The Mystical Principle of Divine-Kingship

The Mystical Principle of Divine-Kingship

I intend to trace back in time, the evolution and development of the relationship that figures of power at the beginning of the Roman Empire, had with its own divinity, recognizing perhaps, the bond humans have, with its own sovereignty. My question resides more personally on the relationship the cult of emperors might have had with the Egyptian Goddess Isis in relation to the so-called Religionspolitik. I intend to analyze this concept, going deeply around the symbolic ideas and meanings that founded religious construction through history.
More specific, divine heritage passed through royal lineage from Ancient Egypt to The Roman Empire. Making an emphasis on the importance of the cult of Isis in this process, as the first most powerful evidence of constructing a divine lineage, through the origins of divinity itself and the construction of an ancient religion.

Professor Versluys, from the university of Leiden, mentions in the introduction of his book -power, politics and the etudes isiaques-, the lack of presence and the little importance the cults of Isis and Sarapis had, in former times, when it comes to speak about the Hellenistic and Roman religion in terms of power and politics; probably that’s why he has dedicated several books to compile from the most renown academics in the topic, extensive evidence of the conquest of Isis in specific, on Roman ideologies and hearts. “…but most often, the cult of Isis, Sarapis and their consort are absent from those discussions. Apparently they are perceived as exotic, Egyptian outsiders to a quintessentially Mediterranean Hellenistic and Roman system.”  1
In this case, my intention is to track the importance of Isis cult in their construction and understanding of the basis of the relationship between divinity and that one of being a figure of power. Where professor Versluys comments that it’s a mistake to exclude Isis cult from the discussions as in reality the Egyptian Gods played an important role in different areas, very often in relation to politics, in the Hellenistic Dynasty, other great Hellenistic powers and the Roman Emperors. The Egyptian Gods and Goddesses were often an institutionalized religious option, frequently used in the Roman and Hellenistic Religionspolitik. “…power on the one hand and cults or religion on the other are thus overlapping categories and not all mutually exclusive” Versluys says referring that they constitute a base for the construction of symbolic meaning through the categories of power and religion that sustained the Hellenistic and Roman period.

I’m my opinion, there was a point into which the Egyptian ideology and understanding of this magical process of becoming a king, was corrupted and transformed in time to a new kind.

Every foreign ruler that conquered Egypt accepted the cult of Isis, being, I would say, conquered themselves by the magic and knowledge of this land, its cults that evidently, gave them also the possibility to connect with their own divinity that was reflected on how they exercised power. Creating a religion that its main purpose was to justify their legitimacy as rulers and therefore have an official permit and right in the political exercise without any other human question. Scholars have written much in this area nowadays, I don’t intend to ignore any of it, but would be impossible for me to cover all the phases in which the cult of Isis influenced the life and outcomes in ancient times. Instead, I would like to bring up the aspect of the most used power that relates to her mythological origin, the power that resides in her own name and the one used the most afterwards by all those who claimed and worshiped her. Residing on the discourse any one and everyone holding religion and political power in their hands used this ideological, mystical religious aspect to justify personal and internal divinity in them.
We can find her in the most ancient testimonies of human civilization, in scripture and relieves on the walls of buildings that dated 5000 years ago. She appears in the first Egyptian accounts on history, from the first pharaonic dynasties in their pyramids texts. Isis was, from the very beginning, one of the primary and the oldest Goddess of the pantheon, the one from where everything becomes alive, as she is the portrayer of the ankh , the key and bearer of life.
The great God RA, her father, always sustained life of his creations by the power of this key symbol. The story tells us that she was so powerful in the arts of magic that she was able to retrieve her father’s secret name when he grew old and sick and asked for her help. Through this token of magic, she inherited the symbol of the ankh as the “life – giver” which will make her be regarded in the Greco-Roman world, as the source of all that lived, embodying the title itself: Lady of the House of Life.

  1. Power, Politics and the Etudes Isiaques. John Versluys.


R.E. Witt introduces us to the magic of her elemental religious principle, in his beautiful book –Isis in the Ancient World- “There, in the beginning was Isis. Oldest of the old, she was the Goddess from whom all Becoming arose. She was the Great Lady –Mistress of the two lands of Egypt, Mistress of Shelter, Mistress of Heaven, Mistress of the House of Life, Mistress of the Word of God. She was the Unique. In all her great and wonderful works she was a wiser magician and more excellent that any other god.” And I must say that every epithet the Goddess has is a sacred power that her divine principle creates for men to use on earth.

                                               Royal and Divine Lineage


In the most ancient iconography, Isis was represented with a royal throne over her head, as a crown,( ist, Ast). This is a hieroglyph ( asset, iset) that firstly stands for her name and the throne symbol represents the royal lineage that was only passed by the feminine line; Goddess Isis wearing this crown, shows that she is the one who gives her consort the power of royalty. And this is how usually Isis can be recognized on every relief in the most ancient temples and archaic images of Egypt, whereas in the tombs of different royal members and on the tombs of the common people as well. Her written name, in every funerary text, in pyramid texts, sarcophagus and ancient papyrus, on walls is always found with the following hieroglyphs: (   or  ), this speaks of the first characteristic contained in her name: the symbol of pure value of royalty, the bread stands for the feminine principle and the cobra for the fertile womb of a mother. Isis means “the one who has ruling power” 2 . Ancient Egyptian names are more than only indicative of identity. In ancient Egypt a name, especially for a God would be indicative of the inherit natural power they posses. The depictions (hieroglyphs) stand for concepts that sometimes only the initiates would be able to read and cosmologically understand. I want to stress that her many names stand for infinite powers limited by scholar’s descriptions. 3. When we say her name holds the power of giving royalty or life, it is not an abstract concept; it is related to the origin of the cosmos, of how the universal system was designed for them and all of us. These names could only be inherited by bloodline, by natural spiritual laws. That is why her son would be the heir of all that power and therefore the right to be a demi-God king. The Pharaoh would be representing Horus on earth. Also shown in the Pharaoh’s titular names.
Together, Isis, with her twin lover brother, king Osiris, ruled 7 thousand years, according to the lists of Manetho, as one of the firsts dynasties of Egypt. Therefore, Isis was the first Queen Goddess consort of Lord Osiris, who established the principles for a new civilization on the side of the Nile River.


                                                          Isis Mysteries

Wall relief chamber at the Temple of Seti I in Abydos, Egypt.


Isis’ mythology is delivered to us primarily in the very ancient funerary anthology of Egyptian history in the magical texts of the pyramids that date back to 2400BC. Here she appears usually as wife of the God Osiris, “King of the Dead”, (  wsir) their cult became widely spread during the First Intermediate Period. As we can notice in his name we also find the throne as well as the eye. The eye stands for the verb “to do”, meaning he is the one who created kingship. Also, the first God King on earth. He taught people Agriculture and civilization, he’s earthly aspect is to be a fertility God.
In the myth of Osiris, Isis plays the role of a loving perfect wife, protecting him of evil, faithful and caring mother of her child Horus also known as “Harpocrates” and “Horus the child” in the classical texts. She is intrinsically related to magic as she has to find extreme ways to protect her family from her husband’s twin brother, and therefor her brother too, the dread God Seth, who stands for war, evil and contrast in front of the goodness of his brother Lord Oriris. The concept of duality is always present.
Isis is the object of cults in many places in pharaonic Egypt. More usually in connection with her husband Osiris.
These principal Gods will go through changes in their iconography in time, being associated with other names and characteristics. For Example, God Osiris in Coptos, was related to the God Min, and in Hellenistic times will be known as Sarapis, which we will talk about in depth later.

 2. Vestal, virgins, sybils and Matrons: Women in Roman Religion. Sarolta A. Takács.
 3. In the Book of the Dead we can read spell no. 142, Isis multiple names: Great, Mother of the God, The Divine, Mother of Nut, Great of Magic, and Professor of Magical Protection.


During the New Kingdom, Isis was assimilated to the also motherly Goddess Hathor, as in the complexity of her mythology, appears to have her head cut off by Horus and replaced it for the Hathor’s one whose crown symbol portrays the sun disc framed between two prominent cow horns. Another image of Isis that will be represented and spread widely during the New Kingdom, is that one of her seated on a throne, breastfeeding little child Horus while being held between her arms nourished on her lap. As explained by Francesco Tiradritti, “Her role as a mother is given ample space in the Greco-Roman “Mammisi”, or birth-houses. These sanctuaries were built in the vicinity of temples, where the mystery of the divine birth of the Pharaoh, who was considered the earthly incarnation of the god Horus, was celebrated.” 4.
Being well known that each Pharaoh was closely blood related to divinity and that was not only justifying but establishing the right to be the legitimate ruler of the land. The Queen Goddess Isis gives the power of life to royalty, as Horus is the first incarnated Pharaoh, born to be king. Starting the lineage of birthright, which will be inherited by every Pharaoh to be in Egypt’s history. “Throughout the 4000 years of Egyptian history every Pharaoh was the incarnation of the youthful Horus, and therefore was the son of Isis, the Goddess Mother who had suckled and reared him.” 5.  And the mother gave the legitimization for this reincarnation. The mortal mother then, as some cases of pharaonic Queens we will talk about later, was legitimized as the daughter of Isis, daughter of Amun RA and Mut, etc. This is the key concept for the present thesis. Unraveling this model here, we understand how political power was legitimized, passed through generations, justified and embodied through Egyptian and foreign dynasties as well.
Then, Isis will become the mother of the first Pharaoh on earth, Horus, son of Gods, king of Egypt. Suggesting that the Pharaoh was a demi-God himself incarnated on earth like one time was Jesus, to fulfill a divine purpose. I understand this is a mandatory aspect for exercise royalty in Egypt, as the Pharaoh, was a direct and immediate intermediary between earth and divinity. He had access to divinity as a natural birthright. As tradition, from the beginning of times, every King that was about to inherit the crowns of Egypt, should be legitimized from this divine lineage, either by marrying a Queen daughter of Mut and Amun RA, or being himself the son of such Queen. Witt indicates that part of Isis existence, and purpose, was to protect and enthrone Pharaoh after Pharaoh “But each of them was at birth as weak as the divine child Horus and each had Isis as his mother to suckle him and afterwards enthrone him. She always protected the living Pharaoh as the embodiment of her son Horus.” 6.
When the Pharaoh ascended to the throne, he assumed 5 titular names related to Horus, RA and unification of the two lands. These titles were created with representative symbols to demonstrate the divine lineage. The  “Horus name”  was incorporated since Dynasty V, it is representative of divine kingship as the incarnation of God Horus and embodied the roles he had as an earthly human. You could see a falcon standing over a temple. The Falcon represents Horus. This God is always depicted with a Falcon’s head over his human body.  The name of “son of RA”,  is designed with a duck, meaning “son” and the circle stands for the solar deity RA. Evidently indicating the family relationship. This name links the Pharaoh directly with the creator main God, father of Nut and Geb, Isis and Osiris parents. In this way, every king is the son of RA by definition.
The other three names are the “Golden Horus” , the “lord of the two lands/ladies”  from upper and lower Egypt and the “lord of the two lands or duality”  representative of the two emblems of upper and lower Egypt.

In the Greco-Roman world Isis is represented with a knot at the front side of her dress, which is a sign for life and was used to symbolize the protection of the mother and child during childbirth. 7.  (tit) Amulets of red  bloodstone were made and placed on the deceased neck as symbol of protection. The knot is representing Isis blood, and probably with passing by the lineage through blood ties. Which will explain more after knowing the myth: Isis and Osiris myth starts in the pyramid texts and undergoes several modifications during until the New Kingdom, the last and definitive version was found in the –Great Hymn to Wsir (Osiris) Stela of Amenmose (Louvre C 286, figure 1) - which belongs to the 18th dynasty (1550-1300 BC.) making the figure of Isis greater and mentioning for the first time the posthumous conception of Horus after gathering Osiris remains when he was assassinated.

                                            Figure 1.
4. Isis, the Egyptian Goddess who Conquered Rome. Francesco Tiradritti.
5. Isis in the Ancient World. R.E. Witt.
7. Vestal Virgins, Sibyls, and Matrons. Sarolta A. Takács.

