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An oasis 103 km SW of Cairo and 38 km W of the Nile, with which it is connected by Bahr Yusuf. Its name has survived through Coptic from the New Kingdom name meaning sea, referring to Lake Moeris (now Qarün) at the edge of the oasis. The Greeks called it Limné, which formed the twenty-second nome of Upper Egypt. Situated on a lake, it has always attracted hunters and fishermen. Owing to the interest of Ammenemes III (1842-1797 B.C.) in irrigating this district, the nome became one of the most fertile parts of Egypt. Its capital was Shedit (consecrated to Sobek, the crocodile god); the Greeks therefore called it Crocodilopolis (Herod. 2.148-50). Here Ptolemy II Philadeiphos organized his Greek and Macedonian veterans as farmers and when his sister-wife Arsinoë Philadeiphos died, she was decreed to be the patron deity of the nome. Its capital, the present El-Faiyûm, bore the name of Arsinoë while the nome began to be called Arsinoite (Strab. 27.1.38). The Moeris Lake Papyrus depicts a plan of the whole nome.

The ruins of the Egyptian temple in the old city indicate that it was dedicated to Sobek and to Renenutet, goddess of harvest, by Ammenemes (Amenemhat) III, and that it was also in use during the Ptolemaic period. Apart from the great number of papyri found here or in the neighborhood, the most important finds from the Roman period are the portraits executed in tempera or encaustic on mummy wrapping or on wooden boards over the faces of the dead bodies. The technique of these portraits reached its zenith in the Byzantine period. The Christian Copts of the 2d c. A.D. made of Arsinoë an important center of the new religion and, under Commodus, it was inhabited by more than 10,000 monks. It is from here that most of the Coptic sculpture and reliefs come.


B. Grenfell et al., Fayoum Towns and Their Papyri (1900); E. Kiessling, “Zum Kult der Arsinoö in Fayfim,” Aeg. 13 (1933) 542-46; H. Ranke, “The Egyptian Collection of the University Museum,” Univ. Mus. Bull. 15.2-3 (1950) 59, 90-91I; J. Bingen, “Anses d'amphores de Crocodilopolis Arsinoë,” Chronique d'Égypte 30 (1955) 130-32I; H. Riad, “Le Culte d'Amenemhat III au Fayoum à l'epoque ptolémaique,” ASAE 55 (1958) 203-6I; A. F. Shore, Portrait Painting from Roman Egypt (1962)1, with bibliog; E. Brunner-Traut & V. Hell, Aegypten (1966) 485ffM; K. Michalowski, Aegypten (1968) 494.95 M


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