Sunday, March 27, 2016


IT is a real HAPY Easter this weekend now that this colossal statue of the Egyptian transgender deity HAPY has been safely heaved into position for a new blockbuster exhibition of marine archaeologist Franck Goddio's treasures brought up from the bottom of the sea off the coast of Egypt.

It is intriguing to think that Antinous may have gazed on this statue and the other treasures when he and Hadrian visited Egypt in 130 AD.

Since first discovering the Alexandria treasures, Monsieur Goddio has gone on to trawl the waters a few kilometres east of Alexandria in hopes of discovering the fabled "Lost Cities" of Canopus and HERAKLEION (Heracleion), which he succeeded in finding in 2000.

Goddio's exhibition of SUNKEN CITIES: EGYPT'S LOST WORLDS runs 19 May to 27 September 2016 at the British Musuem after having 
traveled the world.

The 6-ton statue of Hapy (also spelled Hapi) will be the highlight of the show. 

Roads were closed and a crane was used to transport the 5.4-meter (18ft) high figure into the museum.

The statue of Hapi, god of the annual Nile flood, was pulled from the sea by a team of underwater archaeologists led by Franck Goddio. He has been exploring submerged cities off Egypt for two decades.

It would have stood in front of a temple in the port of Thonis-Heracleion and greeted traders and travellers. The city disappeared in a quake-spawned tsunami in the 8th Century AD.

Goddio said: "We saw it in 2001 when we started the excavation and it was one of the first artefacts we found.

"We had found some very thick walls so we thought we had found the temple and we found first the feet. It was laid flat but covered with sediment, then we found the face and we understood we were in the presence of a colossus. It was an unbelievable moment."

The statue is one of 300 objects on show in "Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds" at the museum in London.

It includes objects from its permanent collection as well as loans and examines Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus, which sat at the mouth of the Nile and were where the Greek and Egyptian empires met.

It offers the first public viewing in an English-speaking country of newly discovered Canopus/Herakleion treasures since the two cities vanished below the waves in a series of floods and earthquakes, finally disappearing completely in the late 7th or early 8th Century AD.

By that time, Egyptian priests had retreated to Canopus/Herakleion and advancing Muslims were sweeping across the land. Thus the exhibition offers a sort of time capsule of the waning days of paganism when the "barbarians" literally stood at the gates.

There are many statues, mostly fragmentary ones minus heads and limbs. 

But by far the most impressive statues are three virtually intact monumental figures of Isis, Amun and the Nile inundation deity Hapi which stand 5.5 meters (nearly 20 feet) tall.

The figure on the right of Hapi is particularly remarkable because it is the world's only large and intact statue of this hermaphrodite deity.

Two modern-day priests of Antinous saw this statue of Hapi in all its magnificence at an exhibition in Germany in 2007 where the two priests placed flowers at the base of the statue and said prayers. 

Hapi, with narrow male hips and strong thighs, but with pendulous female breasts, with long Isis-like hair, but with a chinbeard and with a tall headdress of lotus and papyrus plants on his/her head, holds forth a sacrificial platter.

Presumably, the ancient priests would heap foodstuffs onto that platter on a daily basis, or at least on special feast days ... just as the two modern-day priests did before the statue at the exhibition in Germany.

When Antinous and Hadrian were there, the Nile had failed to flood sufficiently in the summer of the year 130 and there were great concerns that Egypt, the "bread basket" of the Roman empire, would not be able to supply enough food for the coming season.

That makes this particular statue of Hapi even more significant. Throughout Egypt, throughout the empire, all eyes were on Hadrian to intercede with Hapi to avert famine and hunger-induced rioting.

These three statues flanked the portals of the main temple in Herakleion and Hadrian and Antinous must have seen this magnificent statue of the Nile flood deity Hapi ... the first miracle attributed to Antinous after his deification only a few months later was the end of the drought with the help of Hapi.

Was there a link between the looming flood disaster and Hadrian's flagging powers? As Lambert writes: "The link, if any, was in Antinous' mind."

No comments:

Post a Comment