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Isis and Osiris


Egyptian god and goddess whose cult goes back to the 2d millennium b.c. and was adopted, with some modifications, by the Greeks after the conquest of Alexander the Great. The chief Greek innovation was the introduction of the god Sarapis, or Serapis, into the worship of Isis. The cult spread throughout the Mediterranean world, and along with the cults of Cybele and Mithras, it became one of the most common and popular pagan religions in the early centuries of the Christian era. The Egyptian god Horus often appears in the cult, frequently as the pudgy child Harpocrates and sometimes the hawk-headed Egyptian deity, Anubis, as well. The mysteries of Isis are described in Apuleius's The Golden Ass, and in Plutarch's Concerning Isis and Osiris. Both Isis and Sarapis are heralded in several long hymns, usually called aretalogies because they extol the wondrous powers and miracles of these divinities. Many of their temples are known in both East and West, the best preserved being those that have been excavated at Delos in the Aegean and at Pompeii in Italy.

Bibliography: t. a. brady, 308309, 459460, 793. j. g. milne, 6:374384.

[t. a. brady]

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