Temple of Isis (Pompeii)

Temple of Isis Pompeii


Location: Regio VIII


Temple of Isis Pompeii Temple of Isis Pompeii

Temple of Isis PompeiiTemple of Isis is a modest sanctuary in the centre of the ancient Pompeii. Judging by inscriptions found on stones and artifacts it was dedicated to goddess Isis. Goddess Isis was originally an Egyptian deity associated with the cult of prosperity and fertility. However as Egypt became a Roman province many of the foreign gods were transported to the mainland Italy, including Pompeii.


Temple of Isis was just one of the examples of multicultural nature of this metropolis. However one should not forget that this relative tolerance came with a price. Gods of the defeated nations could not be worshipped without respect of the native Roman gods. As long as you paid your homage to the Roman gods you could worship anyone you wanted to. If you refused to follow the official pantheon of gods you could be killed as the enemy of the state. For example, this happened to thousands of Christians in the first few centuries from the birth of Christ.


Temple of Isis Pompeii  Temple of Isis Pompeii

The temple of Isis or Isis was built by the people of Egypt in the second century BC. that is, before Egypt was conquered by the Romans. The central sanctuary is surrounded by Corinthian columns. In the year 62, an earthquake damaged the sanctuary, but it was restored on behalf of 6-year-old Popidius Celcinius with the money of his father Popidius Amplia. This practice was quite acceptable. On the one hand, it was supposed to help the son with divine help, and could also help in a political career in the future. The facade of the Temple of Isis is depicted on one of the frescoes found in ancient Pompeii. It depicted a sacrifice in honor of the goddess in front of the temple.

The entrance (A), which opens from the south side of Via del Tempio d 'Isis, bears a dedication which says that the reconstruction was carried out after the earthquake of 62 years. The repair itself was financed by the freedman Numeriy Popidy Amplia in the name of his son Celcinius.

The entrance opens onto a courtyard surrounded by a four-sided portico. The portico was decorated in the fourth style with red panels and depicted the priests in ceremonial dress and Egyptian landscapes, separated by architectural themes. Also there were depicted naval battles over the lower orange frieze of lionesses, sphinxes, dragons and dolphins. The upper zone contained images of the temple and small paintings of landscapes and still lifes on a white background. All the surviving decorations can be seen in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples in rooms specifically dedicated to the temple and its finds (rooms LXXIX - LXXXII and LXXXIV).




Temple of Isis Pompeii  Temple of Isis Pompeii

Temple of Isis PompeiiThe Temple of Isis, which sits on a raised platform in the center of the courtyard, has an entrance with a portico (B) with niches on either side of the entrance. The walls were originally covered with white plaster in an imitation of the Opus Quadratum style, and along the back wall was a raised base (C), designed to support the statue of Isis and Osiris. In the niche on the back of the podium was a statue of Dionysus with a panther, a gift from Numerius Popidius Amplia.


The main altar of the temple (D) is not in the temple itself, but to the left of the entrance, along with the second altar (E) on the south side. On the east side of the complex is a small temple-like building (F) with a staircase leading down to an underground cistern containing the sacred waters of the Nile. The small temple was called Purgatorium, the place where the rites of purification were performed. The facade has a broken triangular pediment and a frieze with two processions of priests, converging to the center. Mars with Venus and Perseus with Andromeda are shown in relief on the outside of the wall.


To the west of the temple is a large room (G), known as Ecclesiasterion. Its interior hall was found almost intact with a black mosaic floor and beautiful fourth-style murals. On the north wall was the central scene of the liberation of Io by Hermes, while the south wall contained the scene of Io’s arrival at Canopus in Egypt. Both frescoes are in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.

To the south of this room is the room, which was called the sacristy and used to store religious objects. The room is covered with frescoes depicting snakes guarding a wicker basket decorated with moon symbols. In the southeast corner of the complex a number of rooms (I) are open from the south side of the portico. These rooms were the pastophorion (Pastophorion) premises of the priests and include kitchen, triclinium and cubicles.


Mozart's visit
The famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as is known, visited the Temple of Isis in Pompeii in 1769, just a few years after it was excavated. Mozart himself was then only 13 years old. His visit and memories of the place later inspired him to write the Magic Flute 20 years later.