Cult of Isis in the Roman Empire

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This first half of this study examines the chief characteristics of the Isis cult - the goddess herself, her mythology, variegated attributes, appeal, initiation and cultic practices, priests and priestesses, and calendrical observances. Part Two is an historical survey of the cult's progress and setbacks from the cult's introduction into Italy through the reign of Commodus in the late second century C. E. An epilogue takes the story up to its suppression by the Christianizing state. This will be useful work for scholars of religion in the classical world and comparative religion, as well as for those in Roman history and civilization.


"... has filled what had almost become a hiatus in the study of Roman history. The gap is a striking omission. Even before the time of Christianity, the worship of the eastern goddess, Isis, had been carried to Rome from Alexandria. Its influence in the capital spread quickly, and by the time of the Apostolic Age, the public practice of the religion was recognized in the Satires of Juvenal. The Donalson excursus is divided in to the rise of the Isisan cult, and its decline in the Christian era. Donalson has produced a guidebook to accompany any study of Roman history from the 1st century to the emergence of Christianity. His work will become a standard assignment in every Classics Department." Paul Berry, Independent Scholar, and author of The Christian Inscription at Pompeii and Roman Handwriting at the Time of Christ

" ... a thorough survey of the cult of Isis in two sections: Part One has a general introduction to the cult, its worship and liturgy, its priests and religious functionaries, its calendar and its temple; Part Two is a full and complete historical survey ... recommend this book to anyone wishing to find out more about the cult of Isis." - The Joint Association of Classical Teachers

Table of Contents


Part One: Chief Characteristics of the Isis Cult in the Roman World
1. Queen of Heaven, All-goddess All-ruler
2. Vocation, Initiations, Daily Worship and Public Penance
3. Isiac Priests, Priestesses, Religious
4. Isis and the Calendar
5. The House of Isis: Isiac Temples

Part Two: Historical Survey of the Isis Cult in the Roman Empire
6. From the Late Republic to Antony and Cleopatra
7. From Augustus to Caligula
8. From Claudius to Domitian
9. From Nerva to Commodus: The Isis Cult in the Antonine Period

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