ABYDOS, one of the most ancient cities of Upper Egypt, about 7m. west of the Nile in lat. 26° 1o' N. (railway station Al Baliana). The Egyptian name was Abdu, "the hill of the symbol or reliquary" in which the sacred head of Osiris was preserved. Thence the Greeks named it Abydos, like the city on the Helles pont ; the modern Arabic name is Arabet el Madfuneh. The his tory of the city begins in the late prehistoric age, it having been founded by the pre-Menite kings whose town, temple and tombs have been found there. The kings of the 1st dynasty, and some of the 2nd dynasty, were also buried here, and the temple was re newed and enlarged by them. Great forts were built on the desert behind the town by three kings of the 2nd dynasty. The temple and town continued to be rebuilt at intervals down to the times of the 3oth dynasty, and the cemetery was used continuously. In the 12th dynasty a gigantic tomb was cut in the rock by Sen wosri (or Senusert) III. Seti I. in the 19th dynasty founded a great new temple to the south of the town in honour of the an cestral kings of the early dynasties; this was finished by Rameses II., who also built a lesser temple of his own. Mineptah added a great Hypogeum of Osiris to the temple of Seti. The latest build ing was a new temple of Nekhtnebf in the 3oth dynasty.
The worship here was of the jackal god Upuaut (Ophols, Wep woi), who "opened the way" to the realm of the dead, increasing from the 1st dynasty to the time of the 12th dynasty and then disappearing after the i8th. Anher appears in the iith dynasty; and Khentamenti, the god of the western Hades, rises to im portance in the middle kingdom and then vanishes in the ISth. The worship here of Osiris in his various forms begins in the i2th dynasty and becomes more important in later times, so that at last the whole place was considered as sacred to him.
The temples successively built here on one site were nine or ten in number, from the ist dynasty, to the 26th dynasty (5oo B.c.). The first was an enclosure, about 3o x 5oft., surrounded by a thin wall of unbaked bricks. Covering one wall of this came the second temple of about 4of t. square in a wall about 'oft. thick. An outer temenos (enclosure) wall surrounded the ground. This outer wall was thickened about the 2nd or 3rd dynasty. The old temple entirely vanished in the 4th dynasty, and a smaller building was erected behind it, enclosing a wide hearth of black ashes. Pottery models of offerings are found in the ashes, and these were probably the substitutes for sacrifices de creed by Cheops (Khufu) in his temple reforms. A great clear ance of temple offerings was made now, or earlier, and a chamber full of them has yielded the fine ivory carvings and the glazed figures and tiles which show the splendid work of the 1st dynasty. A vase of Menes with purple inlaid hieroglyphs in green glaze and the tiles with relief figures are the most important pieces. The noble statuette of Cheops in ivory, found in the stone chamber of the temple, gives the only portrait of this ruler. The temple was rebuilt entirely on a larger scale by Pepi I. in the 6th dynasty. He placed a great stone gateway to the temenos, an outer temenos wall and gateway, with a colonnade between the gates. His temple was about 4o x Soft. inside, with stone gateways front and back, showing that it was of the processional type. In the iith dynasty Menthotp (Mentuhotep) III. added a colonnade and altars. Soon after, Sankhkere entirely rebuilt the temple, laying a stone pave ment over the area, about 45ft. square, besides subsidiary cham bers. Soon after Senwosri (Senusert) I. in the 12th dynasty laid massive foundations of stone over the pavement of his predecessor.
A great temenos was laid out enclosing a much larger area, and the temple itself was about three times the earlier size.
The i8th dynasty began with a large chapel of Amasis I., and then Thothmes III. built a far larger temple, about 13o x 2ooft. He made also a processional way past the side of the temple to the cemetery beyond, with a great gateway of granite. Rameses III. added a large building; and Amasis II. in the 26th dynasty rebuilt the temple again, and placed in it a large monolith shrine of red granite, finely wrought. The foundations of the successive temples were comprised within about IEif t. depth of ruins.
The temple of Seti I. was built on entirely new ground half a mile to the south of the long series of temples just described. This is the building best known as the Great Temple of Abydos, being nearly complete and an impressive sight. The long list of the kings of the principal dynasties carved on a wall is known as the "Table of Abydos." There were also seven chapels for the worship of the king and principal gods. The temple was orig inally 55of t. long, but the forecourts are scarcely recognizable, and the part in good state is about 25oft. long and 35oft. wide, including the wing at the side. Excepting the list of kings and a panegyric on Rameses II., the subjects are not historical but mythological. The adjacent temple of Rameses II. was much smaller and simpler in plan; but it had a fine historical series of scenes around the outside, of which the lower parts remain. A list of kings, similar to that of Seti, formerly stood here; but the fragments were sold by the French consul to the British Museum.
The royal tombs of the earliest dynasties were placed about a mile back on the great desert plain. The earliest is about 1 o x loft. inside, a pit lined with brick walls, and originally roofed with timber and matting. Others also before Menes are 15 x 25ft. The tomb probably of Menes is of the latter size. After this the tombs increase in size and complexity. The tomb-pit is sur rounded by chambers to hold the offerings, the actual sepulchre being a great wooden chamber in the midst of the brick-lined pit. Rows of small tomb-pits for the servants of the king surround the royal chamber, many dozens of such burials being usual. By the end of the 2nd dynasty the type changed to a long passage bordered with chambers on either hand, the royal burial being in the middle of the length. The greatest of these tombs with its dependencies covered a space of over 3,000sq. yards. The con tents of the tombs have been nearly destroyed by successive plunderers; enough remained to show that rich jewellery was placed on the mummies, a profusion of vases of hard and valuable stones from the royal table service stood about the body, the store-rooms were filled with great jars of wine, perfumed ointment and other supplies, and tablets of ivory and ebony were engraved with a record of the yearly annals of the reigns.
The cemetery of private persons begins in the 1st dynasty with some pit tombs in the town. It was extensive in the 12th and 13th dynasties and contained many rich tombs. In the 18th-2oth dynasties a large number of fine tombs were made, and later ages continued to bury here till Roman times.
The forts lay behind the town. That known as Shunet ez Zebib is about 450 x 25oft. over all, and still stands 3oft. high. It was built by Khasekhemui, the last king of the 2nd dynasty. Another fort nearly as large adjoined it, and is probably rather older. A third fort of a squarer form is now occupied by the Coptic con vent; its age cannot be ascertained.
Jean Capart, Abydos: Le Temple de Seti I. (Bruxelles, 1912) ; The Cemeteries of Abydos, 3 vols. (Egypt Exploration Fund, 1913-14).