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News: Lecture
Ancient Roman statue of Isis, in the Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. First half of the 2nd century, found in Naples, Italy.
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by Archaeology Newsroom

The cult of the Egyptian Isis in Roman Italy

Lecture by Eleni Vassilika

The cult of the Egyptian Isis in Roman Italy through an enigmatic object known as Mensa Isiaca is the subject of the forthcoming lecture by Dr. Eleni Vassilika.

The Mensa Isiaca is an Egyptian-style altar of the Roman period that serves as a ‘gateway’ object and opens numerous doors of interpretation. Discovered in Rome in the 16th century, it has a visual vocabulary that is both Egyptian and ‘other’; iconographically transformed through historical syncretism with foreign deities in an age of mysticism and revelation.

In her lecture “The allure of the Egyptian Isis cult in Roman Italy”, Dr. Eleni Vassilika will explore the altar’s gripping history from its provenance to its survival from conflagration and confiscation, showing how its complex images were fodder for Enlightenment thinkers and esoteric spiritualists of the 19th and 20th centuries. It will also discuss the altar’s manufacture, a metallurgical tour de force that has largely been overlooked.

Dr. Eleni Vassilika has worked as a curator for the Fitzwilliam Museum of the University of Cambridge (1990-2000). She served as director of the Roemer-und Pelizaeus Museum in Hildesheim, Germany (2000-2005) and of the Egyptian Museum of Turin (Museo Egizio, 2005-2014), as well as Executive Director of the National Trust (responsible for all immovable properties of historic value in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland). She now devotes her time to writing and organizing exhibitions.

The lecture will be held in English and is free of charge. It is organized by the Hellenic Society for the Study of Ancient Egypt and is set to take place at the Society of Messenian Archaeological Studies (Psaromiligou 33, Athens) on March 7, 2019, at 18.30. Book your place at [email protected]