This week’s Women's Wednesday is dedicated to the goddess Isis: woman of many roles, she is depicted above in the act of writing a book of law amidst some farmers.
Many are the myths concerning Isis: in addition to being celebrated as the Queen of Egypt and goddess of the moon, she was also known as the patron of fertility, green crops, and magical healing. Another myth, for which Boccaccio himself shows a certain preference, sees the origin of Isis in a human woman named Io. According to this legend, either enchanted by a spell or captivated by her beauty, Zeus had fallen in love with Io; in the attempt to protect his lover and escape the fury of his wife Hera, Zeus transformed the girl into a cow. Despite this, Hera eventually found out and put Io under Argos’ watch; Zeus, however, managed to kill Argos and set Io free, sending her on a journey to Egypt. Once she had reached her destination, Io finally turned back into a human. The author of the De Mulieribus Claris also describes how Isis then taught Egyptians how to work the earth, how to feed themselves and how to live in a society as civilized men; in return, to honor their Queen, the Egyptians erected numerous temples in her name and raised her to the status of a goddess.
“Isis”, illumination from the manuscript “Des cleres et nobles femmes”, ms. Spencer Collection 033, f. 10r, ca. 1450, The New York Public Library
Historically and mythologically speaking, being in a powerful position (and perhaps also a…