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Central Delta town is located on the Damietta branch of the Nile about 6 km to the east of el-Mahalla el-Khubra. The town better known by its Greek name, Sebennytos, as being the home of the Egyptian historian Manetho.  In his history Manetho described Sebennytos as being the town from which Nectanebo I Kheperkara (30th Dynasty) launched his offensive against the Persian invaders of the Delta.

Located on the Damietta branch of the Nile in the Egyptian Delta, the modern town of Samannud, a cotton marketing centre, is 6km east of el-Mahalla el-Kubra, and is the site of ancient Tjebnutjer (coptic Djebenoute or Djemnouti), which the Greeks called Sebennytos. It was the capital of Egypt's 12th Lower nome. Manetho, perhaps the greatest of the native Egyptian historians, was from this region, and claims that it was the home of the 30th Dynasty kings.

There are remains, though mostly only a mound, of a temple dedicated to the local god, Onuris-Shu (Anhur-Shu) who was a hunter and sky-god. It was probably at this temple that Manetho served as a priest. It is located on the western side of the modern town. There are scattered granite blocks from the site inscribed with the names of Nectanebo II, Alexander IV, Philip Arrhidaeus and Ptolemy II, with none of the inscriptions appearing to predate the 30th Dynasty. Some items found here are said to have come from neighbouring towns, including an Old Kingdom false door, an altar of Amenemhat I, a statue dated to Psammetichus I, a fragment of a shrine of Nephrites and a sculpture dating to the reign of Nectanebo I.

SebennytosThe ancient Egyptian town was capital of the 12th Lower Egyptian Nome during the Late Period. There are few remains of Sebennytos today, although a mound still marks the site of the town and covers the remains of a temple begun by Nectanebo I - an important shrine dedicated to the sky-god Onuris-Shu who was identified with the Greek war-god Ares during the Ptolemaic Period. The cult of Onuris was first attested in the Thinite Nome near Abydos, from the Old Kingdom and Onuris-Shu and his consort Mehyt had cult centres at both Samannud and This.

The temple at Sebennytos was decorated by Nectanebo II Senedjemibre, the last true Egyptian ruler until modern times, with later inscriptions of Philip Arrhidaeus, Alexander IV and Ptolemy II Philadelphus. Although the temple was documented as still being in existence during the 15th century AD, it was dismantled shortly afterwards, leaving only a scattered collection of granite, limestone and basalt blocks as the only visible remains to mark its presence.

Edward Naville visited the site in 1887 and published a series of line drawings illustrating some of the reliefs found on blocks there. Many of the decorated blocks were removed to museums around the world, some remaining inscribed blocks as well as other architectural fragments have recently been put on display in an open-air storage magazine at the site by the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

An epigraphic survey of Samannud was directed by Neal A Spencer for the Egypt Exploration Society (EES) in 1998 and many fragmentary remains were recorded and published. Much of the site has been encroached upon by the modern town and there are insufficient remains to reconstruct the temple of Onuris-Shu, but remaining blocks suggest that the 30th Dynasty temple had been constructed on a scale comparable to other contemporary sites. It would appear that some of the stone was re-used or removed to nearby sites, such as the temple at Behbeit el-Hagar to the north, which may have had a link with Sebennytos, or to Abu Sir Bana (Busiris) to the south. Additional blocks have been found in the modern town of Samannud and nearby villages.

It is thought possible that the kings of 30th Dynasty were buried within the temple precinct, but so far no archaeological investigation of burials has been undertaken.

Block from Sebennytos
Offer bearers from Nectanebo II
present gifts to Onuris-Shu From the Temple at Sebenmytos

Behbeit el-Hagar
Behbeit el-Hagar, a village just a few kilometres to the north of Samannud (Sebennytos) in the central Delta, marks the site of an important, though now destroyed temple, thought to have been known to the Greeks as The Iseum. The temple was probably linked to the town and temple of Sebennytos, home of the Dynasty XXX kings towards the end of the Late Period, as well as to the nearby Nome capital of Busiris.

The modern village derives its name from the ancient 'Per-Hebit’, meaning 'The domain of the Festive Goddess’ and the temple, 'Hebit’, seems to refer to a festival pavillion dedicated to the goddess Isis and the funerary rites with which she was associated. The site covers an area of about 7.6 hectares and is surrounded by cultivation on all sides. Ruins of a massive mudbrick enclosure wall constructed around the perimeter of the temple can still be seen on the northern and southern sides, but inside the enclosure only a tumbled mass of granite blocks lying on the surface remain to define the position of the temple, an area measuring around 80m by 55m. The great attraction to visitors of the site today is in the very finely carved reliefs on the broken granite blocks, much more delicate in style than the Ptolemaic reliefs in temples of Upper Egypt.

Little is known of the early history of the site, though textural evidence suggests that there may have been a structure here from the late Saite Period. The names of the builders of the early Ptolemaic temple recovered from extant blocks, begin with Nectanebo II Senedjemibre of 30th Dynasty. Although his name does not appear on inscriptions from the temple, Nectanebo I Kheperkare is named in an inscription on a statue of Harsiesis (Vizier of Nectanebo II), which mentions work carried out on a waterway close to the site by the earlier ruler.

Nectanebo II seems to have built a 'Chapel of Osiris-Hemag’ on the northern edge of the later structure. This aspect of the god Osiris, crowned with the Atef plumes, was also associated with Nectanebo I, who was given the epithet 'Beloved of Osiris-Hemag’ on the Harsiesis statue. Nectanebo II was probably also responsible for the construction of a dromos, lined with sphinxes, in the centre of the later main entrance.

The main part of the temple was either constructed or at least decorated by Ptolemy II Philadelphus, whose names appear in inscriptions on blocks from the facade of a Sanctuary of Isis. On the facade the King is depicted being introduced to various gods by Isis who is named as 'Isis the Great, the Divine Mother’ next to the King’s own cartouches and a huge lintel decorated with a winged disc described the dedication of the facade. There is evidence of a columned hall behind the Isis facade, but the remains of red granite columns were scattered over the site and many were later re-used. The Isis sanctuary was the largest element of the temple and the goddess is portrayed on blocks, together with her son Horus, in many aspects of kingship. The Sanctuary was surrounded by chapels on the northern, eastern and southern sides, while the roof appears to have contained more chapels associated with the rejuvenation and worship of aspects of Osiris.

Ptolemy III Euergetes I probably constructed the main entrance to the temple and a dedicatory inscription containing cartouches of the ruler and his wife and sister Queen Berenice II can be seen on blocks of the northern wing which has toppled backwards. The entrance facade seems to have been dedicated to Osiris-Andjety by the King and to Isis by the Queen.

It is not clear when the temple collapsed. Its destruction may have been due to an earthquake in ancient times or some other cause, and much of the stone was subsequently quarried away. One of the blocks was re-used in an important Temple of Isis and Serapis founded in Rome during the 1st century AD which establishes a latest date for an extant monument at Behbeit el-Hagar.

No methodical excavation has yet been undertaken at Behbeit. It was visited and described by early travellers in the 18th century and some of the inscriptions copied during the 19th century and by Montet, Naville and others in the mid-20th century. In 1991, French Egyptologist Christine Favard-Meeks, published a proposed reconstruction and plan of the site based on inscriptions of the surface blocks.


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