NAUCRATIS, an ancient Greek settlement in Egypt. The site was discovered by Professor W. M. Flinders Petrie in 1884, on the eastern bank of a canal, about 10 m. W. of the present Rosetta branch of the Nile. In ancient times it was approached by the Canopic mouth, which was farther to the west. The identification of the site is placed beyond doubt by the discovery of inscriptions, with the name of the town, and of great masses of early Greek pottery, such as could not have existed anywhere else. The site was excavated in 1884–1886 by the Egypt Exploration Fund, and a supplementary excavation was made by the British School at Athens in 1899. A list of the temples of Naucratis is given by Herodotus (ii. 178); they were the Hellenion, common to all the colonizing cities, and those dedicated by the Aeginetans to Zeus, by the Samians to Hera, and by the Milesians to Apollo. A temple of Aphrodite is also mentioned by Athenaeus. Traces of all these temples, except that of Zeus, or at least dedications coming from them, have been found in the excavations, and another has been added to them, the temple of the Dioscuri. The two chief sites to be cleared were the temples of Apollo and of Aphrodite, in both of which successive buildings of various date were found. Both were remarkable for the great mass of early painted pottery that was found; in the temple of Apollo this had been buried in a trench; in that of Aphrodite it was scattered over the whole surface in two distinct strata. A great deal of it was local ware, but there were also imported vases from various Greek sites. In addition to these temples, there was also found a great fortified enclosure, about 860 ft. by 750, in the south-eastern part of the town; within it was a square tower or fort; a portico of entrance and an avenue of rows of sphinxes was added in Ptolemaic times, as is shown by the foundation deposits found at the corners of the portico; these consisted of models of the tools and materials used in the buildings, models of instruments for sacrifice or ceremonies, and car touches of King Ptolemy Philadelphus. Professor Petrie naturally supposed this great enclosure to be the Hellenion or common sanctuary of the Greeks, but Mr. Hogarth subsequently found traces of another great walled enclosure to the north-east of the town, together with pottery dedicated τοῖς τῶν Ἑλλήνων θεοῖς, and he claims with reason that this enclosure is more likely than the other to be the Hellenion, since no early Greek antiquities have been found in the southern part of the town, which seems rather to have been a native settlement. The cemetery of the ancient town was found on two low mounds to the north, but was mostly of Ptolemaic date.
Apart from the historic interest of the site, as the only Greek colony in Egypt in early times, the chief importance of the excavations lies in the rich Ends of early pottery and in the inscriptions upon them, which throw light on the early history of the alphabet. The most flourishing period of the town was from the accession of Amasis II. in 570 B.C. to the Persian invasion of 520 B.C., when the contents of the temples must have been destroyed. The earlier chronology has been much disputed. There are clear traces of a settlement going back to the 7th century, including a scarab factory, which yielded numerous scarabs, not of native Egyptian manufacture, bearing the names of the kings that preceded Amasis. Among these were fragments of early Greek pottery. It seems a fair inference that the makers of these were Greeks, and that they probably represent the early Milesian colony, settled here in the time of Psammetichus I., before the official assignment of the site by Amasis to the Greek colonists of various cities. The most important of the antiquities found are now in the British Museum.
See W. M. F. Petrie, &c., Naukratis I., third Memoir of the Egypt Exploration Fund (1886); E. A. Gardner, &c., Naukratis II., sixth Memoir of same (1889); D. G. Hogarth, &c., Annual of the British School at Athens (1898–1899). (E. Gr.)