Esna is located about 33 miles south of Luxor. The town's Greek name was Latopolis and here fish (lates) where thought to embody the goddess Neith, who was sacred to the area. Esna was increasingly important during the 18th dynasty due to Egypt's developing relationship with the Sudan. There was a route established between Esna and Derr. Later, the city slowly declined until it received renewed interest during the 26th Dynasty. Later, under the Greeks and Romans, it became the capital of the Third Nome of Upper Egypt.The main attraction is the Temple of Khnum, which lies beneath the level of the houses in a pit. Most of the ruins of around the Temple and the old city are yet to be explored as they lay under these modern dwellings.
The temple now stands in the middle of the modern town at a level about nine meters below that of the surrounding grounds. However, texts mentions that it was built on the site of a temple that may have been constructed as early as the reign of Tuthmosis III. Some blocks of the earlier 18th Dynasty structure are preserved. The present structure dates to the Greek and Roman periods and is one of the latest temples to have been built by the ancient Egyptians.
This was not the first temple here, for during the reign of Thutmose III, a temple was built here that preceded it. There are blocks from an early Christian church in the forecourt of the temple, foretelling of a time when Esna was an important Christian center. Near the Temple of Khnum on the stone quay along the corniche are carved cartouches of Emperor Marcus Aurelius.