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A JOURNEY TO THE AFTERLIFE UNDER THE PROTECTION OF THE MISTRESS OF NAVIGATION: A ‘NEW’ FUNERARY BELIEF FROM ROMAN MEMPHIS*

Extract

The study of Egyptian personal religiosity during the third century ad presents an interesting opportunity to explore the processes of cultural encounters between Egypt and the Roman Empire. The religious situation was more complicated and variegated than the textual evidence seems to suggest; sometimes one becomes aware of the existence of certain beliefs only through their iconographic record. For this reason, decorated stelae, coffins, and mummy wrappings are crucial materials for research into questions of religious exchange. This article presents the case of a third-century ad shroud from Memphis painted with a woman's portrait and funerary scenes, along with a representation of Isis navigans.

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jonatan.ortiz@uv.es
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*

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Dr Carmen Alfaro and Dr Antonio J. Morales for their help. Needless to say, all errors remain my own responsibility. I would also like to thank the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, Berlin, and especially its director, Dr Friederike Seyfried, for granting me permission to study, and publish images of, the wrapping that is featured in this article. Many thanks also to Dr Cäcilia Fluck for all her help.

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1 For a study of this version of the Egyptian goddess, see Bricault L., Isis, dame des flots (Liège, 2006).

2 Ortiz-García J., ‘Painting on Linen Cloth in Antiquity: Shrouds from Roman Egypt as a Source for Research’, Textile: Cloth and Culture 15.1 (2017), 3447 .

3 Egyptian Museum, Turin, S.17138.

4 Cortese V., ‘77. Telo dipinto’, in Roveri A. M. Donadoni and Tiradritti F. (eds.), Kemet alle Sorgenti del Tempo (Milan, 1998), 168–9.

5 See Quibell J. E. and Green F. W., Hierakonpolis. Part II (London, 1902), 20–1, pls. 75–9; Case H. and Payne J. Crowfoot, ‘Tomb 100: The Decorated Tomb at Hierakonpolis’, JEA 48 (1962), 518 ; Payne J. Crowfoot, ‘Tomb 100: The Decorated Tomb at Hierakonpolis Confirmed’, JEA 59 (1973), 31–5; Kemp B. J., ‘Photographs of the Decorated Tomb at Hierakonpolis’, JEA 59 (1973), 3643 .

6 See Parlasca K., Mumienporträts und verwandte Denkmäler (Wiesbaden, 1966), 152–92.

7 The first study to place the realistic portraits and religious scenes within a determined context is Corcoran L. H., Portrait Mummies from Roman Egypt (I–IV centuries a.d.) with a Catalog of Portrait Mummies in Egyptian Museums (Chicago, IL, 1995).

8 On frontality in Egyptian art, see Volokhine Y., La frontalité dans l'iconographie de l’Égypte ancienne (Geneva, 2000).

9 Thompson D. J., Memphis under the Ptolemies (Princeton, NJ, and Oxford, 2012), 247–57.

10 See Bresciani E., Il volto di Osiri. Tele funerarie dipinte nell'Egitto romano (Lucca, 1996), 67–9; Bridonneau C., ‘Les tombes n1: rapport préliminaire. Secteur nord-est de la fouille’, in Ziegler C. (ed.), Fouilles du Louvre à Saqqara II. Les Tombs hypogées de Basse Époque. F7, F17, H, j1, Q, n1. 1. Textes (Leuven, 2012), 359–84.

11 J. Ortiz-García, ‘Tejidos para la divina muerte: los sudarios pintados con retrato y escenas religiosas del Egipto romano (Cloths for divine death: shrouds painted with a portrait and religious scenes in Roman Egypt)’, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Valencia (2015), 18–22 and 78–92.

