The following essay is the result of creative writing in History. I chose Temple of Dendur as my object of study and posed as Pubilius Petronius who was commissioned by Augustus Cesar to develop the temple near the Nile in then Nubia. After collecting information about the construction of the table and using the data that is available I am role playing Pubilius. The setting of the essay is during the 15BC, Nubia after the Romans conquered that part of Egypt. The essay is as follows.
Today, I was commissioned to build a temple at Tutzis by the great Caesar. Oh, it is such an honor to work under our strong and mighty, Caesar Augustus. No wonder, he was Julius Caesar’s successor. He inspires the lot of us. His unique governing strategies, his remarkable understanding of military operations, his support for poetry and literature, his handsome portraiture, his generous attitude and so many traits of his personality inspire me to kill or be killed for the empire. Even though, I brought the Kingdom of Kush on their knees for him, I am honored to build this temple for him.
Being the second and the forth prefect of the Roman Empire, I am put up with a lot of responsibilities. When I went to capture the kingdom of Napata, I destroyed the temple of Amun, a Theban deity. Today, I receive a chance to rebuild a temple for the one true king of the land, my Caesar. This is the opportunity to resonate about the power of my Caesar to the locals of Tutzis and as my Caesar said, compensate for their loses.
But, how would I go about it? What kind of temple should I make, a local style or those beautiful temples of my Rome? I decreed upon a local temple because it would pass a stronger message to the people of Tutzis. Which gods should I do the honors? Roman or Tutzis’s? Before destroying the Temple of Amun, I had come across the Nubian’s tradition of worshipping local gods; perhaps I could do the same here. Which local gods must I include in the temple? Perhaps, I could ask Quper. Being the local Nubian chief, he had helped us Romans during the territorial wars.
After conversing with Quper, he suggested the following gods and goddesses: Nile God – Hapi, sky god – Horus, goddess Isis, god of silence – Harpocrates, god of underworld – Osiris, solar god – Mandulis, an elephantine deity – Satis, and a local god – Arensnuphis. No wonder, Egyptians are so mysterious, they worship so many gods. My only god is my Caesar, ever since he developed the imperial cult. The Egyptians would never be honored to see their gods alive, like I do.
I need to do more research about the structure of the temple. I remember seeing huge stone gateways, shrines, and a water body which could have been a sacred one, tall stone obelisk, and mud brick walls while I was demolishing the Temple of Amun. I must ask the Quper for his help again.
When I collaborated with Quper again, he informed me of the materials used to build various structures. The Egyptians, because of the lack of wood used sun-baked mud bricks and different stones. All of their structures are built near the Nile’s shore because they trade majorly through sea. He also told me how the huge bricks became Egyptian temple’s trademark because of the Old Kingdom’s Pharaohs. He described how the New Kingdom’s, Amarna style led to the development of great stone temples, like the one I was going to build. He elaborated over the characteristics of the temple; massive gateways, colonnaded courtyard, shrines, a large hall and secret chambers only accessed by Pharaohs and his high priests. He also spoke of relief work, inscribed stones, and plant motifs.
I must address the Caesar about this. Should I include Romanesque pillars in the Egyptian temple? Ha, what would be a better way to show our power than to conquer their religion? I will have to think over this smartly, I should not offend them to start a rebellion, just enough to make them aware.
How do the Egyptians pray? Wouldn’t it be monstrous to go inside the god’s abode and pray while he lives in peace? I must teach the Egyptians how we Romans offer our devotion. Our Caesar has made us realize why we must also pray to our deceased, for they have done so much. I can use the Temple of Divus Iulius as an inspiration and the Temple of Amun as a guide to capture their religion.
The Temple of Divus Iulius is a heavenly sight. Surrounded by statue and fountains, you can only enter the temple from the sides and then move ahead through the front. The entrance is surrounded by pillars, beautifully carved and intricately detailed. The pillars are immense and tall enough to protect the statue from any disaster, enemy or natural calamity. The entrance door is immense with beautifully carved inscriptions on the sides. Inside the temple, we have more pillars and more statues and right in front our eyes we can see the divine, Julius Caesar; standing tall and strong. His head touching the sky, oh, what a heavenly sight, the Egyptians would never have the privilege.
