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Greek and Egyptian Hymns to Isis


These hymns provide good evidence for the enthusiastic worship of the goddess Isis in the last three centuries B.C.   The fourth set and the fifth were composed in the Egyptian language, and the others were in Greek.

  1. Hymns of Isidorus
  2. Cyme Aretalogy
  3. Maroneia Aretalogy
  4. Hymns at Philae
  5. Invocation by Hor
  6. Oxyrhynchus Hymn

A useful overview of the hymns to Isis is provided by T.M.Dousa, in "Acts of the Seventh International Conference of Demotic Studies", pp.149-184 ( Google Books ).




1.   Isidorus: Hymns to Isis

These hymns, composed in hexameters and elegiacs, were inscribed on the gate-posts of the temple of Isis-Thermouthis in Medinet Madi, probably early in the first century B.C.   There is a thorough analysis of the hymns by I.S.Moyer, Isidorus at the Gates of the Temple (2016).

The translation is taken from V.F.Vanderlip, The four Greek hymns of Isidorus and the cult of Isis (1972).   The Greek text can be found in Bernand, Inscr.Métr. 175, in the PHI database of inscriptions.


Hymn I

O wealth-giver, Queen of the gods, Hermouthis, Lady
Omnipotent Agathē Tychē, greatly renowned Isis,
Dēo, highest Discoverer of all life,
Manifold miracles were Your care that you might bring
5     Livelihood to mankind and morality to all;
You taught customs that justice might in some measure prevail;
You gave skills that men's life might be comfortable,
And You discovered the blossoms that produce edible vegetation.
Because of You heaven and the whole earth have their being;
10   And the gusts of the winds and the sun with its sweet light.
By Your power the channels of Nile are filled, every one,
At the harvest season and its most turbulent water is poured
On the whole land that produce may be unfailing.
All mortals who live on the boundless earth,
15   Thracians, Greeks and Barbarians,
Express Your fair Name, a Name greatly honoured among all, but
Each speaks in his own language, in his own land.
The Syrians call You: Astarte, Artemis, Nanaia;
The Lycian tribes call You: Leto, the Lady;
20   The Thracians also name You as Mother of the Gods;
And the Greeks call You Hera of the Great Throne, Aphrodite,
Hestia the goodly, Rheia and Demeter.
But the Egyptians call You 'Thiouis' because they know that You, being One, are all
Other goddesses invoked by the races of men.
25   Mighty One, I shall not cease to sing of Your great Power,
Deathless Saviour, many-named, mightiest Isis,
Saving from war, cities and all their citizens:
Men, their wives, possessions, and children.
As many as are bound fast in prison, in the power of death,
30   As many as are in pain through long, anguished, sleepless nights,
All who are wanderers in a foreign land,
And as many as sail on the Great Sea in winter
When men may be destroyed and their ships wrecked and sunk,
All these are saved if they pray that You be present to help.
35   Hear my prayers, O One whose Name has great Power;
Prove Yourself merciful to me and free me from all distress.

Isidorus wrote it.



Hymn II

Hail, Agathētychē, greatly renowned Isis, mightiest
Hermouthis, in you every city rejoices;
O Discoverer of Life and Cereal food wherein all
mortals delight because of your blessings.
5     All who pray to you to assist their commerce,
prosper in their piety forever;
All who are bound in mortal illnesses in the grip of death,
if they but pray to you, quickly attain your renewal of Life.
How truly the Agathosdaimon, mighty Sokonopis,
10   dwells as your temple-mate, that goodly Bestower of wealth,
Creator of both earth and the starry heaven,
and of all rivers, and very swift streams;
and Anchoēs your Son, who inhabits the height of heaven,
is the rising Sun who shows forth the light.
15   All indeed who wish to beget offspring,
if they but pray to you, attain fruitfulness.
Persuading the gold-flowing Nile, you lead it in season
over the land of Egypt as a blessing for men.
Then all vegetation flourishes and you apportion to all
20   whom you favour, a life of unspeakable blessings.
Remembering your gifts, men to whom you have granted wealth
and great blessings which you give them to possess all their lives,
All duly set aside for you one tenth of these blessings
rejoicing each year at the time of your Festival.
25   Thereafter you allow them, as the year rolls round again,
everyone to rejoice in the month of Pachon.
Joyful after your festival, they return home
reverently and are filled with the sense of blessedness that comes only from you.
Grant a share of your gifts also to me, Lady Hermouthis,
30   Your suppliant, happiness and especially the blessing of children.
 
