Tanis: Reference

Although lost for some time, Tanis was certainly notable enough to be cited in Biblical literature and even in the big screen. This magnificent and legendary city of the past was mentioned in the annals of Egypt as the capital of the nineteenth Lower Egyptian nome in the late period (747-332 BC) and as the royal residence of the 21st (1069 - 945 BC) and 22nd (943 - 716 BC) dynasties. It was one of the largest cities in the Delta and became a site of great importance as a prosperous and wealthy commercial center and one of the nearest ports to the Asiatic seaboard.


Back then, the ancient Egyptians called it Djanet but today the place is called Sân el-Hagar. It is popularly known by its Greek name Tanis. However, the Hebrews of the Old Testament referred to it as Zoan. It was first mentioned in Numbers 13:22 that Tanis was said to be built seven years after Hebron was built in Palestine.

One significant Biblical event, the deadly plagues sent by God through Moses to persuade the Pharaoh to let His people go is said to have happened in the fields of Zoan according to Psalm 78:12, 43. Some believe that the marshes where Moses have been hidden were located at Tanis. However, there is no supporting archaeological evidence for these events. Archaeologists on the other hand now widely believe the plagues occurred at an ancient city of Pi-Rameses.

Zoan is again mentioned by the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 19:11, 13, Isaiah 30:4. The prophet talked about its "princes" as this may be because Tanis became a royal city in the Third Intermediate Period (1070 BC – 664 BC). And Ezekiel in Ezekiel 30:14 prophesied its destruction.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

The cult classic Indiana Jones movie, the Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981 is an American action-adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg which became 1981's top-grossing film and remains one of the highest-grossing films. The movie had a plot where they are led to the ancient city of Tanis in Egypt in the search for the Ark of the Covenant. According to it, the lost city of Tanis was buried by a catastrophic sandstorm and hidden in its secret chamber was the Ark.

The World's Desire

The World's Desire is a classic fantasy novel written by H. Rider Haggard and Andrew Lang and was first published in 1890. The plot follows Odysseus to the ancient city of Tanis where he met the Pharaoh Meneptah and his queen, Meriamun.

Tanis may have fallen off the map right after the political upheavals and shifting of the waters of the river Nile. Nevertheless, its ruins and the grandeur from its biblical and pop cultural references stay.