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Name in hieroglyphs
Z1 N21
Major cult center Heracleopolis Magna
Symbol Man with the head of a Ram

In Egyptian mythology, Heryshaf, or Hershef, (Egyptian Ḥry-š=f "He who is on his lake"),[1] transcribed in Greek as Arsaphes or Harsaphes (Ἁρσαφής) was an ancient ram-god whose cult was centered in Heracleopolis Magna (now Ihnasiyyah al-Madinah). He was identified with Ra and Osiris in Egyptian mythology,[1] as well as Dionysus [2] or Heracles in Greek mythology. The identification with Heracles may be related to the fact that in later times his name was sometimes reanalysed as Ḥry-šf.t "He who is over strength". One of his titles was "Ruler of the Riverbanks". Heryshaf was a creator and fertility god who was born from the primordial waters. He was pictured as a man with the head of a ram, or as a ram.

Temple at Heracleopolis Magna

The site goes back to early dynastic or the time of the old kingdom. The site was called nn-nswt (Henensu, Henennesut) in Egyptian records, Heracleopolis (Magna) during the classical period and Ihnaysa during the Coptic and Arabic Period.[3]

No remains of the old kingdom temple remain however. Petrie found remains of a temple at the site dating to the Twelfth dynasty of Egypt. The 12th dynasty temple was rebuilt during the 18th dynasty and later refurbished during the 19th dynasty.[4] During the reign of Ramesses II a pronaos was added to the temple. The sixteen palm columns used were taken from existing temples, possibly those of Djedkare-Isesi or Sahure. Yasuoka speculates that Prince Khaemwaset may have been the official who directed this project. [5]

High Priests of Heryshaf

Many of these names are known from the Stela of Pasenhor

  • Nimlot C, son of pharaoh Osorkon II and his queen Djedmutesankh, Twenty-second Dynasty of Egypt [6]
  • Ptahudjankhef, son of Nimlot C and Tentsepeh C
  • Hemptah A, son of Ptahudjankhef and Tentsepeh D
  • Pasenhor A, son of Hemptah A and Tjankemit
  • Hemptah B, son of Pasenhor A and Petpetdidies


  1. ^ a b Forty, Jo. Mythology: A Visual Encyclopedia, Sterling Publishing Co., 2001, p. 84.
  2. ^ Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 28 (trans. Celoria) (Greek mythographer 2nd century AD)
  3. ^ Reviewed Work: Ihnasya el-Medina (Herakleopolis Magna): Its Importance and Its Role in Pharaonic History by Mohamed Gamal el-Din Mokhtar, Review by: Hans Goedicke, Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, Vol. 20 (1983), p. 119; via JSTOR
  4. ^ Koichiro Wada, Provincial Society and Cemetery Organization in the New Kingdom, Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur, Bd. 36 (2007), pp. 347-389
  5. ^ Y. Yasuoka, Some remarks on the palm columns from the pronaos of Heracleopolis Magna, The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 97 (2011), pp. 31-60
  6. ^ Morris L. Bierbrier, Historical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt, Scarecrow Press, Aug 14, 2008, p 170
  • Hart, George (2005). "Heryshaf". The Routledge dictionary of Egyptian gods and goddesses (2nd ed.). London, New York: Routledge. pp. 68–69. ISBN 978-0-415-36116-3. OCLC 57281093. Retrieved 16 December 2009. 
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