The Goddess Isis

This will solely focus on the Goddess Isis, and her impact on the city of Pompeii, both before, during, and after the disaster. It will also focus on the impacts Isis had on the Roman Empire as a whole and her fluidity as a figure for cults, religious traditions, protection, trade, sailing, beauty, women, magic, life, death, and fertility

Isis was venerated first in Egypt – the only goddess worshipped by all Egyptians alike, and whose influence was so widespread that she had become completely synergistic with the Greek goddess Demeter. After the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great, and the Hellenization of the Egyptian culture initiated by Ptolemy I Soter, Isis eventually became known as Queen of Heaven.Following the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great The worship of Isis spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. Tacitus writes that after Julius Caesar’s assassination, a temple in honour of Isis had been decreed; Augustus suspended this and tried to turn Romans back to the Roman deities who were closely associated with the state. Eventually the Roman emperor Caligula abandoned the Augustan wariness toward what was described as oriental cults, and it was during his reign that the Isiac festival of the Navigium Isidis was established in Rome. 

According to Josephus, Caligula donned female garb and took part in the mysteries he instituted, and in the Hellenistic age Isis acquired a “new rank as a leading goddess of the Mediterranean world.” Vespasian, along with Titus, practised incubation in the Roman Iseum. Domitian built another Iseum along with a Serapeum. Trajan appears before Isis and Horus, presenting them with votive offerings of wine, in a relief on his triumphal arch in Rome. Hadrian decorated his villa at Tibur with Isiac scenes. Galerius regarded Isis as his protector. Roman perspectives on cults were synergistic, seeing in new deities, merely local aspects of a familiar one.

For many Romans, Egyptian Isis was an aspect of Phrygian Cybele, whose orgiastic rites were long-naturalized at Rome, indeed, she was known as Isis of Ten Thousand Names. Among these names of Roman Isis, Queen of Heaven is outstanding for its long and continuous history. Herodotus identified Isis with the Greek and Roman goddesses of agriculture, Demeter and Ceres. Isis also became known as the new form of Venus, who was the patron God of Pompeii, and due to this allowed Isis to gain great influence in the cultural, societal, and religious life of Pompeii. With Isis gaining this prestige, the goddess overtime became the leading deity within the city and surrounding areas of Italy. In later years, Isis also had temples throughout Europe, Africa and Asia. An alabaster statue of Isis from the 3rd century BCE, found in Ohrid, in the Republic of Macedonia, is depicted on the obverse of the Macedonian 10 denars banknote, issued in 1996. The male first name “Isidore”, means in Greek “gift of Isis” (similar to “Theodore”, “God’s gift”). The name, which became common in Roman times, survived the suppression of the Isis worship and remains popular up to the present, being among others the name of several Christian saints. The Isis cult in Rome was a template for the Christian Madonna Cult.

In the typical form of her myth, Isis was the first daughter of Geb, god of the Earth, and Nut, goddess of the Sky, and she was born on the fourth interplanetary day. She married her brother, Osiris, and she conceived Horus by him. Isis was instrumental in the resurrection of Osiris when he was murdered by Set. Using her magical skills, she restored his body to life after having gathered the body parts that magical skills, she restored his body to life after having gathered the body parts that had been strewn about the earth by Set. Most Egyptian deities were first worshipped by local cults, eventually, their popularity spread – so that most major cities and towns in Egypt were known as the home of a particular deity. The origins of the cult of Isis are uncertain, but it is believed that she was originally an independent and popular deity in pre-dynastic times, prior to 3100 BCE, at Sebennytos in the Nile delta. The first written references to Isis date back to the Fifth dynasty of Egypt. Based on the association of her name with the throne, some early Egyptology professionals believed that Isis’s original function was that of throne-mother. However, more recent scholarship suggests that aspects of that role came later by association. In many African tribes, the throne is known as the mother of the king, and that concept fits well with either theory, possibly giving insight into the thinking of ancient Egyptians.

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