(Soknopaiou Nesos) Dimeh al-Siba was a Ptolemaic city believed to be founded by Ptolemy II in the third century BC on a site that shows evidence of habitation from the Neolithic period.
In Ptolemaic times it was at the shore of the much larger lake, nestled at the edge of a bay and the beginning of the caravan routes to the Western Desert.
Serving as a port and perhaps once an island, judging by its Ptolemaic name, Soknopaiou Nesos, Island of Soknopaios (from the ancient Egyptian Sobek-en-Pai), the site is currently 65 meters (208 ft) higher and 2.5 km (1.5 miles) beyond the water’s edge (Caton-Thompson maintains it was never an island). nadir.
Although Roman soldiers were stationed here,
no documents suggest that Romans made the cornrnunity their home.
It was on the fringe of the desert, away from the cultivated lands on the south side of the lake.
It was like a frontier.
Retired Roman soldiers preferred to live in the villages to the south, such as Philadelphia and Karanis.
Richard Alston, in Soldier and Society in Roman Egypt, interpreted life at Soknopaiou Nesos from a number of petitions for justice presented by various members of the community to the Roman centurions.
AD 11, a dispute arose over, if. land tenure; 12, a request for protection from a person defeated in a lawsuit; 101, an assault on a priest who was attempting to collect a debt; in 148, the disappearance, under suspicious circumstances, of a person to whom land was rented; around 167, a priestess and defenseless widow made an appeal; in 184, a woman was assaulted and threatened with death by a man she lived with and owned property with.
It all sounds familiar.
Goods from the Fayoum
were transported across the lake by boat to be unloaded at the docks of Dimeh, stored, or carried up the Avenue of the Lions, assessed for a customs fee, and loaded on animals for desert caravans.
These caravans moved north over Gebel Q3lI3-Ula probably via Wadi Natrun, to the Mediterranean and on to Rome.
The cemetery 15 found in the hills to the southwest of the town.
Egypt had the reputation through ,the Mediterranean of being plagued desert bandits.
Here at Soknopiaou Nesosas in other desert outposts in the Westetiil and Eastem deserts,
and along the N01’thern Coast, security systems were in plato protect caravans.
They did not alW8Y5 succeed. Dimeh was inhabited for six centuries and was finally abandoned by the middle of the third century.
The ruins contain two temples, houses underground chambers, streets, and A tat of shards covering the entire templemound.
You drive over them, sit on them,
and walk on them.
They are inescapable.
The city itself spread for a great distance through the desert, and the mud-brick walls that are still standing do not contain only the temple area.
To the north were the agricultural fields, separated by long irrigation canals.
To the south was the Gate of Soknopaios,
at the end of the Avenue of the Lions, which ran down to the docks at the edge of the lake.
Today one can still see the remains of this road, which ends about a kilometer to the south of the ruins at a quay.
The quay has two limestone piers and steps leading south, presumably to the water’s edge.
The houses are located along the processional Avenue of the Lions, inside the walls, and on the plain surrounding the temple mound.
At one time they reached several stories, had painted walls similar to those recently excavated at Amheida in Dakhla Oasis, and had underground chambers that were used for storage.
There are two temples at Dimeh. Of the northern one, which was constructed of stone, only the foundations remain. The brick and stone southern temple may date from the Christian era.
A Roman cemetery lies over 800 meters (0.5 mile)
southwest of the city.
When Belzoni arrived here, he confused Dimeh with Bacchias, located on the southeastem shore. The Dimeh area was excavated by a University of Michi-3411 archaeological team under the dlrection of Professor Frederick Zucker in 1931.
Prior to that, it was plundered by local Bedouin, people looking for papyrus Scrolls, and farmers who value the rich soil of ancient sites as fertilizer.
The Ital- 1311 Archaeological Expedition of Lecce University has been excavating at Dimeh Since 2003.
The walls of Dimeh stand as sentinels ;l0Hg the northern shore of the lake in the ?1}’0um. They can be seen for kilometers.
With Qasr al-Sagha
behind you, drive S0Uth for about 700 meters (0.4 mile) and.
The correct road tops the rise and eventually tums west while the other stays on the plain.
At 2 km (1.2 miles) from the beginning of the road, the top of the rise is reached.