Osiris Canopic Jar
A Canopic jar with the head of Osiris emerging from it. In the cult of Isis and Serapis, during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. Osiris Canopus jars (also known Osiris-Hydreios) were carried by priests during processions. As they are solid, each symbolically carried water from the Nile, fertility that originated from the god Osiris, one of Egypt’s earliest fertility gods.
Osiris-Canopus was named after the ancient Egyptian town of Canopus, on the western bank at the mouth of the westernmost branch of the Delta known as the Canopic or Heracleotic branch – not far from Alexandria.
During the Roman emperor Hadrian’s visit to Egypt in 130-131 AD, his companion Antinous tragically drowned in the Nile River. The grieving ruler memorialized his young lover by founding the city of Antinoopolis near the site of his death. He also established a Roman cult in which Antinous was honored as a semi-divine hero and equated with Osiris, the Egyptian god of the underworld.
Hadrian’s lavish imperial villa at Tivoli, northeast of Rome, was decorated with numerous statues of Antinous in Egyptian costume, as well as many other sculptures with Egyptian imagery. The enormous complex was designed to evoke the ruler’s wide-ranging travels throughout the Roman Empire. A terraced garden with a long pool was named Canopus after the site near Alexandria in Egypt, and a sanctuary that may have been dedicated to Antinous contained an obelisk in his memory.
Osiris in the Form of a Canopic Jar, found in Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli, Italy; alabaster. Roman Period, ca. 131-138 AD. Now in the Vatican Museums (Gregoriano Egizio). 22852