This part is called after the Emperor Caracalla because of the bones which were found in it and which were believed to have been the result of the massacre which happened during his visit to Alexandria .

 But the bones found there belong more to animals, and specially horses, than to human beings. As this part of the tomb was dedicated to Nemesis. Goddess of sports , it is thought that horses which won in races were honoured after their death and buried here under the protection of the goddess.





 -Pompey's Pillar

The Memorial of Diocletian (Pompey's Pillar)


The so-called "Pompey Pillar" is the biggest memorial column in Egypt. It is a huge column of red granite, with a total height of about 28 meters and a base diameter of 2.7m. On the upper part at the western side is an inscription in Greek, which reads: "to the most just Emperor, tutelary of Alexandria Diocletian, the invincible, Postumus, the Prefect of Egypt (who erected this monument)."


 The Roman ruler of Egypt erected this memorial column between 284-305 A.D. in honor of the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

 A serious revolt in the city took place and Diocletian came himself, ordering the city to be besieged. After 8 months of resistance, the city finally surrendered and returned to Roman rule.

 As a result of the siege, there was famine in the city and therefore the Emperor ordered that a portion of the corn which was sent to Rome annually be given to the people of Alexandria instead.

 He exempted them from paying taxes during these hard times as well.

This memorial column was erected in gratitude for what Diocletian did for them during these hard times. In the Middle Ages the Crusaders believed mistakenly that the ashes or remains of the great Roman general Pompey were in a pot at the top of the column. This is how it got the nickname "Pompey's Pillar."

This gigantic column was erected on the hill of Bab Sidra, between the current area of ​​Muslim burials known as Al-Amoud, and the archaeological plateau of Kom Al-Shuqafa.

The area occupied by the column was considered the Acropolis of Alexandria (that is, the fortified high place). It also had represented both eras the Greek and the roman one.

The column was made of red granite and was brought from the Aswan quarries. The column is one piece 20.75 meters long, 2.70 meters in diameter at the base, and 2.30 meters at the crown. The total height of the column, including the base and the crown, is 26.85 meters.




-Black head temple


It is a temple or a small structure erected on a high floor .It consists of a staircase that leads to a hall facing it with four columns. This hall leads to a small room almost square in shape with a side staircase.


 As for the upper part of the building, its remains are still evidence that it was a place of residence, because the temple was one of the private temples attached to the homes of some individuals.


The upper part consists of two rooms, one of which was found with the remains of the marble slabs that covered its floor, and there are indications that there were other rooms in this place, perhaps stores of food. There is also an evidence of the existence of a small water channel. The architectural characteristics of this temple indicate that it was established in the middle of the second century AD.


Other monuments


In the Kom El-Dikka area, next to the theater, there are a number of ancient Egyptian antiquities, most of which date back to the era of the modern state. They were found in the waters of the Mediterranean, among the antiquities that were thrown into the water during the Middle Ages.


The Antiquities Authority, in partnership with foreign missions, unearthed and displayed these pieces.

The most important antiquities on display are:

- Remains of columns from different eras

- A plaque with a depiction of King Seti the First offering an offering

- A plaque with an inscription of King Seti I, the figure of the idol City –

 -A statue in the form of a Sphinx of King Ramses II

-A statue in the form of a Sphinx of King "Basmtik Neferdeib Ra" From the twenty-sixth dynasty

- A plaque with the figure of "Ptah"

- A plaque with the head of the cow Hathor.

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