The central Delta town of Samannud is located on the Damietta branch of the Nile about 6km to the east of el-Mahalla el-Khubra. The town is perhaps better known by its Greek name, Sebennytos, as being the home of the Egyptian historian Manetho, who wrote the ‘Aegyptiaca’ around 290 BC. In his history Manetho described Sebennytos as being the town from which Nectanebo I Kheperkare (Dynasty XXX) launched his offensive against the Persian invaders of the Delta.
The ancient Egyptian name of the town was Djebnetjer, capital of the 12th Lower Egyptian Nome during the Late Period. There are few remains of Sebennytos today, although a mound still marks the site of the town and covers the remains of a temple begun by Nectanebo I – an important shrine dedicated to the sky-god Onuris-Shu who was identified with the Greek war-god Ares during the Ptolemaic Period. The cult of Onuris was first attested in the Thinite Nome near Abydos, from the Old Kingdom and Onuris-Shu and his consort Mehyt had cult centres at both Samannud and This.
The temple at Sebennytos was decorated by Nectanebo II Senedjemibre, the last true Egyptian ruler until modern times, with later inscriptions of Philip Arrhidaeus, Alexander IV and Ptolemy II Philadelphus. Although the temple was documented as still being in existence during the 15th century AD, it was dismantled shortly afterwards, leaving only a scattered collection of granite, limestone and basalt blocks as the only visible remains to mark its presence.
Edward Naville visited the site in 1887 and published a series of line drawings illustrating some of the reliefs found on blocks there. Two naoi (one fragmentary and probably unfinished) from the temple at Sebennytos were removed to Cairo Antiquities Museum in the 19th century. While many of the decorated blocks were removed to museums around the world, some remaining inscribed blocks as well as other architectural fragments have recently been put on display in an open-air storage magazine at the site by the Supreme Council of Antiquities.
An epigraphic survey of Samannud was directed by Neal A Spencer for the Egypt Exploration Society in 1998 and many fragmentary remains were recorded and published. Much of the site has been encroached upon by the modern town and there are insufficient remains to reconstruct the temple of Onuris-Shu, but remaining blocks suggest that the Dynasty XXX temple had been constructed on a scale comparable to other contemporary sites. It would appear that some of the stone was re-used or removed to nearby sites, such as the temple at Behbeit el-Hagar to the north, which may have had a link with Sebennytos, or to Abu Sir Bana (Busiris) to the south. Additional blocks have been found in the modern town of Samannud and nearby villages.
It is thought possible that the kings of Dynasty XXX were buried within the temple precinct, but so far no archaeological investigation of burials has been undertaken. Future excavations by the EES and the SCA will hopefully reveal more information about the Late and Ptolemaic Period remains of the town and temple.
How to get there
Samannud lies on the western side of the Damietta branch of the Nile, close to the river. The town may be reached from the city of Tanta to the south, via el-Mahalla el-Khubra, or from el-Mansura to the north-east.