Study Guide

Sobek Sightings

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Jan 1, 1970 - Dec 20, 2019

Crocodile Kings and the "Labyrinth"

Sobek was very popular during the Middle Kingdom. A number of kings took variations on his name, including the female pharaoh Sobekneferu and six different kings named Sobekhotep. They moved the capital to be closer to the Faiyum lake and oasis in middle Egypt, near Sobek's biggest temple. King Amunemhat III even built his tomb there. (Talk about popular!) Thousands of years later, it was in ruins, and some of it was underwater, but a number of Greek visitors to Egypt went to wander around in this huge maze-like tomb. The Greeks named it the Labyrinth, after the story of Theseus and the Minotaur. It was Egypt's first amusement park—but has crocodiles instead of bull-men inside.

Dec 20, 2019

Moving in to Kom Ombo

The temples at Nubt (called Ombos by Greeks, and Kom Ombo by modern Egyptians) were dedicated to Seth and Horus the Elder. During Thutmose III's reign, as Seth's temples and worship were scaled back, the part of Kom Ombo previously dedicated to Seth and his wife Nephthys was given to Sobek and his wife Tasenetnofret. Seth never got his old place back, either. The current ruins at the site are from a temple to Horus the Elder and Sobek built by the Ptolemaic pharaohs about a thousand years after Thutmose III's temple. This twin temple and hospital complex sits above a sacred beach, where Sobek's crocodiles could pile up for a bit of sun and special treats from the priests. Since the raising of the first Aswan Dam around 1900CE, there are no crocodiles at Kom Ombo anymore. Instead, tourists come to relax—and see crocodile mummies in a museum.

Jan 1, 1970

Sobek of Armant

Another Sobek temple flourished in the New Kingdom at Armant, between the Faiyum and Thebes (modern Luxor). A beautiful, huge statue of Amunhotep III standing next to Sobek of Armant is now in the Luxor Museum. The scariest thing about it? If it's actually intended to be life-size, and since the king stands about the proper height…Sobek, who's sitting down, has to be at least ten feet tall. Gulp!

Jan 1, 1970 - Dec 20, 2019

Kom Ombo Temple and Hospital

Ptolemy VI built a temple for Sobek and Horus the Elder, their wives Tasenetnofret and Hathor, and the healing god Khonsu on top of the old one Thutmose III started at Kom Ombo. Ptolemy added a hospital, where people could be treated for various illnesses. Today, most of what's left of those ruins is filled with bats (ew!), but in ancient times, these were sacred halls for healing. One of the rooms has drawings of surgical knives, saws, and other tools carved on the outer wall, and another shows Sobek and Horus the Elder, called "Horus the Healer," diagnosing and treating the sick.

Dec 20, 2019 - Jan 1, 1970

Sobek, Lord of Shedyet (Crocodile Town)

The town of Shedyet was old; the kings of the Middle Kingdom founded it and dedicated it to Sobek. Much later, under the Ptolemies at the end of ancient Egyptian history, a sacred crocodile named Petesuchos or "the one Sobek gave" was kept there, and it lived like a king. It had its very own pool, servants to take care of it, and wore gold and jewels. The Greeks called Shedyet Crocodilopolis, or "Crocodile Town," until Ptolemy Philadelphus renamed it Arsinoë after his sister/wife. Centuries later, after Arsinoë's crocodile temple was replaced with Christian churches and Muslim mosques, many important ancient documents were discovered there. Ah, history.

Dec 20, 2019 - Dec 20, 2019


Karanis (modern Kom Aushim) was another important city in the Faiyum. It also had several Sobek temples, including an important one built by Caesar Augustus after Rome conquered Egypt. Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans lived alongside each other there for several hundred years. Eventually, the town was abandoned, but its climate helped preserve thousands of tombs and ancient documents as well as Sobek's temples. One of them even included special rooms for healing baths.

Dec 20, 2019

Sacrifice Unto Sebek

The death metal band Nile features a number of songs and themes about Egyptian mythology, and more than one song about Sobek. On their 2005 album Annihilation of the Wicked, they sing (well, growl) about offerings to the crocodile god, and the lyrics are actually taken from one of his ancient hymns. We figure Sobek's glad not to have ears about now….

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