Discovering the Temple of Isis
The Egyptian cults in Pompeii took place publicly, in the temple, and in private, inside small temples called “Larari”, created in the houses.
The most important public building for the Egyptian cults had to be the Temple of Isis. The temple is located in the so-called theater district, an area strongly characterized by the erection of various cultural buildings, inspired by Hellenistic models.
Its discovery, happened in the 1764, dates back to the first phase of the excavations. The diggers did not know to be in front of the one of Pompei worship that showcased a complete decoration, thanks to the restoration that had been made after the earthquake of 62 AD. At the time of the eruption in 79 AD, the Temple of Isis was in fact the only public building to be completely restored.
Accordance with the practice of the time, after the discovery, figurative paintings were removed and placed in the Museum of Portici and can still be seen at the National Museum of Naples, in a recently set-up that allows you to get an idea of the original arrangement on the walls of the various rooms.
The Temple of Isis dates back to the second century B.C. but the current system is due, however, to the period subsequent to the restructuring made after the earthquake of the 62 A.D. An inscription surmounting the entrance to the temple reads it:
“N(umerius) Popidius N(umeri) f(ilius) Celsinus aedem Isidis terrae motu conlapsam a fundamento p(equnia) s(ua) restituit; hunc decuriones ob liberalitatem, cum esset annorum sexs, ordini suo gratis adlegerunt”.
“Numerio Popidio Celsinus, son of Numerio, rebuilt from the ground up, at his own expense, the Temple of Isis, which collapsed in the earthquake. For his munificence the settlers, even though he was only six, admitted him to their order for free”.
But, what about how it is made? A porticoed courtyard, with stuccoed Corinthian columns, hosts the temple on a podium in its center, built at the end of the 2nd cent. BC and rebuilt in opus latericium immediately after the earthquake in 62 AD by N. Popidius Ampliatus, who gave credit for it to his son Celsinus to advance the latter's political career. The front steps lead to the pronaos, with four columns in front and two on the sides, and two side niches that held statues of Anubis and Harpokrates, Egyptian divinities related to the cult of Isis. At the back, in the wide cell, was the base for the religious statues, perhaps including the one of Isis found in the portico. Various service and worship rooms open along the portico, while the inside contains a well in the northeast corner, the purgatorium (fenced area with water basin used in purification rites), and altars. Rich sculptural, stucco and 'fourth style' painted plaster decorations abounded, detached during the excavation years (1764-1766) and now at the Naples Museum.
Come to Pompeii to discover the wonders of this beautiful temple! Take a tour of Pompeii with us and time travel to the past! Start by viewing our tours here. Or call our Pompeii office at +39 081 1877 7006.
Staff at Flashback Journey to Pompeii. Our goal is to bring you up-to-date information on events, continuing archeological excavations and more on Pompeii.