Serapis or Sarapis is a Graeco-Egyptian God. A syncretic deity derived from the worship of the Egyptian Osiris and Apis, Serapis was extensively popularized in the third century BC on the orders of Greek Pharaoh Ptolemy I Soter, as a means to unify the Greek and Egyptian subjects of the Ptolemaic Kingdom.
|Name in hieroglyphs|
|Major cult center||Serapeum of Alexandria|
The cultus of Serapis was spread as a matter of deliberate policy by subsequent Ptolemaic kings. Serapis continued to increase in popularity during the Roman Empire, often replacing Osiris as the consort of Isis in temples outside Egypt. Alongside his Egyptian roots he gained attributes from other deities, such as chthonic powers linked to the Greek Hades and Demeter, and benevolence derived from associations with Dionysus.
Serapis was depicted as Greek in appearance but with Egyptian trappings, and combined iconography from a great many cults, signifying both abundance and resurrection.
The Greeks had little respect for animal-headed figures, and so a Greek-style anthropomorphic statue was chosen as the idol, and proclaimed as the equivalent of the highly popular Apis.[a] It was named Userhapi (i.e. "Osiris-Apis"), which became Greek Sarapis, and was said to be Osiris in full, rather than just his ka (life force).
The cult statue of Serapis that Ptolemy I erected in Alexandria enriched the texture of the Serapis conception by portraying him in a combination of both Egyptian and Greek styles. The statue suitably depicted a figure resembling Hades or Pluto, both being kings of the Greek underworld, and was shown enthroned with the modius, a basket / grain-measure, on his head, since it was a Greek symbol for the land of the dead. He also held a sceptre in his hand indicating his rulership, with Cerberus, gatekeeper of the underworld, resting at his feet. The statue also had what appeared to be a serpent at its base, fitting the Egyptian symbol of rulership, the uraeus.
Originally Demotic wsjr-ḥp, ("Osiris-Apis"), the name of the deity is derived from the syncretic worship of Osiris and the bull Apis as a single deity under the Egyptian name wsjr-ḥp. This name was later written in Coptic as ⲟⲩⲥⲉⲣϩⲁⲡⲓ Userhapi; Greeks sometimes used an uncommon form Sorapis (Koinē Greek: Σόραπις), slightly closer to the Egyptian name(s).
The earliest mention of a "Sarapis" occurs in the disputed death scene of Alexander (323 BCE), but it is something of a mixup: The unconnected Babylonian god Ea (Enki) was titled Šar Apsi, meaning "king of the Apsu" or "the watery deep",[b] and Ea as Šar Apsi seems to be the deity intended in the description of Alexander's death. Since this "Sarapis" had a temple at Babylon, and was of such importance that only Sarapis is named as being consulted on behalf of the dying king, Sarapis of Babylon appears to have radically altered perceptions of mythologies in the post-Alexandrian era. His significance to the Hellenic psyche, due to the mention in the story of Alexander's death, may have also contributed to the choice of the similar-sounding Osiris-Apis as the chief Ptolemaic god, even if the Ptolemies understood that they were different deities.
Serapis cult history Edit
Ptolemy I Soter made efforts to integrate his new Egyptian subject's religions with that of their Hellenic rulers. Ptolemy's project was to find a deity that would win the reverence of both groups alike, despite the curses the Egyptian priests had chanted against the gods of the previous foreign rulers (e.g. Set, who was lauded by the Hyksos).[e] The common assertion that Ptolemy "created" the deity is derived from sources which describe him erecting a statue of Serapis in Alexandria.
According to Plutarch, Ptolemy stole the cult statue from Sinope in Asia Minor, having been instructed in a dream by the "unknown god" to bring the statue to Alexandria, where the statue was pronounced to be Serapis by two religious experts. One of the experts was of the Eumolpidae, the ancient family from whose members the hierophant of the Eleusinian Mysteries had been chosen since before history, and the other was the scholarly Egyptian priest Manetho, which gave weight to the judgement both for the Egyptians and the Greeks.
Plutarch may not be correct, however, as some Egyptologists allege that the "Sinope" in the tale is really the hill of Sinopeion, a name given to the site of the already existing Serapeum at Memphis. Also, according to Tacitus, Serapis (i.e., Apis explicitly identified as Osiris in full) had been the god of the village of Rhakotis before it expanded into the great capital of Alexandria.
With his (i.e. Osiris's) wife Isis, and their son Horus (in the form of Harpocrates), Serapis won an important place in the Greek world. In his 2nd-century CE Description of Greece, Pausanias notes two Serapeia on the slopes of Acrocorinth above the rebuilt Roman city of Corinth, and one at Copae in Boeotia.
