Egypt: Hermopolis


Hermopolis, located by a small village called El Ashmunein (derived from Shmun), was the capital of the Fifteenth (Hare) Nome of Upper Egypt, but in ancient times was it was one of the great Egyptian cities known as Khmunu (Shmun). The name Shmun, which is ancient Egyptian for the word 'eight', is interesting and reflects one of the creation myths of the ancient Egyptians. This refers to the eight ancestors of creation who created the first child and thus it was believed that the first sun rise was over this city, which in turn created the world.

Here, Thoth was worshipped in the form of the ibis and baboon. He was Hermes (hence, the modern name of the city) to the Greeks and Trismegistus in the hermetic test, who was the scribe who presided over all forms of knowledge.

The two main monuments here are a ruined Roman agora and its early Christian basilica, along with a small museum.

Thehuge columns surmounted by Corinthian capitals are the remains of the Roman basilica which was built on the site of a third century Ptolemaic temple. The column bases belonged to a portico that was there at the time of the famous Egypt Expedition, and are inscribed with the cartouches of Philip III Arrhidaeus.

There are two large quartzite baboons which probably guarded the entrance to the Temple of Thoth, but little remains of this temple, or for that matter, other earlier remains. Near here is the small museum.

Two the west there is a small pylon that marks the entrance to a temple built by Ramesses II that is dedicated to Amun-Re. The pylon was built using limestone from Tell el-Amarna and was later decorated during the reigns of Merneptah and Seti II.

The village itself is charming and the local mosque was built from debris of the ancient town on the location of an older church.