Study Guide

Serapis Sightings

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Dec 20, 2019

Serapis lives!

Ptolemy I Soter needed a god that both his Egyptian and Greek subjects could love. So he took pieces of Egyptian gods (Osiris, Apis, Ptah, Tem (Atum), and Ra) and Greek gods (Zeus, Helios, Dionysus, Hades, and Asklepios), and put them all together. Serapis was the result.

Jan 1, 1970 - Dec 20, 2019

Sure, we’ll take your books….

The Library of Alexandria got so big that Ptolemy II Philadelphus had to build an annex! There wasn’t even room on the library grounds, so the annex went into part of the Serapis temple next door. Eventually, more than forty-two thousand scrolls were housed in the library annex. There probably weren’t too many late returns—are you going to keep a god’s book until it’s overdue? (Didn’t think so.)

Dec 20, 2019 - Dec 20, 2019

Living with Romans

Serapis had temples and shrines all over Italy, like this small chapel inside an apartment complex, or insula, located in Ostia Antica, Rome’s harbor town. If you lived here, you didn’t even have to go out of your building to visit with Serapis on the way home from a bath!

Dec 20, 0391

The Fall of the House of Serapis

Even though the rest of Egypt suffered under Roman rule, Alexandria and the temple of Serapis continued to be successful. It didn’t last forever, though, and eventually followers of Patriarch Theophilus tore the temple down.

Dec 20, 2019 - Dec 20, 2019

Unstoppable Serapis

By this time, nobody in Egypt worshipped Serapis anymore, but he was still being honored in temples outside Egypt, including Rome and many countries Rome took over. There were temples of Serapis as far east as modern Iraq and as far north as modern England!

Strange creatures

Athanasius Kircher drew an even weirder than usual image of Serapis in Oedipus Aegyptiacus, his book about Egypt. Dude had quite the imagination.

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