Isis’ suffering is well known through the murder of her brother/husband by hands of his evil jealous brother Seth, who cut Osiris into 14 pieces that were scattered around the ancient land of Egypt. Isis and her sister Neftys started a quest to find each piece of the dismembered body. Going through the representation of their suffering, that became a ritual for the priestesses of her later cult, the so-called Isis Lamentations, “Lady of Isis” was a traditional festival performed, according to the myth, on each district where a piece of Osiris was said to be found. From Plato we can assemble some of the characteristics of this ritual and a glance of its antiquity in which Isis and her twin sister Nephtys reenact Osiris Passion, most probable a commissioned written play by the IV Dynasty, about 2500BC. 8.  Making of each place a sacred site and an important city of Egypt.
The Goddess Isis gathered every piece together, except the phallus that was eaten by a fish in the river Nile. She proceeded then to resurrect her husband for a short period of time, in which they conceived their son Horus. This conception happened in a magical ritual where Isis transformed herself into a falcon and in a divine way, she achieved to get pregnant. (figure 2)

Figure 2

Another feature from the Mysteries of Isis, is the resurrection theme, Osiris was the first figure murdered and massacred to be resurrected by divine will or in this case, by his wife’s Magic (Heka) becoming the lord of the “underworld”.  The fact I want to point out here is that she never found the phallus, indicating us that Horus’ conception was through her magical means. Here is when Isis ribbon (tit) enhances the importance of the feminine side in the bloodline transference of the divine characteristics to the Demi-God first Pharaoh, no matter her husband had the symbol of the throne in his name as well. It is the female only capable to provide the divine right to rule through her blood. According to B. Lesko, this amulet made of red semiprecious stone, jasper was representing Isis blood directly in the form of a menstrual towel folded and soaked in the Goddess’ ancestry. Or in any case, Spell 156 in the Book of the Dead speaks about Isis’ blood, which provides the deceased with general protection. The amulet is usually found in the mummy’s wraps. Being one of the essential sacred symbols.
Part of Isis being the royalty bearer and giver, is related to her magical skills, only through divine unearthly advanced rituals, she could have had mummified with Anubis help, resurrected the body of his husband into eternal life, and therefore conceived a son without the physical means of conception. Suggesting a high divine sacred ritual in which through transformation and in other dimensions of reality that only Gods can access, this could have happen. It is highly sophisticated explanation that without a question, she has to possess secret knowledge of the universe and an infinite power and wisdom to bring a right heir king to earth. She was recognized as such great one of magic and healer, as many passages that relate her life, involve poisonous insects like scorpions and snakes that she would command as she pleased, she would also heal the ones who suffered a mortal bite from them, His son Horus was bitten by a scorpion, causing his immediate death. To which her mother, reversed the damage, curing him and resurrecting him back to life. Becoming the great sorceress to whom the art of medicine belonged.
In her non-terrestrial aspect, she was associated with Sothis, or Sirius, the Dog star (Canis Maior) and the moon. In coin representations often she is portrayed sitting on Sothis, the star symbolized the coming flood of the Nile River as it was seen rising in the morning sky when the time of the annual flood was coming.  “When the star Sothis shone bright then the new year began as the river grew big with the tears of Isis and its waters flooded the land of the Delta.” E.R. Witt Giving a great example on the importance of her Lamentations (the myth said she raised the river’s tie with her tears) to flood the river that would fertilize the land and sustained life. Coinciding with Sirius star appearing in the horizon as a divine sign of her protection and life force. As the mother she will be related to many Goddesses with similar qualities. Herodotus was the one who related her to Hellenic Demeter, as the fertility Goddess. The aretologies, originally Greek poems, enhance Isis fertility power of creation.

The myth will remain almost the same through the later Dynasties, until the Roman period and beyond. The myth was rewritten by the Greek historian, biographer, Plutarch (45 -125 AD) in the book –De Iside et Osiride- He was a priest himself in the temple of Apollo in Delphi, according to his own words, he wrote this work while being a priest in Delphes around the year 100 AD. The book was dedicated to his friend, a priestess of the Isis cult named Clea. Being this version of the myth the most reproduced and the one who had the biggest influence in the western world.
By the time when Alexander the Great conquered Egypt, divine kingship became a tradition where the God Amun RA would take the place of the king during the procreation of the successor to be Pharaoh, defining his future Godly role even before the heir to the throne was born.

 8.  Isis in the Ancient World. R.E. Witt.

-    The principle of Femininity in the role of sacred lineage:

Figure 3 Sistrum instrument and Colossal head of Goddess Mut, Cairo Museum.
The Goddess Mut, whose name means mother, was another Egyptian deity portrayed as entirely human having a very close and deep relation with the royal family of the 18th dynasty. (Sekhmet the lioness headed Goddess and Bastet the cat Goddess, where aspects of Mut) 9, all feminine Goddesses that had popularity together were in different accounts merged with the essence of Isis. In Pompeii can be seen that the cat was a sacred animal of Isis “In Greco-Roman times the functions of the cat divinity were taken over by Isis. In the temple of Edfu the mythological list explains that the soul of Isis is present as Bastet and in a well “known Greek Hymn to Isis the introductory epicleses are ‘goddess of Bubastis, bearer of the sistrum’.”  In the Iseum of Pompeii and Beneventum, the represented figure of the she-cat is frequent. And there have been found several statues of Isis holding the sistrum, (figure 3), the musical instrument that Hathor holds as well in her iconography. The cat was the representation of the Goddess Bastet before becoming a sacred animal of Isis. The lion was related to RA as it was represented in the emblem of Heliopoilis. And in the Memphis triad myth, Sekhmet the lioness warrior goddess becomes the docile cat Bastet when she gets drunk by a potion given by Thoth and his father Amun RA to calm her wilderness in the punishment of men on earth. Egyptian religion embraced the multiplicity of possibilities in different cults that raised in the diverse localities, the syncretistic merging of deities was quite common, as S. Lesko explains, the Goddess Isis became closely associated with Mut and especially with Hathor the great sky Goddess, the celestial cow that had her famous cult in Dendera; these great mothers of all that the universe embraces, were to be worshiped whose cults and functions were those that lead us no other place but to the identification with Isis. Her cult grew through pharaonic Egypt; gain strength through every Egyptian Period until the greater Hellenistic world. Being the longest enduring Egyptian Goddess. Mut, in the other hand, formed the great triad of Thebas along with Amun and Khonsu. They are portrayed in every temple that has survived until now in the Luxor area. At south Karnak, east bank of the Nile, Mut has her own precinct, as part of the building complex that forms the Karnak temple together with other 5 temples.
In an article written in The Biblical Archaeologist, Barbara S. Lesko takes a historical tour through the most beloved Queens of Egypt, from Nefertiti to Hatshepsut exploring their representations in statues and very interestingly she exposes the divine relationship of them as they usually were of “purer royal blood than her husband, whose claim to the throne she legitimized. In religious terms the Queen was the embodiment of the Goddesses Hathor (wife of RA) and Mut (wife of Amun).”   In this sense the woman, the Queen had the highest importance on the royal family. This enabled Queen Hatshepsut from the 18th dynasty, to inherit the throne as the first woman/Queen to be Pharaoh of Egypt, until then, this title was always reserved for men who, marrying the Queen could inherit the right of the divine power of kingship.
The Goddess Mut was closely related to Queen Hatshepsut who was the first one in Egyptian history, at least, in the sources found, to claim she was conceived divinely, being the daughter of Mut and Amun RA, as well as to have transgressed the gender of kingship.
S. Lesko explains how the Goddess Mut recovered strength and popularity again through the recognition of the Queen. “Hatshepsut’s mother and Hatshepsut herself share in the divinity of Mut, the mother as the earthly spouse of the God Amun-RA and Hatshepsut as divine child of a mystical union. She is the first pharaoh said to be “born of Mut and Amun””
Hatsheptut´s mother, Queen Ahmose, plays an important role here as a divine conduit for her to be of Godly nature. During the New Kingdom, they already had long time tradition on associating everyday tasks and life itself with the divine. It is a complex relationship between the earthly responsibilities and divine missions carried out by Hatshepsut’s feminine lineage. Royal women often participated in sacred colleges of priests and priestesses. Depending on the rank of the women in society, they use to develop different roles in their religious hierarchy. Queens had high sacred titles, like that of “God’s Wife of Amun” which gave them considerable authority in the cult of The King of the Gods, the position of Wife of the God Amun, held a chief role Priestess in the national cult center. Queen Ahmose-Nefertari, wife of Ahmose, founders of the 18th dynasty, took this title, traceable by scholars to the Middle Kingdom. Later the Queen conferred the title to her daughter Meritamun, and she conferred it to her daughter as well, Queen Ahmose, who is Hatshepsut’s mother. Hatshepsut inherited the title as well until she became a King.
In this way, makes more sense that during Hatshepsut’s preparation to be the next Pharaoh, the wall at her magnificent mortuary temple at Deir el Bahari, where scholars found evidence of her divine origin statement, contained the program that represented the next step of making Hatshepsut daughter of Amun. This wall painted relief was later destroyed by Tutmosis III (Hatshepsut’s nephew, her successor) when he tried to erase her presence from history, as her life obviously caused a lot of controversy and the land was left with no one else to rule but her and her little boy brother Tutmosis II. Hatshepsut ruled as King with her lover Senenmut, or at least these are the assumptions made based on some inscriptions hidden in her temple, in the more private chambers, honoring his name. He was identified with the minor and humble title “Steward of the God's Wife”, referring to Hatshepsut’s title before becoming the Pharaoh. Again, the wall document and inscriptions on the so-called Hatshepsut’s “miracle of birth” suffered a second attempt to be destroyed by Akhenaten in his campaigns to erase and attack the images of the old Gods from the temples. And that is why now; we cannot see this invaluable document anymore.

Figure 4. Reconstruction scheme on Hatshepsut’s divine birth scene. Now not visible in her mortuary temple at Deir-el-Bahari. Egypt.

Figure 5  and  Figure 6
God Khnum is modeling here the different bodies for the Queen Hatshepsut. He models in clay the physical body and the energetical body the kA in the same identic image of the body in flesh.

The relief wall was very revealing for the study of religion in ancient Egypt, (figure 4) you could see the representation of the God Amun RA with an immaterial version of Hatshepsut before being born, selecting Queen Ahmose and her husband Pharaoh Tutmosis I as her earthly parents. After the decision was taken, Amun RA comes to earth assuming the physical form of king Tutmosis I and enters Queen Ahmose’s chamber to impregnate her through his divine breath. He founds her asleep but his presence awakens her, revealing the Queen his true godly nature and that she will bear a daughter that will rule Egypt. Amun RA then visits the God Khnum and commands him to sculpt a body for Hatshepsut. In another scene, (figure 5) we could see Queen Ahmose pregnant guided by Heket and Khnum to the birth room to perform the miracle of birth. When Hastshepsut is born we could see her being suckled by Hathors (figure 6) in the physical and astral form, and finally the Goddess Safkhet documents her birth in the hall of records. “Inscriptions in the temple purport to quote Thutmose I as pronouncing his daughter his heir and asking the chief men of the realm to support her. Not content with this paternal political support, Hatshepsut also clarified her divine right to rule by recording the miracle of her birth, on the walls of the second terrace, north end, with vast and detailed scenes of her divine conception and birth”

Figure 7

Hatshepsut (figure 7) was crowned as Pharaoh with the symbol “lord of the two lands”, upper and lower Egypt. Certainly this might have influenced her to demonstrate with her claim, that she was a legitimate divine child, worth as a Pharaoh even though she was born a woman. She set the example and tradition with this important iconography in her temple’s wall, and after her divine claim, became more common to register on wall records the association of Pharaohs with their divine origin. Legitimizing the lineage aspect of the female divinity, the throne of Isis, which by nature would make them demi-Gods, incident, that indisputably represents a great political power.  

There’s a distinction I want to make before going to talk about the foreign rulers and conquerors of Egypt that adopted this tradition and assumed a Religionspolitik. For the native Egyptian rulers this ritual and worship was an integral part of their cosmogony, it was the divine rule that enabled them to live. They knew deep inside their hearts the resonance for divinity. They were responsible to embody and therefore portray it. It was an organic, original, natural consequence in their lives. That one of recognizing divinity as a birthright to them, under the sacred eyes and rules of the Gods, they were honored and divinely guided to rule under the ethics and cosmic balance of Ma’at. I’m not sure how deep the foreign rulers who adopted the convenient association with Gods understood the responsibility of embodying divinity itself to fulfill the real task of being a Pharaoh. They were kings, rulers, emperors and even bishops, popes, but not really a Pharaoh who is divine within selves as a real spiritual practice according to the spiritual and ethical of the Ma’at law.
What I can see through the explanation of the history of the Greco- Roman emperors and kings was that they adopted a foreign culture and as they were not really born into the spiritual system of Ma’at, and the Egyptian complex pantheon in which every reference stands for a specific meaning of legitimization, and mainly by their behaviors, they sort of corrupted the beautiful cycle of divinity inheritance. They manipulated the basis of the principles to convince politically, through religious concepts, with intentions to gain power, but not to live accordingly to the ethics and spiritual requirements for the role. I assume that this is how the Religionspolitk of the Greco -Roman period that Versluys mentions in his book, becomes the center of power’s discourse and attention. Another reason to adopt Isis as a guide mother on the next way of ruling the conquered places.

