, Strab. xvii. pp. 812, 817; πόλις Λάτων
, Ptol. 4.5.71
, Hierocl. p. 732; Itin. Antonin. p. 160), the modern Esneh,
was a city of Upper Egypt, seated upon the western bank of the Nile, in lat. 25° 30′ N.
It derived its name from the fish Lato, the largest of the fifty-two species which inhabit the Nile (Russegger, Reisen,
vol. i. p. 300), and which appears in sculptures, among the symbols of the goddess Neith, Pallas-Athene, surrounded by the oval shield or ring indicative of royalty or divinity (Wilkinson, M.
vol. v. p. 253).
The tutelary deities of Latopolis seem to have been the triad,--Kneph or Chnuphis, Neith or Satè, and Hak, their offspring.
The temple was remarkable for the beauty of its site and the magnificence of its architecture.
It was built of red sandstone; and its portico consisted of six rows of four columns each, with lotus-leaf capitals, all of which however differ from each other. (Denon, Voyage,
vol. i. p. 148.)
But with the exception of the jamb of a gateway--now converted into a door-sill--of the reign of Thothmes IId. (xviiith dynasty), the remains of Latopolis belong to the Macedonian or Roman eras. Ptolemy Evergetes, the restorer of so many temples in Upper Egypt, was a benefactor to Latopolis, and he is painted upon the walls of its temple followed by a tame lion, and in the act of striking down the chiefs of his enemies.
The name of Ptolemy Epiphanes is found also inscribed upon a doorway. Yet, although from their scale these ruins are imposing, their sculptures and hieroglyphics attest the decline of Aegyptian art.
The pronaos, which alone exists, resembles in style that of Apollinopolis Magna (Edfoo
), and was begun not earlier than the reign of Claudius (A.D. 41--54), and completed in that of Vespasian, whose name and titles are carved on the dedicatory inscription over the ent ance. On the ceiling of the pronaos is the larger Latopolitan Zodiac.
The name of the emperor Geta, the last that is read in hieroglyphics, although partially erased by his brother and murderer Caracalla (A.D. 212), is still legible on the walls of Latopolis.
Before raising their own edifice, the Romans seem to have destroyed even the basements of the earlier Aegyptian temple.
There was a smaller temple, dedicated to the same deities, about two miles and a half N. of Latopolis, at a village now called E´Dayr.
Here, too, is a small Zodiac of the age of Ptolemy Evergetes (B.C. 246--221).
This latter building has been destroyed within a few years, as it stood in the way of a new canal.
The temple of Elsneh
has been cleared of the soil and rubbish which filled its area when Denon visited it, and now serves for a cotton warehouse. (Lepsius, Einleitung,
The modern town of Esneh
is the emporium of the Abyssinian trade. Its camel-market is much resorted to, and it contains manufactories of cottons, shawls, and pottery. Its population is about 4000.