She Had a Nice Pair of Sistrums But Couldn’t Stop Vesuvius

My favorite architectural wonder excavated almost intact amid the ghostly ruins of the city of Pompeii is not dedicated to an emperor or to one of the Roman state divinities. Au contraire, it is the absolutely gorgeous little temple precinct dedicated to the mysterious Egyptian goddess, Isis, whose worship became a “global” crossover hit, of sorts, in Ancient Greek and Roman times. The goddess of magic, motherhood, and erotic love was ferociously syncretistic and her promise of a “life after death” experience held great appeal across a vast empire mired in a combination of cultural excess and constant instability. Far more exotic than the stodgy Juno and Jupiter, Isis added a bit of razzle-dazzle to the Mediterranean religious landscape and, in relatively short shrift, she became more popular than the establishment deities and certainly gave budding Christianity a run for its money in the first few centuries of the Common Era. Outside her native Egypt, temples to Isis have been found everywhere from London, England to Portugal to Afghanistan to Spain to Hungary to Germany, etc. Her most beguiling shrine to survive the ages, however, is found in Pompeii. Ironically, we have the destruction of Vesuvius to thank for this darling little temple’s superb state of preservation. Follow the link above to have a gander at the living quarters of a goddess who always wore her traveling shoes.


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