 Divine lineage, origins of divinity and the construction of an ancient religion:
Manetho, the Egyptian priest of Sebennytus, who wrote the history and religion of ancient Egypt in the third century BC, has been one of the main sources used for royalty chronology until now, and Egyptian history. Before hieroglyphs could be read, the evidence contained in his accounts was the main information known about the ancient times of this land. Thanks to his book the Aegyptiaca (History of Egypt), scholars have been able to reconstruct the list of royal chronology succession and length of each Pharaoh’s reign, later, when they could read the inscriptions of the hieroglyphs, they could compare and adjust this royal list of names with those found in the Turin’s papyrus and the royal cartouches at the famous wall of kings in the temple of Sety I in Abydos. In his lists, Manetho starts naming the most antique lineages of those that had a reign in Egypt. It is here where the word “Dynasty” absorbs the conceptual meaning that we understand now in historical terms: A series of sovereign princes in a given country, belonging to a specific lineage. Therefore, scholars have been able to readjust the Titanic task to establish a timeline for these 5,000 years of Egyptian history.
Referencing the original lists of Manetho, will help me to establish a very risky but important for me, theory on how the unbreakable and unconditional relationship with the Gods was inherited on the ancient land of Egypt. Academics interpret the first part of Manetho’s book, as pure mythology, disregarding any other observation. The book contains the description of the first Dynasty, a succession of names in their Greek form, with a very special origin, that ruled as kings and that we know as Gods. Manetho even made distinction among them, dividing them in a subcategory of demi gods, the ones known as “The Followers of Horus”, and even ghosts or spirits. Then after, the list mentions the duration of thousands of years for each reign and in occasions, describes the most important events in their lives:

                               “The First Dynasty of Egypt

1. Hêphaestus reigned for 727¾ years.
2. Hêlios (the Sun), son of Hêphaestus, for 80⅙ years.
3. Agathodaemôn, for 56 7/12 years.
4. Cronos, for 40½ years.
5. Osiris and Isis, for 35 years.
6. Typhon, for 29 years.


7. Ôrus, for 25 years.
8. Arês, for 23 years.
9. Anubis, for 17 years.
10. Hêraclês, for 15 years.
11. Apollô, for 25 years.
12. Ammôn, for 30 years.
13. Tithoês, for 27 years.
14. Sôsus, for 32 years.
15 Zeus, for 20 years.”

Manetho, then proceeds to describe the first dynasty with “human” kings, like Menes the first king from the second dynasty. Coming to my attention the word “human” in specific regards to the consequent list of names from now on to the end of the accounts. Which later on will be transcribed, re written and most of all, preserved by other philosophers and biographers like Flavius Josephus, the Christian chronographer Africanus and Eusebio, repeating the same nouns to describe these “mythological” (in our modern terms) and “human” rulers. Is this not strange to anyone?
The Italian traveler consul Bernardino Drovetti in the year 1820, found the Turin’s papyrus, Turin King List, also known as the Turin’s Royal Canon, in the west bank of Luxor. The document is very damaged and is kept in the Turin museum. This papyrus document starts as well, with the names of the Gods reigns on earth and finishes with Ramses II up to the second Intermediate Period (1650BC). The chorological list is written in hieratic; Composed by 11 columns preserving the names of Egyptian rulers back to the God’s Dynasty, following the divine kingdoms of Geb, Osiris, Horus, Seth and Ma’at. Includes also the duration of their reign in years and the titles of each sovereign.  

I point this out as I would like the reader to imagine there could exist some veracity of these testimonies of ancient history, at least let’s give it a second read to deepen the interpretations.
For a moment, let us think of Isis and Osiris, whose names stand on the number 5 of the first list of Gods ruling Egypt, were real physical beings, if not Gods, here on earth, and had a profound extensive high wisdom and consciousness to teach the new civilization survivors from the largest world flood, how to live on earth, by which ethical and spiritual laws they should direct an existence on this new earth, with this new civilization. If we can imagine this, then our soul can understand better the relationship divinity had with humans, and more specific those humans that were going to become Pharaohs in charge of the political, religious, spiritual, ethical, balance of a new born civilization. It was a huge responsibility that only could have been done through unconditional love. We can understand then “worship”, and most of all “respect” for everything that was respected back then, which now could be seen wrongly and offensively as superstition.
Animals were therefore sacred, plants, food, seeding, harvesting, were gifts, and every act we would do during the living hours of our lives, would be sacred, worth doing, worth of divine attention. And that would explain how every spiritual code is related to everything of the common life was in the past in Egypt. The more the time passes by, the more distanced we are from that reality, proving we are a civilization with “amnesia” as Graham Handkcock says very often in his books. We are the civilization that started to forget, generation after generation, where we came from. And that would explain the corruption of the ideology, of the spiritual meaning that ancient Egyptians had for every breath and hour of the day given to us. That’s why scholars oversee, dismiss and qualify as “mythology” what they cannot see or believe.
Imagining all this and reading through again with an open mind connected to our heart, we could then, reconsider that the old land of Khemet, (Egypt) was ruled by a Dynasty formed by real Gods and demigods. The way those ancient sources describe those Gods is like if they would be here, alive, interacting with their people, not as a mythological creation, but as the first beings that populated and lived on this grounds. Also known for teaching “humans”, how to seed, harvest, benefit from food, magic, the arts of war, and ethic, arts, building, housing, moral codes that formed a great cosmogony passed through generations, the functions of it all. Unfortunately, this happened so long ago in earthly years, that our present contemporary generations forgot thousands of years ago. The way we see those ancient classical sources, are with modern lenses, but if we can analyze mythological sources with faith, imagining at least, if not believing, that the stories are a real statement and testimonies of our physical human history and evolution of the species we are now, then, only then meanings would turn to other wider perspectives. Then symbols will become magic.  

I invite you here to interpret Manetho under a different lense, he wrote in the time of Ptolemy II, Philadelphus, in the 3rd century BC; who actually married his sister Arsinoe who was represented as Isis herself. She was a priestess of her cult as other royalty members. Evidencing here, their ideological ideas were similar to their predecessors, even though they were from Macedonian origin.
In the book of -Sothis- Manetho wrote a letter to him, as the Pharaoh wanted to know the future and who would be better to decipher it than a trained Egyptian priest?
From the Apendix I, we find the letter to the king, preserved by the Byzantine historian Georgius Syncellus:

“The letter of Manetho, the Sebennyte, to Ptolemy Philadelphus.
‘To the Great king Prolemy Philadelphus, the venerable: I Manetho, high priest
and scribe of the holy fanes of Egypt, citizen of Heliopolis but by birth a
Sebennyte, to my master Ptolemy send greeting.
‘We must make calculations concerning all the points which you may wish to examine into, to answer your questions concerning what will happen to the world. According to your commands, the sacred books, written by our father Thrice Greatest Hermas, which I study, shall be shown to you. My Lord and king, farewell.”

This translation I took from the quote referencing of Murry Hope in her book –The Sirius Connection- in reference to the theosophical scholar G.R.S. Mead. In this translation, it is expressed how there is a desire from the king to know the future, to know what will happen to the world, and how he trusts the Egyptian priest with his knowledge and studies of the past, but can he predict the future? According to Manetho, the God Thoth wrote 36,525 books of ancient wisdom (a figure identical to the number of primitive inches in the perimeter of the Great Pyramid, according to Mead in his book –Thrice Greatest Hermes-) According to Syncellus, It’s believed that Manetho wrote from inscriptions in the Sêriadic land, “traced, he says, in sacred language and holy characters by Thoth, the first Hermes, and translated after the flood… in hieroglyphic characters. When the work had been arranged by Agathodaemon, son of the second Hermes and father of Tat, in the temple-shrines of Egypt, Manetho dedicated it to the above King Ptolemy II Philadelphus in his book of Sothis, using the following words:” In this small fragment, there’s so much to analyze if we read it with the eyes I proposed previously, reading between lines, there is the suggestion that Manetho’s sources were from an unknown sacred language written by the God Thoth, who actually stands in Egypt as the creator of language itself, the one who made the hieroglyphs, associated with the Greek God Hermes, was called in the Greco-Roman world, Hermes Trismegistus, the “three times great” who knew the measurements of the universe and creation as he was the vizier and scribe of RA while he was creating the world. Manetho’s name, means “The Truth of Thoth”, making him the trustful translator of the truth of his words, suggesting that the original source of this accounts were translated to hieroglyphs after the flood, stating there was a universal flood that makes a difference between times in civilization development; then Thoth’s writings were arranged into books by another God, Agathodaemon, the third God listed on his Chronologies of the first Dynasty. This passage from Syncellus “such is his account of the translation of the books written by the second Hermes.” Suggests that Manetho’s sources were directly translated from the lost sacred books of the Gods.

This happened so long ago that we have no mean to know every and all of Manetho’s sources. His books first of all, are not complete; the holes on it are fulfilled by all of the preservers of his work that were just mentioned here. Exists the possibility that his sources disappeared in time deterioration if they were written in papyrus, or burnt at the Alexandrian library, other fires, other floods, and oral tradition that faded, or who knows. So in my opinion we should doubt as well as the interpretations that confine everything as mythological. I go into all these esoteric references to draw a line onto the ways ancient may have know, that, obviously we ignore now. In terms of understanding the reasons why foreign conquerors respected, admired and instead of imposing their conquest, they actually absorbed their knowledge into their benefit and even became their Pharaohs as well, they might have had the sacred knowledge of divine connection to be believed and followed, respected, not assassinated like in the western world, like in the Roman Empire.
Manetho establishes the God Amun RA, ruling in the place number 12 of his list, this God will be one of the most important on passing the divine lineage on earth. For the expansion of Egyptian religion, he played a protagonist role. His power was established relatively late in the XIIth Dynasty in Thebes, he had a shrine in the Oasis at the Lybian desert that was restored by Greek pilgrims and would become a very important place of visit for people who aspire great things and wanted to consult their destiny. It was the same Amun’s Oracle visited by Alexander the Great.
When Alexander the great came to Egypt in 332 BCE, visited the Oracle of Jupiter Amun in the Siwa Oasis. There the priests spoke in the name of the Oracle, indicating he had divine origin, recognizing him as Amun’s son. Rosalie Davis explains in her book -Religion and Magic in Ancient Egypt- He was accepted and crowned in Egypt as a Pharaoh, respecting the traditional believe that every Pharaoh was son of Amun RA as the God itself embodied the husband-father when the king was conceived. There is an apocryphal account of the life and exploits of Alexander the Great. It is a pseudo – historical text that had been widely copied and translated in different stages, called the Alexander Romance. Shortly after the confirmation of Alexander’s divine origin in the Siwa Oasis, by the Lybian Sybil of Zeus Amun, a rumor begun: Nectanebo II, the last native ruler of the thirtieth dynasty in ancient Egypt, ruled from 358 to 340BC, after his defeat of his last battle, instead of traveling to Nubia, he went to the court of Philip II of Macedon under the disguise of an Egyptian magician who infiltrated in the court, while king Philip II was out in campaign, he then convinced the Queen Olympias that Amun was to come to her to be the father of a Great future king, as the divine kingship tradition was told. So they conceived Alexander the Great in this union. This might be a legend only but certainly a justification for the Siwa’s priest who named Alexander son of Amun. Weather Alexander believed in his own divine origin or not, the ancient Egyptian religious faith, gave him value to accomplish his own aims. Alexander’s legitimate recognition of a divine heir would be of great assistance to his foreign successors to be accepted as Pharaohs. Alexandria was built in Egyptian style, to be a Greek city in Egyptian soil as a center of knowledge, and exchange of goods and information. Becoming the world’s trading center, and a very strong spiritual place where science, philosophy and religion could converge and expand. R. E. Witt conveys that in religious matters the Alexandrian people had a conservative point of view, it was a mixture of citizens, becoming a great cosmopolitan city in which Isis presided long before. Having profound respect for Egyptian religious matters, that had an immemorially long past combined with the natural desire to match and equalize exactly their gods with those from Greece.
One of his Macedonian soldiers, known as Ptolemy I, stayed in Alexandria establishing the Ptolemaic Dynasty in 306 BCE. The Ptolemies created a great building program, “A major temple to Isis and Sarapis was, of course, located in this new capital city…” Queen Arsinoe II married to Ptolemy II, and she was immediately associated to Isis as she married her brother, equating the parallel with Isis and Osiris, she made then, much to increase devotion towards the Goddess. “The Ptolemaic queens of Egypt were identified with the major Egyptian goddesses following an age-old Egyptian tradition”  
The Ptolemaic Queens were deified creating a cult to the royal women even during life. This opened prestigious activities and jobs for the priests and priestesses to be part of a recognized social position.  
Cleopatra VII was the most famous of the queens in Roman period, 30 BCE, she was the last cultured Queen who even knew the language of Egyptian hieroglyphs. She was associated as well with Isis. Vergil considered Cleopatra the reincarnation of Isis on earth.
Cleopatra associated with Isis, facade at the Cairo Museum, statuette and relief from Dendera temple.

