Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Laurent Bricault, Richard Veymiers (ed.), Bibliotheca Isiaca II. Bordeaux: Éditions Ausonius, 2011. Pp. 486. ISBN 9782356130532. €30.00.

Reviewed by Gil H. Renberg, Universität zu Köln (grenberg@uni-koeln.de)

Version at BMCR home site

[The table of contents is provided at the end of this review.]

Continuing the valuable new series that began in 2008 with Laurent Bricault as sole editor,1 the second Bibliotheca Isiaca volume prepared by Bricault and Richard Veymiers makes numerous and varied contributions to the study of Egyptian religion in Greco-Roman Egypt and throughout the Greek East and Latin West. The series title does not indicate the true range of these volumes, which are devoted not only to the worship of Isis, but also other gods whose cults originated in Egypt and were often associated with her: primarily Osiris, Sarapis, and Harpokrates, but also Anubis, Apis, Bes, Nephthys and some more rarely attested ones, including even Antinous. The pattern established by the two volumes is for roughly half to be devoted to new studies that draw heavily from material culture and the remainder to new installments of two ongoing epigraphical and bibliographical projects.2 Since the new studies, which have been marked by a high level of quality, could easily find other publication venues, it is the ongoing projects that make the existence of Bibliotheca Isiaca particularly valuable.

The first of these projects is Bricault's effort to keep up-to-date his essential and exemplary corpus of all Greek and Latin inscriptions pertaining to Isis and Sarapis and their associates that were found outside of Egypt, the Recueil des inscriptions concernant les cultes isiaques (abbrev.: RICIS).3 In both volumes of Bibliotheca Isiaca Bricault has provided an extensive supplement that updates entries for inscriptions in the original work and adds new texts published since its appearance.4 As epigraphical sources are essential to the study of Egyptian religion beyond Egypt, the importance of RICIS, which replaced a less ambitious catalog that was nearly four decades old,5 cannot be understated, and the fact that it is being regularly updated is therefore especially welcome.

The other project that is also a great boon for the study of these cults is the "Chronique bibliographique," in which the editors and a half-dozen colleagues – most notably Michel Malaise, whose work on the Egyptian cults dates back to the 1960's – provide detailed summaries of each pertinent publication, with the years 2000-2004 and 2005-2008 covered so far.6 Modeled on Jean Leclant and Gisèle Clerc's Inventaire bibliographique des Isiaca,7 a project that regrettably stopped after summarizing the scholarship published in 1940-1969, the survey covers a large range of subjects and is impressively thorough, devoting entries to even the most obscure publications. In contrast to the short entries in L'Année Philologique, the team of reviewers produce summaries that are as long as necessary to touch on all the essential points of an article or book, and also they abandon neutrality when thought necessary: the reviewers frequently provide a service by noting flawed work or arguments, which makes the "Chronique bibliographique" all the more valuable and worthy of consultation. While other annual and regular surveys of new scholarship and finds do include materials pertaining to the Egyptian cults (e.g., Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum, L'Année Épigraphique, Bulletin Épigraphique, Epigraphical Bulletin for Greek Religion, Chronique archéologique de la religion grecque "Forschungsbericht Römische Religion"), no current survey comes close to the "Chronique bibliographique" in terms of both breadth and depth. It therefore should not be overlooked by scholars working on any aspect of Egyptian religion in Greco-Roman times, or by those whose work leads them to stray briefly into this area.

While the RICIS supplements and bibliographical surveys are what have made the Bibliotheca Isiaca series irreplaceable, it also gives ample space to new scholarship, primarily by the editors and those contributing to the "Chronique bibliographique." Whereas Bibliotheca Isiaca I only presented these in the "Nova Isiaca" section, the much more expansive Bibliotheca Isiaca II – which more than doubles the length of the original – also presents seven articles from a 2008 colloquium honoring Malaise that was devoted to Egyptian religion in Greece, in addition to the eleven "Nova Isiaca." The articles from the colloquium are each devoted to a particular site, presenting either a relatively narrow focus (e.g., the iconography of ritual terracotta lamps from the Marathon sanctuary, male Egyptianizing statues from the same site, reliefs from Dion showing primarily ears or footprints) or a broader one (e.g., Isis worship at Messene or Argos, an overview of the Marathon sanctuary), or else the results from recent excavations (Rhodes). Each will be of interest to scholars in particular fields or sub-fields, but the report on the Rhodian Isieion is perhaps most noteworthy, as this Hellenistic site, which was previously known from literary sources, was only recently discovered during a rescue excavation. Though the sanctuary was not fully preserved, the temple, Nilometer crypt and sections of the walls have survived, as have works of statuary and other artifacts, and these are all presented in detail. Also noteworthy is the piece on Egyptianizing statues, as the title conceals an important discussion of Antinous iconography that explores the possibility that some of the statues at the sanctuary established by Herodes Atticus represented the divinized youth. The articles of the "Nova Isiaca" section, with the exception of Malaise's article on Isis in Rome under Augustus and Veymiers's supplement to his recent corpus of magical gems representing Sarapis,8 tend to be on very narrow topics, mostly iconographical. All of these articles, in addition to being of high quality, are well illustrated, with numerous photos, figures and plans to be found throughout the two sections.