Isidorus wrote it.
Hearing my prayers and hymns, the gods have rewarded me with the blessing of great happiness.



Hymn III

O ruler of the Highest Gods, Hermouthis, Lady,
Isis, pure and sacred, mighty, of mighty name, Dēo,
O most hallowed bestower of good things, to all men
who are righteous, you grant blessings: to possess wealth,
5     a life that is pleasant, and most serene happiness:
material gain, good fortune, and happy soundness of understanding.
All who live lives of greatest bliss, the best of men:
sceptre-bearing Kings and those who are rulers,
if they depend on You, rule until old age,
10   leaving shining and splendid wealth in abundance
to their sons and sons' sons, and to men who come after.
But the one whom the heavenly Queen has held most dear of princes,
rules both Asia and Europe,
keeping the peace; the harvests grow heavy for him,
15   with all kinds of good things, bearing fruit . . .
and where indeed there are wars and slaughter
of countless throngs, Your strength and godly power
annihilates the multitude; but to the few with him it gives courage.
Hear me, Agathētychē, when I pray to You, Lady,
20   whether You have journeyed into Libya or to the south wind,
or whether You are dwelling in the outermost regions of the north wind ever sweetly blowing,
or whether You dwell in the blasts of the east wind, where are the risings of the Sun,
or whether You have gone to Olympus, where the Olympian gods dwell,
or whether You are in heaven above, a judge with the immortal gods,
25   or whether You have mounted the chariot of the swift-driving sun,
You are directing the world of men, looking down on the manifold
deeds of the wicked and gazing down on those of the just.
If You are also present here too, You witness mens' individual virtue,
delighting in the sacrifices, libations, and offerings
30   of the men who dwell in the nome of Suchos, the Arsinoïtes,
men of mixed races who all, yearly, are present
on the twentieth of the month of Pachon and Thoth, bringing a tenth for You
and for Anchoēs, and Sokonopis, most sacred of gods, at Your feast.
O Hearer of prayers, black-robed Isis, the Merciful,
35   and You Great Gods who share the temple with Her,
send Paean to me, Healer of all ills.

Isidoros wrote it.



Hymn IV

Who built this holy temple to greatest Hermouthis?
What god remembered the All-Holy One of the Immortals?
He marked out the sacred shrine as a high Olympus.
For Dēo highest, Isis Thesmophoros,
5     for Anchoēs the Son, and the Agathosdaimon, Sokonopis,
Immortals all, he created a most fitting haven.
A certain one, they say, was born a divine King of Egypt,
he appeared on earth as Lord of all the World,
rich, righteous and omnipotent;
10   he had fame, yes, and virtue that rivalled the gods'
for to him the earth and sea were obedient,
and the streams of all the beautiful-flowing rivers,
and the breath of the winds and the sun which shows sweet light,
and on his rising is visible to all.
15   The races of winged creatures with one accord would listen to him
and he instructed all who heard his voice.
The fact is clear that the birds obeyed him
as those who have read the Sacred Scriptures
speak of this king once entrusting a written message to a crow
20   and she flew off with the letter, bearing his utterance (?).
It is so for he was not a mortal man, nor was he the son of a mortal man
but as offspring of a god, great, and eternal,
even of Suchos, all powerful, very great, omnipotent,
and the Agathosdaimon, he the son appeared on earth as a King.
25   The maternal grandfather of this god is the Distributor of Life,
Ammon, who is Zeus of Hellas and Asia.
For this reason all things heard his voice, all things
that move on earth and the races of winged heavenly creatures.
What was the name of this one? What ruler,
30   what king, of who of the Immortals, determined it?
Why, the one who nurtured him, Sesoōsis, he who has gone to the Western Heaven,
gave him a fair name, 'Son of the Golden Sun.'
When the Egyptians say his name in their language they call him
'Porromanres, the Great, Deathless.'
35   I have heard from others a miracle that is a riddle:
how he 'navigated on the desert by wheels and sail.'
Reliably learning these facts from men who study history,
I myself have set them all up on inscribed pillars
and translated into Greek for Greeks the power of a prince who was a god,
40   power such as no other mortal has possessed.
 
Isidoros wrote it.




