Heliopolis was a major city of ancient Egypt. It was the capital of the 13th Nome (Heliopolite) of Lower Egypt and a major religious center. It is now located in Ayn Shams, a northeastern suburb of Cairo.
Heliopolis was one of the oldest cities of ancient Egypt, occupied since the Predynastic Period. It greatly expanded under the Old and Middle Kingdoms but is today mostly destroyed, its temples and other buildings having been scavenged for the construction of medieval Cairo. The major surviving remnant of Heliopolis is the obelisk of the Temple of Ra-Atum erected by Senusret I of Dynasty XII. It still stands in its original position, now within Al-Masalla in Al-Matariyyah, Cairo. The 21 m high red granite obelisk weighs 120 tons (240,000 lbs).
Ancient Heliopolis was a regional center from Predynastic Egypt. It was principally notable as the cult center of the sun god Atum, who through syncretism became deified as Ra and then Horus (Ra-harakhty). The primary Egyptian temple of the city was known as the Great House. Its priests maintained that Atum or Ra was the first being, rising self-created from the primeval waters. A decline in the importance of Ra's cult during Dynasty V led to the development of the Ennead, a grouping of nine major Egyptian gods which placed the others in subordinate status to Ra–Atum. During the Amarna Period of Dynasty XVIII, Pharaoh Akhenaten introduced a kind of henotheism of Aten, the deified solar disc. As part of his construction projects, he built a Heliopolitan temple named "Elevating Aten" (Wṯs I͗tn or Wetjes Atum), whose stones can still be seen in some of the gates of Cairo's medieval city wall. The cult of the Mnevis bull, another embodiment of the Sun, had its altar here as well. Their personal formal burial ground was situated north of the city.
- ↑ Dobrowolska; Dobrowolski (2006), Heliopolis: Rebirth of the City of the Sun, ISBN 9774160088 .
- ↑ "Obelisk", Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th ed.', 1911 .
- ↑ Hart, George, The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, ISBN 0-415-34495-6 .