Bibliotheca Isiaca II is a publication with few problems, only one significant: the approach to indexing. There is an "Index général" that covers all of the volume's contents other than the RICIS supplement (which has its own), and despite some omissions is quite thorough.9 A bigger problem is the absence of an index locorum – a criticism, admittedly (and most unfortunately), that applies to far too many books. Preparing an index for such a volume would certainly have been daunting and delayed publication, but it would have made the final product more useful for research, and the delay is a small matter for a volume that will be consulted for many years to come. This absence is especially regrettable for the "Chronique bibliographique," since one already has to know that a pertinent article or book exists in order to look it up, whereas an index locorum might alert one to previously unknown scholarship on a topic of interest. Another, much less noticeable, problem pertains to imperfect coordination between the RICIS Supplement and "Chronique bibliographique," since occasionally epigraphical works are to be found in both and thus there is unnecessary redundancy,10 while other times an epigraphical publication is accidentally omitted from the supplement but summarized in the survey.11 A third problem is that even though the team of scholars who produce the "Chronique bibliographique" have been able to collect and summarize a remarkable 900 works for the two volumes they nonetheless have (inevitably) missed several books and articles – a problem that would be partly solved if more scholars were to provide offprints, references or publication announcements to ensure that their work is included.12

With its extraordinarily broad range, both in terms of the articles and the epigraphical and bibliographical surveys, Bibliotheca Isiaca II – and, indeed, the whole series – will be useful to scholars working on a similarly wide range of topics, and both volumes have achieved a high level of quality that promises to continue. The series therefore belongs in every library devoted to classical studies, ancient history, archaeology and art history, and on the office shelves of not a few scholars. And, since the volume can be purchased at the surprisingly low price of 30 Euros, which is a fraction of the price of many books that are far less useful, the publishers at Université de Bordeaux have done their part to make this possible.

Table of Contents


Part I: Les cultes isiaques en Grèce
Laurent Bricault et Richard Veymiers, 'Introduction'
Perikles Christodoulou, 'Les reliefs votifs du sanctuaire d'Isis à Dion'
Ifigenia Dekoulakou, 'Le sanctuaire des dieux égyptiens à Marathon'
Charikleia Fantaoutsaki, 'Preliminary Report on the Excavation of the Sanctuary of Isis in Ancient Rhodes: Identification, Topography and Finds'
Pelly Fotiadi, 'Ritual Terracotta Lamps with Representations of Sarapis and Isis from the Sanctuary of the Egyptian Gods at Marathon: The Variation of "Isis with Three Ears of Wheat"'
Labrini Siscou, 'The Male Egyptianizing Statues from the Sanctuary of the Egyptian Gods at Marathon'
Petros Themelis, 'The Cult of Isis at Ancient Messene'
Richard Veymiers, 'Les cultes isiaques à Argos. Du mythe à l'archéologie'

Part II: Nova Isiaca
Laurent Bricault, 'Une statuette d'Hermanubis pour Arès'
Laurent Bricault, 'Poids de Byblos inscrits au basileion'
Laurent Bricault and Jean-Louis Podvin, 'Sur une trentaine de statues en pierre de Sarapis'
Marie-Christine Budischovsky, 'La phorie de Bès'
Marie-Christine Budischovsky, 'Petits bronzes d'Égypte gréco-romaine: Harpocrate à la cornucopia, Harpocrate sur le bélier'
Pierre P. Koemoth, 'Une enquête phytoreligieuse. Isis entre la rose crucifère et le grand épilobe'
Michel Malaise, 'Octavien et les cultes isiaques à Rome en 28'
Michel Malaise and Richard Veymiers, 'À propos d'un dieu panthée en bronze arborant le basileion d'Isis'
Sophie Picaud et Jean-Louis Podvin, 'Les isiaca de Tarse et de sa région'
Ennio Sanzi, 'Magia e Culti orientali X. Osservazioni storico-religiose su alcune testimonianze in lingua copta relative ad Iside, Serapide, agli dèi sunnaoi ed alla magia'
Richard Veymiers, 'Ἵλεως τῷ φοροῦντι. Sérapis sur les gemmes et les bijoux antiques. Supplément I'

Part III: Supplément no 2 au RICIS (avec photos rares ou inédites)
Part IV Chronique bibliographique 2000-2004 (Supplément) & 2005-2008
Bibliographie générale
Index épigraphique
Index général


