Ancient Egypt Wiki
Ancient Egyptian: Iunu
Location Cairo (el-Matariyah,
Tell el-Hisn, Ain Shams)
Coordinates 30.129333°N 31.307528°E
Region Lower Egypt
Nome Heqa-Andju
Main deities Ra, Atum, Bennu, Mnevis
Monuments Al-Masalla obelisk,
Temple of Ra-Atum

Heliopolis (Greek: Ἡλιούπολις), or Iunu in ancient Egyptian (transliteration: ỉwnw), was a city on the east bank of the Nile near the start of the Nile Delta in Lower Egypt. It was the provincial capital of Heqa-Andju, the thirteenth nome of Lower Egypt, and the cult center of the creator- and sun-god Ra-Atum. The site of the ancient city is located in the districts of el-Matariyah, Tell el-Hisn and Ain Shams of modern Cairo.

Heliopolis was one of the oldest cities of ancient Egypt, occupied since the Predynastic Period.[1] 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 the 12th Dynasty. It still stands in its original position, now within Al-Masalla in el-Matariyah, Cairo.[2] The 21 meters high red granite obelisk weighs 120 tons (240,000 lbs).


Heliopolis was a regional center from Predynastic Egypt. It was principally notable as the cult center of the creator god Atum, who through syncretism merged with the sun god Ra (Ra-Atum)[3] as well as Horus (Ra-Horakhty). The primary temple of the city was known as the Great House. Its priests maintained that Ra-Atum was the first being, rising self-created from the primeval waters. A decline in the importance of Ra's cult during the 5th Dynasty 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 the 18th Dynasty, 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 Wetjes-Aten (transliteration: wṯs-tn, meaning: "Elevating the Aten"), the stones of which 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.

See also[]


  1. Dobrowolska & Dobrowolski 2006, p. 15.
  2. Griffith 1911, p. 945.
  3. Hart 2005.


  • Dobrowolska, A./Dobrowolski, J., 2006: Heliopolis: Rebirth of the City of the Sun. American University in Cairo Press.
  • Griffith, F.L., 1911: Obelisk. In: Chisholm, Hugh (ed.): Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 19 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  • Hart, G., 2005: The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses.