Map of the Roman Empire - Heliopolis

Heliopolis
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Ancient Heliopolis (in Syria): Ba'albek was the Greek name which means City of the Sun. Heliopolis was one of the oldest cities and most famous of ancient Egypt, It bore an oracle of Apollo and a famous Temple of the Sun. In Roman times Heliopolis consisted mainly of Arabs. It was located in the apex of the Nile Delta. According to Berosus, this was the city of Moses.

Heliopolis (Ἡλιούπολις). A famous city of Egypt, situated a little to the east of the apex of the Delta, not far from modern Cairo. In Hebrew it is styled On or Aun. In the Septuagint it is called Heliopolis, or City of the Sun; in Jeremiah (xliii. 13), Beth Shemim—i. e. domus solis. Herodotus also mentions it by this name, and speaks of its inhabitants as being the wisest and most ingenious of all the Egyptians (ii. 3). According to Berosus, this was the city of Moses. It was also a place of resort for all the Greeks who visited Egypt for instruction. Hither came Herodotus, Plato, Eudoxus, and others, and secured much of the learning which they afterwards disseminated among their own countrymen. Plato, in particular, resided here three years. Manetho (q.v.), the historian, was also here as a priest. The city was built, according to Strabo, on a long, artificial mound of earth, so as to be out of reach of the inundations of the Nile. It had an oracle of Apollo and a famous Temple of the Sun. In this temple was fed and adored the sacred ox Mnevis, as Apis was at Memphis. This city was laid waste with fire and sword by Cambyses, and its chapter of priests all slaughtered. Strabo saw it in a deserted state and shorn of all its splendour. Heliopolis was famed also for its fountain of excellent water, which still remains, and gave rise to the subsequent Arabic name of the place, Ain Shems, or the Fountain of the Sun. The modern name is Matareieh, or cool water. A solitary obelisk of red granite is all that remains at the present day of this once celebrated place; and the two obelisks known as “Cleopatra 's Needles” were originally brought from Heliopolis to Alexandria.

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Heliopolis HELIO´POLIS AEGYPTI
HELIO´POLIS AEGYPTI (Ἡλιούπολις, Steph. B. sub voce Ptol. 4.5.54; Hdt. 2.3, 7, 59; Strab. xvii. p.805; Diod. 1.84, 5.57; Arrian, Exp. Alex. 3.1; Aelian, Ael. NA 6.58, 12.7; Plut. Solon. 26, Is. et Osir. 33; D. L. 18.8.6; Joseph. Ant. Jud. 13.3, C. Apion. 1.26; Cic. Nat. Deor. 3.21; Plin. Nat. 5.9.11; Tac. Ann. 6.28; Mela, 3.8: Eth. Ἡλιονπολίρης: the Semitic names BETH-SCHEMISCH and ON Gen. 41.45, Ezech. 30.17., as well as the Arabic Ainshems or Fountain of Light, corresponded with the Greek appellation in signifying the City of the Sun). Heliopolis was a city of Lower Egypt, 12 miles from the Egyptian Babylon (It. Anton. p. 169), on the verge of the eastern desert, and at the SE. point of the Delta, a little NE. of its apex at Cercasorum, lat. 30° N. It stood on the eastern side of the Pelusiac, arm of the Nile, and near the right bank of the Great Canal, which, passing through the Bitter Lakes, connected the river with the Red Sea. In Roman times it [1.1036] belonged to the Regio Augustamnica. Its population probably contained a considerable Arabian element. (Plin. 6.34.) Heliopolis, however, the On, Rameses, or Beth-Schemesch of the Hebrew Scriptures,--for it has claims to be regarded as any one of the three,--was long anterior even to the Pharaonic portion of this canal, and was, indeed, one of the most ancient of Egyptian cities. Its obelisks were probably seen by Abraham when he first migrated from Syria to the Delta, 1600 years B.C.; and here the father-in-law of Joseph filled the office of high priest. It may be regarded as the University of the land of Misraim: its priests, from the most remote epochs, were the great depositaries of theological and historical learning; and it was of sufficient political importance to furnish ten deputies, or one-third of the whole number, to the great council which assisted the Pharaohs in the administration of justice. At Heliopolis Moses probably acquired the learning of the Egyptians, and the prophet Jeremiah wrote his Lamentations over the decline of the Hebrew people. From Ichonuphys, who was lecturing there in B.C. 308, and who numbered Enudoxus among his pupils, the Greek mathematician learned the true length of the year and month, upon which lie formed his “octaeterid,” or period of eight years or ninety-nine months. Solon, Thales, and Plato, were reputed each to have visited its schools,--the halls, indeed. in which the latter studied were pointed out to Strabo: while in the reign of the second Ptolemy, Manethon, the chief priest of Heliopolis, collected from its archives his history of the ancient kings of Egypt. Alexander the Great, on his march from Pelusium to Memphis, halted at this city (Arrian, 3.1); and, according to Macrobius (Saturn. 1.23), Baalbek, or the Syrian City of the Sun, was a priest-colony from its Egyptian namesake.

The Heliopolite none, of which this city was the capital, contained, after the decline and dispersion of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, a Hebrew population almost equal in numbers to that of the native Egyptians. (J. AJ 13.3.) But, even so early as the invasion of Cambyses, B.C. 525, Heliopolis had much declined; and in the time of Strabo, who visited it during the prefecture of Aelius Gallus, B.C. 24, its ruins had nearly vanished.

The sun, as the name of the city proves, was the principal object of worship at Heliopolis; and the legends of the Phoenix, the emblem of the solar year, centred around its temples. It was also the seat of the worship of the bull Mnevis, the rival of Apis in this region of Aegypt. In all respects, indeed, it merited the distinction ascribed to it by Diodorus of Sicily, who calls Heliopolis πόλις ἐπιφανεστάτη.

