Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Column Capital

Roman Period
A.D. 41–68
From Egypt, 1st Cataract, Philae, Temple of Harendotes
H. 90cm (35 7/16 in.); Diam. at base 66 cm (26 in.)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1911
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 131
This capital and its companion piece (11.154.5) are carved with a stylized palmette pattern, with the plants arranged in two tiers of different sizes. The palmette pattern—once brightly painted—covers the unstructured bell-shaped core like a dense net. This surface treatment is a typical stylistic feature of the architecture of the period.

Both this capital and its companion probably came from the temple of Harendotes—the name of the god Horus in his role as avenger of his father, Osiris, who was slain by Seth. The temple, which was built under the emporers Claudius and Nero, was located west of the great Isis temple on the Island of Philae. The building stood on a platform with a central staircase leading to the front. The facade was similar to that of the Museum's Temple of Dendur (68.154); the Harendotes temple, however, had four front columns. In late antiquity, the building was razed to its foundation platform and elements were incorporated into Byzantine churches.
The capital and its sister (11.154.5) originate from the temple of Harendotes ("Horus the avenger"), which stood on Philae Island within the enclosure of the Isis Temple and near the northwest corner of that temple.

The temple was probable built under Emperor Claudius. The unusual square plan (14. 5 x 14.7 m) was probably dictated by the nearness of the island’s edge. A central staircase led up to the building, which stood on a platform. The front of the tetrastylos in antis faced east and consisted of four columns with papyrus/palmette capitals. The columns (including base, excluding abacus) would have been about 4.20 m high. The foundation shows that there was no second row of columns. The hall was covered with 4.5 m long architraves running east to west. A square sanctuary, surrounded by an ambulatory and four wing chambers, followed directly behind the pronaos.

The temple was taken down in Byzantine times to the foundation platform and the stones were used for building a small church (P) nearby. A photo in Lyon’s report still shows one of the capitals in the ruins of the Byzantine settlement. As part of the Nubian Salvage campaign, the platform of the Harendotes temple was transferred to the new Philae site together with the major stone buildings; the brick buildings were left behind and disappeared in the reservoir.

The two capitals and the cavetto block (11.154.3) were purchased together in 1911 by The Museum from the Egyptian government. Two photos show that the capitals were first attractively repaired and reconstructed in plaster and set on newly fabricated plaster columns. The restoration and the column shafts were removed for the present exhibition.


The object was a quatrefoil open papyrus capital with a 2-story palmette decoration. The four overhanging lips were cut off when the capital was reshaped as a building block. The abacus of both capitals is missing but was probably made from a separate block. The feathers of the palmettes were cut with a drill.

Dieter Arnold 2015
Purchased from the Egyptian Government, 1911.

Lyons, Henry George, W.E. Garstin, and Waterlow & Sons 1896. A report on the island and temples of Philæ. London, pp. 31–32, pls. 22–24, plan 9.

Arnold, Dieter 1999. Temples of the Last Pharaohs. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 252–53, fig. 217.

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