Serapis figured among the international deities whose cult was received and disseminated throughout the Roman Empire, with Anubis sometimes identified with Cerberus. At Rome, Serapis was worshiped in the Iseum Campense, the sanctuary of Isis built during the Second Triumvirate in the Campus Martius. The Roman cults of Isis and Serapis gained in popularity late in the 1st century when Vespasian experienced events he attributed to their miraculous agency while he was in Alexandria, where he stayed before returning to Rome as emperor in 70 CE. From the Flavian Dynasty on, Serapis was one of the deities who might appear on imperial coinage with the reigning emperor.
Like many pagan cults of its time, the cult of Serapis declined during the rule of Theodosius I as the emperor, a Christian, implemented religious laws to restrict paganism across the empire. The main cult at Alexandria survived until the late 4th century, when a Christian mob directed by Pope Theophilus of Alexandria destroyed the Serapeum in Alexandria some time around 391 CE, during one of the frequent religious riots in the city.
In popular culture Edit
- In the Asterix franchise, Serapis is one of the gods that Egyptians swear-by and invoke, "by Serapis" (similarly to Osiris and Isis), like how the Gauls swear-by and invoke their gods, such as Toutatis, Belenus and Belisama, and the Romans by Jupiter, Minerva and Mercury.
- Serapis is the main antagonist of the Rick Riordan short story The Staff of Serapis which crosses over two of his major series, The Kane Chronicles and Camp Half-Blood Chronicles. He is destroyed by Annabeth Chase and Sadie Kane after the former destroys the head representing the future on Serapis' staff. In the follow-up story The Crown of Ptolemy, it is revealed that Serapis was awakened by the overall main antagonist Setne in order to test bringing Greek demigods and Egyptian magicians together.
See also Edit
- "Apollodorus identifies the Argive Apis with the Egyptian bull Apis, who was in turn identified with Serapis (Sarapis)"; Pausanias also conflates Serapis and Egyptian Apis: "Of the Egyptian sanctuaries of Serapis the most famous is at Alexandria, the oldest at Memphis. Into this neither stranger nor priest may enter, until they bury Apis".
- In the Babylonian Talmud a "Sar Apis" is mentioned as an idol believed to have been named after the biblical Joseph.
- Consulting the unabridged Lewis and Short Latin lexicon shows that "Serapis" was the most common Latin version of the name in antiquity.
- "Of the Egyptian sanctuaries of Serapis the most famous is at Alexandria", Pausanias noted in the 2nd century CE, while describing the serapeion erected by Ptolemy at Athens, on the steep slope of the Acropolis: "As you descend from here to the lower part of the city, is a sanctuary of Serapis, whose worship the Athenians introduced from Ptolemy."
- Alexander the Great had attempted to use Amun for the same purpose, but Amun was more widely known in Upper Egypt, and not as popular in the more Mediterranean-oriented Lower Egypt, where international Hellenistic culture influenced Egyptians more, and where the foreign resident Greek population was larger.
Head of Sarapis, 1st century BCE, 58.79.1 Brooklyn Museum
Head of Serapis, Carthage, Tunisia
Oil lamp with a bust of Serapis, flanked by a crescent moon and star (Roman-era Ephesus, 100–150)
Head of Sarapis (150–200)
Head of Serapis, from a 3.7-metre (12 ft) statue found off the coast of Alexandria
Serapis on Roman Egypt, Alexandria, Billon Tetradrachm
Head of Serapis (Roman-era Hellenistic terracotta, Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst, Munich)
- Youtie, H. (1948). "The kline of Serapis". The Harvard Theological Review. 41: 9–29. doi:10.1017/S0017816000019325. S2CID 154333290.
- "Sarapis". The New Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 10 (15th ed.). Chicago, IL: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 1992. p. 447.
- J.G. Frazer's note to 2.1.1 of the Biblioteca of Pseudo-Apollodorus
- Pausanias. Description of Greece. 1.18.4.
- Stambaugh, John E. (1972). Sarapis Under the Early Ptolemies. Leiden: E. J. Brill. pp. 1–13.
- Arrian. Anabasis. VII. 26.
- Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Avodah Zara. p. 43a.
- Suda. sigma, 117.
- Serapis. Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short. A Latin Dictionary on Perseus Project.
Lewis, Charlton; Short, Charles (1879). A Latin Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 1630. ISBN 978-0-19-864201-5 – via Internet Archive.
A Latin Dictionary. 1879. p. 1678. ISBN 978-0-19-864201-5 – via Internet Archive.
- For example, see Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (CIL) 03, 07768; CIL 03, 07770; CIL 08, 12492.
