Portraiture and the Royal Cult Old Gods, New uises Materials, Style, and Technique


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Old Gods, New Guises

Statuettes of gods and goddesses were created for devotional worship and for personal protection. Of the more than two thousand gods worshipped in Egypt in its long history, the central divinities that emerged in the Late Dynastic period as the Triad of the Egyptian pantheon were Osiris, his sister-wife Isis, and their son, Horus. Isis, who gained prominence after her first large temple was built at Memphis during Dynasty 26 (664-525 B.C.), proved to be the most powerful. She eclipsed other Egyptian deities and absorbed features of foreign goddesses, among them the Greek Demeter, Aphrodite, and Hecate. She became the universal goddess of the land, the sea, and the afterlife, and in Greco-Roman times her image, clothing, and pose were drawn mostly from the classical visual vocabulary. Osiris's cult did not have the same spectacular trajectory. He retained his formidable powers as ruler of the underworld, but his cult remained steeped in pharaonic traditions. The promotion by the Ptolemies of the god Serapis, a usurper of Osiris's status in the Triad, may have contributed to his marginalization.



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