Presenter: Amy van der Boor (Thesis review seminar)

As early as Herodotus, the religious assimilation between the Egyptian goddess Isis and the Greek priestess Io is attested, with their syncretism shaping central elements of Isis’ Hellenistic image. However, while modern scholars have examined Isis and Io’s physical association, a more critical approach is needed on the role of Io in Isis’ shifting cultural identity and reception in Greece and Rome. The aim of this paper is to examine the literary and iconographic representations of Io’s crossing into Egypt as an example of a Greek, and later Roman, adaptation of Isis’ cultural heritage and persona. In particular, it will argue that the syncretism between Isis and Io can be used as a continuing case study for the broader political and social treatment of Isis throughout antiquity. Through examples from the Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods, the singular identity between Io and Isis that developed over time is seen to reflect a number of central issues in Isis’ Hellenization. In Io’s early physical similarities to Isis, and the later adaptation of their origin stories in the Hellenistic era, Isis was assigned an inherently Greek ‘identity’, justifying her elevated position in Greco-Roman religion. Furthermore, Io’s representation of fluctuating cultural and political hostility between Egypt and Rome will be explored, through her role in Isis’ vilification during the Augustan era, and comparative celebration in the Imperial, with the revival of Hellenistic culture. As such, Io’s association with Isis appears as a uniquely complex religious exchange, detrimental to the establishment of the Hellenistic, and later Roman Isis.

About Classics and Ancient History Seminars

Event details

  • The seminars take place at 4pm, in the Michie Building (09), Room 536
  • Seminars are also on Zoom. Send an email to Duncan Keenan-Jones (d.keenanjones@uq.edu.au) for the link.
  • Upcoming seminars can be found here.
  • Please be aware that we are still operating under Covid-19 regulations during public events. Masks are no longer required at UQ locations - however, UQ strongly encourages mask wearing when physical distancing is not possible. UQ strongly encourages all campus attendees to be up to date with vaccinations. And finally, those who are feeling unwell, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the previous 7 days or have been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 7 days, are asked not to attend this seminar.
  • For those attending in person, if you would like to join us for drinks and/or dinner afterwards at UQ’s St. Lucy's from 5:15 pm, please RSVP by email to Duncan Keenan-Jones (d.keenanjones@uq.edu.au) by 9am on the day of the seminar.
  • Please also contact Duncan Keenan-Jones should you have questions about the event.

The Friends of Antiquity, an alumni organisation of the University, runs its own series of public lectures, which take place on Sunday afternoons. The Friends’ program for can be found at https://alumni.uq.edu.au/friends-of-antiquity