During my visit, I took some photos of the frescos related to the Cult of Isis worship and have documented it below.

The AD 50-79 fresco below found in Herculaneum depicts the ceremony of worship in the Temple of Isis. The remains of the Temple of Isis in Pompeii are very different from the fresco. It could be an idealized version to reinforce all the elements of the cult. It is also apparent that the Romans tolerated other religions except Christianity that threatened their very existence during the later Empire.

Visible are the palm trees, sphinxes and ibises supporting the Egyptian origin of the cult. On the bottom right is a musician playing a long flute similar to the one here.

Here is the description of the fresco:
1. In the back, the High Priest at the temple entrance is holding a jar of sacred water from the Nile River
2. Sphinxes on each side reference the Egyptian origin of the cult
3. Palm trees show Egyptian origins
4. One priest with a shaven head leads the followers in worship
5. Worshippers are split into two ranks on both sides
6. Most worshippers appear to be women. It is assumed that other devotees were freedmen and slaves
7. Ceremonies often involved singing and dancing
8. Isis sacred ibis birds are shown
9. Priest fans the sacred fire, possibly performing a sacrifice on the Egyptian horned altar
10. Priests in traditional fringed linen tunics hold sistrums
11. One seated man plays a long flute seen at the exhibit here

I enhanced the image to show fresh, crisp colours the way they might have appeared originally. I spent a lot of time removing 95% of the fresco cracks and general damage. For the unaltered image, click here.

In Saïs the statue of Athena, whom they believe to be Isis, bore the inscription: "I am all that has been, and is, and shall be, and my robe no mortal has yet uncovered." Ref. Bill Thayer.

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Ceremony in The Temple of Isis, Herculaneum fresco, AD 50-79. 

Isis (seated right) welcoming the Greek heroine Io as she is borne into Egypt on the shoulders of the personified Nile, as depicted in a Roman wall painting from Pompeii.

Pompeii Isis Temple by Ron LiPompeii Isis Temple by Ron Li

Temple of Isis. Reconstructed drawing, from North. The source is here.

Inscribed slab recording the rebuilding of the temple of Isis. Marble, 2.35m X 49.5cm. Naples Museum. The source is here.

"Numerius Popidius Celsinus, son of Numerius, restored the Temple of Isis with his own money from the ground up after it had been destroyed by an earthquake. Because of his generosity, the town councilors (decuriones) enrolled him into their membership without charge when he was only six years old."

Fourth Style wall painting with naumachia (naval battle), a detail from a panel from the portico of the Temple of Isis in Pompeii, Naples National Archaeological Museum. Photo by Carole Raddato. Taken on July 4, 2014.

Ed.: The earthquake mentioned on the slab refers to AD 62 quake that severely damaged many structures in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Those hasty repairs are even visible today. A tsunami generated by the quake destroyed 300 grain ships waiting to be unloaded in Ostia and created a riot in Rome. These ships arrived from Alexandria and Carthage once a year and had the vital grain supplies for Rome FOR THE YEAR. All of them were engulfed by the tsunami, swamped, and the cargoes lost. Ref.: Ann Pizzorusso.

Ed.: Numerius' father was a freedman (former slave) who took on the name of his owner POPIDIUS. The POPIDII were one of the oldest and most distinguished families of Pompeii.


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Last update: February 23, 2016
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