1.   L. Bricault (ed.), Bibliotheca Isiaca I (Bordeaux, 2008).
2.   According to the second volume's forward, Bibliotheca Isiaca III will feature an update to the numismatic corpus pertaining to these cults, L. Bricault (ed.), Sylloge Nummorum Religionis Isiacae et Sarapiacae (MemAcInscr 38; Paris, 2008) (abbrev.: SNRIS).
3.   L. Bricault, Recueil des inscriptions concernant les cultes isiaques, 3 vols. (MemAcInscr 31; Paris, 2005). (A comparable collection of Greek, Demotic and Coptic papyri and ostraka pertaining to these cults remains a desideratum.)
4.   "Supplément au RICIS," Bibliotheca Isiaca I (Bordeaux, 2008), 77-130; "RICIS Supplément II," Bibliotheca Isiaca II (Bordeaux, 2011), 273-307.
5.   Ladislaus Vidmann, Sylloge inscriptionum religionis Isiacae et Sarapiacae (RGVV 28; Berlin, 1969).
6.   Laurent Bricault, Marie-Christine Budischovsky, Anemari Bugarski-Mesdijan, Michel Malaise, Jean-Louis Podvin, Miguel John Versluys, "Chronique bibliographique 2000-2004," Bibliotheca Isiaca I, 131-230, supplemented by L. Bricault, M.-C. Budischovsky, Perikles Christodoulou, Valentino Gasparini, M. Malaise, J.-L. Podvin, Laetizia Puccio and Richard Veymiers, "Chronique bibliographique Supplément 2000-2004," Bibliotheca Isiaca II, 317-343; L. Bricault, M.-C. Budischovsky, P. Christodoulou, M. Malaise, J.-L. Podvin, L. Puccio, R. Veymiers and M.J. Versluys, "Chronique bibliographique 2005-2008," Bibliotheca Isiaca II, 345-448.
7.   Leclant, Jean and Gisèle Clerc, Inventaire bibliographique des Isiaca (IBIS): Répertoire analytique des travaux relatifs à la diffusion des cultes isiaques 1940-1969, 4 vols. (EPRO 18; Leiden, 1972-1991).
8.   R. Veymiers, Ἵλεως τῷ φοροῦντι: Sérapis sur les gemmes et les bijoux antiques (Académie Royale de Belgique, Classe des Lettres et des Sciences morales et politiques, Collection in 4o, 3e série, vol. 1, No. 2061; Brussels, 2009). See Valentino Gasparini's review in BMCR (BMCR 2011.06.46).
9.   This subject index does sometimes omit historical individuals, and is also inconsistent for some ancient sites. For example, a minor reference to Ulpia Traiana (appearing at p. 319 in a summary of an article on the cult of Isis in another Dacian town) is in the index, but whole articles on Carthago Nova (at pp. 317, 324, 341) are omitted.
10.   E.g., the pertinent inscriptions in the corpus for the Aegean coast of Thrace were included in RICIS Suppl. I, but nonetheless the second "Chronique bibliographique" briefly summarizes them (p. 401
11.   E.g., the summary of Mireille Cébeillac-Gervasoni, Maria Letizia Caldelli and Fausto Zevi, Épigraphie latine (Paris, 2006) notes the inclusion of four inscriptions from the cults of Isis and Sarapis (p. 370), but the RICIS entries have not been updated; similarly, an important article from 2008 on the Isis aretalogy from Kassandreia (RICIS Suppl. I, 113/1201) is summarized in the "Chronique" (p. 444), but the supplement is not updated.
12.   Among the works that merited inclusion in this or the previous volume are: Sue Davies, The Sacred Animal Necropolis at North Saqqara: The Mother of Apis and Baboon Catacombs: The Archaeological Report (EES Excavation Memoir 76; London, 2006); Jitse H.F. Dijkstra, Philae and the End of Ancient Egyptian Religion: A Regional Study of Religious Transformation (298-642 C.E.) (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 173; Leuven, 2008); Franck Goddio, Underwater Archaeology in the Canopic Region in Egypt: The Topography and Excavation of Heracleion-Thonis and East Canopus (1996-2006) (Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology, Monograph 1; Oxford, 2007); Joachim F. Quack, "'Ich bin Isis, die Herrin der beiden Länder': Versuch zum demotischen Hintergrund der memphitischen Isisaretalogie," in S. Meyer (ed.), Egypt – Temple of the Whole World: Studies in Honour of Jan Assmann (Numen Book Series 97; Leiden; Boston, 2003), 319-365; Stefan Pfeiffer, "The God Serapis, His Cult and the Beginnings of the Ruler Cult in Ptolemaic Egypt," in P. McKechnie and P. Guillaume (eds.), Ptolemy II Philadelphus and his World (Mnemosyne Suppl. 300; Leiden; Boston, 2008), 387-408.

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