The temple building called the Alexandrian Serapheum was the house for Isis and Sarapis religion. It is said that Sarapis was deliberately created by the Ptolemies theology to find acceptance abroad. First established by Ptolemy Soter, chose the oracular God Sarapis from Memphis to replace Osiris. This was a fusion between the Bull Apis at Memphis; the sacred animal son of Isis and Osiris, because of this feature the soul of Osiris was passed to his physical body. R.E. Witt says he was equated also with Zeus and Poseidon. Being worshiped in the Greco Roman world as Zeus-Sarapis, he was attributed to be a health giver, like Isis, curing the sick, taking over the role of Apollo and Asclepius. Firstly Sarapis was the combination of the physical chraracteristics of Osiris with a Greek deity, and the name might be a derivation of Osiris-Apis, as the divine twin embraced the Apis-Bull characteristics from the cult long worshiped in Memphis. The Bull after mummified he would become lord Osiris. The divine Bull was worshipped in old time offerings in the temples. From the New Kingdom on, the big bulls where buried in the hypogeum, now called Serapheum, situated in the depths of the Lybian plateau, near Memphis. Scholars determined that this sacred precinct might have been built during Ramses II reign. A house called then Osiris-Apis, was dedicated to the funerary cult of the eternal rest of the Bulls. Virgin priestess who took care of the ceremonies and belonged to the temple composed the great cult. The governmental state payed for the priestess service which wasn’t always voluntary, and only when the Bull died and therefore became Osiris, the priestesses were liberated. The God Ptah, his consort Sekhmet and Nefertum compose the triad from Memphis.  Later in time, according to Francois Daumas, is when the hidden creator God Ptah was related to the Bull. The Greek started to call it Sarapis. And later, the Ptomelies took their part in giving grandeur to the cult. They took Sarapis and created a totally new God that isn’t a bull, nor have any characteristics in his representation that could resemble the old cult to the triad of Memphis. Curiously in Rhacotis there is a sanctuary for the Apis Bull where later they would build Sarapis’ temples. (figure 8).

In the so-called Alexandrian Serapheum, Ptolemy I established a hospital where many students could learn and practice medicine. This place was the museum for many Greek philosophers to learn the mysteries of ancient Egypt.  Keeping a close relationship between knowledge and spiritual development. Many important figures through the next dynasties were initiated in the sacred practices of spirituality trying to keep alive the connection with the Gods through so many centuries. For Francois Daumas, Alexandria was never a real Egyptian city, he finds the evidence in the attitude of the Egyptian clergy when, at the time of Ptolemy III, were gaining more authority, they went to Memphis to have their assigned council instead of celebrating it in Alexandria. For the Greco-Roman world the city was known as Alexandria ad Aegyptum, which indicates it was conceived as a juxtaposition of Egypt.


Egyptian Religion presents numerous ways in which a God can be identified and relate to another. Some times could be a partial relationship depending on their essential characteristics and can be a temporary feature that depends on the locality where it was given. Erik Hornung says that Egyptians can recognize in Amun RA, Sobek RA, Knum RA, RA Harakhti, the different nature of RA. RA is all of them when it comes to show all RA’s different aspects. Hornung explains that Hans Bonnet already develop fundamental considerations on Egyptian syncretism, which means fusion, equation, identification and interestingly going beyond to conceive the concept of inhabitation in the God’s formulas. For example, “Amun-RA indicates that Amun is in RA. Not meaning that Amun has been assimilated by RA, or vice versa, neither means a separate identity. Amun is not the same as RA but RA is inside Amun in the same way that Amun is not dissolving into RA keeping his own identity. Both Gods can be separated and independent again by themselves or in other unions”. Since the old Kingdom, the sun God is high important and will be associated with many Gods and even Goddesses that will wear a crown with a solar disc. Showing that they also have RA in them keeping the full meaning of the solar identity. In this way being the son of RA, is at the same time the most superior divinity one can hold in a title. It will be equating to the highest divine principle achievable on earth. In this way we can understand a little deeper, how the Bull Apis becomes Oriris or beholds Osiris aspects within and later with Ptah. The Greeks solve it by associating groups of their own Gods by their mythological similarities, breaching the center of the cosmological order.
The Ptolemies adopted the divine royal titles of “Son of RA” equivalent to “the living image of Amun” for official documentation as an introductory formula, based on the established royal tradition of divine kingship. Adopting every aspect of the Religion and becoming God like Pharaohs. The Pharaoh would be a vessel for RA, depicting it in their names where we can see the evolution of the solar identity importance. The fundaments of the Ptolemaic Sarapis aren’t based under the ancient Egyptian syncretism, but the Hellenistic solution in the new religious ideology.

In the Hellenistic popular hymn to Isis she tells more about herself. Written in Greek she says “I have revealed to mankind mystic initiations, I have taught reverence for the Gods’ statues, I have established the gods’ temples.”
This beautiful hymn suggests that for Greco-Roman times, she was known for teaching religion and how to exercise spiritual meaning in the houses for the Gods and not only temples but on images and sculptures. For ancient Egyptian culture, the statues of a God were not merely only a statue or a portrait. It was a container in the physical world for the spirit (kA ) and direct energy of the God’s soul (bA  ) or in the funerary case, the deceased soul. That is why anthropomorphic sarcophaguses were made, for the soul of the deceased to be recognized as how they looked before dead and hence the spirit will be able to return to the body of this physical realm and embodied it again only if it recognized his own image. Egyptians took great care to represent the body of the deceased exactly as he was while he was alive, on the reliefs at their tombs, so in the afterlife they could do everything again in the same way. The portraits would have the same remarkable features as the spirit would have that memory embedded of them. Their image represented the ultimate connection between the Ba (the soul), the kA or spirit that came to a physical body on earth and the underworld of afterlife. The bA or soul, represented as a bird with human head, was a part of the soul that was separated from the body by earthly dead, flying back to the place of origin. The kA or spirit in the other hand was a double of the soul consecrated to a particular image. It was created for that specific body being born and raised with the physical body, and after dead would enjoy a magical life in the tomb or mortuary temple among the images of itself. Let’s say the spirit of that person would hover around its images as it is recognized by his double. That is why it was necessary to build mortuary temples with statues of the king and images of all his great achievement for the spirit to rejoice again eternally. The use of architecture and images has a deep meaning then, explaining why they spent all their physical lives preparing the correct place for their eternal rest.
The temple has the hieroglyph pr , which translates, to house; we could see the walls surrounding an entrance. The temple is the sacred house of the God itself cause his kA or double energetic will be inhabiting the place inside the walls of the precinct and could communicate with this world through his own self-images. There are many papyrus that document stories on which the priests could talk to the statues of certain God. Known as the talking statues. The priests back then did a complete ritual around the statue of the God of their cult and it was usually placed in the sancta sanctorum of the temple. This is the most sacred and private space of the temple in which rooms only the initiate priests in charge could come in. And only in special occasions the doors of this room could be open a little bit to let the kA of the God himself, bathe the natives searching for healing, standing in the outside middle court.

      Figure 9
Around the sanctuary was usually a hallway, and at the back wall, where would be closer to the statue’s sanctuary, would be carved on the relief a pair of ears (figure 9.) where the people could make petitions to the God without trespassing the sanctuary space. It is said that the statue was prepared days before in ceremonial typical rites, to enable the energy of the God to incarnate the stone statue, they would ointment the figure, clean the space and clear the spiritual channels for this to happen. And it is said that when it happened, for example with the Goddess Sekhmet (figure 10) that still stands in her shrine in Karnak, after 3000 years, the emanation was so strong that the public would heal any affection during the few seconds these doors were open. The locals at Sekhmet’s shrine, say that no body dared to take the original statue of the Goddess away from her place out of respect, but mainly out of fear as she is the Goddess of war, and plagues, the only one capable of ceasing them again and the “Great one of Magic” like Isis, to heal and restore physical wellness. De Gérin-Ricard says that the ancient Egyptians believed that the existence of the kA could only be through the physical body, but when this died or was destroyed it could be replaced by another similar so the kA could be transferred and find the way back to the energetical imprint of this particular existence. As the kA was the fluid form of the physical body, entwined since creation. In the birth scene of Hatshepsut’s temple, we see God Khnum modeling two identical clay figures, (figure 4) one will be the physical body and the other is the kA which will be incarnated in Queen Ahmose’s womb. In similar way he refers to the talking statues appearing on the priests’ stories, as a possibility to communicate and channel the essence of that energy principle. The kA is a type of medium for the spiritual communication, would embodied the image. In this sense, it would be understandable why Alexander the Great had to come all the way to the Siwa Oasis to get in contact with the remaining alive sanctuary of Amun, and to speak with the Oracles through the trained priests.

Figure 10

The cult of Isis conquest:

It is not easy to trace down when exactly Isis became subjected to the process of Hellenization, or to her association with the Greek Gods. Scholars have talked about Isis relationship with every Greek Goddess. Seemingly Isis is a goddess that can be so multifaceted and universal. Important point of expansion was the port at Alexandria, where commerce was so intense, boats sailed with Isis names on the prow, becoming protectress of sailors, accepted in the foreign lands where they could recognize characteristics and benevolent treats of their own Goddesses. Alexandrian faith and Isis, whose name was widely embraced in the whole world, especially in the shores of Campania and Latium, where these boats arrived, became the starting point of the religious cult spread. She was revered as the savior of the seafarer. The Alexandrian cult expanded and merged with the little Italian cults, like the Lares, blending well with the fact that they are the protectors of agriculture in Italy as Isis is for Egypt.
After Alexander the Great conquest of Egypt, Isis cult’s propagation was more intensive and covered the Eastern Mediterranean. Merchants were the instruments for propagation to the Italian peninsula. In the last moments of the Republic, the Senate expelled the cult reacting strongly against it. The expulsions took place in 58, 53 and 48BC, according to Sarolta A. Takács. The reasons as always, were political in nature. The Senate was losing power with Pompey and Caesar, so it was the way to demonstrate authority in the place where they still had some control.
Everybody can sense and see that mysticism was an integral part of Egyptian ideology / cosmogony, being very sensible to magical practices connected with a higher divine representation. In regards of the Roman population, their history, from the foundation of Rome, to their crucial religious performance to maintain the state, is closely intertwined with divine processes described in their extense mythology, preparing them for the acceptance and integration as well as transformation of their own connection with the divine. Sarolta A. Takács in -Vestal, Virgins, Sybils and Matrons- says: “although Roman religion was conservative, it had a flexibility that allowed modifications of old and the integration of new cults.” Mentioning also that the Greeks where the ones who supplied the model for the Roman religious system. Pointing that the oriental cults didn’t enter Rome when a previous decline of an old religion was happening, but that there was already a tendency to accept any religion that had elaborated rituals and mysteries that promised salvation from their sufferings in a life of miseries influencing the most unprivileged people. “Isis appealed to the depressed classes of the Roman empire, for the Goddess knew what suffering meant.” says Takács
Interestingly David Frankfurter describes how in Roman times in Egypt, was the Hellenistic influence that aided the omnipresence of the Goddess Isis, giving her also aesthetical features of the time. “The statues of Isis found at the second-century shrines of Luxor and Ras el-Soda and the Roman terra-cotta figurines found throughout Egypt all show a pronounced Hellenistic style of dress (including nudity), hair, and accouterments”  
Even more important that only reflecting an ideological tendency, the Hellenization of Isis iconography, made it accessible for the articulation of the ancient indigenous ideas. “The Hellenizing style functioned as a mode of interpretation, rendering accessible and portable those images and concepts of divine power visible on the outside of the temples”

Helenistic Isis
According to Rosalie David, Egyptians and Greek kept their beliefs and religious concept and traditions although there was hybridization of cultures. Being one of the most important cults that will continue through the Roman Empire, the cult for Sarapis. That was artificially created in an intentional attempt of Ptolemy I to unify Greek and Egyptian culture. In the need to legitimate their divine power, the Ptolemies would create the cult for the Emperor too. They adopted the role of Egyptian pharaoh, but still they were Macedonian soldiers that conquest the Mediterranean as they were foreign rulers. Ptolemy I was the one who originated the cult for Alexander the Great and he built a temple in Koptos dedicated to his son and own divinity. Ptolemy II Philadelphus established an official cult for himself and his queen - sister creating the dynastic cult pattern followed by Roman Emperors.

