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Headword: *sa/rapis
Adler number: sigma,117
Translated headword: Sarapis
Vetting Status: high
Archbishop Theophilus[1] destroyed his statue in Alexandria[2] at the time of [emperor] Theodosius the Great.[3] Some said this [depicted] Zeus, some [said it was] the Nile[4] because it had on its head the bushel and the cubit, that is to say the measure of water; others [said that it was] Joseph, others [said that it was] Apis,[5] a rich man and king in the Egyptian city Memphis.[6] When a famine had occurred he provided food for the Alexandrians out of his own [stores], and after his death they built in honour of him a temple, in which a bull was bred, bearing a sign [distinctive] of the farmer and having some marks on the skin; [the bull] was also named after him and called Apis. The coffin of this Apis, in which his body lay, was transferred to Alexandria and they created a composite name out of the coffin [soros] and Apis and they called him Sorapis, but those afterwards [called him] Sarapis. An immense and brilliant temple for him was built by Alexander [sc. the Great].[7]
Greek Original:
*sa/rapis: tou/tou e)n *)alecandrei/a| kaqei=le *qeo/filos o( a)rxiepi/skopos to\ co/anon e)pi\ *qeodosi/ou tou= mega/lou. tou=to de\ oi( me\n *di/a e)/fasan ei)=nai, oi( de\ to\n *nei=lon dia\ to\ mo/dion e)/xein e)n th=| kefalh=| kai\ to\n ph=xun, h)/goun to\ tou= u(/datos me/tron, a)/lloi de\ to\n *)iwsh/f, e(/teroi de\ *)/apin tina\ gegone/nai a)/nqrwpon eu)/poron kai\ basile/a e)n *me/mfidi po/lei th=s *ai)gu/ptou. limou= de\ genome/nou toi=s *)alecandreu=sin e)k tw=n i)di/wn trofh\n pare/sxe, teteleuthko/ti de\ au)tw=| nao\n a)ne/sthsan, e)n w(=| bou=s e)tre/feto, su/mbolon fe/rwn tou= gewrgou= kai/ tina de\ e)/xwn e)n th=| xroia=| e)pi/shma, o(/stis e)k th=s proshgori/as au)tou= kai\ au)to\s *)/apis e)kalei=to. th\n de\ soro\n tou/tou tou= *)/apidos, e)n h(= to\ sw=ma e)/keito au)tou=, e)n *)alecandrei/a| meth/negkan kai\ a)po\ th=s sorou= kai\ tou= *)/apidos su/nqeton o)/noma pepoihko/tes e)ka/loun au)to\n *so/rapin, oi( de\ meta\ tau=ta *sa/rapin. tou/tou nao\s u(po\ *)aleca/ndrou e)kti/sqh pammege/qhs kai\ pa/nu lampro/s.
George the Monk, Chronicon 583.20-584.12. The destruction of the Serapeum (AD 391) is also recounted in Sozomenus, Historia Ecclesiastica 7.15.2-10.
Sarapis is a deity typical of the religious syncretism of Hellenistic Egypt and, later, the Roman Empire. See generally Richard Gordon in OCD4 s.v., and more specialised bibliography below; cf. Wikipedia entries for Serapis and Serapeum at web addresses 1 and 2. In the Suda cf. mu 23 and sigma 1011. Also see Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris passim. On the origins of Sarapis, see Clement of Alexandria, Protrepticus 4.48; Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica 10.12.24-25; Origen, Against Celsus/Contra Celsum 5.38.29-38.
[1] Patriarch of Alexandria AD 385-412. Wikipedia entry at web address 3.
[2] alpha 1119.
[3] theta 144.
[4] nu 289.
[5] alpha 3201 and alpha 3217.
[6] mu 583.
[7] alpha 1121.
Merkelbach, R., Isis Regina - Zeus Sarapis. Die griechisch-ägyptische Religion nach den Quellen dargestellt, Stuttgart 1995
Roeder, G., 'Sarapis', RE I A,2 (1920), pp. 2394-2426
Schmid, E. Die Einführung des Sarapis in Alexandria, Naumburg 1909
Stambaugh, J.E., Sarapis Under the Early Ptolemies, Leiden 1972
Associated internet addresses:
Web address 1,
Web address 2,
Web address 3
Keywords: aetiology; architecture; art history; biography; Christianity; chronology; dialects, grammar, and etymology; food; geography; history; mythology; religion; zoology
Translated by: Ioannis Doukas on 27 May 2007@19:19:07.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (augmented primary note; more keywords; tweaks and cosmetics) on 28 May 2007@04:28:10.
David Whitehead (another keyword) on 3 May 2011@10:18:36.
David Whitehead (more keywords; tweaking) on 22 December 2013@05:17:12.
David Whitehead on 9 August 2014@10:03:42.
Catharine Roth (added alternative title) on 7 December 2014@22:36:30.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 4 January 2015@01:02:39.


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