When the Temple of Isis was discovered by escavators its decoration and furnishings were almost intact, thereby contributing decisively to introduce Pompeii to the world. The ancient cult of the Egyptian goddess spread throughout the Mediterranean as from the 3rd century BC; it was a mystery cult, reserved for initiates. The myth tells the story of Isis who retrieves the parts of the body of her spouse Osiris, killed and dismembered by Seth, to recompose him and revive him with her magical limbs, thereby becoming the life-giving deity. The cult was particularly popular among the lower classes of Pompeii, given the message of hope for a life beyond death.
There is the temple on a high basis at the centre of a portico-style courtyard; the altar, the pit for the offerings to be discharged and a small building (purgatorium) are found in the area at the front. Inside this area there is a staircase that leads to the basin from which water was drawn for the offerings, which was said to derive directly from the Nile. A large hall behind the temple was dedicated to meetings of the initiates (ekklesiasterion) and paintings could be viewed in a smaller one (sacrarium), which illustrated episodes of the myth of the goddess.
Mozart, who visited Pompeii in 1770 with his father, Leopold, was so impressed by this temple that inspired the scenes of the first performance of the "Magic Flute" in Vienna in 1791. All the furnishings and statues are on display at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.
Date of excavation: 1764; 1958-1959 e 1988-1991.