The most stable and credible sources tend to connect the first Serapheum with Ptolemy I as the one who built the temple dedicated to Sarapis in Alexandria, over an already existing shrine for Isis and Osiris in Rhacotis. Some scholars have marked credit to Alexander the Great for founding here at the same quarters a temple to Isis. It would be unsafe to affirm there was a pre-Ptolemaic temple of Sarapis as there is very little archeological evidence on the different stages of construction. (figure 8)
There have been inscriptions found on the time of the Ptolemies, and Tacitus have suggested that the new temple of Sarapis was made to house a statue brought from Sinope in Pontus by Ptolemy I, presumably of Pluto but later Plutarch confirms that on arrival, the God was identified as Sarapis. Certainly this place they elected for the foundations of this temple complex, might have been in ancient times a sacred place with a spiritual connection to the Goddess and her consort husband twin Osiris. According to scholars from the University of Manchester, many pharaonic objects from Dynasty XII and XXX, dating from 1960-370 BC, were found here in the vecinities of the temple complex, from buildings that have no trace that ever existed in the area.

S. Heyob wrote a book on how women were more likely inclined to follow Isis cult as they identified themselves with the sufferings and tenderness of a woman dedicated to their households and small children. She said Isis filled a gap in Greco-Roman religious ideology about the female essence and motherly care that wasn’t fulfilled. Wasn’t this the same purpose for the figure of Virgin Mary? In a time when women were not participating much in public and political matters, but in the religious rituals and household, having a protectress mother that understood their suffering and sacrifices was a soothing relief.

Isis suckling God Horus and a painting of Virgin Mary suckling baby Jesus.
She studied the phenomena amongst women exclusively in her book –The cult of Isis among Women in the Greco Roman World- trying to prove that the motherly nature of women made them more identifiable with Isis’ suffering (Isis Mourning) as well as her protector role of a chosen divine child with a special destiny, son of a God. Raising in perspective the importance of a mother figure as a basis for sustaining an empire, or even humanity. Later with Constantino’s empire, the figure of his mother Helena, very interesting character as it is not clear the level of her influence over Constantine, besides being a mother herself of a very special man with a special destiny; she became justified through sanctity. Maybe used as a political power. Making everything divine and connecting themselves as a royal family with Gods and saints, political and religious manipulation could be at ease during Christianity’s official instauration.
At the end, S. Heyob actually concluded that the Goddess cult was widely spread by merchants and soldiers covering every extract of Roman society and that women didn’t conform the majority of Isis cult’s participants. 
The archaic religious feminine has been associated with every aspect of the feminine principle, resulting in many important female Goddesses that enhanced a particular aspect. Isis absorbed vastly most of these aspects embodying one of the greatest powerful concepts of a Goddess, a divine mother, magician, healer, protectress and even erotic sensual features that we can easily find in the well preserved frescoes of Pompeii. In Roman times, and when Christianity was developing, there were many popular Goddesses like Magna matter and Cybele as well as Isis Fortuna, but there is one feature that Isis posses that makes her brighter to Imperial Roman eyes, than the others and perhaps here resides her importance and continuity in her cult’s propagation and acceptance, finally through the empire. And this is the association with power as we mentioned before, this aspect plays an important role when it comes to influence the popular imaginary.

The emperors become Gods: Royal lineage in ancient Rome:

In the temple of Hathor at Dendera, we can find a relief depicting Augustus Caesar within a group of divinities including Isis. Augustus commissioned a temple in honor of Isis around 23BC, originally located in Tuzis, later Dendur, where he will be depicted burning incense and pouring milk for God Osiris and Isis (Figure 11), dressed in the typical Egyptian clothing and garments. In this sense having the power to build a house for the manifestation of the God or Goddess, was a sign of accessibility to the deity in a higher spiritual rank. He would be among the Gods like only a Pharaoh could be, remember that the Pharaoh, before meaning “king” means the best intermediary between realms, as having divinity recognized and legitimized within himself. Being portrayed on the walls of the temples, gave the Roman emperors the final justification of their conquests in this land and as a consequence in their own countries. It was very convenient to be acquainted with such revered Gods. Demonstrating the conceptual relation between them and the program they would build and portray during their reigns. The first Roman emperors made additions in the temple of Philae too.

Figure 11. Detail of temple Dendur’s wall depicting Augustus (right) god Osiris (center) and the goddess Isis (left). Now in the Met in New York.
Of particular interest for us is the building erected by Ptolemy VII in the second century BC. Sometimes called the Mammiseum, or Mammisi is the House of incarnation, the birth-house mentioned by Tiradritti. Here, the wall depictions would reference the traditional ideas about the Divine Birth that as we know is highly important for the pharaonic succession. The Philae Mammisi is dedicated to Harpocrates, the Horus child, first Pharaoh who will inherit the reign as the first demi-God. We could see Isis, seated on throne with Horus child in arms, suckling him in the sanctuary. (figure 12) What is striking right away is the presence of two Roman emperors in the outside walls, suggesting a personal link to these native divinities (Isis and Horus). Again is Augustus offering the Goddess myrrh and Tiberius, in another scene, “presents the Divine Triad with milk and incense and makes various gifts to Isis: a collar, geese and gazalles.” according to R.E. Witt. Even more revealing, in the temple´s Abaton other situations involving Tiberius and Augustus were represented, in a moving scene Tiberius slays his enemies, prisoners of war imploring pity, all happening in front of a group of divinities, in a traditional Egyptian scene, he gives Isis gifts like a rattle, mirrors an a breast amulet. “Elsewhere a procession comes before Isis and it is Augustus ‘bringing all good things’”. The intimacy portrayed here in the most sacred spaces claims familiarity from the Roman Emperors as if they respected the cult, firstly I would have the impression, they did it to claim birth right, and dared to leave this relief as a documentation of the legitimacy achieved. But history says otherwise. R. E. Witt narrates us how in the year 43, the young Octavian together with Anthony and Lepidus wanted to gain popularity and they proclaimed that a temple for Isis and Sarapis should be built. Then fifteen years later Caesar Augustus forbid any Egyptian shrine built in the religious boundary around the city of Rome, called the “pomerium”, as this particular nucleus was considered the city of Rome itself and everything outside the circuit was the territory that belonged to Rome. Then after seven years he forbid again the cults, they were not aloud to perform them within the city circuit but in that case anywhere with no less that a mile from the city center. At the same time, as antagonistic the empire sounds, he had portrayed himself in the sacred temples of Egypt giving gifts to Isis and proclaiming himself at Philae´s temple as the Beloved of Ptah and Isis. (figure 13) This could be read as hypocrisy of the emperor’s part and as the merely use of having a powerful presence in the outskirts of their Empire. Takács remarks that the political and private interests, didn’t have to coincide in the Roman spirit, “There was no hypocrisy as long as a Roman politician advanced and secured the interests of the Roman state.”

Figure 12. The Mammisi scene of the divine birth depictions in the Central Courtyard at the Temple of Isis, Philae, Agilkia Island, Laker Nasser, Aswan, Egypt. In the Pharaoh’s cartouche is the name of Ptulmis, Ptolemy VI, Eupator.
Figure 13.
Meaning that they used the Egyptian symbols of power privately at home or could be portrayed in Egyptian temples with no worries on the corruption of the original sacred meaning.
The Roman politicians could have made a different construct of their cult by force. But they chose to be part of the symbolic meaning at these representations associated with power and religion. By following tradition in Egypt, kept the security of the land on their side. Egypt was conquered by the Roman Empire when Octavian defeated Marc Anthony and his Egyptian Queen Cleopatra VII, who sat in Isis robes in her golden throne in Alexandria; The last Queen of Egypt who demanded adoration as the “reincarnation of Isis” the legitimate Queen who will rule over Rome as well if the Augustan Principate wouldn’t have brought into being. Marc Anthony and Cleopatra VII were the personification of the antithesis of Rome’s senate principles at that period. Little was worth to Cleopatra, to inspire the troops “In vain did Cleopatra “summon her troops with the sistrum of her ancestors”
Augustus took their acts as a threat to Roman supremacy, and their liaisons as an insult to his sister Octavia who was Marc Anthony’s wife. Their religious and political ideology perished in the Actium battle in 31BC. The political strength of the Paraoh’s kingdom could never be regained nor the sacred cosmogony of the divine saga.

So if Augustus already crushed the ideological/religious meaning as well, then why to make the effort of portray himself adoring foreign Gods at all? He could have imposed his new Empire with it’s Greco-Roman Hellenistic traditions and erect a statue. Certainly he maintained Egypt’s population respect by keeping this “ways” of tradition. He went to Egypt only once; he annexed Egypt as a province of the Roman Empire becoming something he owned. Augustus was Egypt’s new religious leader; he became a Pharaoh, made additions to temples and founded the Dendur temple and another in Kalabsha in Nubia (figure 14).

Figure 14. Augustus in wall relief in Kalabsha’s temple.  Figure 15.
Aula Isiaca under the Flavian Basilica inside Augustus complex. Roman Forum, Rome.
He compromised the core of Egyptian religion with his policies; the original meaning was corrupted, but still used through Isis cult as a mean of a political new religion. Clearly it was to set into motion the ideological relation between him and Alexander the Great. Publicly he expressed an opinion about Egypt he was the one who decorated his private home with Egyptian motifs, he motivated the development of Isis and Sarapis’ cult in Rome, he brought Alexandria and Hellenistic Greece to Rome, he conquered Egypt and belonged to him now, as it was once for Alexander the Great who was the son of the God Amun. He wanted to be associated in the collective history and mind with this Godly figure being also acquainted to the Gods as part of his royal skills. But his personal opinion about Egypt is unknown. Roman’s religion was flexible, in this sense, they could have associations with different foreign Gods, and be open as heirs of Egyptian traditions. Augustus brought Egyptian obelisks as part of the program of cultural renewal, showing Rome’s superiority, as transporting such a monument requires a lot of effort and skills. He placed the obelisk in the center of Campus Martius, between his mausoleum and his peace monument the Ara Pacis, around 9BC. It was his private Horologium, the sundial placed over a vast rectangular floor area oriented north - south, paved on Travertine with bronze stripes to indicate the calendar days in Greek and the astrological signs. Integrating these monuments into the Roman landscape, later they were placed in other cities as well. The presence of Egypt was there in the public Roman world, but it belonged to a different claim of demonstrating political superiority.

“Egypt was the exotic other, a country of ancient monuments that spoke of political power beyond historically tangible times. Egypt however was also the major producer of wheat in the Mediterranean, and whoever controlled it, controlled Rome`s food supply.”

