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The Cult of Isis

Isis is a central figure in the Egyptian pantheon. Wife of Osiris, she was responsible for bringing her husband back to life after his jealous brother Seth killed him. After his reincarnation, Osiris impregnated Isis who gave birth to Horus. Through these activities Isis is identified as "life giver" and "nourisher"; she was a protective force for the pharaoh in life and in death—often seen on temple carvings carrying the ankh (which symbolizes the life force). The role of Isis in the resurrection of her husband also imbued her with power over magic, healing, and miracles.

In the Hellenic and Roman eras, worship of Isis spread far beyond the boundaries of Egypt. Temples to the goddess were built in Delos and Delphi in Greece, Pompeii and Rome in Italy, and also in Spain, Germany, and along the Black Sea coast. The Cult of Isis was even an early rival to Christianity. Worship of the goddess died out when Emperor Constantine outlawed pagan cults throughout the Roman Empire in the early 4th century; however, the core temple at Philae remained active into the 5th century because many of its worshippers came from Nubia, well beyond the reach of Rome.

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