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Heliopolis, meaning "sun city" in Ancient Greek, can refer to

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

HELIOPOLIS, one of the most ancient cities of Egypt, met with in the Bible under its native name On. It stood 5 m. E. of the Nile at the apex of the Delta. It was the principal seat of sun-worship, and in historic times its importance was entirely religious. There appear to have been two forms of the sun-god at Heliopolis in the New Kingdom - namely, Ra-Harakht, or Re'-Harmakhis, falcon-headed, and Etom, human-headed; the former was the sun in his mid-day strength, the latter the evening sun. A sacred bull was worshipped here under the name Mnevis (Eg. Mreu), and was especially connected with Etom. The sun-god Re' (see Egypt: Religion) was especially the royal god, the ancestor of all the Pharaohs, who therefore held the temple of Heliopolis in great honour. Each dynasty might give the first place to the god of its residence - Ptah of Memphis, Ammon of Thebes, Neith of Sais, Bubastis of Bubastis, but all alike honoured Re'. His temple became in a special degree a depository for royal records, and Herodotus states that the priests of Heliopolis were the best informed in matters of history of all the Egyptians. The schools of philosophy and astronomy are said to have been frequented by Plato and other Greek philosophers; Strabo, however, found them deserted, and the town itself almost uninhabited, although priests were still there, and cicerones for the curious traveller. The Ptolemies probably took little interest in their "father" Re', and Alexandria had eclipsed the learning of Heliopolis; thus with the withdrawal of royal favour Heliopolis quickly dwindled, and the students of native lore deserted it for other temples supported by a wealthy population of pious citizens. In Roman times obelisks were taken from its temples to adorn the northern cities of the Delta, and even across the Mediterranean to Rome. Finally the growth of Fostat and Cairo, only 6 m. to the S.W., caused the ruins to be ransacked for building materials. The site was known to the Arabs as `A yin esh shems, " the fountain of the sun," more recently as Tel Hisn. It has now been brought for the most part under cultivation, but the ancient city walls of crude brick are to be seen in the fields on all sides, and the position of the great temple is marked by an obelisk still standing (the earliest known, being one of a pair set up by Senwosri I., the second king of the Twelfth Dynasty) and a few granite blocks bearing the name of Rameses II.

See Strabo xvii. cap. I. 27-28; Baedeker's Egypt. (F. LL. G.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Proper noun

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  1. An city in Ancient Egypt.
  2. A suburb in modern Cairo, Egypt.

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

Also known as On.

Egyptian city, whence came Poti-pherah, Joseph's father-in-law (Gen 41:45ff; Gen 46:20). It is mentioned also in Ezek 30:17, where the punctuation Awen, is to be corrected to On. The versions render "Heliopolis" in all cases "Heliupolis." An addition in the Septuagint (Ex 1:11) mentions Heliopolis among the cities built by the Israelites. The inscriptions, however, show that it was perhaps the most ancient of all Egyptian cities - certainly the most sacred about 3000 B.C. Its god, Atumu (Etôm), was then the most prominent of the many forms under which the sun-god appeared in Egypt (being identified especially with the setting sun), so that the city bore the name "house of the sun" (comp. the Greek "Heliopolis" and the equivalent Hebrew "Beth-shemesh"; Jer 43:13 [doubted by Winckler, "Alttestamentliche Untersuchungen," p. 180, who considers "Beth" as an erroneous repetition of the final syllable of the word "maẓẓebot"]).

It is remarkable that sanctity is still attached to the sacred well and tree among the insignificant ruins near Maṭariyyah, a few miles north of Cairo, which are protected by Christianization of the old myths (whence the place had the earlier Arabic name "'Ain al-Shams" [fountain of the sun]). The temples, of which only one obelisk from the twelfth dynasty has been preserved, were famous for their size and beauty, as were the priesthood for their learning, for which they were praised by Herodotus. A trace of this respect may possibly be found in the Biblical mention of Joseph's Egyptian relatives. Politically, the city was never of importance, although it was the capital of the thirteenth nome of Lower Egypt. Its position near the caravan road from Syria seems to have given it great commercial importance; hence the numerous Jewish settlements in and around it, among which were Castra and Vicus Judæorum. It already had Canaanitish quarters about 1200 B.C. Therefore the Septuagint considered it as a Jewish place (see above); Juba, in Pliny, vi. 177, as Arabic. During the Roman period it diminished rapidly in population and importance; the Arabs found it deserted.

The hieroglyphic form is "'-n-w"; the Biblical pronunciation is attested also by the Assyrian "Unu" (Delitzsch, "Wo Lag das Paradies?" p. 318, where the identity is, however, disputed; comp. also "C. I. S." 102a, 2, for mention in a Phenician inscription).

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.

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