The ruins of Heliopolis occupy a quadrangular area of nearly 3 miles in extent, and were described by Abd-Allatif, an Arabian physician, who wrote his account of Egypt about the close of the 12th century A.D. He speaks of its surprising colossal figures cut in stone more than 30 cubits high, of which some were standing on pedestals and others were in sitting postures. He saw the two famous obelisks called Pharaoh's Needles, one standing and the other fallen and broken in two by its own enormous weight. The name of Osirtesen I., king of Thebes, of the xiith dynasty, who was lord of both the Upper and Lower country, was inscribed on them. The standng obelisk is still erect, and is even now studied as the earliest known specimen of Egyptian architecture. (Plin. Nat. 36.9.) Zoega (de Obeliscis, p. 642) supposes that the obelisk which was transported. to Rome and set up in the Campus Martins, by order of Augustus, came also from Heliopolis. (Comp. Ammian, 17.4.) The obelisks of Osirtesen were each 60 feet high, and consisted of a.quadrangular column or cone, rising out of a square base 10 feet high. The pointed top of the column was once covered with a copper cap, shaped like a funnel, and 3 cubits in length. These structures formed the most conspicuous figures in the centre of converging avenues of smaller obelisks.

The hamlet of Matarieh, about 6 miles NE. of Cairo, covers a portion of the ancient site of Heliopolis, and is still distinguished by its solitary obelisk of red granite, and contains--no common privilege in Egypt--a spring of sweet and fresh water. Some remains of sphinxes, with fragments of a colossal statue, indicate the ancient approaches to the Temple of the Sun. Heliopolis, from its position on the verge: of the desert, must have been contiguous to, and may have overlooked, the pastures of Goshen, where the Children of Israel were allowed to settle by the priest-kings of Memphis; and earlier still, the city, if not indeed Abaris itself, was probably one of the last fortresses held by the Shepherd Kings before their final evacuation of Egypt.  - Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography, William Smith, LLD, Ed. 

Heliopolis (Greek: Ἡλίου πόλις or Ἡλιούπολις), meaning sun-city, also known as عين شمس, Ain Shams (literally "Eye of the Sun or Center of the Sun" in Arabic or a slight Change of its Hieroglyphic name "Oon" or "Iunu"), was one of the oldest cities of ancient Egypt. Located in the apex of the Nile Delta, Heliopolis was the capital of the 13th Lower Egyptian nome.

Greco-Roman Heliopolis
Heliopolis was well known to the ancient Greeks and Romans, being noted by most major geographers of the period, including: Ptolemy, iv. 5. § 54; Herodotus, ii. 3, 7, 59; Strabo, xvii. p. 805; Diodorus, i. 84, v. 57; Arrian, Exp. Alex. iii. 1; Aelian, H. A. vi. 58, xii. 7; Plutarch, Solon. 26, Is. et Osir. 33; Diogenes Laertius, xviii. 8. § 6; Josephus, Ant. Jud. xiii. 3, C. Apion. i. 26; Cicero, De Natura Deorum iii. 21; Pliny the Elder, v. 9. § 11; Tacitus, Ann. vi. 28; Pomponius Mela, iii. 8. The city also merits attention by the Byzantine geographer Stephanus of Byzantium, s. v. Ἡλίουπόλις.

Alexander the Great, on his march from Pelusium to Memphis, halted at this city (Arrian, iii. 1); and, according to Macrobius (Saturn. i. 23), Baalbek, or the Syrian Heliopolis, was a priest-colony from its Egyptian namesake.

The temple of Ra was said to have been, to a special degree, a depository for royal records, and Herodotus states that the priests of Heliopolis were the best informed in matters of history of all the Egyptians. Heliopolis flourished as a seat of learning during the Greek period; the schools of philosophy and astronomy are claimed to have been frequented by Orpheus, Homer,[5] Pythagoras, Plato, Solon, and other Greek philosophers. From Ichonuphys, who was lecturing there in 308 BC, and who numbered Eudoxus among his pupils, the Greek mathematician learned the true length of the year and month, upon which he formed his octaeterid, or period of eight years or ninety-nine months. Ptolemy II had Manethon, the chief priest of Heliopolis, collect his history of the ancient kings of Egypt from its archives. The later Ptolemies probably took little interest in their "father" Ra, and Alexandria had eclipsed the learning of Heliopolis; thus with the withdrawal of royal favour Heliopolis quickly dwindled, and the students of native lore deserted it for other temples supported by a wealthy population of pious citizens. By the 1st century BC, in fact, Strabo found the temples deserted, and the town itself almost uninhabited, although priests were still present.

In Roman times Heliopolis belonged to the Augustamnica province. Its population probably contained a considerable Arabic element. (Plin. vi. 34.) In Roman times obelisks were taken from its temples to adorn the northern cities of the Delta, and even across the Mediterranean to Rome, including the famed Cleopatra's Needle that now resides on the Thames embankment, London (this obelisk was part of a pair, the other being located in Central Park, New York). Finally the growth of Fustat and Cairo, only 6 miles (9.7 km) to the southwest, caused the ruins to be ransacked for building materials. The site was known to the Arabs as ˁAyn Šams ("the well of the sun"), more recently as ˁArab al-Ḥiṣn. It has now been brought for the most part under cultivation, but the ancient city walls of crude brick are to be seen in the fields on all sides, and the position of the great temple is marked by an obelisk still standing (the earliest known, being one of a pair set up by Senusret I, the second king of the Twelfth Dynasty) and a few granite blocks bearing the name of Ramesses II.

Egyptian and Greco-Roman mythology said that the phoenix, after rising from the ashes of its predecessor, would bring the ashes to the altar of the sun god in Heliopolis. - Wikipedia

 

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