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p283 Aedes Isidis

Article on pp283‑285 of

Samuel Ball Platner (as completed and revised by Thomas Ashby):
A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome,
London: Oxford University Press, 1929.

Isis, aedes: the principal temple of Isis in Rome, situated in the campus Martius, adjoining the temple of Serapis in the same precinct (see below). It is also referred to as fanum (Iuv.), templum, templa (Apul., Mart., Chron. min., Ovid, Tib.), ἱερόν (Joseph.), ναός (Cass. Dio, Lydus), and with the temple of Serapis as Iseum et Serapeum (Eutrop., Hier., Hist. Aug. Alex., Chronog., Not.), and τὸ Σεραπεῖον καὶ τὸ Ἰσεῖον (Cass. Dio). It stood outside the pomerium in the campus Martius (Apul. Met. XI.26: reginae Isidis quae de templi situ sumpto nomine Campensis propitiatur; Not. Reg. IX), near the Saepta (Iuv. VI.528‑529: in aedem Isidis antiquo quae proxima surgit ovili; Mart. II.14.7), and the evidence of fragments of the Marble Plan and sculpture (see below) makes it reasonably certain that it was just west of the Saepta, between it and the temple of Minerva, in the space between the Vie del Seminario, S. Ignazio, del Gesù, and the Palazzo Altieri.

In 43 B.C. the triumvirs vote to erect a temple to Isis and Serapis (Cass. Dio XLVII.15.4), but it is not known whether this temple was actually built or not. Tibullus (I.3.27‑30: picta docet templis multa tabella tuis . . . ante sacras fores) and Ovid (A. A. I.77: nec fuge linigerae Memphitica templa iuvencae; Am. II.13.7) speak of a temple or temples of Isis as a conspicuous resort of women, especially of prostitutes, a characteristic also of the later temple (Iuv. IX.22; Mart. II.14.7; X.48.1). On the other hand, repressive measures against Egyptian cults p284were carried out by Augustus in 28 B.C. (Cass. Dio LIII.2.4), by Agrippa in 21 (ib. LIV.6.6), and by Tiberius in 9 A.D. (Tac. Ann. II.85; Suet. Tib. 36), who is even said to have destroyed a temple of Isis and thrown her statue into the Tiber (Joseph. Ant. XVIII.3.4). Between the reign of Tiberius and 65 A.D. (Lucan VIII.831) the cult of Isis had been officially received in Rome, and this temple in the campus Martius, if not built in the previous century, must have been built then, perhaps by Caligula. It was burned in 80 A.D. (Cass. Dio LXVI.24.2), restored by Domitian (Eutrop. VII.23.5; Chron. 146; Hier. a. Abr. 2110), and by Alexander Severus1 who added to its treasures of art (Hist. Aug. Alex. xxvi.8: Isium et Serapium decenter ornavit additis signis et Deliacis et omnibus mysticis; cf. Iuv. XII.27: pictores quis nescit ab Iside pasci?). In 219‑220 the statue of Isis in this temple is said to have turned its face inwards (Cass. Dio LXXIX.10.1), and there are two other references to it in later literature (Porphyr. vit. Plotin. 10; Lydus, de mens. IV.148). Certain inscriptions of the empire also refer without doubt to this temple (CIL VI.344‑347, cf. 30744; IG XIV.I.961, 1031) and it is represented on a coin of Vespasian (Cohen, Vesp. 484‑485) struck to commemorate the fact that Vespasian and Titus spent the night before the celebration of their triumph for the taking of Jerusalem in2 this temple (Joseph b. Iud. VII.5.4). This coin shows the façade of a narrow peribolos with four Corinthian columns and a round pediment containing the figure of Isis on a dog. Inside the peribolos, and entirely detached from it, is the temple proper (Berl. Sitz.‑Ber. 1909, 640‑648; SHA 1910, A. 7, 9 sqq.; cf. also Cohen, Faustina iunior 300; Gnecchi, Med. II.68.9; PT 226‑227).

It is probable that the temple of Isis was north of that of Serapis, and that it was long and narrow and stood at one end of a long and narrow enclosure, resembling in form and architecture the forum Transitorium. Six of its columns have been found in situ. It is not clear whether the entrance was on the north, or on the south toward the Serapeum. The two small obelisks (Marucchi, Ob. eg. 91, 96, 115; BC 1896, 260, 265, 284), now in the Viale delle Terme and the Piazza della Minerva, and probably that of the Piazza della Rotonda, were found on the site of the Iseum and may have stood in front of it. The obelisk of the Piazza Navona was probably first set up in the precinct (see Obelisci Isei Campensis).

The Serapeum, although it is not mentioned alone, was a separate building of wholly different style, as is shown by fragments of the Marble Plan (32, 59). Its south end was formed by a large semi-circular apse, p285about 60 metres in diameter, in the outer wall of which were several small exedrae. The inner side of this apse was adorned with columns, and a colonnade formed its diameter. Immediately north of the apse was a rectangular area, of the same width as the apse, and about 20 metres deep, with an entrance in the middle of the front and on each side. The plan closely resembled that of the 'Canopus' at Hadrian's Villa (Lanciani, BC 1883, 33‑131; 1887, 377; Hülsen, Mitt. 1903, 17‑57, pl. i, ii; for the Arco di Camigliano, probably the eastern entrance to the precinct, cf. also NS 1882, 349; HCh 243‑245).

Numerous works of art were gathered together in this precinct, many of which have been recovered, among them the statues of the Tiber (Louvre), the Nile (Vatican), the Ocean (Naples), and the lions (BC 1890, 321‑324; Mitt. 1891, 125) in the Vatican. For statues, columns decorated with reliefs, etc., found here, see Cap. 357‑360; RAP II.107‑116, 271; Mél. 1920, 279. Besides the literature already cited, see HJ 567‑571; Gilb. III.110‑11; WR 353, 358; Rosch. II.401‑404; LS III.242‑243; PT 146‑147, 149; Mem. L. 5.xvii.572; NS 1925, 237‑239.


The Authors' Notes:

1 An inscription which was seen (it was impossible to copy it) on a large architrave belonging to an entrance to the Serapeum appeared to be a dedication by Septimius Severus and Caracalla (NS 1925, 239).

2 Or better, in the Villa Publica (q.v.) near it (HJ 494; JRS 1921, 26). They did not spend the night in the porticus Octaviae (contrast HJ 542, n. 95), but only met the Senate there.


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