Esna (Arabic: إسنا  IPA: [ˈʔesnæ], Ancient Egyptian: jwny.t or tꜣ-snt;[1][2] Coptic: ⲥⲛⲏ Snē from tꜣ-snt;[3] Koinē Greek: Λατόπολις Latópolis[4] or πόλις Λάτων (Pólis Látōn)[5] or Λάττων (Lattōn);[6][7] Latin: Lato), is a city of Egypt. It is located on the west bank of the Nile some 55 km south of Luxor. The town was formerly part of the modern Qena Governorate, but as of 9/12/2009, it was incorporated into the new Luxor Governorate.


Clockwise from top:
Corniech of Old Esna, inside Khnum Temple, Minaret of Esna Mosque, Esna new Locks, Farmlands near Esna
Location in Egypt
Coordinates: 25°18′N 32°33′E
Country Egypt
Time zoneUTC+2 (EST)


This city of Latopolis (πόλις Λάτων) in the Thebaid of Upper Egypt should not be confused with the more northerly city of Letopolis (Λητοῦς Πόλις), ancient Khem, modern Ausim, in the Nile Delta in Lower Egypt.[8][9][10]

Ancient city

The name "Latopolis" is in honor of the Nile perch, Lates niloticus, the largest of the 52 species which inhabit the Nile,[11] which was abundant in these stretches of the river in ancient times, and which appears in sculptures, among the symbols of the goddess Neith, associated by the ancient Greeks as Pallas-Athene, surrounded by the oval shield or ring indicative of royalty or divinity.[12] Held sacred, the Lates niloticus was buried in a cemetery west of the town.

The temple of Esna, dedicated to the god Khnum, his consorts Menhit and Nebtu, their son, Heka, and the goddess Neith,[13] was remarkable for the beauty of its site and the magnificence of its architecture. It was built of red sandstone, and its portico consisted of six rows of four columns each, with lotus-leaf capitals, all of which however differ from each other.[14] The temple contains very late hieroglyphic inscription, dating from the reign of Decius (249–251 AD).[15]

Another temple of the same period has been identified at Kom Mer, about 12 km to the south, but cannot be excavated because a modern village is built over it.

There was a smaller temple, dedicated to the triad of Latopolis, about two miles and a half north of the city, at a village now called el-Dayr. Here, too, is a small zodiac of the age of Ptolemy III Euergetes (246–221 BC). This latter building was destroyed in the 19th century, as it stood in the way of a new canal. The temple of Esna was cleared of the soil and rubbish which filled its area when Vivant Denon visited it, and served as a cotton warehouse in the mid-19th century.[16]

With the exception of the jamb of a gateway—now converted into a door-sill—of the reign of Thutmose II (Eighteenth Dynasty), the remains of Latopolis belong to the Ptolemaic or Roman eras. Ptolemy III Euergetes, the restorer of so many temples in Upper Egypt, was a benefactor to Latopolis, and he is depicted upon the walls of its temple followed by a tame lion, and in the act of striking down the chiefs of his enemies. The name of Ptolemy V Epiphanes is found also inscribed upon a doorway. Although the scale of the ruins are impressive, their sculptures and hieroglyphics attest to the decline of Egyptian art. The west wall features reliefs of Ptolemy VI Philometor and Ptolemy VIII Physcon. The pronaos, which alone exists, resembles in style that of Apollonopolis Magna (Edfu), and was begun not earlier than the reign of Claudius (41–54 AD), and completed in that of Vespasian, whose name and titles are carved on the dedicatory inscription over the entrance. On the ceiling of the pronaos is the larger Latopolitan Zodiac. The name of the emperor Geta, the last ruler that can be read in hieroglyphics, although partially erased by his brother and murderer Caracalla (212), is still legible on the walls of Latopolis. Before raising their own edifice, the Romans seem to have destroyed even the basements of the earlier Egyptian temple. The ceremonial way, which probably linked the quay to the temple, has disappeared. The quay bears cartouches of Marcus Aurelius.

The cemetery west of the town, where the Lates niloticus was buried, also contains human burials dating of the Middle Kingdom to the Late Period.

Ritual significance

The Temple of Esna conveys a sense of the importance which the Ancient Egyptians placed upon their places of worship. All Egyptians who entered the confines of an Egyptian temple were required "to comply with the strict rules regarding ritual purity."[17] According to inscriptions carved on the walls of the Temple of Esna, those who entered this temple were expected to fastidiously cut their fingernails and toenails, remove other body hair, wash their hands with natron (a natural occurring salt), "be dressed in linen (they were forbidden from wearing wool), and not to have had sexual intercourse for several days."[18]

Modern Esna

Two barrage bridges straddle the Nile at this point: one built by the British in 1906, and the "Electricity Bridge" built in the 1990s. Navigation, particularly, Nile cruisers ferrying tourists from Luxor to Aswan 155 km further upstream, can be held up for hours while vessels negotiate their way through the lock system.

The two main points of interest in Esna are its lively tourist-oriented market, which fills a couple of streets leading inland from the corniche. The other is the temple of Esna. The temple, which has only been partially excavated, is about 200 meters from the river and some 9 meters below street level.

2017 attack

Attackers on a patrol killed a policeman and a civilian, and wounded three other victims.[19]

Former bishopric

Under the older name of "Latopolis," the city is now a Roman Catholic Latin titular see.


Köppen-Geiger climate classification system classifies its climate as hot desert climate (BWh).

Climate data for Esna
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 23.4
Daily mean °C (°F) 14.9
Average low °C (°F) 6.4
Average precipitation mm (inches) 0

See also


  1. Richter, Barbara A. (2016-04-15). The Theology of Hathor of Dendera: Aural and Visual Scribal Techniques in the Per-Wer Sanctuary. ISD LLC. ISBN 9781937040529.
  2. Kaper, Olaf E. (2003). The Egyptian God Tutu: A Study of the Sphinx-god and Master of Demons with a Corpus of Monuments. Peeters Publishers. ISBN 9789042912175.
  3. Werner Vycichl, Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue copte (Louvain, 1983)
  4. Strabo xvii. pp. 812, 817
  5. Ptol. iv. 5. § 71
  6. Hierocl. p. 732
  7. Itin. Antonin. p. 160
  8. "Trismegistos". Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  9. "Egypt: Minor Temple and Other Ruins of the Nile Delta, Part I". (in Russian). Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  10. Margaret Bunson, Encyclopaedia of Ancient Egypt (Infobase Publishing 2009 ISBN 978-1-43810997-8), p. 60
  11. Russegger, Reisen, vol. I. p.300
  12. Wilkinson, M. and C. vol. V. p.253
  13. Kathryn A. Bard (editor), Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt (1999), p. 295.
  14. Dominique-Vivant Denon, Voyage dans la Basse et lau Haute Égypte, vol. I. (1818), p.148.
  15. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Esna" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 9 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 771.
  16. Karl Richard Lepsius, Nubische Grammatik mit einer Einleitung über die Völker und Sprachen Afrika's. Berlin: Verlag von Wilhelm Hertz (1880), p.63
  17. Lucia Gahlin, Egypt: Gods, Myths and Religion, Anness Publishing Litd (Lorenz Books) 2001. p.106
  18. Gahlin, p.106
  19. "Two killed, three wounded in Egypt attack near Luxor". Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  20. "Climate: Isna - Climate graph, Temperature graph, Climate table". Retrieved 18 August 2013.


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