Isis Demeter

Isis Demeter

Using the comparative methodology known as interpretatio graeca, the Greek historian Herodotus (5th century BCE) described Isis by comparison with the Greek goddess Demeter, whose mysteries at Eleusis offered initiates guidance in the afterlife and a vision of rebirth. Herodotus says that Isis was the only goddess worshiped by all Egyptians alike. ( Herodotus, Histories. 2.42 and 156. )
After the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great and the Hellenization of the Egyptian culture initiated by Ptolemy I Soter, Isis became known as Queen of Heaven. ( R.E Witt, Isis in the Ancient World, 1997, ISBN 0-8018-5642-6 ) Other Mediterranean goddesses, such as Demeter, Astarte, and Aphrodite, became identified with Isis, as did the Arabian goddess Al-‘Uzzá through a similarity of name, since etymology was thought to reveal the essential or primordial nature of the thing named. This is particularly characteristic of Stoic philosophy. ( See in general Davide Del Bello, Forgotten Paths: Etymology
and the Allegorical Mindset (Catholic University of America Press, 2007). )

An alabaster statue of Isis from the 3rd century BCE, found in Ohrid, in the Republic of Macedonia

An alabaster statue of Isis from the 3rd century BCE, found in Ohrid, in the Republic of Macedonia, is depicted on the obverse of the Macedonian 10 Macedonian denar banknote, issued in 1996. “Banknotes in circulation: 10 Denars”. National Bank of the Republic of Macedonia. Retrieved 20 November 2013.


Roman statue of Isis 1st half 2nd CE Naples, Italy

Roman statue of Isis, black and white marble, first half of the second century CE, found in Naples, Italy. Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. The Romanization of the Egyptian Isis is complete with her vesture and iconography. Photo by Gryffindor/Wikimedia Commons.


Diodorus of Sicily (first century BCE) was of the opinion that two of the known world’s most ancient deities would also be the most long-lived—Isis, the moon, and Osiris, the sun. To the newly-forming Roman society, sense had to be made of Egypt’s plethora of deities. As per Diodorus, the Greeks would often appropriate the most famous gods and heroes of Egypt.
As was seen a few centuries earlier under Ptolemy I, Isis and Osiris were decreed to be on the top of the hierarchy. Isis was identified with Hera, Selene, Demeter, Artemis, and other major Greek deities. Both Diodorus and Herodotus preserve claims of the Eleusinian and Demeter mysteries as originating from those of Isis. Diodorus even confidently states that the priestly families of Eleusis at Eumolpidae are Egyptian because they are the only Greeks who “swear by Isis.” When Greece came under Roman dominion, the amalgamated Greek Isis would again merge, this time with Roman counterparts.

An Isis Timeline
Katherine Schaefers, M.A.

(This scholar, makes the mistake of equating a Goddess with the moon, when she was/is a Goddess of the Cosmos).


Comparing Initiation Rites: Isis and Demeter


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