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Dendara Complex, Temple of Hathor: Overall view
On the rear outside wall of the temple directly behind the sanctuary, beneath the two lion-headed waterspouts which drained rainwater from the roof are scenes showing the massive figure of Cleopatra VII and her son by Julius Caesar, Caesarion, who became the great queen's co-regent as Ptolemy XV. At the center of the wall is the large False Door with a gigantic emblem of Hathor, diminished over the centuries by pilgrims who scraped at it to obtain a little of the sacred stone at the point where they could come closest to Hathor herself. This is the location of the "hearing ear" shrine, which allowed the goddess to "hear" the prayers of common folk not otherwise allowed into the main temple.
Dendara is an Egyptian site on the west bank of the Nile about 65 km north of Luxor. It was an important provincial centre throughout Egyptian history; its chief artistic monuments are successive temples of the goddess Hathor from the 6th Dynasty (ca. 2325-ca. 2150 BCE) to the 2nd century CE. The Greco-Roman Temple of Hathor is the grandest and most richly decorated of its period. The earliest dated inscriptions refer to Ptolemy XII (reigned 80-58 BCE; 55-51 BCE); its outer hypostyle hall was dedicated in November 34 CE. It was built of sandstone on the conventional Egyptian plan, but only the inner apartments were completed. These comprise the outer hypostyle hall with twenty-four columns, an inner hypostyle hall with six columns, two vestibules and the usual suite of service rooms and cult chambers surrounding a free-standing sanctuary. A remarkable feature is the use of the emblem of Hathor, the Hathor head, which also forms part of the naos-shaped sistrum, a musical instrument used in her worship. The capitals of the outer hypostyle hall are in the form of naos sistra, their four Hathor heads facing the cardinal points, and the head motif also occurs in the friezes above the main entrance, throughout the temple interior and on the exterior rear wall. This last, colossal head was gilded and covered by a canopy, which embodied the sun's presence on earth. The same associations are present in a delicate kiosk in the south-west corner of the roof, where the union of Hathor with the solar disc was celebrated. This solar emphasis contrasts with the temple's actual north-south orientation, which was determined by the direction of the Nile nearby; despite the gloom within, it focuses on sun and light.