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date: 27 November 2022



  • Richard Gordon


Isis (Egyptian s or st, Gk. ῏Ισις, Εἶσις), ‘mistress of the house of life’, whose creative and nurturing functions made her the most popular divinity of the Late period in the Egyptian *Fayûm and delta. As such she absorbed, or was equated with, many other divinities, acquiring a universal character expressed in Gk. as μυριώνυμος, ‘invoked by innumerable names’ (Plut. De Is. et Os. 53, 372f; cf. Apul. Met. 11. 5, comm. J. G. Griffiths (1975)). The hieroglyphic form of her name, whose meaning is disputed, connects her with the royal throne and with *Osiris: his centre at Busiris was close to hers in the twelfth nome (see nomos(1)). A connected narrative of her myth appears late, doubtless under Greek influence (Diod. Sic. 1. 13–27; Plut. De Is. et Os. 12–19, 355d–358d). In the Egyptian versions, the myth generally begins with Set's murder of her brother and husband, Osiris, whom she and her sister Nephthys revive by mourning. Impregnated by Osiris after his resurrection, Isis gives birth to *Horus, who, after ‘redeeming his father’, ascends his throne, and later attacks and rapes, even beheads, Isis.


  • Near East
  • Roman Myth and Religion

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