Associations in the Greco-Roman World (AGRW)

An expanding collection of inscriptions, papyri, and other sources in translation (run by Philip A. Harland)

Aretalogy of Isis Mentioning Initiates (ca. 100 BCE) Maroneia - Thrace

Maroneia (Thrace, Danube and Black Sea areas — Pleiades map), II-I BCE
RICIS 114/0202 = IThraceL 205 = Dimitrios Papanikolaou, "The Aretalogy of Isis from Maroneia and the Question of Hellenistic ‘Asianism’," ZPE 168 (2009) 59–70 = Yves Grandjean, Une nouvelle arétalogie d’Isis à Maronée (Leiden: Brill, 1975) = NewDocs I 2 (with Eng. trans. reproduced with minor modifications below) = SEG 26 (1976), no. 821 = PHI 295473 = AGRW ID# 14080


Slab of marble. Found in Maroneia in 1969. Now in the museum at Komotini (inv. 963). The beginning and ending of the text is lost. Other inscriptions of the second and first centuries BCE attest to associations of therapeutists devoted to Sarapis and Isis at Maroneia (IThraceL 183, 213); this aretalogy refers to initiates in the mysteries. This aretalogy may well have been used within the context of such associations. The translation below is by G. H. R. Horsley (from NewDocs I 2), reproduced here with slight alterations and with permission.

. . . (three partial lines). . . may words of praise not be lacking in the face of the magnitude of your benefaction.  Therefore this encomium (i.e. praising rhetoric) entreats you, and praise for my face belongs to a goddess, not with 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.  (10) I am completely confident that you will come again.  For since you came when called for my salvation, how would you not come for your own honor?  So, taking heart, 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 Ge (Earth) 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 (Sun) and Selene (Moon).  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 (mystai), 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 (nomoi), but they were called “things laid down” (thesmoi) originally.  (30) Accordingly cities enjoyed stability, having discovered not violence legalized, but law without violence.  You made parents honored by their children, in that you cared for them not only as fathers, but also as gods.  Accordingly, the favor is greater when a goddess also drew up as law what is necessary in nature.  As a domicile, Egypt was loved by you.  You particularly honored 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 traveled 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 . . . (remainder lost).

