The Fayoum’s ancient capital, Crocodilopolis (later renamed Arsinoë after Ptolemy II’s sister-wife), was the centre of the crocodile cult supposedly began by Pharaoh Menes, the legendary unifier of Upper and Lower Egypt, whose life was saved by a croc while he was hunting in the Fayoum marshes. The crocodile deity, Sobek, was particularly favoured by Middle Kingdom rulers and assumed national prominence after being identified with Re (as Sobek-Re) and Horus. Sobek was variously depicted as a hawk-headed crocodile or in reptilian form with Amun’s crown of feathers and ram’s horns. At the Sacred Lake of Crocodilopolis, reptiles were fed and worshipped, and even adorned with jewellery, by the priests of Sobek. Today, nothing remains of the ancient city, north of the modern capital.

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