This is the oldest and most authentic guide to an ancient Egyptian temple ever written – its author was an ancient Egyptian priest who lived in the first century B.C., under the last kings of the Ptolemaic dynasty, when the construction and decoration of the huge temple of Edfu was completed.
The anonymous priest’s task was to compose a text long enough to make up a line of hieroglyphic inscription on the girdle wall of the temple, stretching around it to a length of some 300 meters, and in it describe the temple in detail – its layout and construction, the functions of the chambers and chapels, and its external appearance and the impression it conveyed to the faithful. The language of the text, arising within the long tradition of Egyptian temple building, is stylized and poetic, but remarkably, the priest fulfilled his assignment with such accuracy, devotion, and enthusiasm that the monumental inscription can be used today by the modern visitor as a reliable and informative guide to the temple.
The inscription is here translated in full, and appears with notes by the translator on the essentials of ancient Egyptian religion and ritual and the discovery and documentation of Edfu Temple, while a comprehensive glossary explains unfamiliar terms and concepts. Illustrations of the temple, the original hieroglyphs, and the kings who built the temple complement the text.