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Aretalogy (Greek: Αρεταλογία), from ἀρετή (aretḗ, “virtue”) + -logy, is a form of sacred biography where a deity's attributes are listed, in the form of poem or text, in the first person.


Often each line starts with the standard "I am …". Usually, aretalogies are self praising. They are found in the sacred texts of later Egypt, Mesopotamia and in Greco-Roman times. Aretalogies of Isis would be recited every day by an aretalogist who would have to memorise a huge list of attributes which he/she would have to recite.(Priests and priestesses of Isis had equal rank in the temple.) The aretalogies of ancient Egypt provide some the most complete information extant about their deities.[1] Aretalogies are found as early as the Coffin Texts. In a Ptolemeic aretalogy, Aset (Isis) says about herself:

I am Isis, ruler of every land.
I was taught by Hermes (Thoth) and with Hermes devised letters, both hieroglyphic and demotic, that all might not be written with the same.
I gave laws to mankind and ordained what no one can change.[2]


  1. ^ Lesko, Barbara S. (1999) The Great Goddesses of Egypt University of Oklahoma, Norman, pp. 196-199, ISBN 0-8061-3202-7
  2. ^ Barbara S. Lesko (1999). "The Great Goddesses of Egypt". (Univ. of Oklahoma). p. 196.
  • Bergman, Jan (1968), Ich bin Isis. Studien zum memphitischen Hintergrund der griechischen Isisaretalogien. (Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. Historia religionum 3.) Uppsala
  • Hadas, Moses and Smith, Morton (1965) "Heroes and Gods: Spiritual Biographies in Antiquity" Harper & Row, New York, ISBN 0-8369-1880-0
  • Smith, Morton (1971) "Prolegomena to a Discussion of Aretalogies, Divine Men, the Gospels, and Jesus" Journal of Biblical Literature 90: pp. 174–199
  • Kee, Howard Clark (1973) "Aretalogy and Gospel" Journal of Biblical Literature 92: pp. 402–422
  • Smith, Jonathan Z. (1975) "Good News Is No News: Aretalogy and Gospel" in Neusner, Jacob (ed.) (1975) Christianity, Judaism and other Greco-Roman cults: studies for Morton Smith at sixty Brill, Leiden, vol. 1, pp. 21–38, ISBN 90-04-04215-6