Translation by: G. H. R. Horsley

[— — —] | {line 1} [— — — ]ΑΥΤΗΣ | [— — — ἐλ]άμβανον γὰρ | [— — —]ν θεωρήσειν, ὅτ̣αν πρὸς τὸ μέγεθος | [τῆς εὐε]ργεσίας οἱ λόγοι τῶν ἐπαίνων μὴ ἐλλίπωσιν. vac. ἧι δὲ || [τὰ π]ρῶτα, τὸ μὲν ἐ̣γ̣κ̣ω̣μ̣ί̣ου, τὸ δὲ προσώπου θεῶι κείμενον | [οὐκ ἀν]θρώπωι. vac. ὥσπερ οὖν ἐπὶ τῶν ὀμμάτων, Ἶσι, ταῖς εὐχαῖς | [ἐπήκο]υσας, ἐλθὲ τοῖς ἐπαίνοις καὶ ἐπὶ δευτέραν εὐχήν· | [κα]ὶ γ̣ὰρ τὸ σὸν ἐγκώμιον τῶν ὀμμάτων ἐστὶ κρεῖσσον | [ἅπ]αν, οἷς ἔβλεψα τὸν ἥλιον· τούτοις καὶ τὸν σὸν βλέπω κόσμον· || πείθομαι δὲ πάντως σε παρέσεσθαι. εἰ γὰρ ὑπὲρ τῆς ἐμῆς καλουμέ|νη σωτηρίας ἦλθες, πῶς ὑπὲρ τῆς ἰδίας τιμῆς οὐκ ἂν ἔλθοις; θαρ|ρῶν οὖν πορεύομαι πρὸς τὰ λοιπά, γινώσκων ὅτι τὸ ἐγκώμιον | νοῦς μὲν θεοῦ, χεῖρες δὲ γράφουσιν ἀνθρώπου. καὶ πρῶ|τον ἐπὶ τὸ γένος ἥξω, τῶν ἐγκωμίων ποιησάμενος ἀρχὴν || τὴν πρώτην σου τοῦ γένους ἀρχήν. γῆν φασι πάντων μη|τέρα γενηθῆναι· ταύτηι δὲ σὺ θυγάτηρ ἐσπάρης πρώτηι, | σύνοικον δ’ ἔλαβες Σέραπιν καί, τὸν κοινὸν ὑμῶν θεμένων γάμον, | τοῖς ὑμετέροις προσώποις ὁ κόσμος ἀνέλαμψεν ἐνομματισθεὶς | Ἡλίωι καὶ Σελήνηι. δύο μὲν οὖν ἐστε, καλεῖσθε δὲ πολλοὶ παρ’ ἀν||θρώποις· μόνους γὰρ ὁ βίος ὑμᾶς θεοὺς οἶδεν. πῶς οὖν τῶν | ἐγκωμίων οὐ δυσκράτητος ὁ λόγος ὅταν δέηι τὸν ἔπαινον | πολλοῖς θεοῖς προναῶσαι; αὕτη μεθ’ Ἑρμοῦ γράμμαθ’ εὗρεν | καὶ τῶν γραμμάτων ἃ μὲν ἱερὰ τοῖς μύσταις, ἃ δὲ δημόσια | τοῖς πᾶσιν. αὕτη τὸ δίκαιον ἔστησεν, ἵν’ ἕκαστος ἡμῶν || ὡς ἐκ τῆς φύσεως τὸν θάνατον ἴσον ἔσχεν καὶ ζῆν ἀπὸ τῶν | ἴσων εἰδῆι. αὕτη τῶν ἀνθρώπων οἷς μὲν βάρβαρον, οἷς δ’ ἑλλη|νίδα διάλεκτον ἔστησεν, ἵν’ ἦι τὸ γένος διαλλάσσον μὴ μό|νον ἀνδράσιν πρὸς γυναῖκας ἀλλὰ καὶ πᾶσι πρὸς πάντας. | σὺ νόμους ἔδωκας, θεσμοὶ δ’ ἐκαλοῦντο κατὰ πρώτας· τοι||[γα]ροῦν αἱ πόλεις εὐστάθησαν, οὐ τὴν βίαν νομικὸν ἀλλὰ | [τ]ὸν νόμον ἀβίαστον εὑροῦσαι. σὺ τιμᾶσθαι γονεῖς ὑπὸ | [τ]έκνων ἐποίησας, οὐ μόνον ὡς πατέρων, ἀλλ’ ὡς καὶ θεῶν | [φ]ροντίσασα· τοιγαροῦν ἡ χάρις κρείσσων ὅτε τῆς φύσε|ως τὴν ἀνάγκην καὶ θεὰ νόμον ἔγραψεν. σοὶ πρὸς κατοίκησιν || Αἴγυπτος ἐστέρχθη. σὺ μάλιστα τῆς Ἑλλάδος ἐτίμησας τὰς | Ἀθήνας· κεῖθι γὰρ πρῶτον τοὺς καρποὺς ἐξέφηνας· Τριπτόλε|μος δὲ τοὺς ἱεροὺς δράκοντάς σου καταζεύξας ἁρματοφο|ρούμενος εἰς πάντας Ἕλληνας διέδωκε τὸ σπέρμα· τοιγαροῦν | τῆς μὲν Ἑλλάδος ἰδεῖν σπεύδομεν τὰς Ἀθήνας, τῶν δ’ Ἀθη||νῶν Ἐλευσῖνα, τῆς μὲν Εὐρώπης νομίζοντες τὴν πόλιν, τῆς | δὲ πόλεως τὸ ἱερὸν κόσμον. ἔγνω τὸν βίον ἐξ ἀνδρὸς | συνεστηκότα καὶ γυναικός· ἔγνω [— — —]τερον τὴν γυ|ναῖκα· πῶς ἔδει τὸ ἧσσον [— — —] | [—]Ν ἐσφραγισ[— — —] || [— — —]

RICIS 114/0202. Photo © Laurent Bricault 2005.  Reproduced with permission.

RICIS 114/0202.
Photo © Laurent Bricault 2005. Reproduced with permission.

Item added: July 3, 2013
Item modified: April 16, 2016
ID number: 14080
Short link address:

Leave a Question, Comment or Correction

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *