Hermopolis

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Hermopolis
AshmuneinBasilica.jpg
Hermopolis
Hermopolis is located in Egypt
Hermopolis
Shown within Egypt
Location El Ashmunein, Minya Governorate, Egypt
Region Upper Egypt
Coordinates 27°46′53″N 30°48′14″E / 27.78139°N 30.80389°E / 27.78139; 30.80389Coordinates: 27°46′53″N 30°48′14″E / 27.78139°N 30.80389°E / 27.78139; 30.80389
Type Settlement
Site notes
Condition In ruins

Hermopolis[1] (also Hermopolis Magna, Ancient Greek: Ἑρμοῦ πόλις μεγάλη Hermou polis megale,[2] Egyptian: Khemenu, Ḫmnw) was a major city in antiquity, located near the boundary between Lower and Upper Egypt.

Black siltstone obelisk of King Nectanebo II. According to the vertical inscriptions he set up this obelisk at the doorway of the sanctuary of Thoth, the Thrice-Great, Lord of Hermopolis. It is now on display in the British Museum, London.

A provincial capital since the Old Kingdom period, Hermopolis developed into a major city of Roman Egypt, and an early Christian center from the 3rd century. It was abandoned after the Muslim invasion but remains both a Latin Catholic - and a Coptic Orthodox titular see.

Its remains are located near the modern Egyptian town of El Ashmunein (Arabic: الأشمونين‎‎, from Coptic: Ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛⲉⲓⲛ Shmounein) in Al Minya governorate.

Etymology[edit]

Khemenu (Ḫmnw), the Ancient Egyptian name of the city,[3] means "eight-town", after the Ogdoad, a group of eight deities who represented the world before creation. The name survived into Coptic as Ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛⲉⲓⲛ (Shmounein), from which the modern name, El Ashmunein, is derived. In Greek, the city was called Hermopolis, after Hermes, whom the Greeks identified with Thoth, because the city was the main cult centre of Thoth, the god of magic, healing and wisdom, and the patron of scribes. Thoth was associated in the same way with the Semitic Eshmun. Inscriptions at the temple call the god "The Lord of Eshmun".[4]

History[edit]

Objects from the tomb of Djehutynakht, a nomarch during the Middle Kingdom era of Egypt.

The city was the capital of the Hare nome (the fifteenth Nome of Upper Egypt) in the Heptanomis. Hermopolis stood on the borders of Upper and Lower Egypt, and, for many ages, the Thebaïd or upper country extended much further to the north than in more recent periods. As the border town, Hermopolis was a place of great resort and opulence, ranking second to Thebes alone. A little to south of the city was the castle of Hermopolis, at which point the river craft from the upper country paid toll (Ἑρμοπολιτάνη φυλακή, Strabo xvii. p. 813; Ptol. loc. cit.; the Bahr Jusuf in Arabic). The grottos of Beni Hasan, near Antinopolis, upon the opposite bank of the Nile, were the common cemetery of the Hermopolitans, for, although the river divided the city from its necropolis, yet, from the wide curve of the western hills at this point, it was easier to ferry the dead over the water than to transport them by land to the hills.

Hermopolis became a significant city in the Roman province of Thebais Prima in the administrative diocese of Egypt.

The principal pagan deities worshipped at Hermopolis were Typhôn and Thoth. Typhon was represented by a hippopotamus, on which sat a hawk fighting with a serpent. (Plut. Is. et Osir, p. 371, D.) Thoth, whom the Ancient Greeks associated with Hermes because they were both gods of magic and writing, was represented by the Ibis.

Ecclesiastical history[edit]

A Christian tradition holds it to be the place where the Holy Family found refuge during its exile in Egypt.

Hermopolis Maior was a suffragan diocese of the provincial capital's Metropolitan Archdiocese of Antinoe, in the sway of the Patriarchate of Alexandria. Like most, it faded under Islam.

Residential bishops[edit]

The flowing incumbents were recorded :

  • Conon (circa 250)
  • Fasileus (in 325)
  • Dios (circa 350)
  • Plusianus (IVth century)
  • Andreas (in 431)
  • Gennadius (circa 444 - after 449)
  • Victor (circa 448/463)
  • Ulpianus (VIth century)
  • Johannes I (VIth century)
  • Johannes II (VI-VIIth century)
  • Isidorus (VIIth century)
  • Eugenius (?)
  • Paulus (?)

Catholic titular see[edit]

The city was a titular diocese in the Roman Catholic Church,[5] and still is (?) in the Coptic Orthodox Church.

The diocese was nominally restored in the 18th century as Latin Titular bishopric of Hermopolis maior (Latin; 1925-1929 renamed Hermopolis Magna) / Ermopoli maggiore (Curiate Italian)

Its territory was reassigned in 1849 to the Coptic Catholic Eparchy of Mina, as a restoration of Hermopolis (as its Latin title attests).

