Religion in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Foreign Cults. Foreign cults. Other. Greek. Egyptian.
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There are a number of Greek temples including the Doric Temple the Temple of Apollo and the Temple of Bacchus each situated in or near Pompeii. Hercules is also believed to have been the founder of Herculaneum, there are a number of statues and frescoes depicting the god but no temple has yet been excavated.
This painting displays Hercules stands beside the enthroned Lydian Queen Omphale. Above him is the winged goddess Nike, and a Satyr-boy or the god Pan holding a set of pipes. By his feet are an eagle, a lion, and the hero's infant son Telephos suckling a doe.
There is a substantial amount of sources from the towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii that depict the Greek god Hercules including “the Doric-style temple in the Triangular forum…believed to have been dedicated to Hercules.”
This mosaic portrays the Greek god Dionysus who was given the Roman name Bacchus. He was the god of fertility and divine intoxication and was especially popular in this area due to the high number of wine growers in the region. The Roman senate discouraged this cult due to its secret and excessive nature, however it was not forbidden. The temple of Dionysus can be found outside of Pompeii’s walls.
“This cult at its least exacting level, tended to succumb to mere sensuality, with the afterlife pictured as a sexy debauch; and many were the drinking and dining clubs that assumed the exalted patronage of Bacchus.”
Apollo, god of light, was of Greek origins believed to have been introduced into Pompeii in the 6th Century BC. The Roman Emperor Augustus adopted Apollo as his patron and associated the god with his “Golden Age.”
The temple of Apollo was very important and elaborate, being situated on the western end of the forum in Pompeii.
The cult of the Egyptian goddess, Isis, was a widespread religion in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Believed to have originated in this region either through trade, or “foreign women” as suggested by Louise Zarmati in Women and Eros. The Temple of Isis is situated near the Theatres and was one of the first temples to be rebuilt after the earthquake of 62AD. The Cult was open to a both sexes though “nearly one-third of worshippers mentioned in the inscriptions are female.” There is a considerable amount of evidence of the presence of this cult in Herculaneum but no temple has been found so far.
This painting depicts Isis receiving Io at Canopus. Io is carried before Isis on the back of a dark-skinned Egyptian god. She is crowned with a pair of cow horns. Isis sits with an adder coiled around her arm, and beside her son Harpokrates with finger pressed to his lips.
This fresco is useful as it provides evidence on the nature of Isis and also depicts some of the implements used in the cult.
The worship of Isis is depicted in this wall-painting from Herculaneum. Through this fresco the rituals and practices of the cult can be extracted as well as evidence that the worship of Isis took place in this region.
The Temple of Isis was one of the first public buildings to be repaired after the Earthquake in 62AD, establishing the significance of the cult. It was surrounded by high walls to maintain secrecy and inside there were a variety of statues and paintings depicting the Egyptian goddess. There is a considerable amount of evidence of the presence of this cult in Herculaneum but no temple has been found so far.
This fresco displays a priest of the cult of Isis reading a scroll of papyrus held out in front of him. It is useful as it provides information on the dress of the priests of the cult as well as its practices. This is one of the many paintings depicting Egyptian priests with shaved heads.
There is also evidence of other cults in the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Through cult objects found in Pompeii the presence of the cult of Sabazius has been suggested. There is various evidence for the existence of Judaism including graffito of Judaic names, frescoes and the presence of Jews in nearby areas. There is much speculation as to whether Christianity was practiced, however, there is no concluding evidence to support this.
This fresco illustrates Venus (Aphrodite) in the arms of Mars (Ares) the god of war. Their sons, the winged Cupid (Eros) and wingless Formido (Phobos), play with the arms of the god.
This painting in particular displays the similarities in Roman and Greek religion, with many Greek idols being transformed into Roman deities.
Sabazius was the god of vegetation from Thrace (Northern Greece) and Phrygia (Asia Minor). Several of these bronze hands have been found in both Pompeii and Herculaneum. “ The bronze hands are interpreted as ‘mantic hands,’ that is ritual hands that were used in a rite of divination or soothsaying. The fingers are arranged in gesture of blessing and in the palm of the hand is a seated figure of Sabazius.”
This fresco represents the Old Testament story of the Judgement of Solomon, as well as several sources of Graffiti suggest the presence of Judaism in Pompeii and Herculaneum before the eruption.