Tiberius follows a similar scheme, in terms of being portrayed as a worshiper of Isis with gazelles and geese, mirror and rattle, and in his Empire he forbid the Egyptian and Jewish rites making practitioners to burn their robes and dismiss all the religious accessories. The cult of Isis was banished from the city of Rome in 19 BC. Most probably the reason was again a political move. Germanicus threatened the emperor when he went to visit the priests in Memphis, who were instrumental in the process of electing a Pharaoh, as we know, the emperor Tiberius probably didn’t authorize such intervention as his actions could have been interpreted as an attempt of personal legitimation. Visiting the Memphis priests was seen as a step that Alexander the Great was taken before, placing himself in the Hellenistic tradition by emulating him. Seriously threatening Tiberiu’s political authority and challenging his state’s position in regards to an action taken towards royalty. Germanicus was appointed before already the emperor’s successor anyway, but he also brought instability to the political situation by his precipitous actions in Egypt when he opened the grain market, causing the dropping of prices down, many men bought them in bottom prices causing a shortage and famine in the capital of Rome. When Tiberius reacted against Isis’ cult, it was an act that targeted the main representation of Alexandria, a fast way to reassure and reassert his power. For Romans, the main cause of problems was due to inefficient moral and religious behavior that the emperor couldn’t afford to compromise his status quo and stability. And there is the scandal of Mundus and Paulina, It is said that in reaction against the cult, Tiberius threw Isis statues into the Tiber showing no mercy on the whole priesthood. Paulina was an adherent to the cult of Isis, that’s why she was convinced to meet the God Anubis and fell into the enchantment.
Astrological knowledge was seen as a threat to the empire too. As Takács explains “Astrological knowledge made public was dangerous. It could disrupt the relationship between the leader and the led, particularly when a revolt on an emperor’s dead was foretold” this could have been one of the reasons why these extreme measurements were taken. We can trace down in Suetonius’ Tiberii passage, the political tensions that started in Alexandria with the Jews, and this could be also creating a historical justification to react so hard against foreign cults by burning garments and vestments. Even though there was a difference in the measurements taken between the Egyptian and the Jewish cults, the sources detail different actions, but the idea remains, being the religion and morality the essence to restore political weakness.
- Caligula








37-41 ad.  Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus nickname: Caligula little caliga", a type of military boot) from his father's soldiers during their campaign in Germania.
Neo classical or better said neo academic Portrait of Caligula Julio Claudian dynasty, Tiberius’ successor. His reign lasted only 4 years. Although he carried economic measures and important laws. Private and public works. Official COURT art inspired as always in Augustan features.


With Gaius Caligula, his inclinations were different. He fostered the cult to the Emperor, planning to erect a colossal statue of himself in the temple of Jerusalem, that would hold the double name of Neos Gaius and Zeus Epiphanes, very likely associating the mysteries of the emperor’s deification with the Isiac royalty origin. Caligula gained fame of the rebel ruler always with the aim to upset Roman tradition, as he was the grandson of Marc Anthony, so it makes sense he would retake interest in the far land of Egypt, becoming Isis’ advocate. But if he was a devotee of Isis or not, is uncertain. Scholars tend to link him with the Isiac cult because of the time frame they date the Iseum in Campus Martius and it’s attributed to him the beautiful Aula Isiaca (30 AD) at the north corner of Augustus’ villa complex. With this vaulted hall in the domus Augustiana, the cult of Isis was legitimized within the core of Roman power. (Figure 15) The Egyptian decorative motifs used here are similar to the ones at the house called Casa della Farnesina, that scholars believe belonged to Agrippa, situating it in the time of Augustus, demonstrating the taste for the Egyptian art decorations regardless their political or personal religious reasons. This makes a clear split between the ideology and the symbolical integral meanings that were felt back in ancient Egypt. Here, the symbols can be transformed into a decorative taste without deeper concerns, severed from divinity. In Egyptian times, the motif was undivided, inseparable, it was the sacred symbol itself, used and made for a physical purpose here in direct connection to the spiritual cosmogony. Never for superficial decoration, it is said these interior designs belong to Caligula’s as it is well known, he had inclinations towards foreign cults, because of his education, an ever present Egyptian servant, he instituted initiation rites and probably introduced Rome to foreign mysteries. Since Tiberius had slashed against them according to the already mentioned sources, then the originator for Isis cult’s state recognition had to have been Caligula. Scholars agreed on his understanding of such rites, that remain a mystery for historians still, and taste for the Egyptian cult, because of hints in his behaviors narrated by Suetonius; he followed the Egyptian traditional example of marrying his own sister Drusilla and let us remember, he brought an obelisk from the Nile far land of Heliopolis to enhance the thorn decoration of his circus square in Rome, now piazza San Pietro in the Vatican City.

These are the remains of Caligula's ships, recovered in NEMI: small town in Castelli Romani. Recovery of the ships, was an incredible event, first attempt on the renaissance, but was only possible during Fascism draining the water through those pipes. Practically drying up the lake to bring the ships up on surface. Wooden remains destroyed during the second World War when the Germans bombarded the small museum where they were kept.
And not to forget Caligula’s connection with the beautiful wooden 230 feet long ship or a sort of boathouse found in the Lake Nemi, south east of Rome in the skirts of the Alban Hills, at the lake’s northern shore. During summer the full moon reflects on the Lake, and on the Tyrrhenian Sea, for this reason this lake is known as the “speculum Dianae” or mirror of Goddess Diana associated with the woods, motherhood and the moon. Her temple complex was built there around 300BC. This mysterious flare might have attracted Caligula, if the speculations are true, and he was interested in the cult of Isis, a Goddess intrinsically associated with motherhood, childbirth, and the moon. But this is not the only reference Diana’s cult had a high priest who earned his post by killing his predecessor. It is said that Caligula, as he enjoyed torture and watching executions, he revived the custom of sending a stronger man to kill the priest. Isis was closely related to the water as a protectress Goddess of sailors in the River Nile, boats were named with her epithets and this might be another link to her cult in Caligula´s joy for having constructed these boats. Suetonius says he was used to cruse along Naples coast, on board, people could bathe, dine in banquet halls, and indulge in sensorial pleasures, having flowering fruit trees on board.  These boats seem to have been luxurious palaces, as the evidence of recoveries of elaborated mosaics, in colorful detailed decorations. Boat palaces in where rituals might have happened, but there is not enough evidence of the religious nature of it all. In Italy haven’t been found any coin, any inscription no archeological piece of evidence on official recognition on Caligula’s divinity. Seemingly not much effort to be recognized as a God, or maybe it is related to his sense of humor as some scholars portrayed him. Certainly Suetonius and Dio Cassius described him wearing female robes and braids, women accessories, wigs, to impersonate different Goddesses like Venus, Juno or Diana, not only parading in costumes of Apollo, Jupiter or Dionysius. In this way we understand, that Gaius’ masquerade could be related to any religious festival with any female deity, not particularly Isis. At the end could be that the princeps, heir son of god Augustus, was an extension of the divine lineage and no body question it, making him behave in total extravagation.
But if there was a preference to Isis, the introduction of the cult must have been coinciding with the building of the temple of Isis in the Campus Martius. Finding official recognition, apparently, at the end of Caligula’s reign.  According to Takács, Gaius must have ordered the construction of the temple, simultaneously to the introduction of the cult. She says that the first time we can find the reference to this temple, was in the literary accounts of the poet Lucan. When he wrote about the funeral rites for Osiris, he mentioned the temple alluding to the dates where the rites took place in Rome, coinciding with the early part of Claudius reign.

- Claudius

Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus  One of the best first rulers of Imperial Age. 41 to 54AD. Grandson of Tiberius, trained and cultured emperor who wrote books on Etruscan history (married to an Etruscan matron) books on the dice game, on the Punic wars.
Sources say he had physical defects but political intelligence. He organized the imperial bureaucracy efficiently dividing offices by function, opened the senate to noble families of the provinces of the empire having new blood  within the ruling class. Economical and religious reforms in foreign policy, enlarged the empire with the conquest of Britain a part of now England. Claudius was poisoned by Agrippina (his niece and now wife, mother of Nero) on October 13, 54 CE


Caligula’s successor Claudius, was an intellectual, underestimated during the previous reigns, but he was educated and interested in Geek religion, exercising wide tolerance if the political situation allowed it. Scholars do not consider Claudius un-Roman. Claudius adopted Aggripina´s son Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, later the emperor Nerone, the fifth Roman emperor and the last one belonging to the Julio Claudian dynasty. Sources paint him with very bad reputation as a hated emperor but recent studies shown him as the author of a policy of reforms in relevant fields. Accusations of being responsible of the 64AD fire might be false but he took advantage for his own egoistical benefit. He killed his mother Agrippina, there are rumors he committed incest with her as the classic Oedipus Greek theater classical play by Sophocles.
Nero might have been seduced by his family’s background to consider himself a God and abuse the system for egoistical reasons. He had an Egyptian priest called Seneca, also a philosopher, who was Nero’s tutor during his young years, his advisor. Seneca wrote “de Clementia” where he celebrates Nero as the sun God. Seneca’s text indicates it was a common thing to equate Gods with emperors, seen as a normal thing around that time, following the Egyptian model of the God-king. Takács says in Rome, in the 50’s the intellectuals thought this model was comprehended and accepted as a parallel reality. Seneca was accused of taking part in a conspiracy against Nero and was forced to kill himself.
In many ways Nero precipitated the first crisis. His extravagance building an enormous home, the Domus Aurea, in the size of central Rome after the fire of 64AD that destroyed 3 districts and damaged the rest of the 11, allowed him to expropriate a vast urban area, around 80 hectares that he used to build his residential complex. Suetonius uses a satirical tone when he describes his residence was occupying whole Rome and almost Veio too. The entrance of his residential palace, where now we find Constantine’s Arch, was an impressive colossal statue of Nero represented as a GOD Helios Apollo. The sun God which will become later “sol invictus”, was a deliberate effort to keep the reminder of the divine lineage that emperors inherit. In this case, divine royalty has been passed to him without any merit and he behaved as spoiled, more human and corrupted than a God. His suicide in 68AD, left Rome in a Principate’s emergency.
Not that Nero was the first emperor to have stories about corruption and perversion narrated in classical sources, not the first accused to be incestuous or extravagant, as we know, all 5 emperors from the Julio Claudian dynasty, were very humans with a tendency to defend his authority and royalty beyond spiritual reasons. And in many accounts appeared as extremely the opposite as divine or ethical. It is a great difference to erect a colossal statue based of self-vanity to demonstrate your unilateral egoistical power and authority, than to erect a colossal statue to represent your spiritual divine origin giving benefits with your actions to the people you govern. The thing is that after studying their spiritual relationship with divinity, we see clearer a slight contrast within the Flavian dynasty’s behavior and achievements.

The Flavian Dynasty

In the records Otho appears as having open rites of Isis. According to Suetonius, this emperor who ruled very shortly, less than a year during the “four emperors year” of 69AD; celebrated ceremonies in public spaces to the Goddess, wearing the white linen robes appropriate for the ceremonies. The next emperor in line to be mentioned in sources as a visitor of Egypt, more likely, with political reasons of his own, was Vespasian, the founder of the Flavian dynasty that would rule the Empire for 27 years. Suetonius describes that Vespasian went to Egypt to “obtain possession of the key of Egypt” (745) and basically in Tacitus the passage is quite similar, taking the parallel resemblances from Alexander the Great’s story on his visit to the Siwa Oasis Oracle. Scholars observe that Vespasian and his son Titus have had imitated Alexander the Great before their reign. According to the classical sources, Vespasian entered alone to the temple of Sarapis, like Alexander the Great did when he entered the Siwa Oasis Oracle, leaving outside every companion. Part of the mystical tradition of the Egyptian Deity’s statues, was that only the initiates or the priests of the cult, could enter the chamber and face the effigy. Common people were staying in the courtyards of the temple, unless, the person was fated to be a Pharaoh, could enter the shrine as well. But at the time of Vespasian’s visit, Sarapis shrine, might have probably be open for every follower. It was already a Ptolemaic creation for the Greeks and the Egyptians to worship. In Suetonius’ narration, Vespasian gave his offerings to the colossal statue of the God, and when he turned around he saw the Egyptian priest named Basilides who offered him “Sacred leaves, Chaplets and cakes” in accordance to the offering tradition in Egyptian religion, the mentioned gifts are sacred representative symbols of the double crown of upper and lower Egypt, as well as items for preparing the emperor for consulting the Oracle. According to Suetonius, the priest Basilides was hurt on one leg and couldn’t have had entered the temple by himself and at the time was supposed to be far away from the precinct. Details that accentuate the suggestion of a fated miracle: the Gods selected Vespasian as the next Pharaoh. Claiming the divine right in Egypt first. Suetonius immediately after stated that in that moment when Vespasian received the divine approval, he then acknowledged the news of the dead and fall of Vitellius in Cremona, his only opponent now to the Roman throne. This miracle made him also rise suddenly as emperor of Rome. As the Hellenistic tradition of divine kingship instaurated by Alexander the Great 400 years before, Vespasian went to consult the high priests of Sarapis to secure Roman troops in Egypt. He was proclaimed emperor at Alexandria in July of the year of 69AD by the Roman troops of Egypt, thanks to Tiberius Iulius Alexander, a Jewish general of the Roman Empire, Prefect of Egypt at the time. Vespasian wouldn’t be recognized as emperor by the Senate in Rome after Vitellius was killed in December same year. And he was in Judea, then went to Syria and then Egypt where he received Vitellius news. Alexandrian people recognized him as “son of RA” and honored him with the traditional titles. According to Albert Henrichs, Basilides could have been presented as a vision or a dream after spending a night in the temple. This “incubation” was a common practice at the time, receiving a dream was equated to the God Sarapis’ visit, approving the dreamer, in the name of the God Sarapis, as a Pharaoh. This symbolical dream was a common type in antiquity, which needed the interpretation of the precinct high priest. In popular tradition, Alexander the Great had the visit of Sarapis in a dream.


