Temple of Khnum at Esna
The Temple of Khnum at Esna is located south of Luxor, on the way to Edfu in Egypt. It takes about 1.45 hours to reach by car from Luxor, but you mostly see the temple on a Nile Cruise between Luxor and Aswan.
The temple is dedicated to Khnum who was a ram-headed god who fashioned humankind on his potter’s wheel. The temple was begun by Ptolemy VI Philometor (180–45 BC). The temple sits in a 9-metre deep pit which represents 15 centuries of history. Most of the temple is still covered by the town of Esna. The Romans built the Hypostyle Hall, the only part of the temple that has been excavated and you can visit.
The main doorway leads to an inner vestibule which is supported by 18 columns. These have been adorned with floral motifs: lotus buds, palm leaves, grapes, and papyrus fans. The roof has an atmospheric decoration. The pillars are decorated with temple rituals. Next to the side doors are two hymns. The first is a morning hymn to wake up Khnum, and the second says ‘All are formed on his potter’s wheel, their speech different in every region but the lord of the wheel is their father too.’
On the walls, Roman Emperors are dressed as pharaohs making offerings to the local gods of Esna. Commodus is seen catching fishing a papyrus thicket alongside Khnum. This is a perfect example of how the Romans absorbed other religions, ensuring the local population was on side. The back wall features two Ptolemaic pharaohs, Ptolemy VI Philometor and Ptolemy VIII Euergetes (170–116 BC). Other Roman Emperors added their names in the temple including Septimus Severus, Caracalla and Geta.