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Statue of Nilus

Statue of Nilus
© BA Antiquities Museum/M. Mounir

Registration Number(s)
BAAM Serial Bibliotheca Alexandrina Antiquities Museum Number T0002

Inv.Inventory
 (Greco-Roman Museum) 29448

where to find


Mehamara Collection

Statue of Nilus

Category:
Sculpture in the round, statues, human / gods and goddesses statues
Date:
Graeco-Roman Period, Roman Period, 2nd cent. CE
Provenance:
Lower Egypt, Alexandria, El-Mehamara (Sidi Bishr)
Material(s):
Rock, marble
Height:
43 cm;
Length:
60 cm;
Width:
12 cm
Hall:
Mehamara Collection


Description

The statue is of Nilus reclining on his side, holding wheat stalks in his right hand and in his left hand a cornucopia (horn of plenty), which was depicted in the Roman Period filled with fruits and was a symbol of abundance and prosperity. On top of the cornucopia, there is the lower part of a child, symbolizing the unit of measuring the level of the Nile water, which is the arm. Nilus rests his left elbow on a hippopotamus. The upper part of the deity’s body is nude, showing his full and flabby stomach, which may also symbolize the life of plenty and prosperity brought by the flood, while the lower part of his body is draped in a cloak.

The Nile God

There was no Nile god in the ancient Egyptian civilization, but there was a deification of the annual flooding; the god Hapy. The ancient Egyptian did not worship the Nile in its abstract form, but sanctified it for being the main source of prosperity and land fertility in the country. The Nile is considered one of the most important and longest rivers in the world, even if they did not know its sources back then. In the Roman Period, Nilus became the Nile god.

The Nile Inundation

The increase in the level of the Nile was measured by an arm (1 arm = 0.52 m). This was done by means of the nilometers that spread throughout Egypt. The nilometers were found in some important temples. The most famous nilometers in Egypt were the one found at Elephantine Island, that at the Edfu Temple, and the one at the Serapium Temple in Alexandria. The sacred Nile water also played an essential role in the cult of Isis. The statues of the god Nilus sometimes had depictions of sixteen children, symbolizing the number of arms necessary for a perfect Nile inundation.


The information given here is subject to modification/update as a result of ongoing research.

Bibliography
  • Soheir Bakhoum. Dieux égyptiens à Alexandrie sous les Antonins : recherches numismatiques et historiques. Paris : CNRS, c2002
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