Titus Flavius Vespasianus- VESPASIAN Flavii dynasty. 69-79AD. The year of the four emperors: GALBA, OTHO (Otone), Vitellio and Vespasiano. He comes from Judea. Equestrian background. From the family of the equites=the knights originally from Sabina. Great commander of the Roman army. Reaffirms the primacy of the west taking up the policy of Augustus.  Introduces knights to the senate, transforming it. He makes his son Titus the prefect of the preatorian guard.
He gave the army more power by the LEX DE IMPERIO, legal basis of imperial power over judiciary. Power to those with enough strength (armed) to impose. Increasing the role of the army and taking power off from the senate. He recovered economically by a series of reforms to promote economic and social development. He conquered Jerusalem.
Taken on a sudden with such an attack of diarrhoea that he all but swooned, he said: "An emperor ought to die standing," and while he was struggling to get on his feet, he died in the arms of those who tried to help him, on the ninth day before the Kalends of July [June 23], at the age of sixty-nine years, seven months and seven days.
— Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, "Life of Vespasian"

Sources testify that Vespasian was called to perform healing miracles in the name of Sarapis when he was in Alexandria. Suetonius mentions two sick men that saw Sarapis revealed in a dream, who asked them to go visit the new Pharaoh, to be healed by his godly powers. Apparently this was the ultimate proof of Vespasian’s legitimate divinity. According to Suetonius, Vespasian indeed healed the two men, one was blind, recovering his sight with the emperor’s spit and the other one had a bad hand giving it strength by stepping his foot on it. “Vespasian did as he had been asked and won a reputation as a wonder-worker which according to one of the two sources, the Alexandrians much resented”  We also find in Tacitus, when describing Vespasian’s relationship with divinity, a series of omens or predictions in which he would be destined to become an emperor due to have been selected by the Gods. Marking Vespasian’s relationship with divinity in a complex way. Throughout his reign, he maintained a strong connection to the gods and goddesses of the Roman pantheon, and we see, he was often portrayed as a divine figure himself with a divine background. The nature of Vespasian's relationship with divinity and its significance in the context of Roman history has been legitimated by Egyptian traditions of “divine-kingship”. But of course, the importance of the Egyptian grain harvest to Rome was something that helped Vespasian to assert control over the Empire. Vespasian and Titus the eldest of his two sons, who will succeed him shortly, went to take a prominent part in the consecration of the Apis-Bull rite in Memphis, both having a first hand experience of the procedure of the ancient cult ceremony.

- Titus

Titus Caesar Vespasianus His reign is short (79-81AD) he finalizes and inaugurates the Flavian Amphitheatre that his father started. Historians reviewed him positively as he was moderate attitude with the senate.DRUING HIS REIGN: epidemic, a fire and the eruption of the Vesuvius that buried Pompeii, Heculaneum and Stabia. He conquered the Jews with his father. He was very popular.
Philostratus wrote that he was poisoned by Domitian with a sea hare (Aplysia depilans) and that his death had been foretold to him by Apollonius of Tyana. Suetonius and Cassius Dio maintain that he died of natural causes, but both accuse Domitian of having left the ailing Titus for dead.
Suetonius says on Titus “on his way to Alexandria, he wore a diadem at the consecration of the ox Apis at Memphis; and, though he did it only in compliance with an ancient religious usage of the country, yet there was some who put a bad construction upon it”. (781)
Alexander the Great also visited Memphis, popular tradition maintains that Alexander was enthroned as king of Egypt in the temple of Ptah in Memphis, near to the temple of the bull Apis.
We could say Vespasian didn’t have the intention to be portrayed as a God or anything similar, due to the descriptions of his character, and his most famous phrase when he was dying “Dear me, I fancy I’m turning into a god” referring to the emperor’s cult posthumous deification. But he certainly played along the meaning of the embodiment of Horus, of all the received titles, for political purposes. When he achieved his military victory in Judea, he put down a Jewish revolt and captured the city of Jerusalem, Vespasian was hailed as a hero and a savior, and he was given the title of "Imperator" by his troops. This title was traditionally bestowed upon a victorious Roman general, but it also had religious connotations. The Imperator was seen as a divine figure that had been chosen by the gods to lead the Roman army to victory. More important is to mention that he spent the night in the Iseum together with Titus, before his victories indicating the mark of the strong link between the Empire and the Isiac cult in Rome. This temple in Campus Martius has protected and sheltered the future emperors on the night of their return to Rome. This Dynasty remained attached to Isis and Sarapis as the deities served the Flavian family since their place of Origin and stayed integral to Vespasian’s rise. This service linked the Dynasty with Alexander the Great myth and power playing it’s propagandistic role as the worthiest successors. “Whoever came to Egypt, especially to Alexandria, on the way to or in the process of claiming the highest possible political position available to an individual, would place himself in the tradition of the mythological Alexander.”

- Domitian

Titus Flavius Domitianus (birth) Caesar Domitianus 81-96AD  Inspired by monarchs of the Hellenistic tradition, sets an autocratic and demagogic policy approved by plebs and army but not so much by the nobility. He carries military campaigns against Germany and Balkans and to finance them he confiscated assets which was seen as imperial terrorism, provoking conspiracies against him being assassinated in 96AD. As in Augustus days, intelelctuals were involved in ideological propaganda programs of power. Domitian composes poems of historical subjects before becoming an emperor. The Flavii dynasty materialized their cultural policies with the institution of the Albani and Capitoline games: poetic, musical, sporting competitions of all kind, associated with the Tirad cult to see the emperor as divine too. Controling the culture by central political power to crush any ideological opposition: poetic production praising the sovereign mostly. BUREUCHRATIZATION OF INTELLECTUALS rethoric over philosophy= danger of freedom. Ideal of libertas replaced by ideas of service to emperor. TACITUS said: He censored the writers burning books and killing authors. Domitian was assassinated on 18 September 96 in a conspiracy by court officials.

Titus’ younger brother Domitian succeeded him, his reign stand out as another example of personal extravagance and abuse of power. Domitian ruled from 81 AD to 96 AD. He was known for his authoritarian rule, building programs, and military campaigns. As for his relationship with the goddess Isis, there is not much historical evidence to suggest that Domitian had a particular fascination with or devotion to the goddess Isis. Anyway, there are many scholars supporting the theory that he was indeed truly Isiac. (we will analyze this further). He particularly promoted the cult to his father and brother as an attempt to equate his own dynasty to the Judeo-Claudian dynasty and to portray himself as a natural heir of the divine kingship, even though he did it with no clear intention to equate himself with any particular God. The worship of the emperor’s genius was in place since Augustus, so his efforts might have been into promote it as some scholars point out. But more importantly, Domitian seemed to scholars, more focused on legitimizing his own right to rule the empire. Takács, on the contrary, states that he wasn’t interested in divinity as a final objective but this was a secondary “convenient by-product”. Domitian construction and renovation building program, followed a specific intention to deified his ancestors, according to scholars, there’s not enough conclusive evidence to suggest that he had a special relationship with the Goddess Isis or her cult. But by doing so, he payed respects to his father Vespasian to whom he owned his victories to Isis and Sarapis. Stefan Pfeiffer explicitly analyzes the archeological evidence in regards the Iseum Campense and the Iseum in Beneventum, both temples attributed to Domitian’s reign, to conclude that Egypt and Egyptian cults played no important role in Domitian’s self-presentation and that “Domitian attached his own victoriousness to that of Vespasian by means of Minerva and the Dacian and German victories”. Domitian has an arch built as part of the renovation of the Iseum in Campus Martius, which was depicted in the Alexandrian coins issued during his reign. Saolta Takács also mentions Domitian intention to only evolve the power’s display of the Domus Flavia to a Domus Divina.
The Egyptian evidence reported in the classical literary sources might have the influence of fiction based on Vespasian’s employment of Sarapis and to point out Domitian’s extensive public works program. “Domitian particularly promoted the cult of the Flavian gens. It should not only be seen as the princeps’ attempt to promote his own divinity but also as a final and comprehensive attempt to put the second dynasty on an equal footing with the Julio-Claudian house.”
For Suetonius Domitian was “Isiac” as he tried to flee dressed specifically in a priestess’ linen robe used by the cult’s participants. Takács points out that on this day there was no Isiac festival assigned for December 19, when this happened. But the Romans celebrated Opalia on this particular date. Another deity equated to Isis, based on the Greek model of Saturn’s wife. This summed to the restoration and construction of the temples dedicated to Isis, make scholars speculate on his connection to the Isiac cult. Stefan Pfeiffer disagrees completely building a strong argument against Domitian having a close relationship with the Egyptian cults, only by the fact that he rebuilt the Iseum Campense after the great fire of Rome in 80AD. Which is the strongest argument for those who like to attach Domitian to the Isiac religion. Scholars have also the obelisks with the inscriptions to support the cultic reference in Domitian. He had raised an obelisk in the temple to commemorate the refurbishing and restoration, on one side we can see Isis crowning Domitian with the hieroglyphic text according to Takács: “The autocrator loved by Isis and Ptah: may he live like Re”. The author points out stressing enough an intriguing action by Isis, setting the example of a temple gate in Kalabasha (figure 17) where Augustus is portrayed as the Pharaoh, “He is the one giving” Augustus symbolically gives the land of Nubia to Isis instead of pleading to the Gods, he is the one giving to the deities and not the other way around like ancient traditional interactions.

Figure 17.  Temple’s gate at Kalabsha in Nubia, representing Augustus offering land to Isis.


The cartouche names indicates that Augustus is “The Roman and Caesar the God, son of a God” emphasizing his malleable campaign and approval of Egypt to rule. He holds in his hands the hieroglyphs for land three times. The so called obelisk Pamphili, that probably belonged to the Iseum Campense, shows Domitian as a Pharaoh, but that doesn’t mean he deliberately wanted to be regarded as Pharaoh.
The temple of Isis built in Beneventum 88/89AD, during Domitian’s reign, was dedicated to Domitian’s victories over the Dacians and Chatti. There’s no much evidence or context for this temple as there are no remains of it. And the evidence of it is described in hieroglyphs in the remnant obelisk inscription:
“To Great Isis, mother of the God, Sothis, Ruler of the gods, Lord of heaven and earth and the underworld. The legate of the Augustus with the beautiful name of the immortal Domitian, Rutilius Lupus erected for her and the gods of his city of Beneventum, this obelisk, that long life in happiness may be granted him.

And face III reads:

In the eighth year of Horus: Strong Bull; King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Lord of the Two Lands: son of the God, whom all the gods love; Son of Re, Lord of diadems; Domitianus, the immortal, a noble temple was built for Great Isis, Lady of Beneventum, and her Ennead, by Rutilus Lupus, legate of the Augustus”.

With these inscriptions we can be sure there was a building dedicated to Isis in Beneventum, built here by a wealthy Roman citizen named Rutilus Lupus, who probably wanted to gain notice and favor of the emperor and enhance his state land status. Scholars use the fact of Beneventum being the place where Domitian met his father Vespasian on his way back to Rome to take the title when he was proclaimed emperor, as a reason for him to have chosen this place to build a temple to the deity that made his family’s victory possible. Implies that by doing so, He was enhancing the official character of meeting his father when his triumph was about to start. Establishing a parallel for when Augustus returned from Spain and Gaul, this Hellenistic ritual was called apantesis, narrated by Josephus in regards to the population of the city who would come out beyond the bastions to receive the triumphant King returning in glory. “Domitian intended to allude to the ceremony of ire obviam recalled in the Res gestae, so invoking the honor ‘never before granted to others’ of Augustan memory. We could therefore interpret this dedication in Beneventum as representing Domitian’s purpose of perpetuating the memory of that ‘triumphal arrival’, and thus also accomplishing for this same purpose the celebration of the dynasty that was a fundamental necessity for him”.