2.   The Cyme Aretalogy

Various inscriptions in praise of Isis have been found around the Greek world, which all share some common characteristics. They are usually called aretalogies. The aretalogies are probably derived from a common Hellenistic original. This inscription, which was written at Cyme in the first century B.C. or the first century A.D., is believed by scholars to be the closest to the original.

The translation is taken from F.C.Grant, Hellenistic Religions: The Age of Syncretism (1953).   The Greek text can be found in IK Kyme 41, in the PHI database of inscriptions.   For an overview of the various aretalogies, see J.Dieleman & I.S.Moyer in "A Companion to Hellenistic Literature", page 444 ( Google Books ).


Demetrius, the son of Artemidorus, who is also called Thraseas, a Magnesian from Magnesia on the Maeander, gave this as an offering in fulfilment of a vow to Isis. He transcribed what follows from the stele in Memphis which stands by the temple of Hephaestus.

I am Isis, the mistress of every land, and I was taught by Hermes and with Hermes I devised letters, both the sacred hieroglyphs and the demotic, that all things might not be written with the same letters.
I gave and ordained laws for men, which no one is able to change.
5     I am eldest daughter of Cronus.
I am wife and sister of King Osiris.
I am she who finds fruit for men.
I am mother of King Horus.
I am she that rises in the Dog Star.
10   I am she that is called goddess by women.
For me was the city of Bubastis built.
I divided the earth from the heaven.
I showed the paths of the stars.
I ordered the course of the sun and the moon.
15   I devised business in the sea.
I made strong the right.
I brought together woman and man.
I appointed to women to bring their infants to birth in the tenth month.
I ordained that parents should be loved by children.
20   I laid punishment on those disposed without natural affection toward their parents.
I made with my brother Osiris an end to the eating of men.
I revealed mysteries unto men.
I taught men to honour images of the gods.
I consecrated the precincts of the gods.
25   I broke down the governments of tyrants.
I made an end to murders.
I compelled women to be loved by men.
I made the right to be stronger than gold and silver.
I ordained that the true should be thought good.
30   I devised marriage contracts.
I assigned to Greeks and barbarians their languages.
I made the beautiful and the shameful to be distinguished by nature.
I ordained that nothing should be more feared than an oath.
I have delivered the plotter of evil against other men into the hands of the one he plotted against.
35   I established penalties for those who practice injustice.
I decreed mercy to suppliants.
I protect {or: honour} righteous guards.
With me the right prevails.
I am the Queen of rivers and winds and sea.
40   No one is held in honour without my knowing it.
I am the Queen of war.
I am the Queen of the thunderbolt.
I stir up the sea and I calm it.
I am in the rays of the sun.
45   I inspect the courses of the sun.
Whatever I please, this too shall come to an end.
With me everything is reasonable.
I set free those in bonds.
I am the Queen of seamanship.
50   I make the navigable unnavigable when it pleases me.
I created walls of cities.
I am called the Lawgiver {Thesmophoros}.
I brought up islands out of the depths into the light.
I am the Queen of rainstorms.
55   I overcome Fate.
Fate hearkens to me.
Hail, O Egypt, that nourished me!





3.   The Maroneia Aretalogy

This inscription was written in about 100 B.C., at Maroneia in Thrace.   It is the earliest surviving aretalogy. Comparison with the previous aretalogy shows that it has been heavily adapted, and is intended for a Greek audience. Another inscription, at Andros, went further and turned the aretalogy into a Greek hexameter poem; see R.E.Witt, "Isis in the ancient world", pp.107-109 ( Google Books ).

The translation is taken from P.Martzavou, Isis Aretalogies, Initiations and Emotions (2012), with a line added at the start.   The Greek text can be found in I. Aeg. Thrace 205, in the PHI database of inscriptions.


. . .

. . . to see that words of praise may not be lacking to express the greatness of your benefaction; . . . the encomium and the face belong to a goddess, not to a man.

So, just as in the case of my eyes, Isis, you listened to my prayers, come for your praises and to hear my second prayer; for the praise of you is entirely more important than my eyes whenever with the same eyes with which I saw the sun I see your world. I am completely confident that you will come again. 10 For since you came when called for my salvation, how would you not come for your own honour?

So taking heed I proceed to what remains, knowing that this encomium is written not only by the hand of a man, but also by the mind of a god.

