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Collection Highlights

Stele depicting Isis-Thermoutis

Stele depicting Isis-Thermoutis
© BA Antiquities Museum/C. Gerigk

Stele depicting Isis-Thermoutis

Category:
Religious / Cult objects, stelae
Date:
Graeco-Roman Period, Roman Period, 2nd cent. CE
Provenance:
Lower Egypt, Alexandria, Abukir, Canopus
Material(s):
Rock, marble
Height:
32 cm;
Width:
23 cm;
Depth:
6 cm
This artifact is not currently displayed. It is among the collection chosen for the exhibition “Sunken Cities” which is hosted by Minneapolis Institute of Art (Minnesota, USA) from November 4, 2018 to April 14, 2019.


Description

This marble stele is a typical example of piety towards Isis, who is shown here as Isis-Thermoutis, a serpent goddess. It consists of a flat rectangular stone, the top of which is slightly arched. The panel is hollowed out and is almost entirely carved with the image of the Cobra which in this case represents Isis. The head is in profile and wears a crown in the form of a solar disk with bovine horns, the familiar crown of Isis.

The Goddess of Vegetation and Fertility

One of the fundamental functions of the Great goddess Isis was to ensure the fertility and the fruitfulness of the lands. For the Egyptians “the land is the body of Isis”, and the land here applies only to the part that the Nile reaches and floods, with its fertile soil which will, subsequently, lead to the birth of Horus.

Isis-Thermoutis

In the New Kingdom, Isis was assimilated with the snake goddess Renenutet who was closely associated with the fertility of fields. The idea of connecting Isis to fields became particularly popular during the Imperial period (14-180 AD). On Alexandrian coins, as well as in some 2nd century documents, Isis  was depicted as a rearing cobra wearing the hathoric crown. A large number of terracotta figurines also represent Isis with her traditional human torso that ends by a serpent's tail instead of the legs.
On monuments, Isis-Thermoutis normally appears in a pair with agathodaimon linked to Serapis, or with Serapis himself.

It is, in fact, sometimes difficult to distinguish between the Isis-Thermoutis in the form of a cobra from Agathadaimon represented in the same form: only the Isis crown allows the distinction to be made.


The information given here is subject to modification/update as a result of ongoing research.

Bibliography
  • Bakhoum, Soheir. Dieux Egyptiens à Alexandrie sous les Antonins : Recherches numismatiques et historiques. Paris : CNRS Éditions, 1999.
  • Goddio, Frank ed. Egypt's Sunken Treasures. Martin-Gropius Bau, Berlin: 13 May–4 September 2006. Munich: Prestel, 2006.
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