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Why Was the Cult of Isis So Successful Across the Roman Empire?
Isis was one of the main Egyptian gods when she appeared to be accepted in other parts of the world, including the Roman Empire. This paper investigates the reasons why the cult of Isis was so successful within the Roman Empire. According to Bogh, the Egyptian merchants, sailors, and slaves contributed to the spread of Isis in the Roman Empire.
Along with that, the interest to the Egyptian art and religion after the Roman annexation of Egypt in 31 BCE was the reason of the spread as well (Christensen et al. 234). In line with this, Isis suggested that every person has the place in the world, and this idea attracted the people opposing to the chaotic universe (Takacs 171).
Considering the factors contributed to the success of cult of Isis, “there is no doubt that some of the reasons for Isis’s widespread popularity were her power over Fortuna, her universal status, and her cosmocratic claims” (Christensen et al. 236). Nevertheless, the success among all the social classes can also be explained otherwise.
It should be noted that the Egyptian religion at that time was a combination of lots of legends and statements that sometimes were even contradictory, particularly describing Isis (Christensen et al. 236). Hence, instead of a goddess with the strict duties and characteristics, Isis appeared to be
multidimensional and to match the expectations and needs of many groups.
To sum up, there are several factors that lead to the spread of Isis’s cult in the Roman Empire. Firstly, it is a number of geographical conditions and historical events like the journeys, trading, and the annexation. Along with that, Isis’s ideas proposed the functioning and established universe contradictory to the chaos. Last but not the least, the statements about Isis were inconsistent, so everyone could interpret them in the way to satisfy the personal needs and expectations.
- Christensen, Lisbeth, Hammer, Olav, Warburton, David, editors. The Handbook of Religions in Ancient Europe. European history of religions. Durham; Bristol, CT: Acumen, 2013, 456 pages. ISBN 9781844657094.
- Takacs, Sarlota. Isis and Sarapis in the Roman World (Religions in the Graeco-Roman World). Brill Academic Pub, 1997, 235 pages.
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