I questioned Quper about the Temple of Amun in Karnak. He was telling me how I can put Caesar’s statue in the temple, but I did not see a statue in the temple of Amun. I should put inscriptions of the Caesar on the wall, in the Egyptian style. And I should leave our trademark and make a lot of pillars, beautiful roman pillars. But how would we transport marble for pillars, marble is heavy and along with it we will have to carry the machinery as well. I don’t believe the Egyptians deserve marble. Well, its pillars made of bricks then. I should also surround the temple with statues just like in the temple of Divus Iulius.
I should plan on the architecture of the temple and then finalize it with the Caesar; for additional guidance I should take assistance from Quper. He told me the story behind the temple.
The temple is dedicated to four gods, namely Montu, an ancient local warrior god; Amun – he sun god; Mut – his wife and Khonsu; their son. The temple is said to be the largest in the world. He told me about the Hypostyle hall which has 134 pillars touching the sky. He enthrallingly spoke about the large pylons battered and rimmed with torus molding and topped with cavetto cornice. He told me that this pylon represented the rising of the sun from the two mountains. There are many bark shrines in the temple with sacred barks that port dead Egyptian kings to heaven. The presence of the sacred lake makes the temple very important according to Quper. It is where they celebrate the twenty seven day long, Opet festival for Amun-Ra. Quper told me that the God’s sanctuary has a naos; a cubicle around the god for protection from those beneath him.
I am going to ideate the plans for the temple now that I know how the Egyptians work and our traditions. I could formulate three plans.
The first plan is very Roman; it has statues everywhere and a lot of pillars too. I remember Quper told me the Egyptians did inculcate colonnaded structures, but will so many pillars be necessary? Why should I honor the Egyptians, we are their conquerors! The pylons around the temple would block the light towards the temple and cast a shadow on top of the deity. I know I am Roman, but I don’t want to do anything to angry any god, I wish to depart to heaven. The roof would use the technique of clerestory lighting because our temple would face the Nile. I don’t believe I will move ahead with this plan because it would not reach the Egyptians.
The second plan has two pylons whose height would differ; the one on the front would be shorter than the one on the back. In the second one instead of statues we can have four obelisks surrounding the temple to show authority and the reach of the Caesar. We can make them tall, so tall that petty Egyptians can see them from a mile. In this one, I can reduce the number of pillars and use clerestory lighting, since the sun rises from the Nile and the temple would be facing the Nile. What if I make two sphinxes near the entrance and two obelisks at the back? Powerful, enough I suppose. However, the question then arises is, am I giving away my culture and addressing theirs by adding too much of their temple’s characteristics? Maybe, I should not use this plan either.
The third plan is simple yet very affective. It will have a massive pylon and the entrance would have two pillars with Egyptian myths carved on them. The two pillars could also have sphinxes carved on each of them. Inside the temple would be a statue of the deity and behind him his bark shrine. The pillars could be carved with Romanesque designs and the walls could be carved with Egyptian deities. I think this would balance the cultures. The pylon on the front could be transformed into a simple gate like structure with Romanesque sculpting. I believe the third design is most feasible because it is formally balanced.
After discussing it with Quper and Caesar, I believe I should use the third plan. Quper also told me about the building rituals of the Egyptians. When I place my temple, I need to align it to a constellation above the temple, and then only I can make the placement for the temple.
Therefore, I visited the banks of the Nile that night with a priest and Quper and a few workers. We spotted the stars, stretched the cord and dug a hole right under it. In the hole, we put a mud brick made my Caesar’s name inscribed on it. According to the cords, I commanded the workers to make one body deep trenches and fill them with the fine sand from the Nile. I did all of that just as Quper had asked. I can begin the construction of the temple tomorrow.
I have sent orders for the building 100 sun-baked bricks and sandstone bricks as well. Unlike, mysterious Egyptians, we Romans have nothing to hide or be ashamed of so we will not have any secret chambers. Thus, I have asked them to dig more one body deep trenches in the ground and start building the temple from there. I have about 500 men working on this. My men have been collecting the clay from the Nile and collecting silt, course sand and find sand to make the mixture and bake it under the sun. I will also ask for the making of straws to put into the mixture, I want the legacy of my Caesar to live for eternity.
The Egyptians make wooden molds for their bricks, according to Quper and I began to do the same. The mixture will be left into the slab for two to three days until it dries. Quper feels it will take a month to make so many bricks and I agree or I believe it would take more time than that.
I have a month to decide which deity must lie in this temple of Tutzis. I believe it must be the Caesar’s statue for he saved all the Egyptians from their doomed future, but would that cause a rebellion? I think I should honor an Egyptian deity. I must consult Quper. Quper suggested that I should devote the temple to Isis, the goddess of motherhood and fertility. But I should also include the local deities like Satis and Arensnuphis, he says; it would attract the locals. He also added gods Horus and Osiris to the list because they are usually associated and expected with Horus and Hapi, the Nile god so that he doesn’t not flood the temple while it’s being constructed. Moreover, he also suggested the addition of Madulis, the solar god for he made the construction of the temple possible.
Finally, after a month, I have bricks to begin construction with. The workers have begun to carry the bricks with the help of a yoke. They are placing the bricks and joining them horizontally using mortar made up of gypsum, quartz and some lime stone on different types of floats. The workers are using rods, strings and set-squares to put the bricks together strongly. They need to be aligned to the ground. They need to be strong. The bricks have turned a little convex and are funny looking; I suppose this is why Egyptian architecture cannot be as good as Roman.
The architecture is coming along well, the temple is almost ready. We had a small accident today, one of the yokes broke and a few workers died while carrying the bricks to the temple. The holy ground was not spilt with their blood so no harm done.
The structure of the temple is ready and we must begin with the inscriptions. Quper is looking after the inscriptions for me, as I am unaware of how it is done in Egyptian style. So far, he has made lotuses and papyrus on the exterior base of the temple, he told me it symbolizes the Nile God. The workers are using sharp knives to make sunk reliefs on the bricks of the temple. Just around the flowers there is water. Above the water there is the Earth where my Caesar is depicted as the Pharaoh and is shown to be making offerings to the deities, Horus, and Osiris who hold the scepters and ankh that symbolizes life. Quper is truly devoted to Caesar. What a glorious way of portraying the Caesar’s authoritative and dictatorial powers! Quper must be rewarded for this dignity! I immediately ordered some of the workers to make Quper as an inscription on the temple. He has earned it. However, how will the Egyptians know it is the Caesar? I must ask the sculptors to write his identity besides Caesar’s figure.
The two pillars in the front have started to grow out of stones and the structure is getting ready. Unfortunately I have been called to Rome on official business and I must leave Tutzi, it will take time for me to return so I have put Quper in charge. I hope he fulfills my expectations.
Praise the Caesar, this temple is almost ready! It has such outstanding inscriptions of the Caesar offering various objects to the gods. I do not know the gods, but their crowns show that they are different. The sculptors have written Pharaoh around the King in a cartouche!
They know that he is their Caesar! Yes, the message has been delivered. The entrance of the temple has a huge pylon with architraves; the size is enormous and intimidating. The pillars on the entrance have papyrus and lotus quatrefoils, I cannot make out which though. On the entrance just above the staircase is an enormous inscription of a sun surrounded with wings, which I am sure is the representation of some god. Besides that lie typical Egyptian patterns made up of squares and triangles. As I enter the temple, I follow the continuation of the wings on the ceiling through the two pillars and towards the main door. I am surrounded by various animals and human-like figures.
I do not really comprehend what it is but it looks very beautiful and appealing. It is the narrative of a story I presume; most probably that of Isis, Horus and Osiris. Right on the main entrance door, my Caesar is uplifted in such a manner than he can be visible even during the lack of sunlight, during dawn and sunset. The Egyptians have understood the importance of my Caesar. Stepping inside the sanctuary I find a beautiful statue of a goddess, who I suppose is Isis. She is adorned with a lot of jewelry and is facing the sky. She is surrounded by a series of walls and is much above my level. I recall the walls are called naos; built for the protection of god from those who are beneath him. I take a stroll around the sanctuary and I realize I am missing an element. Where is Quper’s inscription? After confronting a worker, I gather that Quper presumed it a rumor and declined the development of the artwork.
Confrontations lead to the fact that Quper feels unworthy of it, but has offered the portrait of his defied sons, Pedesi and Pihor being drawn right behind the Goddesses sanctuary on the back of the naos. Quper selected his sons over himself because he wanted to pass on the legacy of the Nubians. I understand him that is why I am building the temple. I want to share the legacy of me Caesar.
The temple is almost built I believe it is time for the Caesar to come and have a look at it. I have just received information that the people of Kush are going to attack my Caesar; I must depart for his legacy is already living on.