12 Valle P. della, Viaggi di Pietro della Valle, il Pellegrino (Rome, 1650), 378400 . The shrouds in question are Dresden, State Art Collections, Aeg. 777 and 778; see Parlasca K., Ritratti di Mummie. Repertorio d'Arte dell'Egitto Greco-Romano III (Rome, 1980), 48 and pls. 142.5–6; Doxiadis E., The Mysterious Fayum Portraits. Faces from Ancient Egypt (London, 1995), figs. 9 and 12.

13 Parlasca (n. 12), 47.

14 Parlasca K., ‘Ein römisches Leichentuch aus Ägypten in Genf’, CE 86.171–2 (2011), 308; Borg B., Mumienporträts. Chronologie und kultureller Kontext (Mainz, 1996), 178.

15 See della Valle (n. 12), 378–400; Bresciani (n. 10), 68–71.

16 Ebers G., Antike Portraits. Die hellenistischen Bildnisse aus dem Fajjûm untersucht und gewürdigt (Leipzig, 1893), 8 and 15; Berlin Königliche Museen zu, Ausführliches Verzeichniss der Aegyptischen Altertümer, Gipsabgüsse und Papyrus (Berlin, 1894), 298; Berlin Königliche Museen zu, Ausführliches Verzeichniss der Aegyptischen Altertümer und Gipsabgüsse (Berlin, 1899), 355.

17 See Parlasca (n. 12), 47 (with a list of all of the previous bibliography); Borg (n. 14), 178; Parlasca (n. 14), 308 and fig. 15; Ortiz-García (n. 2).

18 For a general treatment of Isis navigans’ iconography, see Bricault (n. 1), 43–99. The goddess's image on Roman coins is dealt with in Bricault L., ‘Types monétaires isiaques’, in Bricault L. (ed.), Sylloge nummorum religionis isiacae et sarapiacae (SNRIS) (Paris, 2008), 2932 .

19 Bricault (n. 1), 44 (map).

20 See ibid., 36–42.

21 See Griffiths J. G., Apuleius of Madauros. The Isis-Book (Metamorphoses, Book XI) (Leiden, 1975), 33–8.

22 See Münster M., Untersuchungen zur Göttin Isis vom Alten Reich bis zum Ende des Neuen Reiches (Berlin, 1968).

23 Bricault (n. 1), 16–18; Kockelmann H., Praising the Goddess. A Comparative and Annotated Re-Edition of Six Demotic Hymns and Praises Addressed to Isis (Berlin and New York, 2008), 58.

24 Bricault (n. 1), 106–10 and 113–23.

25 See Griffiths (n. 21), 31–47; Bricault (n. 1), 134–50.

26 Hymn to Isis of Cyme, 15 and 49–50 ( Bricault L., Recueil des inscriptions concernant les cultes isiaques (RICIS). Vol. 2. Corpus [Paris, 2005], 423–4).

27 Hymn to Isis of Isidorus I, 32–4 (V. F. Vanderlip, The Four Greek Hymns of Isidorus and the Cult of Isis [Toronto, 1972], 17–18 and 33–4); Petron. Sat. 114.

28 There are only a few cases in which Isis navigans is depicted alongside other divinities. See Bricault (n. 1), 71–80; R. Veymiers, Ἵλεως τῷ φοροῦντι. Sérapis sur les gemmes et les bijoux antiques (Brussels, 2009), 138–9 and 332–5; R. Veymiers, ‘Ἵλεως τῷ φοροῦντι: Sérapis sur les gemmes et les bijoux antiques. Supplément I’, in L. Bricault and R. Veymiers (eds.), Bibliotheca Isiaca II (Bordeaux, 2011), 241–242, 253, and pl. 12 (V.BBC 37 and 39–40); R. Veymiers, ‘Ἵλεως τῷ φοροῦντι: Sérapis sur les gemmes et les bijoux antiques. Supplément II’, in L. Bricault and R. Veymiers (eds.), Bibliotheca Isiaca III (Bordeaux 2014), 221 and pls. 12 (V.BBC 44) and 13 (V.BBC 45–6).

