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Crocodilopolis Ancient Egyptian City

Site of Faiyum on the map of Egypt Site of Faiyum on the map of Egypt.

Crocodilopolis or Krokodilopolis (Greek: Κροκοδείλων πόλις) or Ptolemais Euergetis or Arsinoe (Greek: Ἀρσινόη) was an ancient city in the Heptanomis, Egypt, the capital of Arsinoites nome, on the western bank of the Nile, between the river and the Lake Moeris, southwest of Memphis, in lat. 29° N. Its native Ancient Egyptian name was Shedyet.

 the Pharaonic era the city was the most significant center for the cult of Sobek, a crocodile-god. In consequence, the Greeks named it Crocodilopolis, "Crocodile City", from the particular reverence paid by its inhabitants to crocodiles. The city worshipped a "sacred" crocodile, named "Petsuchos", that was embellished with gold and gems. The crocodile lived in a special temple, with sand, a pond and food. When the Petsuchos died, it was replaced by another. After the city passed into the hands of the Ptolemies, the city was renamed Ptolemais Euergetis. The city was renamed Arsinoe by Ptolemy Philadelphus to honor Arsinoe II of Egypt, his sister and wife, during the 3rd century BCE. The region in which Crocodilopolis stood - the modern Fayyum - was the most fertile in Egypt. Besides corn and the usual cereals and vegetables of the Nile valley, it abounded in dates, figs, roses, and its vineyards and gardens rivalled those in the vicinity of Alexandria. Here too the olive was cultivated.

The Arsinoite nome was bounded to the west by Lake Moeris (modern Birkat el Qārūn) watered by the Canal of Joseph (Bahr Yusuf), and contained various pyramids, the necropolis of Crocodilopolis, and a celebrated labyrinth. Extensive mounds of ruins at Al Fayyum (Madīnet-el-Faiyūm), or el-Fares, represent the site of Crocodopolis, but no remains of any remarkable antiquity, except a few sculptured blocks, have hitherto been found there. In the later periods of the Roman Empire, Arsinoe, as it was then called, was annexed to the department of Arcadia Ægypti, and became the chief town of an episcopal see.

Shortly after the renaming, Samaritans were found there. It eventually became a flourishing center of Christian life, but in 642 the Monophysite Copts surrendered the city to Amru, the Arab lieutenant of Muhammad. The region is celebrated for the discovery (1877-78) of a great many papyrus manuscripts, some of which are important to the earliest Christian history of Egypt; they are described in the Hellenic section of the reports of the Egypt Exploration Fund. The current city has several Coptic churches and Islamic mosques, and some manufactories, especially of woollen stuffs. Its trade in rosewater and nitre or saltpeter, is considerable. The city remains a titular see of the Roman Catholic Church.


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  6. ^ Strab. xvii. p. 809, seq.; Herod. ii. 48; Diod. i. 89; Aelian. H. A. x. 24; Plin. v. 9. s. 11, xxxvi. 16; Mart. Capell. vi. 4 ; Belzoni's Travels, vol. ii. p. 162 ; Champollion, l'Egypte, vol. i. p. 323, seq.

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This article was published on Friday 25 January, 2008.

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