All known occurrences can be obtained from a search at Clauss, Manfred; Kolb, Anne; Slaby, Wolfgang A.; Woitas, Barbara (eds.). "Epigraphik-Datenbank Clauss / Slaby (EDCS)". Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece. 1.18.4.
- Plutarch. Life of Alexander. 76.
- Arrian. Anabasis. VII, 26, 2.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece. 2.4.5, 9.24.1.
- Dani, Ahmad Hasan; Harmatta, János (1999). History of Civilizations of Central Asia. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. p. 326. ISBN 978-81-208-1408-0.
- Borgeaud, Philippe; Volokhine, Yuri (2000). "La formation de la légende de Sarapis: une approche transculturelle". Archiv für Religionsgeschichte (in French). 2 (1).
- Bricault, Laurent, ed. (8–10 April 1999). De Memphis à Rome. Ier Colloque international sur les études isiaques. Poitiers, FR: Brill (published 2000). ISBN 9789004117365.
- Bricault, Laurent (2001). Altas de la diffusion des cultes isiaques (in French). Diffusion de Boccard. ISBN 978-2-87754-123-7.
- Bricault, Laurent, ed. (16–17 May 2002). Isis en Occident. IIème Colloque international sur les études isiaques. Lyon, FR: Brill (published 2003). ISBN 9789004132634.
- Bricault, Laurent (2005). Recueil des inscriptions concernant les cultes isiaques (RICIS) (in French). Diffusion de Boccard. ISBN 978-2-87754-156-5.
- Bricault, Laurent; Veymiers, Richard, eds. (2008–2014). Bibliotheca Isiaca. Editions Ausonius. Vol. I: ISBN 978-2-910023-99-7; Vol. II: ISBN 978-2-356-13053-2; Vol. III: ISBN 978-2-356-13121-8.
- Bricault, Laurent; Versluys, Miguel John; Meyboom, Paul G.P., eds. (11–14 May 2005). Nile into Tiber: Egypt in the Roman World. IIIrd International Conference of Isis Studies. Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University: Brill (published 2007). ISBN 978-90-04-15420-9.
- Bricault, Laurent (2013). Les Cultes Isiaques Dans Le Monde Gréco-romain (in French). Les Belles Lettres. ISBN 978-2251339696.
- Bricault, Laurent; Versluys, Miguel John, eds. (13–15 October 2011). Power, Politics and the Cults of Isis. Vth International Conference of Isis Studies. Boulogne sur Mer, FR: Brill (published 2014). ISBN 978-90-04-27718-2.
- Hornbostel, Wilhelm (1973). Sarapis: Studien für Überlieferungsgeschichte, des Erscheinungsformen und Wandlungen der Gestalt eines Gottes (in German). E. J. Brill. ISBN 9789004036543.
- Merkelbach, Reinhold (1995). Isis regina—Zeus Sarapis. Die griechisch-aegyptische Religion nach den Quellen dargestellt (in German). B.G. Teubner. ISBN 978-3-519-07427-4.
- Pfeiffer, Stefan (2008). "The god Serapis, his cult and the beginnings of the ruler cult in Ptolemaic Egypt". In McKechnie, Paul; Guillaume, Philippe (eds.). Ptolemy II Philadelphus and his World. Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-17089-6.
- Renberg, Gil H. (2017). Where Dreams May Come: Incubation sanctuaries in the Greco-Roman world. Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-29976-4.
- Smith, Mark (2017). Following Osiris: Perspectives on the Osirian afterlife from four millennia. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-958222-8.
- Takács, Sarolta A. (1995). Isis and Sarapis in the Roman World. E.J. Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-10121-0.
- Tallet, Gaëlle (2011). "Zeus Hélios Megas Sarapis: un dieu égyptien 'pour les Romains'?". In Belayche, Nicole; Dubois, Jean-Daniel (eds.). L'oiseau et le poisson: cohabitations religieuses dans les mondes grec et romain. PUPS. ISBN 9782840508007.
- Thompson, Dorothy J. (2012). Memphis under the Ptolemies (2nd ed.). Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-15217-2.
- Vidman, Ladislav (1970). Isis und Serapis bei den Griechen und Römern (in German). Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3111768236.
- Bevan, E.R. "The House of Ptolemy". Chapter II.
- Grout, James. "Temple of Serapis". Penelope. Encyclopædia Romana. University of Chicago.
- Theophilus of Antioch. "Immoralities of the Gods: Of the fugitive Serapis chased from Sinope to Alexandria".
- "Greco-Egyptian Mythology: The Alexandrian Synthesis". grecoegipcio.galeon.com.