29 The closest parallel to this is found on the reverse side of a coin from Perinthus, Thrace, which shows a ship with Isis navigans on the bow, and at the boat's centre a man in Roman attire, who is being crowned by Serapis, while the god handles the stern. This scene has been interpreted as showing Severus Alexander en route to combat the Sassanids, and on this basis it has been dated to 231 ad (E. Schönert, Griechisches Münzwerk. Die Münzprägung von Perinthos [Berlin, 1965], 43 and 240–1; E. Schönert-Geiss, ‘Zur Geschichte Thrakiens anhand von griechischen Münzbildern aus der römischen Kaiserzeit’, Klio 49 [1967], 218–19 and 226). However, bearing in mind the new attribute of Isis navigans which is presented here, one would have to entertain the possibility that the scene was about apotheosis, and that the central figure may not be Severus Alexander.

30 For example, the decorated textile wrapping in the Louvre Museum, Paris, AF 6490: see Aubert M. F., ‘Portraits sur linceul’, in Aubert M. F., Cortopassi R., Nachtergael G., Amoros V. Asensi, Détienne P., Pagès-Camagna S., and A. S. Le, Portraits funéraires de l’Égypte romaine. Cartonnages, linceuls et bois (París, 2008), 169–74.

31 See Bricault (n. 1), 75–80; Veymiers (n. 28 [2009]), 162–4. It is difficult to elucidate whether other nautical scenes represent the same concept, such as that included on the vase in the Römisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne, KL 551 ( Naumann-Steckner F., ‘145. Coppa con la barca di Iside’, in Ensoli S. and Rocca E. La [eds.], Aurea Roma. Dalla città pagana alla città cristiana (Roma, 2000), 517–18).

32 For a similar composition, see n. 28.

33 See Riggs C., The Beautiful Burial in Roman Egypt. Art, Identity, and Funerary Religion (Oxford, 2005), 95174 .

34 See Doxiadis (n. 12), fig. 9.

35 Williams E. R., ‘Isis Pelagia and a Roman Marble Matrix from the Athenian Agora’, Hesperia 54.2 (1985), 115; Bricault (n. 1), 80.

36 See Riggs (n. 33), 199–201.

37 See Bricault (n. 1), 74–6.

38 See Martin J.-P., Providentia deorum. Recherches sur certains aspects religieux du pouvoir impériale romain (Rome 1982), 329–30.

39 See Bricault (n. 1), 75–80.

40 Plut. De Is. et Os., 28; Tac. Hist. 4.83–4. On this interpretation, see Poole R. S., A Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the British Museum. Catalogue of the Coins of Alexandria and the Nomes (London, 1892), xciv.

41 Identification suggested by R. S. Poole (n. 40), xciv, nos. 885–6 and pl. xxix (no. 886), and developed by L. Bricault (n. 1), 78–9.

42 On Isis nagivans and Hermes/Mercury, see Bricault (n. 1), 162–3.

43 See Metzger C., ‘Les bijoux’, in Baratte F., Lang J., Niece S. La, and Metzger C., Le trésor de Carthage. Contribution à l’étude de l'orfèvrerie de l'Antiquité tardive (Paris, 2002), 85–6, fig. 82 and fig. h.t. 5; Bricault (n. 1), 63, fig. 25, and n. 33; Á. Nagy, Magical Gems and Classical Archaeology’, in Entwistle C. and Adams N. (eds.), Gems of Heaven. Recent Research on Engraved Gemstones in Late Antiquity c. ad 200–600 (London, 2011), 76 and pl. 2.

* I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Dr Carmen Alfaro and Dr Antonio J. Morales for their help. Needless to say, all errors remain my own responsibility. I would also like to thank the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, Berlin, and especially its director, Dr Friederike Seyfried, for granting me permission to study, and publish images of, the wrapping that is featured in this article. Many thanks also to Dr Cäcilia Fluck for all her help.

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