The Virgin Mary, by Josephus and Plutarch
|Paulina in the temple of Isis, by Fortunino Matania; based on the account by Josephus|
I often said here how all source Q needed to know could be found in a few books around at the time, especially those of Josephus and Plutarch. From the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia entry for Isis:
We've seen repeatedly the Isis cult in the Roman Empire and, particularly with Isis Chreste, related it to Chrestianity:The violation of the chaste Paulina in the Temple of Isis at Rome was one of the reasons for the expulsion of the Jews from that city by Tiberius (Josephus, "Ant." xviii. 3, § 4; Hegisippus, "De Excidio Hieros." ii. 4).After the destruction of Jerusalem, Vespasian and Titus celebrated their triumph in the Temple of Isis at Rome (Josephus, "B. J." vii. 5, § 4). Tiberius Julius Alexander, a descendant of the apostate and procurator (of Judea) of the same name, erected a statue to Isis at Alexandria, in the 21st year of Antoninus Pius (Schürer, "Gesch." 3d ed., i. 568, note 9). The Greeks that lived in Palestine worshiped, among other gods, the goddess Isis (ib. ii. 35). Hence it is not surprising that the Rabbis also speak of the worship of Isis; they do not mention her name, but refer to her as the "suckling" ("meniḳah"; 'Ab. Zarah 43a; Tosef., 'Ab. Zarah, v. 1); she is often represented with the suckling Horus. This specific application of "the suckling" has not been recognized in the Talmudic dictionaries of Levy, Kohut, and Jastrow.
The Perils of Paulina or The Wicked Priests of Isis(from Flavius Josephus [1st cent. A.D.], Jewish Antiquities 18.3)4. About the same time certain shameful practices happened about the temple of Isis that was at Rome. I will now first take notice of the wicked attempt about the temple of Isis. There was at Rome a woman whose name was Paulina; one who, on account of the dignity of her ancestors, and by the regular conduct of a virtuous life, had a great reputation: she was also very rich; and although she was of a beautiful countenance, and in that flower of her age wherein women are the most gay, yet did she lead a life of great modesty. She was married to Saturninus, one that was every way answerable to her in an excellent character. Decius Mundus fell in love with this woman, who was a man very high in the equestrian order; and as she was of too great dignity to be caught by presents, and had already rejected them, though they had been sent in great abundance, he was still more inflamed with love to her, insomuch that he promised to give her two hundred thousand Attic drachmae for one night's lodging; and when this would not prevail upon her, and he was not able to bear this misfortune in his amours, he thought it the best way to famish himself to death for want of food, on account of Paulina's sad refusal; and he determined with himself to die after such a manner, and he went on with his purpose accordingly. Now Mundus had a freed-woman, who had been made free by his father, whose name was Ide, one skillful in all sorts of mischief. This woman was very much grieved at the young man's resolution to kill himself, (for he did not conceal his intentions to destroy himself from others,) and came to him, and encouraged him by her discourse, and made him to hope, by some promises she gave him, that he might obtain a night's lodging with Paulina; and when he joyfully hearkened to her entreaty, she said she wanted no more than fifty thousand drachmae for the entrapping of the woman. So when she had encouraged the young man, and gotten as much money as she required, she did not take the same methods as had been taken before, because she perceived that the woman was by no means to be tempted by money; but as she knew that she was very much given to the worship of the goddess Isis, she devised the following stratagem: She went to some of Isis's priests, and upon the strongest assurances [of concealment], she persuaded them by words, but chiefly by the offer of money, of twenty-five thousand drachmae in hand, and as much more when the thing had taken effect; and told them the passion of the young man, and persuaded them to use all means possible to beguile the woman. So they were drawn in to promise so to do, by that large sum of gold they were to have. Accordingly, the oldest of them went immediately to Paulina; and upon his admittance, he desired to speak with her by herself. When that was granted him, he told her that he was sent by the god Anubis, who was fallen in love with her, and enjoined her to come to him. Upon this she took the message very kindly, and valued herself greatly upon this condescension of Anubis, and told her husband that she had a message sent her, and was to sup and lie with Anubis; so he agreed to her acceptance of the offer, as fully satisfied with the chastity of his wife. Accordingly, she went to the temple, and after she had supped there, and it was the hour to go to sleep, the priest shut the doors of the temple, when, in the holy part of it, the lights were also put out. Then did Mundus leap out, (for he was hidden therein,) and did not fail of enjoying her, who was at his service all the night long, as supposing he was the god; and when he was gone away, which was before those priests who knew nothing of this stratagem were stirring, Paulina came early to her husband, and told him how the god Anubis had appeared to her. Among her friends, also, she declared how great a value she put upon this favor, who partly disbelieved the thing, when they reflected on its nature, and partly were amazed at it, as having no pretense for not believing it, when they considered the modesty and the dignity of the person. But now, on the third day after what had been done, Mundus met Paulina, and said, "Nay, Paulina, thou hast saved me two hundred thousand drachmae, which sum thou sightest have added to thy own family; yet hast thou not failed to be at my service in the manner I invited thee. As for the reproaches thou hast laid upon Mundus, I value not the business of names; but I rejoice in the pleasure I reaped by what I did, while I took to myself the name of Anubis." When he had said this, he went his way. But now she began to come to the sense of the grossness of what she had done, and rent her garments, and told her husband of the horrid nature of this wicked contrivance, and prayed him not to neglect to assist her in this case. So he discovered the fact to the emperor; whereupon Tiberius inquired into the matter thoroughly by examining the priests about it, andordered them to be crucified, as well as Ide, who was the occasion of their perdition, and who had contrived the whole matter, which was so injurious to the woman. He also demolished the temple of Isis, and gave order that her statue should be thrown into the river Tiber; while he only banished Mundus, but did no more to him, because he supposed that what crime he had committed was done out of the passion of love. And these were the circumstances which concerned the temple of Isis, and the injuries occasioned by her priests.
The new evidence from Akhmim suggests that the Roman scandal which Flavius Josephus reported might have had an authentic cultic background; namely, priests wearing an Anubis mask would have sexual relations with women inside a temple. The preceding survey of Egyptian and Egyptianizing sources uncovered additional evidence supporting this theory. Numerous festival depictions include a priest wearing nothing but a red robe, sandals, and an Anubis mask, perhaps hinting at his imminent sexual performance. The erotically-themed Bes-chambers at Saqqara were built specifically within the Anubieion precinct, further indicating that Anubis priests were involved with local fertility rites. One might imagine that married women having trouble conceiving might have visited the Bes-chambers to be inseminated by the local clergy. By identifying the progenitor with Anubis, an otherwise taboo extramarital coupling could have been elevated to a morally acceptable religious experience. Such an arrangement would explain the Decius Mundus affair, and account for the popularity and surprising efficacy of incubation sessions.
At the same time, we have seen that Anubis was frequently invoked in erotic magical spells of the Graeco-Roman Period, having the power to enslave female objects of desire. In general, Anubis was an omnipotent medium or divine messenger, an amenable interface between mortals and the divine, and potentially with the spirits of the dead. Perhaps the scene from the ‘tomb of 1897’ represents the soul (Ba) of the deceased, channeled through the Anubis-figure, continuing to copulate with women on earth.
|Intaglio 1st century BCE: Isis with Horus could be Cleopatra with Caesarion|