Thebes, Egypt

Thebesβαι, Thēbai, Arabic: طيبة‎, ībah) is the Greek name for a city in Ancient Egypt located about 800 km south of the Mediterranean, on the east bank of the river Nile within the modern city of Luxor. The Theban Necropolis is situated nearby on the west bank of the Nile.


Thebes was inhabited from around 3200 BC. It was the eponymous capital of Waset, the fourth Upper Egyptian nome. Waset was the capital of Egypt during part of the 11th Dynasty (Middle Kingdom) and most of the 18th Dynasty (New Kingdom), when Hatshepsut built a Red Sea fleet to facilitate trade between Thebes Red Sea port of Elim, modern Quasir, and Elat at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba. Traders bought frankincense, myrrh, bitumen, natron, fine woven linen, juniper oil and copper amulets for the mortuary industry at Karnak with Nubian gold. With the 19th Dynasty the seat of government moved to the Delta. The archaeological remains of Thebes offer a striking testimony to Egyptian civilization at its height. The Greek poet Homer extolled the wealth of Thebes in the Iliad, Book 9 (c. 8th Century BC): "... in Egyptian Thebes the heaps of precious ingots gleam, the hundred-gated Thebes."

The name Thebai is the Greek designation of the ancient Egyptian opet "The Karnak Temple" (from coptic ta-pe, Ta-opet became Thebai). At the seat of the Theban triad of Amun, Mut, and Khonsu, Thebes was known in the Egyptian language from the end of the New Kingdom as niwt-imn, "The City of Amun." This found its way into the Hebrew Bible as נא אמון (nōʼ ʼāmôn) (Nahum 3:8),"no" in Hebrew meaning city with "no amon" or "City of Amon" referring to the Egyptian deity Amon-Ra, most likely it is also the same as נא ("No") (Ezekiel 30:14). In Greek this name was rendered Διόσπολις Diospolis, "City of Zeus", as Zeus was the god whom the Greeks identified with Amun, see interpretatio graeca. The Greeks surnamed the city μεγάλη megale, "the Great", to differentiate it from numerous other cities called Diospolis. The Romans rendered the name Diospolis Magna.

In modern usage, the mortuary temples and tombs on the west bank of the river Nile are generally thought of as part of Thebes.

In 1979, the ruins of ancient Thebes were inscribed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage site. The two great temples the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens, now called Luxor Temple (Arabic: الأقصر, Al-Uqur, "The palaces") and al-Karnak (الكرنك), are among the great achievements of ancient Egypt.

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