And first I shall come to your family, making as the beginning of my praises the earliest beginnings of your family. They say that Gē was the mother of all: you were born a daughter to her first.

You took Sarapis to live with you, and when you had made your marriage together the world, provided with eyes, was lit up by means of your faces, Helios and Selene.

So you are two but have many designations among men. 20 For you are the only ones whom everyday life knows as gods. Therefore, how would the account of your praises not be unmanageable when one must praise many gods at the outset?

She with Hermes discovered writing; and of this writing some was sacred for initiates, some was publicly available for all.

She instituted justice, that each of us might know how to live on equal terms, just as, because of our nature, death makes us equal.

She instituted the non-Greek language for some, Greek language for others, in order that the race might be differentiated not only as between men and women, but also between all peoples.

You gave laws, but they were called thesmoi originally. 30 Accordingly, cities enjoyed tranquillity, having discovered not violence legalised, but law without violence.

You made parents honoured by their children, in that you cared for them not only as fathers but also as gods. Accordingly, the favour is greater when a goddess also drew up as law what is necessary in nature.

As a domicile Egypt is loved by you.

You particularly honoured Athens within Greece. For there first you made the earth produce food: Triptolemos, yoking your sacred snakes, scattered the seed to all Greeks as he travelled in his chariot. Accordingly, in Greece we are keen to see Athens and in Athens, Eleusis; 40 considering the city to be the ornament of Europe, and the sacred place the ornament of the city.

She determined that life should cohere from a man and a woman . . .




4.   Hymns to Isis at Philae

These hymns were inscribed in hieroglyphs on the rear wall of the temple of Isis at Philae, during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus, who is mentioned repeatedly in hymns 5-8.

The translation is taken from L.V.Žabkar, Hymns to Isis in her temple at Philae (1988).   For the first two hymns, see also David Klotz, Two Hymns to Isis from Philae Revisited (2014).


Hymn I


Praise to you Isis-Hathor,
God's mother, Lady of Heaven,
Mistress of Abaton, Queen of the gods.
 
You are the divine mother of Horus,
The Mighty Bull, protector of his father,
Who causes the rebels to fall.
 
Praise to you Isis-Hathor,
God's mother, Lady of Heaven,
Mistress of Abaton, Queen of the gods.
 
You are the divine mother of Horus,
Min-Horus, the hero who smites his enemy,
And makes a massacre thereby.
 
Praise to you Isis-Hathor,
God's mother, Lady of Heaven,
Mistress of Abaton, Queen of the gods.
 
You are the divine mother of Horus,
Khonsu-the-powerful, the royal child of the Lord of Eternity,
Lord of Nubia, ruler of foreign lands.
 
Praise to you Isis-Hathor,
God's mother, Lady of Heaven,
Mistress of Abaton, Queen of the gods.
 
You are the divine mother of Horus,
The Mighty Bull, who establishes the temples of the Ennead,
And fashions every divine image.
 
Praise to you Isis-Hathor,
God's mother, Lady of Heaven,
Mistress of Abaton, Queen of the gods.
 
You are the divine mother of Horus,
The Mighty Bull who protects Egypt,
Lord of the nome, forever.
 
Praise to you Isis-Hathor,
God's mother, Lady of Heaven,
Mistress of Abaton, Queen of the gods.



Hymn II


Praise to you, Isis, the Great One,
God's mother, Lady of Heaven,
Mistress and Queen of the gods.
 
You are the First Royal Spouse of Onnophris,
The supreme overseer of the Golden Ones in the temples,
The Eldest son, first born of Geb.
 
Praise to you, Isis, the Great One,
God's mother, Lady of Heaven,
Mistress and Queen of the gods.
 
You are the First Royal Spouse of Onnophris,
The Bull, the Lion who overthrows all his enemies,
The Lord and ruler of eternity.
 
Praise to you, Isis, the Great One,
God's mother, Lady of Heaven,
Mistress and Queen of the gods.
 
You are the First Elect One of Onnophris,
The perfect youth who performs slaughter among the disaffected
of the Two Lands.
 
Praise to you, Isis, the Great One,
God's mother, Lady of Heaven,
Mistress and Queen of the gods.
 
You are the First Royal Spouse of Onnophris,
One who protects her brother and watches over the weary-of-heart.
 
