Bubastis, ancient city, NE Egypt, in the Nile delta, near the modern Zagazig. Capital of Egypt in the XXII and XXIII dynasties, it began to decline after the second Persian conquest (343 B.C.). Bubastis was the center of the worship of the lion-headed (or cat-headed) goddess Bast. In the time of Herodotus it had an annual Saturnalia, an orgiastic festival honoring the god Saturn. As Pi-beseth, Bubastis is mentioned in Ezek. 30.17. Excavations were made in 1886, 1887, and 1906. Among the finds were a chapel of the VI dynasty (proving that the site dates back to the Old Kingdom) and a great temple built in the 8th cent. B.C.
Bubastis (Greek: Βούβαστις, Herod. ii. 59, 137, or Βούβαστος, Strabo xvii. p. 805, Diodorus xvi. 51, Plin. v. 9. s. 9, Ptol. iv. 5. § 52) or Egyptian Per-Bast was an Ancient Egyptian city, the capital of its own nome, located along the River Nile in the Delta region of Lower Egypt. Bubastis is often identified with Phibeseth ("house of Bastet") of the Bible.(Ezek. 30:17)


Bubastis served as the capital of the nome of Am-Khent, the Bubastite nome, the 18th nome of Lower Egypt. Bubastis was situated southwest of Tanis, upon the eastern side of the Pelusiac branch of the Nile. The nome and city of Bubastis were allotted to the Calasirian division of the Egyptian war-caste.

It became a royal residence after Shoshenq I, the first ruler of the 22nd dynasty, became pharaoh in 943 BC. Bubastis was at its height during this dynasty and the 23rd. It declined after the Persian conquest by Cambyses II in 525 BC, which heralded the end of the Saite 26th dynasty and the start of the Achaemenid dynasty.

The Twenty Second Dynasty of Egyptian monarchs consisted of nine, or, according to Eusebius (Chronic.) of three Bubastite kings, and during their reigns the city was one of the most considerable places in the Delta. Immediately to the south of Bubastis were the allotments of land with which Psammetichus rewarded the services of his Ionian and Carian mercenaries (Herod. ii. 154); and on the northern side of the city commenced the Great Canal which Pharaoh Neco constructed between the Nile and the Red Sea. (Herod. ii. 158.) After Bubastis was taken by the Persians, its walls were dismantled. (Diod. xvi. 51). From this period it gradually declined, although it appears in ecclesiastical annals among the episcopal sees of the province Augustamnica Secunda. Bubastite coins of the age of Hadrian exist.

The following is the description which Herodotus gives of Bubastis, as it appeared shortly after the period of the Persian invasion, 525 BC, and Mr. Hamilton remarks that the plan of the ruins remarkably warrants the accuracy of this historical eye-witness. (Herod. ii. 59, 60.):

"Temples there are more spacious and costlier than that of Bubastis, but none so pleasant to behold. It is after the following fashion. Except at the entrance, it is surrounded by water: for two canals branch off from the river, and run as far as the entrance to the temple: yet neither canal mingles with the other, but one runs on this side, and the other on that. Each canal is a hundred feet wide, and its banks are lined with trees. The propylaea are sixty feet in height, and are adorned with sculptures (probably intaglios in relief) nine feet high, and of excellent workmanship. The Temple being in the middle of the city is looked down upon from all sides as you walk around; and this comes from the city having been raised, whereas the temple itself has not been moved, but remains in its original place. Quite round the temple there goes a wall, adorned with sculptures. Within the inclosure is a grove of fair tall trees, planted around a large building in which is the effigy (of Bast). The form of that temple is square, each side being a stadium in length. In a line with the entrance is a road built of stone about three stadia long, leading eastwards through the public market. The road is about broad, and is flanked by exceeding tall trees. It leads to the temple of Hermes."


Bubastis was a center of worship for the feline goddess Bast (also called Bastet (emphasising the feminine ending t), or even Bubastis (after the city)), which the ancient Greeks identified with Artemis. The cat was the sacred and peculiar animal of Bast, who is represented with the head of a cat or a lioness and frequently accompanies the deity Ptah in monumental inscriptions. The tombs at Bubastis were accordingly the principal depository in Egypt of the mummies of the cat.

The most distinguished features of the city and nome of Bubastis were its oracle of Bast, the splendid temple of that goddess and the annual procession in honor of her. The oracle gained in popularity and importance after the influx of Greek settlers into the Delta, since the identification of Bast with Artemis attracted to her shrine both native Egyptians and foreigners.

The festival of Bubastis was the most joyous and gorgeous of all in the Egyptian calendar as described by Herodotus:

Barges and river craft of every description, filled with men and women, floated leisurely down the Nile. The men played on pipes of lotus. the women on cymbals and tambourines, and such as had no instruments accompanied the music with clapping of hands and dances, and other joyous gestures. Thus did they while on the river: but when they came to a town on its banks, the barges were made fast, and the pilgrims disembarked, and the women sang, playfully mocked the women of that town and threw their clothes over their head. When they reached Bubastis, then held they a wondrously solemn feast: and more wine of the grape was drank in those days than in all the rest of the year. Such was the manner of this festival: and, it is said, that as many as seven hundred thousand pilgrims have been known to celebrate the Feast of Bast at the same time.


Its ruins are near the modern city of Zagazig. There were archaeological expeditions to the ruins in 1886, 1887, and 1906, the last of which uncovered a 6th dynasty chapel and an 8th century BC temple.

The ruins attest the original magnificence of the city. The entire circuit of the walls is, according to Hamilton (p. 367) not less than three miles (5 km) in extent. Within the principal inclosure, where there has been the greatest accumulation of the ruins of successive edifices, is a large pile of granite-blocks which appear, from their forms and sculptures, to have belonged to numerous obelisks and gigantic propyla. The mounds which encompassed the ancient city were originally begun by Sesostris and completed by the Ethiopian invader Sabakos, who employed criminals upon these and similar works. (Herod. ii. 137.) The mounds were intended to redeem and rescue the site of the city, and possibly its gardens and groves, from the inundations of the Nile. From the general aspect of the ruins, and from the description given of it by Herodotus (ii. 138), they appear to have been raised concentrically around the temples of Bast and Hermes, so that the whole place resembled the interior of an inverted cone. The only permanent buildings in Bubastis seem to have been the temples and the granite walls and corridors.


The people of the Bubastis tribe would often wear gold earrings, copying their feline deity who was known for said act. The symbols of the Bubastis are cats, crescent moons, music, dance, and baskets.


Search another word or see bubastison Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature