The Iseum Campense

The Iseum Campense is the greatest temple of Isis and Serapis in Rome. The worship of Isis was imported from Egypt centuries ago, and since the second century has been very popular in Rome itself and in the rest of the Empire. Despite the rise of Christianity, the worship of Isis still claims many adherents.

Isis is revered as a goddess of sailors and the seas, and she has been publicly called upon to ensure the safe arrival of the grain barges in Rome. The cult of Isis is a mystery religion, however, which means that most of its rituals are directed toward devotees.

The architecture of the temple reflects this. Unlike Roman temples, it does not present a spectacular porch to the street, open to anyone. Instead, the whole complex is surrounded by a wall, with two arched entrances on either side. These entrances lead into a narrow courtyard, which runs between the temples of Isis and Serapis. Facing gateways in the center of this courtyard finally lead into the temples proper.

The temple of Serapis takes the form of a semi-circular colonnade, with the statue of the God at the center of the curved side. The temple of Isis is a more conventional cella, which enshrines statues of the goddess, Horus and Serapis. The most important daily rituals take place shortly after dawn and shortly before sunset; in the morning, the doors of the temple are opened, from the inside, and in the evening they are closed once more. Although the main doors are closed during the hours of darkness, there is a second small entrance that allows the priests to enter and leave before and those ceremonies, and Kindred who wish can gain entry to the temple at night. Both temples are decorated in Egyptian style.

The temple complex also contains accommodation for those who have dedicated themselves to the goddess, initiated priests and those still preparing for that honor. They shave their heads and wear white linen robes, and devote their waking hours to the liturgy of Isis. Many have reputations as powerful magicians, able to speak with the dead (as Isis searched among the dead for her husband), and granted prophetic dreams by their patron. The dates of initiation are determined by dreams sent by Isis, but she also enlightens her followers on other matters.

The Iseum Campense

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