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Pompey's Pillar 2 - Largest pillar in the World


A Unique article in Pompey's Pillar 2Serapeum Temple,  Nilometer, and the daughter library.

Pompey's Pillar 2 - Largest pillar in the World

Names given to Pompey's pillar 2

Names given to Pompey's pillar, in the Middle Ages crusaders mistakenly described it as Pompey's Pillar, due to the fact that some Europeans believed that the head of the Roman General Gaius Pompey, who fled to Egypt to escape from Julius Caesar After losing a great battle in Greece against him, was killed by the Alexandrian ruler to please Julius Caesar, and put his head in an expensive funeral pot above the crown of the column.

In the Islamic era
 it was called (amoud el sawary) in Arabic language which means “the masts of the column” because it resembled the masts of tall ships, as the column was in the middle of a colonnade containing 400 columns, and it was the tallest of them, but during the reign of Saladin in 1167, Alexandria's governor who called Karaja, he threw numerous of columns surrounding the mast's column in the eastern port, to make the port unfit for berthing the Crusader ships, in the belief that he was thus protecting his city  Alexandria.

The true name of it this monument was (Diocletian pillarnot (Pompy's pillar), as it was built by Alexandrian people, as an expression of thanks, and appreciation to the Roman Emperor Diocletian thanks to his effective role in putting down one of the revolutions that flared up in Alexandria at that time, after   this occasion the Egyptians were exempt from some taxes, as well as a waiver of the wheat that Egypt was sending to Rome in appreciation of the difficult economic conditions that it was going through the country, as it was on the verge of famine after 8 months of resistance, this story is supported by remains of an engraved Greek inscription on  the western side in the upper part of the base of the pompey's pillar.


Pompey's Pillar 2 - Largest pillar in the World

  • To the north of Pompey's pillar, there are two identical statues of the Sphinx made from pink granite, one of them dating back to the era of Ptolemy VI, and in the other an inscription of King Horemheb from the Eighteenth Dynasty was written in it, and both statues have a broken noses, this distortion is intentional because the ancient Egyptian believed that the soul would return to the statues through its nose, and by breaking it nose, they thought that the soul would never return after death.

Purification basin

Pompey's Pillar 2 - Largest pillar in the World

There is purification basin here, where the priests used to purify people in it, where they believed that a person would not be forgiven for his sins unless the priest cleansed him.


  • Nilometer was used in the Serapeum area to measure the level of water height at the time of the flood each year to predict the quantities of the crop and thus determine the value of taxes payable by farmers.
  • No measuring scales were found engraved on the wall of this Nilometer, as they used here the steps of the staircase, as a measuring scale, these Nilometer was connected to the Nile through a canal.

History of Nilometers in Egypt

Nilometers were erected in the Egyptian temples from the Pharaonic period till the Greco-Roman period, after the appearance of Christianity in Egypt, Nilometers became in independent building, after the recent construction of the High Dam, and Nasser lake, the Nilometer was no longer used.

Pompey's Pillar 2 - Largest pillar in the World

There were 2 galleries at the back of the temple, they completely cut into the rock

  1.  The first gallery was the small library.
  2. The second gallery was Holy of the hollies

serapeum library ( daughter library)

There was a library in this place called the Small Library or (the daughter library) due to the presence of the Great Library of Alexandria, so that they could be differentiated.

The great library of Alexandria was one of the largest and most significant libraries of the ancient world, it held the largest collection of manuscripts in the world and was a great center of learning for 600 years as Alexandria was regarded as the capital of knowledge, and learning, the library soon exceeded its capacity and a ‘daughter library’ was established in the Temple of Serapeum to stock the overflow, The importance of this library increased after the fire of the Great Library during the Alexandria War, as the rest of the treasures of the books of the Great Library were transferred to it.

Holy of the Holies

In 1895 the archaeologist (Poti) found a statue of the "Apis calf" in the second gallery (when the archaeologist Poti dead, He was eager to leave a will to bury him in the Greeks Cemetery in Alexandria), there was an  inscription on Apis calf, indicate that Alexandria's people presented it, as a gift to the Emperor Hadrian during his visit to the city, and the emperor donated this statue to the temple of  Serapeum.

Description of the statue

It was made from black basalt stone, it is representing the god Serapis in the form of a calf carrying a sun disk and a royal cobra between its horns, there is an inscription on the pillar which supporting the body indicates that it was sculpted during the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, the original statue is now exhibited in the Greco – Roman Museum in Alexandria, and this one is a copy from it.

 in order to reach the statue of that calf, you have to pass a corridor dug in the middle of the rocks, extending 70 meters, and about 1.5 meters wide, to find it resting under the pillar of Diocletian.

Open Air Museum


Pompey's Pillar 2 - Largest pillar in the World

The scarab was Made from pink granite, it represents the second largest scarab in Egypt, after the one in the Karnak temple, this statue doesn’t have any inscriptions in it, but from the method of carving we can assume that it belongs to the new kingdom, and exactly to the eighteenth dynasty

The scarab was called in the hieroglyphic language "khabri", the pharaohs believed that the scarab was like a god who created himself, because the scarab is male had no females, its function was to collect dung every morning, laying eggs inside it and rolled it with its legs of its hind from the east to the west, because of the dung pelleting that the scarab used to do every morning, it inadvertently helped in agriculture, as the process performed by the scarab, it was playing a major role in removing the dung from the cows and livestock, thus avoiding the infection of those animals with harmful viruses.

The scarab was represented by the ancient Egyptians as an amulet, which providing them with good luck, and renewing their youth, thinking that this insect carries within it the life force, which made it part of the possessions of Pharaonic tombs, and temples, the scarab was not only used as symbolic gifts, but rather it entered into the manufacture of jewelers,  that the Pharaonic queens cared about, and was placed inside the sarcophagus of the dead, as a kind of assistance to them in the afterlife, due to the belief that it brings happiness and good luck, many people do 7 rounds around it, everyone who has a desire or a specific goal takes these steps and achieves his goal, just by making these seven rounds around the scarab.

Statue of Ramses II

Pompey's Pillar 2 - Largest pillar in the World

Statue of Ramses II, which was transported to the hill from Heliopolis in Memphis near modern Cairo, it was made from pink granite and belonged to Ebsmatik  the founder of the 26th dynasty, it shows King on his knees, The top of the statue is now missing, on the back and on the base of this statue there is a hieroglyphic inscription with the name Ebsmatik

The second statue is also made of pink granite and represents Ramses II, Sitting on his throne holding the haka – scepter, and nekhekh – the scourge in another hand, his heads are missing and on the base of the statue we find both the names of Ramses  II, and queen Cleopatra, it was known that Cleopatra  brought these  statues from Heliopolis, to decorate the temple of Serapis.


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Asmaa Ahmed

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