Praise to you, Isis, the Great One,
God's mother, Lady of Heaven,
Mistress and Queen of the gods.
 
You are the First Royal Spouse of Onnophris,
The Eternal One rejuvenating himself, who raised up Eternity:
You are with him in Biggeh.
 
Praise to you, Isis, the Great One,
God's mother, Lady of Heaven,
Mistress and Queen of the gods.



Hymn III


O Isis, the Great, God's mother, Lady of Philae,
God's Wife, God's Adorer, and God's Hand,
God's mother and Great Royal Spouse,
Adornment and Lady of the Ornaments of the Palace.
 
Lady and desire of the Green Fields,
Nursling who fills the palace with her beauty,
Fragrance of the palace, mistress of joy,
Who completes her course in the Divine Place.
 
Rain-cloud that makes green the fields when it descends,
Maiden, sweet of love, Lady of Upper and Lower Egypt,
Who issues orders among the divine Ennead,
According to whose command one rules.
 
Princess, great of praise, lady of charm,
Whose face enjoys the trickling of fresh myrrh.



Hymn IV


Isis, giver of life, residing in the Sacred Mound, Satis, Lady of Biggeh:
She is the one who pours out the Inundation
That makes all people live and green plants grow,
Who provides divine offerings for the gods,
And invocation-offerings for the Transfigured Ones.
 
Because she is the Lady of Heaven,
Her man is the Lord of the Netherworld,
Her son is Lord of the Land,
Her man is the pure water, rejuvenating himself in Biggeh in his time.
 
Indeed, She is the Lady of Heaven, Earth, and the Netherworld,
Having brought them into existence through what her heart conceived and
her hands created,
She is the ba that is in every city,
Watching over her son Horus and her brother Osiris.



Hymn V


The king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Usikare-meramon, adores his mother
Isis, the Lady of Heaven:
 
May she come to her House to join her Image,
Her radiance inundating the faces,
Like the radiance of Re when he shows himself in the morning.
 
The female Horus, beloved of the Great Horus,
Mother of Horus, created by Atum,
Great Royal Spouse, united with Re,
Who protects her brother Osiris.
 
Who took possession of the Two Lands,
Ruler of gods and goddesses;
Who attacks the powerful ones,
Mightier than the mighty, stronger than the strong;
Who smites millions by cutting off their heads,
Great of Massacre against her Enemy.
 
Mistress of flame who assaults the rebels,
Who slays Apophis in an instant,
Uraeus of Re, the Coiled One upon his head,
Who gives orders in the barque of the King of Upper and Lower Ehypt.
 
O Isis, the Great, God's mother, Lady of Philae,
Mother of Horus, daughter of Re, beloved of his very heart,
Lady of her appearances in the Sacred Tent,
Worshipped in her sanctuaries:
 
Make enduring the years of the Son of Re, Lord of the Crowns, Ptolemy,
Established like the Falcon upon the Serekh,
May he gloriously appear as the King of Upper and Lower Egypt upon the
throne of Horus,
Eternally, like Re.



Hymn VI


The King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Lord of the Two Lands, Usikare-
meramun, adores his mother Isis, the Lady -Wosret:
 
Come to the Palace, you who makes gods and men live,
You to whose ka Heh stretches himself up,
Whom Re has raised upon his head,
Who shines as the diadem upon his forehead.
 
You are the one who rises and dispels darkness,
Shining when traversing the primeval ocean,
The Brilliant One in the celestial waters
Travelling in the barque of Re.
 
Horus of the East presents to you the Great Oblation,
And the Seat that is in Heliopolis is in festivity;
Offerings are made to you in Heliopolis on the Feast of the Sixth Day,
Glorious are the great feasts when many festivals are celebrated for you
With rich offerings at Biggeh.
Forever for your ka, everlastingly.
 
Rest in the great, august Palace;
Come to the Palace of the Feasts at the time of solemn offerings;
O Golden One, Re, possessor of the Two Lands, will never be far from you,
So that the Noble One may circle the realm of the dead in the company of her brother Osiris.
 
O Isis, protect the Son of Re, Ptolemy, the Distinguished One,
His majesty is Horus upon the throne of the Child,
Forever and ever.



Hymn VII


The King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Usirkare-meramun, Son of Re, Ptolemy,
Has come before you, O Isis, the Great, God's mother, bringing you the sistra to pacify you with them.
 
