After a confrontation with a Nubian Candake, Augustus commissioned the construction of a temple at Dendur, Nubia. Ostensibly depicting Augustus worshipping the Nubian local deities, the relief decoration and accompanying inscriptions pay particular homage to brothers, Pahor and Pedese, who are believed to have been sons of a local Nubian elite ruler and who seem to have met their fate by drowning in the Nile River, apparently resulting in their being deified. The temple of Dendur celebrates these two brothers and contains within the thickness of its rear wall, which abutted the hillside into which the temple was constructed, a chamber serving as their cenotaph. This temple appears to have replaced an earlier rock cut shrine, or speos, in which the cult of these two brothers was apparently celebrated. The rituals celebrated at Dendur in the name of Augustus on behalf of these two brothers were contemporary with other rituals performed at Sayala in the vicinity of Abu Simbel. Nubian religious praxis in speoi, therefore, persisted into the Roman Period at both Sayala and Dendur alike.
Temple of Dendur, Nubia, 15 B.C. Sandstone; From gate to rear of temple 82 ft. Given to the United States by Egypt in 1965, awarded to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1967, and installed in The Sackler Wing in 1978.
THE EGYPTIAN SPEOS [TEMPLES]
The Egyptian rock cut temple, or speos, was of Nubian origin. The earliest example of which was the cave sanctuary at Sayala, a Nubian site just north of Abu Simbel on the west bank of the Nile River. This site is dated to the period of the Nubian A-Group culture (3700-3250 B.C.E.). This particularly Nubian architectural expression was adopted by the Egyptians of the New Kingdom, whose pharaohs commissioned several temples in Upper Egypt and in Nubia. The earliest of these, at Speos Artemidoros, is dated to the reign of Queen Hatshepsut of Dynasty XVIII, and the most famous are the paired Northern and Southern Temples at Abu Simbel. Here, Rameses II, to whom the Greater, or Southern Sanctuary is dedicated, is equated with male solar deities but can only dawn via the ministration of the female principal, ascribed to his chief queen Nofertari, to whom the Lesser, or Northern Sanctuary is dedicated.