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Ancient Egypt /
1. Introduction
2. Gods
3. Concepts
4. Cult
5. Cult centres
6. Necropolises
7. Structures

Detailed articleAncient Egypt

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Statuette of Isis. Neues Museum, Berlin, Germany.
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Statuette of Isis. Neues Museum, Berlin, Germany.

The Temple of Isis on Philae, Egypt.
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The Temple of Isis on Philae, Egypt.

Central and very popular goddess of Ancient Egyptian religion.
Isis was the goddess of fertility and motherhood, love and gaiety, moreover she had magical skills. She was the daughter of Geb and Nut, and both sister and wife of Osiris, and mother of Horus.
Her cult was centered to Philae (see travel pages), but her cult spread all around Egypt, even to Nubia, where several important temples were erected.
Central for the understanding of Isis' role is the story in which her husband, Osiris, is murdered. He was killed by Seth, and Isis set out to search for his corpse, finding altogether 14 pieces of him at different locations all around Egypt. She buried 13 of these pieces, except the phallus, with which she conceived Horus. By Horus, Osiris was brought back from the dead.
Horus was raised in the swamps of the Nile Delta, where he could be safe from Seth. As a grown man, he managed to defeat Seth, thereby becoming the first ruler of a united Egypt.
Isis was represented as a woman, with the sign of throne on her head. Usually she was sitting on a throne, either alone, or holding Horus, or she was kneeling in front of a coffin. Sometimes she was represented with a cow's head with the solar disc between her two horns.

Hellenistic and Roman Isis
Isis became very popular in the eastern part of the Mediterranean basin in Hellenistic time. Still Egypt, now with Alexandria as the leading city, was central in her cult, and many temples were dedicated to her. Her most popular role then was as the protector of seafarers.
Mystery cults would develop around her, and in the year 86 BCE Isis, Horus, and Serapis (who had displaced Osiris) were introduced to Rome. This tripartite cult became very popular in Rome, but came to a halt with the introduction of Christianity more than 2 centuries later. It is believed by many historians that these cults have been central in forming the Christian image of Jesu mother Mary and the Christian concept of the Trinity.

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By Tore Kjeilen