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Sanctuary of Egyptian Gods in BrexizaThe Temple of Egyptian Gods is located in Nea Makri at eastern Attica, near the beach and adjacent to the small marsh of Brexiza from which the archaeological site takes its name. The site was first been found by Fovel the french consul in Athens in 1792 which had mistakenly identified it as the Marathon Tomb.
The archaeological excavations began in 1968 when at the construction of a hotel had been discovered relics of a large Egyptian temple dedicated to Isis (Andreas Vavritsas). In 1980 the architect - archaeologist John Travlos studied in more detail the monument. In 1988 Xenia Arapogianni revealed the baths. From 1999 and since the archaeologist Iphigenia Dekoulakou had begun systematic excavations and restoration work on site with the assistance of the City of Nea Makri. The archaeological site has been included in the consolidation and enhancement of archaeological sites of Marathon project of the Management Credit Fund for the implementation of the archaeological sites of the Ministry of Culture.
Unfortunately today the excavation and restoration works have not been completed and the site can not be visited.
Τhe sanctuary was established on a small island of the marsh communicating with the mainland by canals (now all the site is land). The scene with the lush vegetation and the surrounding waters reeds and termination of water reminiscent the Nile Delta thus placing the shrine on "authentic" Egyptian environment. The sanctuary was founded in the 2nd century AD, probably by Herodes Atticus (103-179 AC), one of the most exuberant and rich person of his era (Roman senator, teacher of rhetoric, benefactor of many Greek cities), who was originally from Marathon and had a famous mansion in the area.
Cult of Isis
Isis daughter of Sev and Nut, sister of Set and Nephthis, sister and wife of Osiris, is the largest and older Egyptian goddess.
According to the myth (as it was narrated by Ploutarch) Osiris as a successor of the great god Ra civilized Egypt, organized its state and developed the science and agriculture. In his work he was assisted by Isis, which left on the regency of Egypt, when he left to civilize other countries. On his return he was killed by Set, who cut him into pieces, put them in an ark and cast them to the sea. Isis and Nephthys picked all the pieces reunited them and gave back life to Osiris (the primordial myth of resurrection and rebirth). It is Interesting that in the myth the phallus of Osiris was left in the Nile to breed apparently Nile's amazing fertility.
Isis conceived her son Oros, when in the form of a hawk sat on the dead Osiris. Isis is a model wife and mother. Looks after Osiris and Oros in life and death, and that's why ofthen the sarcophagus had the form of mummy resting on the wings of Isis.
In the last phase of Egyptian religion, the other deities are losing their importance, and according to Herodotus, who visited Egypt in the fifth century BC, they were the only worshiped gods at that time.
The cult of Isis became very popular, overcame the one of Osiris and was spread over the entire Mediterranean area. Isis was identified with the Phoenician Astarte and her cult was installed in Byblos and in Cyrenaica.
The trading relations between Egypt and Athens resulted among others to the import of the cult of Isis in Piraeus, already in the fourth century BC.
During the Hellenistic period Ptolemies Hellenize Osiris, identify him as Serapis and establish a whole new cult for the divine pair of Serapis (Osiris) - Isis. The worship of two gods is not separated at all Sarapeia there is room for Isis. The cult is spread in the Greek area, and the most important center of worship was the island of Delos. Thereafter Isis is assigned with faculties belonging to Demeter protector of agriculture, and Aphrodite, goddess of love, marriage and protector of women.
In Roman times the worship of two gods spread throughout the Mediterranean basin and two big sanctuaries established in the settings of Pompeii and Benevento.
There were two major festivals established to honor the Goddess during the Roman era: the Ploiafesia celebrated in March (a grand procession ended at the coast where the ship of Isis was thrown into the sea to inaugurate the new era of navigation) and the Isia in November when the seeking and finding of Osiris was celebrated, (his death and resurrection) with dances, songs in the streets and symposia.
Description of the archaeological site
It is a big luxury complex that includes the Temple of the Egyptian gods, luxurious baths (luxurious baths).
The sanctuary is surrounded by a sturdy enclosure (60,5 x 64,6m). Sliding walkways leading to a building in the center probably a pyramid (10x10m) with 3,5m height on which the temple must have been. Today only 3 of the tiers are saved.
There where 4 entrances to the temple made by 4 propyla of fortress nature, one in the middle of each side of the enclosure to the north, south, east and west. The propylon consisted of 2 rectangular towers (5,75 x5,6m) which has been built with stones and bricks, and probably dressed with marble.
Each propylon was decorated with 4 large statues, 2 inside and 2 outside, in front of the towers and in couples: the goddess Isis as Demeter or Aphrodite and Osiris in the form of Antinous, the young friend of Emperor Hadrian who drowned in the Nile. So far 10 of these classical Egyptian style statues have come to light and plaster copies are placed at the archaeological site to help the representation of space.
Next to the temple at about 40 meters was located the bath complex (Valaneion). It was oriented in such a way that had light from the sun all day. Its luxurious entrance was on the east side (to the sea) and its center was dominated bya large oval room with heated water tank, floor covered with marble slabs, and large openings to the sea. Such tanks (pools) are found only in the bathroom of very rich people, hence the correlation with the Herod Atticus. There are a total of 18 spaces (2 other circular tanks) and the whole structure was extremely luxurious.
A few miles away in the valley of Avlona in a location called the old woman yard, Herod Atticus had a large mansion from which the only surviving relics are parts of the fence and a stone relief from the monumental gateway arch (in the Archaeological Museum of Marathon).
A large rectangular structure was also discovered at the north of the baths.
The disclosure of a big part of an elliptical structure (120m), inside the fenced area, which continues outside the fence, added new information on the size and significance of the whole complex. This is probably a fish pond (which was a very common practice in Roman villas, but rare in Greece) or a copy of the lake of Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli.
Most of the findings from the archaeological site of Brexiza are exposed to the museum of Marathon and include:
- - oversized marble statues of Isis as Demeter with wheatear and Venus with 3 small roses in her right hand
- - statues of Osiris - Antinous - Serapis with the famous movement of the Egyptian priestly statues and the dress of the Pharaohs
- - an intact marble sphinx and another one in 2 pieces from gray stone
- - pieces of propyla
- - used lamps of the Roman era, extremely large, with relief's of Isis and Osiris
- - coins of the time of Hadrian and a small treasure with coins of the 4th and 5th AD century
Sanctuary in Brexiza
Tomb of Arnos