ESNÈ was known to the Greeks and Romans by the name of Latopolis, derived, it is supposed, from the worship by the inhabitants of the Latus fish, which, according to Strabo, shared with Minerva the honours of the sanctuary. Wilkinson says that the deity who presided over Latopolis was Chnouphis, or Knaph, abundantly shewn by the sculptures and dedication of the portico, the only portion now free from the mounds that have accumulated over the whole of the back part of the Temple, and from the intrusions of modern habitations; the imposing style of its architecture cannot fail to call forth the admiration of the most indifferent spectator. Many of the columns are remarkable at once for their elegance and massive grandeur.

    It has lately been cleared out to the floor by order of Mohammed Ali during his visit to Esnè in 1842; and it is easy to imagine the improvement thus made in the effect of this beautiful moment. Whatever may have been the date of the inner portions of this Temple, the portico merely presents the names of some of the early Cæsars: those of Tiberius, Claudius, and others, occur in the dedication over the entrance, and those of Trajan, Adrian, and Antonius, in the interior. On the ceiling is a zodiac, similar to that which was found at Dendera; and upon the pilasters, on either side of the front row of columns, are several lines of hieroglyphics, which are interesting from their containing the names of the Egyptian months. The small quantity of light now admitted into this beautiful pronaos over the walls, which have been built in the interspaces of the columns, or by the door when it is open, is not sufficient to enable the visitor to see the zodiac, or even the whole of the varied and beautiful capitals of the columns, owing to their height above the observer. Since it was cleared out it has been used as a granary, or a  cotton-store, as it was required for either; but latterly the Pacha has established in it a magazine of gunpowder, and no torch is now allowed to be used within the Temple.

    The walls in front of the portico are seen on the left, built up to within a foot or two of the soffit of the architrave: the door in the centre, by which it is entered, is level with the external ground; and from it a flight of steps descends to the floor of the portico: this door, when closed, is rudely sealed with a lump of impressed clay. There is scarcely a more beautiful example than this Temple of the Ptolemaic period of Egyptian architecture. The finely sculptured shafts, the elegant and varied devices and forms of the capitals, derived from the fruit and leaves of the date, the vine, and the lotus, are proofs, that to limit such a member to the sameness, however beautiful, of the capitals of Greek columns, is an unworthy restraint upon the human mind which can produce such exquisite variety. In this transverse view one half of the portico only is seen: the whole has six columns in width, and four in depth. All access towards the adytum is closed with rubbish. The debris of temples and other structures which rise in extensive mounds above the ancient city and importance of Latopolis, which is now so buried, or built over with huts and houses, that this portico is almost the only evidence that remains of its ancient greatness. When the French were here they cleared these obstructions from before it, but the people have now replaced their abominations. The ruins of a stone quay exists on the eastern side, but this is of a later date than the Temple - a fact established by a Greek inscription, which mentions the time of its construction.

    Whilst Mr. Roberts was in the portico some Copts, known by black turbans, observed his sketching with much interest, and recognised in him a Christian brother by crossing themselves whenever they addressed him.



Wilkinson’s Egypt and Thebes             Roberts’s Journal             Wathen’s Arts and Antiquities of Egypt.