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Pithom ( ) also called Per-Atum or Heroöpolis or Heroonopolis (Greek: or , Strabo xvi. 759, 768, xvii. 803, 804; Arrian, Exp. Alex. iii. 5, vii. 20; Joseph. Ant. Jud. ii. 7. § 5; Plin. v. 9. § 11, vi. 32. § 33; Mela, iii. 8; Steph. B. s. v.; Ptol. ii. 1. § 6, iv. 15. § 54), is an ancient city of Egypt known from both biblical and Ancient Greek and Roman sources.

The name

The Egyptian name, "Pithom" (Pi-Tum or Pa-Tum), means "house of Tum" [or "Atum,"], i.e., the sun-god of Heliopolis; and the Greek word "Hero" is probably a translation of "Atum."

Biblical Pithom

Pithom is one of the cities which, according to Exodus , was built for the Pharaoh of the oppression by the forced labor of the Israelites. The other city was Ramsesmarker; and the Septuagint adds a third, "On, which is Heliopolismarker." The meaning of the term , rendered in the Authorized Version "treasure cities" and in the Revised Version "store cities," is not definitely known. The Septuagint renders "strong [or "fortified"] cities." The same term is used of certain cities of King Solomon in I Kings 9:19 (comp. also II Chronicles 16:4).

Graeco-Roman Heroöpolis

Heroöpolis was a large city east of the Nile Deltamarker, situated near the mouth of the Royal Canal which connected the Nile with the Red Seamarker. Although not immediately upon the coast, but nearly due north of the Bitter Lakesmarker, Heroöpolis was of sufficient importance, as a trading station, to confer its name upon the arm of the Red Sea ( , Ptol. v. 17. § 1, Latin: Heroopoliticus Sinus) which runs up the Egyptian mainland as far as Arsinoë (near modern Suezmarker) ( ); the modern Gulf of Suezmarker. (Theophrast. Hist. Plant. iii. 8.) It was the capital of the Heroopolite nome (the 8th nome of Lower Egypt) later renamed the Arsinoite nome. (Orelli, Inscr. Lat. no. 516.)


The location of Pithom has been the subject of much conjecture and debate. In the spring of 1883 Édouard Naville believed he had identified it as the archaeological site Tell-el-Maskhuta. The site of Pithom, as identified by Naville, is to the east of Wadi Tumilatmarker, south-west of Ismaïliamarker. Here was formerly a group of granite statues representing Ramesses II, two inscriptions naming Pr-Itm, storehouses and bricks made without straw. The excavations carried on by Naville for the Egypt Exploration Fund uncovered a city wall, a ruined temple, and the remains of a series of brick buildings with very thick walls and consisting of rectangular chambers of various sizes, opening only at the top and without any entrances to one another. Naville identified it as being in the region of Tjeku, the capital of the 8th Lower Egypt nome. Excavations carried out over five seasons between 1978 and 1985 have shown that Tell el-Maskhuta dates only to the end of the 7th century, and may have been built by Pharaoh Necho II, possibly as part of his uncompleted canal building project from the Nile to the Gulf of Suez. Although it was known as Pithom until Roman times, it was clearly not the Pithom of the Bible.

This identification was challenged by Sir Allen Gardiner, who identified Pithom with Tell er-Rebata, an identification which was later accepted by William F. Albright. More recently the Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen endorsed the identification of Pithom with Tell er-Rebata. John Van Seters points out that the archeological excavations mentioned above show Tell er-Rebata to have been unoccupied during the same period when we find monuments relating to a town called Pithom.


  • Sarna, Nahum M. “Exploring Exodus: The Oppression,” Biblical Archaeologist, Volume 49: 1986 (2001 electronic ed.)

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