Gender and Alterity in Provincial Portraiture: Reconsidering the Isiac Grave Reliefs of Roman Athens

by Lindsey A. Mazurek

Hesperia, Volume 90, Issue 3
Page(s): 605-640
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2972/hesperia.90.3.0605
Year: 2021


This article reexamines Athenian funerary reliefs depicting women in the dress of the Egyptian goddess Isis. Previous work has focused on their cultic and art-historical implications but has not considered their meaning in a colonial context. During the Roman Empire, provincial communities often depicted women in local, ethnic, or otherwise differentiated costumes, while men appeared in Graeco-Roman dress. In Athens several women wore Isis’s dress, while their male companions wore Greek dress. This article argues that this gendered pattern of dress negotiated competing yet complementary identity claims within a Roman colonial context. This analysis suggests that cult membership allowed some Greeks to employ empire-wide patterns of self-representation in their portraiture.