It was the ancient city of Senat, called Latopolis by the Greeks The "city of the fish" where the Nile perch was worshipped.
The ancient necropolis associated with Esna contains burials from the Old Kingdom to late Ptolemaic date. Cruise boats often make this town their first port of call after leaving Luxor to visit the remains of a Ptolemaic temple in the centre of the town.
Today, Esna is a somewhat sleepy if busy merchant and farming town, with a weaving industry, on the west bank of the Nile where the entertainment more resides in the Saturday animal market.
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.
The ancient name for Esna was Iunyn or Ta-Senet, classical Latopolis. The temple, dating to the Ptolemaic and Roman Period and one of the last temples built in Egypt, stands today in its excavation pit, 9m below the modern ground level. It was dedicated to the god Khnum and several other deities, including Neith, Heka, Satet and Menheyet. The remains of the Temple contain a hall of columns, with 24 pillars, beautifully decorated with lotus and palm capitals.
The walls are covered with 4 rows of relief's, showing Ptolemaic and Roman Emperors dressed in Pharaoh Costumes, sacrificing to the God of the Temple. On both sides of the Temple entrance there are chambers that were used by the priests and keepers of the Temple as storerooms.
Down by the river Nile is an ancient quay with cartouches of Marcus Aurelius which would have been connected to the temple by a processional way. This is still in use today. There was also a ‘North Temple of Khnum’ two and a half miles north-west of Esna that was dated to Ptolemy III Euergetes I, but this is now completely vanished.
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