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The Egyptian God Serapis

By Edward Butler

(Sarapis) Serapis has presented a riddle for Egyptologists. His worship originated among the Ptolemies, the transplanted Macedonian dynasty that ruled Egypt from their capital at Alexandria in the wake of Egypt’s conquest by Alexander the Great, and was subsequently adopted and promoted by the emperors of Rome. But Serapis remained, paradoxically, an Egyptian God worshiped in the company of other Egyptian Gods from one end of the Roman Empire to the other, but almost entirely by non-Egyptians. As the consort of Isis, Serapis became a fixture of the international Isis cult. In this role, Serapis displaced Osiris for many foreign devotees. Serapis is depicted in fully Hellenistic style as a bearded, robust man enthroned with the sign of a modius, or grain measure, on his head. The grain measure symbolizes allotting the portion deserved. Serapis is a God of miracles, destiny, healing and the afterlife, often fused with the Greek God Zeus or the Roman God Jupiter, extending the notion of sovereignty to include dominion over fate. Occasionally, for reasons unknown, a bust of Serapis sits atop a colossal right foot. Serapis and Isis may also be depicted as two snakes.

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