, Hdt. 2.166
; Strab. xvii. p.802
; Ptol. 4.5.52
; the ZOAN of the Hebrews, Numb
. 13.23; the Coptic TANI or ATHENNIKS, and the modern San
), was a city of Lower Aegypt, situated, in lat. 30° 59′, on the Tanitic arm of the Nile. [NILUS
Ostium Taniticum.] It was the capital of the Tanitic Nome. Although the name of Tanis does not appear in Aegyptian annals earlier than the xxi-st dynasty, which consisted of 21 Tanite kings, it had long previously been among the most important cities of the Delta.
The branch of the Nile on which it stood was, with the exception of the Pelusiac, the most easterly, and the nearest to Palestine and Arabia.
It is described in the Book of Numbers (l.c.
) as founded only seven years later than Hebron; and Hebron, being extant in the time of Abraham, was one of the oldest towns in Palestine. Tanis owed its importance partly to its vicinity to the sea, and partly to its situation among the Deltaic marshes.
It probably was never occupied by the Hyksos, but, during their usurpation, afforded refuge to the exiled kings and nobles of Memphis.
It was a place of strength during the wars of the early kings of the New Monarchy--the xviiith dynasty--with the shepherds; and when the Aegyptians, in their turn, invaded Western Asia, the position of Tanis became of the more value to them. For after Aegypt became a maritime power, in its wars with Cyprus and Phoenicia, a city at no great distance from the coast would be indispensable for its naval armaments. To these purposes Tanis was better adapted than the more exposed and easterly Pelusium.
The eastern arms of the Nile were the first that silted up, and the Pelusiac mouth of the river was at a very early period too shallow for ships of war.
The greatness of Tanis is attested in many passages of the Hebrew writers.
In the 78th Psalm the wonders that attended the departure of the Israelites from Aegypt are said to have been “wrought in the plain of Zoan.” This Psalm, indeed, is somewhat later than David (B.C. 1055--1015); but it proves the tradition that Tanis was the capital of that Pharaoh who oppressed the Hebrew people.
In the age of Isaiah (19.11, foil.), about 258 years later, Tanis was still reckoned the capital of the Delta, since the prophet speaks of the princes of Zoan and the princes of Noph (Memphis) as equivalent to the nobles of Aegypt. Again, Isaiah (30.4) describes the ambassadors who were sent to Aegypt to form an alliance with its king as repairing to Zoan and Hanes, or Heracleopolis; and the desolation of Zoan is threatened by Ezekiel as the consequence of Nebuchadnezzar's invasion. Tanis probably declined as Sais and Memphis rose into importance; yet twenty years before the Christian era it was still a large town (Strab. xvii. p.802
); nor did it shrink into insignificance until nearly 80 A.D. (J. BJ 4.11.4
.) Its linen manufacture probably long sustained it.
The marshy grounds in its environs were well suited to the cultivation of flax; and Pliny (9.1
) speaks of the Tanitic linen as among the finest in Aegypt.
No city in the Delta presents so many monuments of interest as Tanis.
The extensive plain of San
is indeed thinly inhabited, and no village exists in the immediate vicinity of the buried city.
A canal passes through, without being able to fertilise, the field of Zoan and wild beasts [p. 2.1090]
and marsh fever prevent all but a few fishermen from inhabiting it.
The mounds which cover the site of Tanis are very high and of great extent, being upwards of a mile from north to south, and nearly three quarters of a mile from east to west.
The arm in which the sacred enclosure of the temple of Pthah stood is about 1500 feet in length by 1250 broad.
The enclosure, which is of crude brick, is 1000 feet long and about 700 wide.
A gateway of granite or fine gritstone, bearing the name of Rameses the Great, stands on the northern side of this enclosure.
The numerous obelisks and the greater part of the sculptures of the temple were contributed by Rameses. His name is also inscribed on two granite columns outside the enclosure, and apparently unconnected with the temple. Though in a very ruinous condition, the fragments of walls, columns, and obelisks sufficiently attest the former splendour of this building.
The architecture is generally in the best style of Aegyptian art, and the beauty of the lotus-bud and palm capitals of the columns is much celebrated by travellers. Among the deities worshipped at Tanis were Pthah (Hephaestus), Maut, Ra, Horus, &c. The Pharaohs who raised these monuments were of various dynasties, ranging from the kings of the xviiith dynasty to the Aethiopian Tirhaka.
The numerous remains of glass and pottery found here, and the huge mounds of brick, prove that the civil portions of Tanis were commensurate in extent and population with the religious.
The modern village of San
consists of mere huts. Early in the present century an attempt was made to establish nitreworks there; but they have been long abandoned; and the only occupation of the few inhabitants of this once flourishing city is fishing. North of the town, and between it and the coast of the Mediterranean, was the lake Tanis, the present Menzaleh.
(Wilkinson, Mod. Egypt and Thebes,
vol. i. pp. 407, 449, foll.; Kenrick, Ancient Egypt,
vol. ii. p. 341.)