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Map of Nile Delta showing ancient Canopus, Heracleion, and Menouthis

Menouthis was a sacred city in ancient Egypt, devoted to the Egyptian goddess Isis and god Serapis. The city was submerged under water in the 8th century as a result of earthquakes or a Nile flood. Its exact location remained uncertain until 2000 when an archaeological team led by Franck Goddio reported rediscovery of Menouthis underwater a little northeast of Alexandria.

Religious significance[edit]

In Roman Egypt, Menouthis was widely renowned as an oracular and healing cult centre of the Ancient Egyptian goddess Isis[1] and it drew devotees from a fairly wide region.[2] The Temple of Isis in the city contained religious statues and was decorated with hieroglyphs. In 413 AD, at a site opposite the temple,[3] Pope Theophilus of Alexandria built a Christian shrine dedicated to the Four Evangelists. The shrine became home to the bones of the saints Cyrus and John, which were moved there from Alexandria by Cyril of Alexandria.[4] Coptic tradition says that the pagan temple remained in use alongside the Christian shrine and the worship of Egyptian gods and their statues continued in the city.[3]

As time went by the traditional healing function of the temple was transferred to the Christian shrine.[3] The temple was demolished in 484 AD and the statues of the classical gods in the city were removed or destroyed in 488–9 AD.[2] By the end of the 5th century the Christian shrine had replaced the temple as a healing centre.[5] At the height of its popularity in the 6th and 7th centuries the shrine was one of the two principal pilgrimage centres of Christian Egypt.[6]

In popular culture[edit]

"Menouthis" is also the name of a song by E.S. Posthumus, inspired by the ancient city.


  1. ^ Frankfurter 1998, p. 258.
  2. ^ a b Frankfurter 1998, p. 10.
  3. ^ a b c McKenzie 2007, p. 249.
  4. ^ McKenzie 2007, p. 247.
  5. ^ Frankfurter 1998, p. 422.
  6. ^ Frankfurter 1998, p. 257.

Further reading[edit]

  • Frankfurter, David, ed. (1998). Pilgrimage and Holy Space in Late Antique Egypt. BRILL. ISBN 9789004111271.
  • McKenzie, Judith (2007). The Architecture of Alexandria and Egypt, C. 300 B.C. to A.D. 700. The Pelican History of Art. Volume 63. Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300115550.