From Aphrodite to Isis 'of the Sea': connecting conceptions of a saving sea goddess
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 10:59 by Joanne E. Court
This thesis concerns processes of change. It addresses the argument that the idea of Isis as a protective sea-goddess was the creation of the Greek rulers of Egypt early in the third century BC, through the syncretism of Arsinoe II, Aphrodite and Isis. It asks whether the emergence of marine Isis may be better understood as an outcome of a largely undirected dynamic of religious persistence and change in Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean over the long term. The heuristic of 'network thinking' is used to identify and analyse evidence for the dynamic interaction of divine powers, for syncretic processes and certain crystallising 'syncretic' moments. It will be argued that it is not sufficient to simply locate apparent evidence of assimilation and draw conclusions that neatly fit within a narrative ; an interrogation of syncretic processes and the workings of power, agency and context is needed. Isis in her marine aspect was not entirely new nor wholly 'Greek' or 'Egyptian'. The key driver of change was not directed political power, rather change was brought about by the shared semantic dimension of polytheistic religion, the broader interacting conception of Isis as a saviour goddess, the needs of worshippers, and the cumulative effect of their individual acts of worship.