Monday, March 2, 2009

Crocodilopolis?!?

Copyright © Egypt, Cradle of Civilization

Crocodilopolis ….yes it’s a real place you can visit, and I won’t keep you guessing, it was the official head-quarters for a crocodile worship cult! The city of Crocodilopolis was located on the western bank of the Nile, southwest of Memphis in Egypt. During ancient time it was known by the name of Shedet and was the center of worship for the Egyptian water-god Sobek, or the crocodile god. It was the Greeks that dubbed it “Crocodile City”, or “Crocodilopolis”, but over time it has been given many names.



Its Greek name was Krokodilopolis but when the city passed into Ptolemy hands in the 3rd century BC, it was renamed Ptolemais Euergetis and then renamed again by Ptolemy Philadelphus II to Arsinoe in honor of his wife and sister Arsineo II of Egypt, and during its heyday it had a population of more than 100,000. In modern time, its Arabic name is now Medinet El-Fayoum.


Life in Crocodilopolis has always rotated around Lake Moeris which was in the thin ridge that separated the city from the Nile Valley. During the Middle Kingdom it gained prominence when the oasis swamp of Fayoum was drained, creating a new fertile province. The level of the lake was artificially regulated, and large monuments were built around its shore, although the level of the lake was lower than in the past but still higher than today. In the 12th Dynasty the city became the capital of Egypt.


Crocodilopolis may not have become a major city and may not have had any major political standing in the area, but it was located in the most fertile region in Egypt, which made it a haven for farmers growing vegetables, corn, roses, vineyards and olives.


The protective deity of the whole of the lake area was the crocodile headed god Sobek (Suchos) and his sacred animal was the crocodile of course! The people of Crocodilopolis worshiped a manifestation of Sobek through a sacred crocodile named “Petsuchos” (or “son of Sobek”).The crocodile lived in a special temple, with sand, a pond and food, and was embellished with gold and jewels and had special priests to serve his food. When the Petsuchos died the body would be mummified and given a special burial, and replaced by another promptly.

Beside the lake where the sacred crocodile was kept, was the principle temple, dedicated to the cult of Sobek. During the 12th dynasty the temple already existed but was rebuilt by Ramses II. Sadly what currently remains of Crocodilopolis is no more than several mounds of ruins, a few column bases here and there and a stone obelisk erected by Senusret I during the 12th Dynasty and a few sculptured blocks. Between 1877 and 1878 a great number of papyrus manuscripts were discovered, some of which are important to the earliest Christian history of Egypt.

Fayoum may not attract visitors on account of Crocodilopolis but on account of its waterwheels, there are approximately 200 of these great waterwheels located throughout the oasis. The Seven Waterwheels, which are Fayoum’s landmark and the main attraction to the area, are surrounded by mangos, palms and willows. Fayoum remains one of the most fertile banks on the Egyptian Nile.

About the Author:
Gawhara Hanem
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