Associate Professor Julie Van Voorhis discussed the diffusion of Egyptian cults and religious symbols into Roman and Greek culture during a Noon Talk on Jan. 22 at the IU Art Museum.
Works inspired by Egyptian cults are displayed in the museum’s Gallery of the Arts of Asia and the Ancient Western World.
Van Voorhis, who teaches Ancient Greek and Roman art history at the Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts, explained the segregated Greek empire and the expanses it inhabited.
Many of the Greek city-states were not as friendly as they are believed to have been, Van Voorhis said.
They were only brought together because of religious traditions and a common language.
These common religious traditions came from the many areas of the Greek empire, especially Egypt.
“Lots of cultures borrow from Egypt, but Egypt always looks to itself,” Van Voorhis said. “It’s a remarkable consistency, regardless of who ruled Egypt at the time.”
Van Voorhis described how many different civilizations respected and admired Egyptian culture during ancient times.
Serapis, a Graeco-Egyptian god and the focus of Van Voorhis’ talk, was essentially created after Alexander the Great’s empire was split among leaders.
Egypt was given to Ptolemy, who adopted Egyptian customs and religious traditions in order to better establish his power and support in Egypt.
“You start to see this interesting negotiation between cultures,” Van Voorhis said.
In her work, Van Voorhis said she often questions why Greek and Roman cultures adopted these Egyptian cult religions.
“The Egyptian cults bring a hope of an afterlife,” she said. “I think for a certain Greek and Roman population, these cults would have offered a promise for more.”
Follow reporter Alison Graham on Twitter @AlisonGraham218.
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