I play the sistra before your beautiful face,
Isis, Giver of Life, residing in the Sacred Mound,
Eye of Re who has no equal in Heaven and on earth.
 
Great of love, mistress of women,
Who fills Heaven and earth with her beauty,
Divine mother of Kamutef,
Great Royal Spouse of Onnophris.
 
The August One, Great Lady in the Hall of the Prince,
The Mighty One in the Mansion of the sacred benben stone,
Who governs the divine barque.
 
Great goddess in Hikuptah,
Mistress of Ta-ankh,
Ruler in Thebes and Lady of Isheru,
Great of manifestations in Biggeh:
Great Goddess preeminent in Upper Egypt,
Mistress of Lower Egypt,
May your face be gracious to your son Horus, Ptolemy.
 
Hail, Lady, Daughter of Menhyt,
Lady of Buto, Lady of Pe, Mistress of Dep,
With tall White Crown in El-Kab,
Lady of the Sacred Mound, Mistress of Philae,
To you belongs Imu, you who are exalted in Saïs,
Neith, Lady of inebriation in the season of the fresh inundation waters,
Jubilation in Pe, rejuvenation in Dep:
Protect the Son of Re, Ptolemy, forever.



Hymn VIII


The King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Usikare-meramun, adores his mother:
 
Hail to you, Isis, Great of magical power,
The eldest in the womb of her mother, Nut,
Mighty in Heaven before Re.
 
Adoration to you in the night-barque,
Jubilation to you in the day-barque,
You who gave birth to all the gods.
 
Son of Re, Ptolemy, has come before you, Lady of Life,
On this day on which you have gloriously appeared,
To tie onto you the uraeus-diadem,
To fasten onto you the Mighty One,
Usirkare-meramun, your son Horus.
 
May your ka be in peace, O Lady of life,
On this day on which you have gloriously appeaed,
You who the gods have propitiated after her rage.
 
O beloved of Re who are in his barque,
Repelling Apophis with the effectiveness of your utterance,
Behold, Ptolemy has come before you,
That, purified, he may adore your beauty.
 
The evils of the past year that had adhered to him have been driven off,
His evils of this year, they are done away with,
His back is turned to them;
He has presented propitiatory offerings on account of them,
And his face is turned to the Lady:
How welcome you are again.
 
He has not done anything abominable toward the god of his town,
He has not committed any evil;
Nothing will be counted against him among the assessors and the scribes of the
Two Lands,
Those who inflict injuries as the yearly share,
Who drive and haul the herds to the god's slaughtering block.
 
He is protected from this year,
From its inimical spells which accompany it,
In peace, in peace, O Happy New Year,
He will fully satisfy your ka with offerings, O Isis.
His face is permeated with life.





5.   Hor: Invocation to Isis

Ḥor was a minor priest of Isis, who lived in the first half of the second century B.C.; many of his personal documents have survived, and are known as the 'Archive of Ḥor'. He wrote down these seven short invocations on an ostracon; the first one is dated precisely, to May 169 B.C.

The translation of the demotic text ( O.Hor. 10 ) is taken from H.Kockelmann, Praising the Goddess (2008).


The first.   Come to me, [mistress], lady of the chapel, lady of the uraeus, lady of the two lands, Isis the great, god's mother, great goddess of the [wadi] of the [lake], lady of the Hand of Horus which was given to him by Osiris in Siut.   Written by Hor in year 12, month 3 of peret {= Pharmuthi}, day 17.

Come to me, my [mistress], Isis, in my [presence] together with your [progenitor], Isis the great, god's mother, great goddess of the whole land!

Come to me, Isis the [great], god's [mother], great goddess, lady of [love], noble one {= Agathē Tychē}, great destiny!   Written by Hor in Pi-Djehuti.

Come to me, Isis, [mistress], lady of heaven and earth, lady of a great [tomb] !   A good beginning is it, written by Hor in Buto.

Come to me, Isis! Your praise is among men, your glory is among the gods, for you give the food to man in his lifetime and when he dies it is you who buries! Isis said to me: 'They belong to you yourself, the two good things: your food is fixed for you in your living days. When you die, I will cause you to be buried.'

Come to me, my [mistress], Isis the queen l.p.h. of all [entirety], who governs the entire land!   Written by Hor in Pi-Djehuti.

Come to me, my [mistress], Isis, the lady of the rope who chains and sets free again.   Written in the aforementioned town.







6.   Oxyrhynchus Hymn to Isis

This papyrus was written at the start of the second century A.D., but it is believed that the text was composed earlier, probably during the reign of the emperor Augustus. What survives is only about half of the original hymn. The first half emphasises the syncretism of Isis with other deities, as a result of which she was called Myrionymos, the goddess of ten thousand names.

The translation is adapted from B.P.Grenfell & A.S.Hunt in volume 11 of The Oxyrhynchus papyri (1915), where the Greek text of P.Oxy. 1380 can also be found.


Aphroditopolis One- . . . ;
in the House of Hephaestus ..chmeunis ;
who at ...ophis are called Bubastis, . . . ;
at Letopolis Magna one, . . . ;
at Aphroditopolis in the Prosopite nome fleet-commanding, many-shaped, Aphrodite;
10   at Delta giver of favours;
at Calamisis gentle;
at Carene affectionate;
at Niciu immortal, giver;
at Hierasus . . . athroichis ;
at Momemphis ruler ;
at Psochemis bringer to harbour ;
at Mylon ruler ;
at Ce . . culemis . . . ;
at Hermopolis of beautiful form, sacred ;
20   at Naucratis fatherless, joy, saviour, almighty, most great;
at Nithine in the Gynaecopolite nome Aphrodite ;
at Pephremis Isis, ruler, Hestia, lady of every country ;
at Es . . . Hera, divine ;
at . . . ;
at Buto skilled in calculation, . . . ;
at Thonis love . . . ;
30   in the Saite nome victorious, Athena, nymph ;
at Nebeo . . . ;
at Caene joy ;
at Saïs Hera, ruler, perfect ;
at Iseum Isis ;
at Sebennytus inventiveness, mistress, Hera, holy ;
at Hermopolis Aphrodite, queen, holy ;
at Diospolis Parva ruler ;
at Bubastis of old ;
at Heliopolis Aphrodite ;
at Athribis Maia, supporter;
40   at Hiera in the Phthemphuthite nome lotus-bearing;
at Teouchis sacred, mistress ;
among the Bucoli Maia ;
at Xois of old, oracular ;
at Catabathmus providence;
at Apis understanding;
at Leuce Acte Aphrodite, Mouchis, Eseremphis;
at Phagroriopolis . . . ;
at Choatinê victorious ;
at . . . skilled in writing, . . . ;
50   at Cynopolis in the Busirite nome Praxidicē;
at Busiris fortune, good ;
at Hermopolis in the Mendesian nome leader ;
at Pharbaethus of beautiful form ;
at Isidium in the Sethroite nome saviour of men ;
at Heracleopolis in the Sethroite nome mistress ;
at Phernouphis ruler of cities ;
at Leontopolis serpent, good ;
at Tanis of gracious form, Hera ;
60   at Schedia inventiveness ;
at Heracleum lady of the sea;
at Canopus leader of the muses;
at Menouthis truth;
at Meniouis seated before Io in whose honour . . . is founded ;
at . . enestium most great, vulture-shaped, Aphrodite;
at Taposiris Thauestis, Hera, giver;
in the Island swiftly victorious ;
at Peucestis pilot ;
70   at Melais (?) many-formed ;
at Menouphis warlike ;
in the Metelite nome Core;
at Charax Athena;
at Plinthine Hestia;
at Pelusium bringer to harbour;
in the Casian district Tachnepsis ;
at the Outlet Isis, preserver;
in Arabia great, goddess ;
in the Island giver of victory in the sacred games ;
in Lycia Leto ;
at Myra in Lycia sage, freedom ;
80   at Cnidus dispeller of attack, discoverer ;
at Cyrene Isis ;
in Crete Dictynnis ;
at Chalcedon Themis;
at Rome warlike;
in the Cyclades islands of threefold nature, Artemis ;
at Patmos young, . . . ;
at Paphos hallowed, divine, gentle ;
in Chios marching ;
at Salamis observer ;
in Cyprus all-bounteous ;
in Chalcidice holy ;
in Pieria youthful;
90   in Asia Worshipped at the three ways ;
at Petra saviour ;
at Hypsele most great ;
at Rhinocolura all-seeing;
at Dora friendship ;
at Stratonos Pyrgos Hellas, good ;
at Ascalon mightiest ;
at Sinope many-named ;
at Raphia mistress ;
at Tripolis supporter;
at Gaza abundant ;
at Delphi best, fairest ;
100  at Bambyce Atargatis ;
among the Thracians and in Delos many-named ;
among the Amazons warlike ;
among the Indians Maia ;
among the Thessalians moon ;
among the Persians Latina ;
among the Magi Korē, Thapseusis;
at Susa Nania ;
in Syrophoenicia goddess ;
in Samothrace bull-faced ;
at Pergamum mistress ;
in Pontus immaculate ;
in Italy love of the gods ;
110  in Samos sacred ;
at the Hellespont mystic ;
at Myndus divine ;
in Bithynia Helen ;
in Tenedos name of the sun ;
in Caria Hecate ;
in the Troad and at Dindyma . . ., Palentra (?), unapproachable, Isis ;
at Berytus Maia ;
at Sidon Astarte ;
at Ptolemais understanding ;
at Susa in the district by the Red Sea Sarkounis ;
you who also interpret first of all in the fifteen commandments,
120  ruler of the world ;
guardian and guide, lady of the mouths of seas and rivers ;
skilled in writing and calculation, understanding ;
who also bring back the Nile over every country ;
the beautiful animal of all the gods ;
the glad face in Lethe ;
the leader of the muses ;
the many-eyed ;
the comely goddess in Olympus ;
130  ornament of the female sex and affectionate ;
providing sweetness in assemblies ;
the lock of hair (?) in festivals ;
the prosperity of observers of lucky days ;
Harpocratis of the gods ;
all-ruling in the processions of the gods, enmity-hating;
true jewel of the wind and diadem of life;
by whose command images and animals of all the gods,
140  having . . . of your name, are worshipped ;
lady Isis, greatest of the gods, first of names, Io Sothis ;
you rule over the mid-air and the immeasurable ;
you devise the weaving of . . . ;
it is also your will that women in health come to anchor with men ;
all the elders at E...ctus sacrifice ;
all the maidens who . . .
150  at Heracleopolis turn (?) to you and dedicated the country to you ;
you are seen by those who invoke you faithfully ;
from whom . . . in virtue of the 365 combined days ;
gentle and merciful is the favour of your two ordinances ;
you bring the sun from rising unto setting, and all the gods are glad ;
at the risings of the stars
160  the people of the country worship you unceasingly
and the other sacred animals in the sanctuary of Osiris, they become joyful when they name you ;
the . . . spirits become your subjects ;
. . .
. . .
170  . . .
and you bring decay on what you will and to the destroyed bring increase,
and you purify all things ;
every day you have appointed for joy ;
you . . . having discovered all the . . .
180  of wine provided it first in the festivals of the gods . . . ;
you became the discoverer of all things wet and dry and cold and hot
of which all things are composed ;
you brought back alone your brother, piloting him safely and burying him fittingly;
190  . . .
. . . leader of diadems ;
lady of increase and decay and of . . .
. . .
200  . . .
you established shrines of Isis in all cities for all time;
and delivered to all men observances and a perfect year ;
and to all men . . . in every place ;
you showed . . . in order that all men might know that you . . . ;
you established your son Horus Apollo
210  everywhere the youthful lord of the whole world
and . . . for all time ;
you made the power of women equal to that of men ;
and in the sanctuary you did . . . nations . . .
. . .
220  . . .
you, lady of the land, bring the flood of rivers . . .,
and in Egypt the Nile, in Tripolis the Eleutherus, in India the Ganges ;
owing to whom the whole and the . . . exists through all rain, every spring, all dew and snow,
230  and all . . . and land and sea ;
you are also the mistress of all things for ever;
. . . you made the . . . of the Dioscuri ;
. . . you have dominion over winds and thunder and lightning and snow ;
you, the lady of war and rule,
240  easily destroy tyrants by trusty counsels ;
you made great Osiris immortal, and delivered to every country . . . religious observances ;
likewise you made immortal Horus who showed himself a benefactor . . . and good ;
you are the lady of light and flames;
you . . . a sanctuary at Memphis;
Horus having judged beforehand
250  that you had appointed him successor of his father
. . . enthroning him, . . .
. . .
260  . . .
you established him lord of the throne and oracular king over his father's house for all time ;
in your honour out of three temples that at Busiris
270  called . . .


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