In 1949 the titular see was suppressed, having had the following incumbents, all of the fitting Episcopal (lowest) rank :

BIOS TO ELABORATE
  • Francesco Fulgenzio Lazzati, O.F.M. (1931.07.14 – 1932.05.24)
  • Eduardo José Herberhold, Friars Minor (O.F.M.) (1928.01.07 – 1931.01.30)
  • Giorgio Glosauer (1917.07.07 – 1926.06.09)
  • John Jeremiah Lawler (1910.02.08 – 1916.01.29)
  • Juan Bautista Benlloch y Vivo (later Cardinal) (1901.12.16 – 1906.12.06)
  • Robert Brindle (1899.01.29 – 1901.12.06)
  • Raphael Valenza (1889.05.24 – 1897.12.22)

Remains[edit]

Hermopolis comparatively escaped the frequent wars which, in the decline both of the Pharaonic and Roman eras, devastated the Heptanomis; but, on the other hand, its structures have undergone severe changes under its Muslim rulers, who have burned its stones for lime or carried them away for building materials. A surviving Oxyrhynchus Papyrus of the 3rd century AD indicates that high-rise buildings with seven stories existed in the town.[6] The collection of Arabic papyri in the John Rylands Library, Manchester, contains many documents referring to Hermopolis (Ushmun); they date from the 2nd to 4th centuries AH.[7]

Structures[edit]

The Ibis-headed god, was, with his accompanying emblems, the Ibis and the Cynocephalus or ape, the most conspicuous among the sculptures upon the great portico of the temple of Hermopolis. His designation in inscriptions was "The Lord of Eshmoon". This portico was a work of the Pharaonic era, but the erections of the Ptolemies at Hermopolis were on a scale of great extent and magnificence and, although raised by Greek monarchs, are essentially Egyptian in their conception and execution. The portico, the only remnant of the temple, consists of a double row of pillars, six in each row. The architraves are formed of five stones; each passes from the centre of one pillar to that of the next, according to a well-known usage with Egyptian builders. The intercolumnation of the centre pillars is wider than that of the others; and the stone over the centre is twenty-five feet and six inches long. These columns were painted yellow, red, and blue in alternate bands. There is also a peculiarity in the pillars of the Hermopolitan portico peculiar to themselves, or at least discovered only again in the temple of Gournou. (Dénon, L'Egypte, plate 41.) Instead of being formed of large masses placed horizontally above each other, they are composed of irregular pieces, so artfully adjusted that it is difficult to detect the lines of junction. The bases of these columns represent the lower leaves of the lotus; next come a number of concentric rings, like the hoops of a cask; and above these the pillars appear like bunches of reeds held together by horizontal bonds. Including the capital, each column is about 40 feet high; the greatest circumference is about 28½ feet, about five feet from the ground, for they diminish in thickness both towards the base and towards the capital. The widest part of the intercolumnation is 17 feet; the other pillars are 13 feet apart.

Museum[edit]

Currently there is a small open-air museum in which stand two massive statues of Thoth as a baboon worshipping the sun, and a few carved blocks of masonry.

Famous people from Hermopolis Magna[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ (Ammianus Marcellinus, II 16)
  2. ^ Steph. B. s.v.; Ptol. IV 5. § 60. It. Anton. pp 154, seq.
  3. ^ Ian Shaw & Paul Nicholson, The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt, British Museum Press, 1995. p.125
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ PD-icon.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Hermopolis Magna". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 
  6. ^ Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 2719, in: Katja Lembke, Cäcilia Fluck, Günter Vittmann: Ägyptens späte Blüte. Die Römer am Nil, Mainz 2004, ISBN 3-8053-3276-9, p. 29
  7. ^ Margoliouth, D. S. (1933) Catalogue of Arabic Papyri in the John Rylands Library, Manchester. Manchester: the John Rylands Library
  8. ^ "St. David of Hermopolis in Egypt - Orthodox Church in America". Oca.org. Retrieved 2017-03-19. 

Sources and external links[edit]

Bibliography - Ecclesiastical history
  • Pius Bonifacius Gams, Series episcoporum Ecclesiae Catholicae, Leipzig 1931, p. 461
  • Konrad Eubel, Hierarchia Catholica Medii Aevi, vol. 5, p. 219; vol. 6, p. 234
  • Michel Lequien, Oriens christianus in quatuor Patriarchatus digestus, Paris 1740, Vol. II, coll. 595-596
  • Gaetano Moroni, Dizionario di erudizione storico-ecclesiastica, Vol. 22, p. 61
  • Klaas A. Worp, A Checklist of Bishops in Byzantine Egypt (A.D. 325 - c. 750), in Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 100 (1994) 283-318