1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Canopus

CANOPUS, or Canobus, an ancient coast town of Lower Egypt, a hundred and twenty stadia, or 15 m. east of Alexandria, the principal port in Egypt for Greek trade before the foundation of Alexandria, situated at the mouth of the westernmost (Canopic or Heracleotic) branch of the Nile, on the western bank. The channel, which entered the Mediterranean at the western end of the Bay of Aboukir, is entirely silted up, but on the shore at Aboukir there are extensive traces of the city with its quays, &c. Excavation has disclosed granite monuments with the name of Rameses II., but they may have been brought at a late period for the adornment of the place. It is not certain that Canopus was an old Egyptian town, but it appears in Herodotus as an ancient port. In the 9th year of Ptolemy Euergetes (239 B.C.) a great assembly of priests at Canopus passed an honorific degree, inter alia, conferring the title Εὐεργέτης “Benefactor” on the king. Two examples of this decree are known, inscribed in hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek. From it we learn that the native form of the name of Canopus was Karob. A temple of Osiris was built by Euergetes, but very near to Canopus was an older shrine, a temple of Heracles mentioned by Herodotus as an asylum for fugitive slaves. The decree shows that Heracles here stands for Ammon. Osiris was worshipped at Canopus under a peculiar form, a vase with a human head, and was identified with Canopus, the pilot of Menelaus, who was said to have been buried here: the name canopic has been applied, through an old misunderstanding, to the vases with human and animal heads in which the internal organs were placed by the Egyptians after embalming. In the Roman epoch the town was notorious for its dissoluteness. Aboukir means “father Cyrus,” referring to a Coptic saint of that name.  (F. Ll. G.)