General view of the temple compound.
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Dendera (Arabic: دندرة Dandarah; also spelled Denderah, ancient Iunet, Tentyris or Tentyra) is a small town in Egypt situated on the west bank of the Nile, about 5 kilometres (3 mi) south of Qena, on the opposite side of the river. It is located approximately 60 kilometres (37 mi) north of Luxor.
At a rather isolated place at the edge of the desert, about 2.5 kilometres (1.6 mi) south-west of the modern town, lies what Dendera is famous for, a mostly Greco-Roman temple complex known in ancient Egyptian as Iunet or Tantere. The modern Arab town is built on the ancient site of Ta-ynt-netert, which means 'She of the Divine Pillar.' In the Greek era, the town was known as Tentyra. It was once the capital of the 6th Nome (Pharaonic province) of Upper Egypt, and was also called Nikentori or Nitentori, which means 'willow wood' or 'willow earth'. Some scholars believe the name derives from the sky and fertility goddess Hathor, also associated with the Greek Aphrodite, who was especially worshiped there. The official deity of the city was a crocodile. Crocodiles were also venerated as deities in other Egyptian cities, which gave rise to many quarrels, notably with Ombos.
After Egypt became a Roman possession, the city of Tentyris was part of the late Roman province of Thebais Secunda. Its bishopric was a suffragan of Ptolemais, the capital and metropolitan see of the province. Little is known of the history of Christianity in the place, as only the names of two ancient bishops are given: Pachymius, a companion of Melece at the beginning of the fourth century, and Serapion or Aprion, a contemporary and friend of the monk St. Pachomius, whose diocese boasted the celebrated convent of Tabennisi. The town was given the Arab name of Denderah during the late Ottoman Empire and ruled 6000 inhabitants in Qena.
The Dendera Temple complex, which contains the Temple of Hathor, is one of the best-preserved temples, if not the best-preserved one, in all of Egypt. The whole complex covers some 40,000 square meters and is surrounded by a hefty mud brick wall. The present building dates back to the times of the Ptolemaic dynasty and was completed by the Roman emperor Tiberius, but it rests on the foundations of earlier buildings dating back at least as far as Khufu (known as the pyramid builder Cheops, the second king of the 4th dynasty [c. 2613–c. 2494 BC]). It was once home to the celebrated zodiac which is now displayed in the Louvre Museum in Paris. There are also Roman and pharaonic Mammisi (birth houses), ruins of a Coptic church and a small chapel dedicated to Isis, dating to the Roman or the Ptolemaic epoch. The area around the temple has been extensively landscaped and now has a modern visitor centre, bazaar and small cafeteria.
This area has a large amount of sunshine year round due to its stable descending air and high pressure. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Dendera has a mild desert climate, abbreviated "Bwh" on climate maps.
"Tentyris". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Tentyris". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.
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