Figure 18. Statue of Domitian as Pharaoh. Benevento,Museo del Sannio, inv. 1903

Pfeiffer enlists the scholar’s arguments into 6 main points that evidence Domitian’s Isis adhesion. Those points are addressed by Pfeiffer to interpret them from an opposite point of view to demonstrate that we can’t really be sure of his adhesion to Isis or his motives: 1- The Egyptianized elements found in the domus Flavia that could have had belonged to Domitian’s palace, that could have been used as the decorative elements that were used in Augustus’ Villa. 2- the desire to be venerated as dominus et deus as a reason to adopt the -divine birth kinship- costumes from ancient Egypt. The emperor was only called dominus et deus in literary sources like poems by Statius and Martial. But there’s no archeological evidence he wanted to be assumed as a God, and in that case he doesn’t need to go so back in time, he could appeal to the Hellenistic ruler cult. 3- the attributed building program in Egypt’s important religious sites like Karnak, Kom Ombo and Hermopolis, because his name appears in certain parts of the temple. But that doesn’t mean he had the initiative to build or decorate them. The custom at the time is to name the current ruler in motion for when the works were made as means of recognition, veneration and respect to the king. 4- Domitian disguised himself as an Isis priest to escape the siege of the Capitolium. Suetonius mentions it equalizing Minerva with Isis. 5- Domitian built the Iseum in Beneventum because he met his father in this location from his return to Rome assuming he built the temple himself. But the inscriptions are only evidence of being built at his time. And finally 6- Domitian restored the Iseum Campense contextualizing it with his Diuorum, temple dedicated to Vespasian and Titus together with the temple of Minerva Chalcidica. Being himself represented as Pharaoh with his statues. Like the one found in Beneventum, which for Pfeiffer has no sufficient quality for Domitian to have had been happy about it.  (figure 18)

According to Takács, Domitian wasn’t killed because he has “styled himself dominus et deus” ten years before. It was more an internal conflict with the Senate. Domitian suppressed the senate causing instability and struggle between the princeps and the senate who acclaimed Nerva as the next emperor, he was old so soon the titles of princeps optimus and the God Jupiter who was the main God in Rome, were gladly accepted by M. Ulpius Traianus 98AD. Trajan also admired Alexander the Great, which made him to adopt the names with invictus and uictor as part of the emperor’s persona. Not much known of an Egyptian connection with Trajan.

The truth is that the divine connection with divinity as regarded at the beginning of times, was long time transformed and probably the original terms forgotten. Perhaps the last Emperor who seems to have had a real deep interest for Egyptian and Greek culture was Hadrian. Proclaimed emperor in August of 117AD. Who strengthen imperial power returning to the age of the Flavian’s status quo.  Hadrian traveled through all Roman provinces in 130AD. He admired the intellectual artistic past of the cultural center that Alexandria as a bridge and guardian of the knowledge of the past. Expressing Alexandria’s full importance and magnificence in the construction of his own Villa in Tibur. Hadrian and his wife visited Egypt during their grand tour of Roman provinces. Hadrian’s visit to Egypt was recorded for history on the Memnon colossus, that until nowadays we can see an inscription carved on the left leg of one of the statues. The poetess, Julia Balbilla, one of the few female writers known from the Roman Imperial elite, granddaughter of the last king of Syria Commagene, carved four poems, 54 lines, written in her dialect Aeolic, Greek elegiac verse, commemorating the emperor’s visit. (figure 19).
At this time the Memnon colossus were a popular site attracting visitors.

Figure 19.

Greek Verse Inscriptions in Roman Egypt: Julia Balbilla's

Sapphic Voice. Patricia Rosenmeyer. Classical Antiquity,
Vol. 27, No. 2 (October 2008), pp. 334-358.

These massive colossal statues represent the Pharaoh Amenhotep III, and are placed outside his mortuary temple ruins in Thebes, west bank. It is the largest temple in the necropolis and the statues stand since 1350 BC. (figure 20)

The statues became very famous a century before Balbilla’s visit, when in an earthquake the head of one of the colossus fell down entirely and a strange sound remain in the statues base. According to Strabo who visited the statues in the 24BC, just two years after the earthquake, the sound resembled a high note of a lyre (kithara) with a broken string. The noises could be heard especially at dawn, and locals believed this was the voice of Memnon who as the son of Eros was related to dawn. Hearing his voice was interpreted as a miracle, as a sign of great favor from the Gods. Scholars believe that the noise was produced due to temperature changes in the stone when the sun went down. The statues sang for Hadrian and his wife according to one of the inscriptions recorded.

Figure 20.

“Sabina Augusta,
wife of the emperor Caesar
Hadrian, heard Memnon
Twice within the hour…”

His lover Antinous drawn in the Nile and he deified him as a product of Hellenistic ways of thinking, but not as a real belief of the link between Gods and royal heirs anymore. According to Takàcs his interests could become trends and fashion, as he was the emperor, important public influential figure. So his interests for far Egypt became Egyptianizing fashion. The renovation of the Serapheum of Alexandria was one of the many Imperial restoration projects of cultural important sites but not inspired by religious devotion. “…his was an intellectual and not a religious curiosity”. The coin representation of Isis on Sothis issued at the end of his reign was a depiction of the Ptolemaic tradition, but not the evidence of the two, Hadrian as Sarapis and Sabina as Isis, represented as cult initiates. In the coin’s composition we can see the cosmic astrological relevance of Isis and the decoration of an Iseum’s frieze, reflecting Hadrian’s cultural interests and a simply Ptolemaic form of Imperial worship. Hadrian was a beloved emperor who achieved political success in province and in administration of the empire. His successor, Antoninus Pius didn’t show the same cultural interests but there was a coin issued to commemorate his deified wife Faustina, showing the figure of Isis as a normalized representation outside of her original ancient context. We can see Isis and Sarapis represented in coins as well in Marcus Aurelius and Commodus reigns. From here on, the emperors were sometimes portrayed with the statue of Sarapis of Alexandria as heritage of the ideology and Hellenistic ways of worship and cult to the emperor. But their devotion won’t go to recover the ancient roots of the relationship with divinity.

 -    Conclusion

In the early Archaic Egyptian state, when religious foundations were made for future development, Egyptian kingship was constructed to sustain the cosmos as well as human beings. Without this balance, the existence of everything would disintegrate. “As early as the Archaic Period, the king was regarded as an absolute monarch, who, as “god on earth”, was considered to be the embodiment of whichever royal state-god was supreme at any one period. The Gods chose the king to act on their behalf, but he was not only a mediator between gods and mankind; he was himself divine, although he was never the equal of the gods and always retained many human characteristics.” In reference to “human characteristics” it is logical that were also part of being divine intermediaries, not to abused the actions of the government into egoistical benefits. Ancient Egyptians lived according to ethical and divine moral balance represented as Ma’at or the meaning “divine order” which was a Goddess represented with a bird’s feather on her crown over her head, usually also represented with two giant protective wings. Ma’at is the Goddess name, but the concept that Ma’at represents is very important to understand ancient Egyptian mindset. She is the personification of the world order. Considered the daughter of the creator RA. It embodies the divine principle of justice and balance in which the universe can function. It is a natural law that when it is broken or corrupted, the reality can’t be sustained. The Pharaoh was the protector of this law, and he would be confronted to it during his passage to the other life in the moment of dead. In Abu Simbel’s temple, a twin sacred temple complex dedicated to Pharaoh Great Ramses II and his beloved wife Queen Nefertari, (Figure 21) we see four colossal statues representing the Pharaoh flanking the entrance to a marvelous hallway in which we see the hypostyle hall, with 18 meters depth and 16.7 meters wide, housing eight massive Osirid pillars supporting the whole structure carved into the mountain being a master piece already in engineering.

The Osirid pillars portray Ramses II already justified as the God Osiris. Meaning his soul already passed trough the justice balance hall ritual in which his heart would be weight against the feather of Ma’at. In this ritual the deceased has to be confronted with his heart, and be evaluated by the Gods. If it held heaviness caused by his own actions during life, his eternal life would be in danger. The result would determine if he could continue his passage to the other world or if his soul would be devoured by a hybrid entity and disappear eternally, which by all means would be the worst punishment for corrupting Ma’at’s order. When the Pharaoh’s heart was light as the feather of Ma’at he would be identified and therefor deified with the God Osiris who will accept him in his realm for eternal life.

Ramses II’s representations as Osiris (figure 22) means he already was judged and lighthearted and his funerary temple could be fulfilled with statues of him for the return of his divine kA. Where people could bring offerings and connect with his presence. The concepts here clearly depict an extreme difference with the way royal lineage has been interpreted and used by the Imperial Rome. The cult of an emperor greatly differs from the central meaning of the principle and objective of deification. Used, in the later case, to expose the most shallow and artificial construction of the self, only to brag about their family’s achievements and possessions. Surely the empire was constructed by several powerful men, compiling conquered lands, people, richness and therefore supremacy to rule over, erect colossal statues, build temples and propagandistic programs in the form of huge sculptures and inscriptions to keep convincing the people about their lineage regardless the way divine meaning was assembled. Surely it is of great importance for history to have all the temple records and archeological evidence from the Roman emperors, no doubt their achievements were huge and expansive.
In ancient Egypt, deification of a king was a natural way of the cycle of life returning to its divine origin after dead. It was evidencing the order of Ma’at and the laws of the universe when the Pharaoh had the honor to be justified by his own voice, through his heart in the hall of Ma’at and therefore became resurrected within Osiris in the perpetual life after the earthly one. During their lives their actions were permeated according to these ethics and laws only to be honored by the Gods as part of their return to divinity. They clearly understood this life was a short step to something greater in complete balance in the next life. Emperors worked to have a place in history in this life and for the memory of this world. Being regarded as divine served a distinction and lifestyle here, but they didn’t care of the aftermath of dead. The meaning behind their actions differs in the spiritual religious purpose. We cannot know what they believed or thought, we can only analyze the evidence reflected on the history they carved and left for us to interpret which points to the transformation of the concepts of divine kingship and its uses. In regards to Isis, Roman matrons used to make a full difficult pilgrimage to the island of Philae to visit her shrine, and bring water from the Nile, that is how profound the devotion to Isis was, she was believed to intervene destiny of the living and was a cure to every area in which a human can feel powerless in the natural immensity of life and nature phenomena. As it has been expressed for history in her Aretalogy, longer known than her hymn at Philae, remaining the biggest literary piece associated to her:

Isis Temple in the island of Philae in Aswan.

“I am Isis, ruler of every land
I was taught by Hermes (Thoth), and with Hermes devised
Letters, both hieroglyphic and demotic, that all might not
      be written with the same.
I gave laws, to mankind and ordained what no one can
I a the eldest daughter of Kronos
I am the wife and sister of King Osiris
I am the one who discovered wheat for mankind
I am the mother of King Horus
I am the one who rises in the Dog-star
I am the one called Goddess by women
For me was built the city of Bubastis
I separated the earth from the Heaven
I showed the paths of the stars
I regulated the course of the sun and the moon
I devised the activities of seamanship
I made what is right strong
I brought together woman and man
I assigned to women to bring into light of day their infants
      in the tenth month
I ordained that parents should be loved by children
I imposed punishment upon those unkindly disposed
      toward their parents
I with my brother Osiris put an end to cannibalism
I taught men the initiation into mysteries
I instructed them to revere images of the gods
I established the sacred cult places for the gods
I abolish the rules of the tyrants
I put an end to murders
I compelled women to be loved by men
I made the right stronger than gold and silver
I ordained that the truth should be considered good
I devised marriage contracts
I assigned to Greeks and barbarians their languages
I made the good and the bad to be distinguished by nature
I made that nothing should be more fearful than an oath
I have delivered him who unjustly plots against others into
      the hands of the one against whom he plotted
I impose retribution upon those who do injustice
I decreed that mercy be shown to suppliants
I honor those who justly defend themselves
With me the right has power
I am the mistress of rivers and winds and sea
No one is honored without my consent
I am the Mistress of War
I am the mistress of the thunderbolt
I calm the sea and make it surge
I am in the rays of the sun
I attend the sun in its journey
What I decree, that is also accomplished
All yield to me
I set free those who are in bonds
I am the Mistress of seamanship
I make the navigable un-navigable, whenever I so decide
I founded enclosure walls of the cities
I am called the Lawgiver
I brought up islands out of the depths into the light
I am the Mistress of rain
I conquer Destiny
Destiny obeys me
Hail, O Egypt, that nourished me!”




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