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The Nomes of Ancient Egypt

Temple of Ipet at Karnak
Built by Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II, it is one of the last cult buildings erected at Karnak during
this period. Decorations were added by a later ruler, Augustus, as well as others in the
Roman era.

Section of relief showing nome gods

On the east end of the outer north wall of the temple, the nomes of Upper Egypt are carved
on the two tiers of the pedestal, starting from the northeast corner. The list is introduced by
Augustus, who wears a blue helmet (on top) and the crown of the North (on the bottom). In
the top register, each nome sign is preceded by its particular god, while on the lower register
Hapy and a kneeling female figure bear the emblems of “flooded land” and “agricultural
territory” for the corresponding nome.

The first god is Ptah, whose principal temple was in Memphis (also called “the scales of the
Two Lands” as this location represented the division between southern and northern Egypt.
A female figure behind Ptah carries on her head the symbol of the first nome of Lower Egypt,
that of “the White Wall”.

Directly below, Hapy carries the symbol of a basin or bowl upon his head, which signifies the
flooded land, designated here as tjen-ur (the great loop). The kneeling female figure is
crowned with the name of “Field of Re”.

Also on the upper register, Horus precedes the symbol of the second nome of Lower Egypt;
that of Letopolis. Horus was the main god of this nome, and his temple was dedicated to

Roman “nome coins”
When Octavian took possession of Egypt in 30 BCE, he found an established currency
system with traditions going back nearly three hundred years. The coinage of Roman
Alexandria is in many respects a continuation of the Ptolemaic system, coordinated with the
coinage of Rome.

Roman nome coins were issued in various denominations, sporadically between 91/92 CE
and 144/145 CE. They appeared for the first time in the eleventh year of Domitian, and
thereafter were produced only in specific years, with major, extensive issues in year 11 of
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