polytheist extractions

Tag Archives: apis

The First Vatican Mythographer 78

“Solinus relates that among all the things that Egypt holds worthy of mention, the people especially marvel at a bull called Apis. This bill is notable for a spot, a white mark engendered by nature on its right flank, which bears the appearance of the horned Moon. Egypt worships this bull like a god because it gives certain clear signs about the future. The bull is seen also in Memphis. There its length of life is decided, for it is drowned in the depth of a sacred spring. It is killed so that it might not live longer than allowed. Soon, without public mourning, another bull is sought. A hundred priests accompany this bull to Memphis, and suddenly, as if panic-stricken, they utter predictions. The bull reveals everything clearly about future events, especially if it takes food from the hand of the one consulting it. The Jews made an image of its head for themselves in the wilderness.” – The First Vatican Mythographer 78


“In my dream I had the impression of continually calling on the very great god Amun to come to me from the north in his trinity. He finally appeared, and there seemed to be a cow in this place, and she was pregnant. He seized the cow and laid her on the floor. He plunged his hand into her belly and removed the holy Apis bull.” – UPZ

Anonymous, Akhbar Al-Zaman 172-74

“King Menaus, who was the first king of the Egyptians, is also responsible for founding the cult of the holy bull. The reason for this is because he became seriously ill and despaired. But then in his sleep he saw a great spirit speaking to him and it said, ‘Nothing will cure you but your worship of cows,’ because the zodiac at that time was in the sign of Taurus, which is in the image of a bull with two horns. When the king awoke he gave orders and they got a handsome piebald bull and made for it in his palace a shrine with a gilded dome and he worshiped him in secret, afraid that others might find out, and he was cured. Later on a bull appeared in a dream and talked to the king and directed him to worship and look after the bull and in return the bull would look after the king’s interests and strengthen and cure him. So the king established a shrine for the bull and arranged servants to care for it and hold the service of its cult. According to some of their books that bull, after they worshiped him for some time, ordered them to make an image of him in gold, a hollow one, and to take some hair from his head and tail and a scraping from his horn and hooves, and put it all in the statue. And he informed them that he would join his heavenly world and that they were to place his body in a stone sarcophagus and establish it in the shrine with his statue on top, when the planet Saturn was in his sign and the Sun was looking upon him in trine. And the statues was to be inscribed with the signs of the images of the seven planets, and they did that. Later on after the holy bull was buried people from all over Egypt and neighboring areas flocked to his shrine with offerings to his statue and he would tell them whatever they wanted to know.” – Anonymous, Akhbar Al-Zaman 172-74

Lucian, De Dea Syria 6

“I saw too at Byblos a large temple, sacred to the Byblian Aphrodite: this is the scene of the secret rites of Adonis: I mastered these. They assert that the legend about Adonis and the wild boar is true, and that the facts occurred in their country, and in memory of this calamity they beat their breasts and wail every year, and perform their secret ritual amid signs of mourning through the whole countryside. When they have finished their mourning and wailing, they sacrifice in the first place to Adonis, as to one who has departed this life: after this they allege that he is alive again, and exhibit his effigy to the sky. They proceed to shave their heads, too, like the Egyptians on the loss of their Apis. The women who refuse to be shaved have to submit to the following penalty: to stand for the space of an entire day in readiness to expose their persons for hire. The place of hire is open to none but foreigners, and out of the proceeds of the traffic of these women a sacrifice to Aphrodite is paid.” – Lucian, De Dea Syria 6

Petrus Comestor, Historia Scholastica Liber Exodi, chap. 4. col. 1143

“According to Pliny, who saw him himself, the Apis is a bull who used to rise suddenly out of a river. Upon his right shoulder is the shape of the crescent moon. When the Egyptians gathered around him with music and chanting he rose in the air and moved above their heads, as if he were playing the cithara. When he moved, people beneath followed his movements, and when he stood still, they stood still as well … Some related that he appeared every year at the feast of Serapis, and this is believed to be the reason why he himself is called Serapis, which means sacred to the Apis.” – Petrus Comestor, Historia Scholastica Liber Exodi, chap. 4. col. 1143

Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris 364e-365e

“That Osiris is identical with Dionysos who could more fittingly know than yourself, Klea? For you are at the head of the inspired maidens of Delphi, and have been consecrated by your father and mother in the holy rites of Osiris. If, however, for the benefit of others it is needful to adduce proofs of this identity, let us leave undisturbed what may not be told, but the public ceremonies which the priests perform in the burial of the Apis, when they convey his body on an improvised bier, do not in any way come short of a Bacchic procession; for they fasten skins of fawns about themselves, and carry Bacchic wands and indulge in shoutings and movements exactly as do those who are under the spell of the Dionysiac ecstasies. For the same reason many of the Greeks make statues of Dionysos in the form of a bull; and the women of Elis invoke him, praying that the god may come with the hoof of a bull; and the epithet applied to Dionysos among the Argives is ‘Son of the Bull.’ They call him up out of the water by the sound of trumpets, at the same time casting into the depths a lamb as an offering to the Keeper of the Gate. The trumpets they conceal in Bacchic wands, as Socrates has stated in his treatise On The Holy Ones. Furthermore, the tales regarding the Titans and the rites celebrated by night agree with the accounts of the dismemberment of Osiris and his revivification and regenesis. Similar agreement is found too in the tales about their sepulchres. The Egyptians, as has already been stated, point out tombs of Osiris in many places, and the people of Delphi believe that the remains of Dionysos rest with them close beside the oracle; and the Holy Ones offer a secret sacrifice in the shrine of Apollo whenever the devotees of Dionysos wake the God of the Mystic Basket. To show that the Greeks regard Dionysos as the lord and master not only of wine, but of the nature of every sort of moisture, it is enough that Pindar be our witness, when he says ‘May gladsome Dionysos swell the fruit upon the trees, the hallowed splendour of harvest time.’ For this reason all who reverence Osiris are prohibited from destroying a cultivated tree or blocking up a spring of water.” – Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris 364e-365e

Herodotos, The Histories 3.28ff

About the time when Cambyses arrived at Memphis, Apis appeared to the Egyptians. Now Apis is the god whom the Greeks call Epaphus. As soon as he appeared, straightway all the Egyptians arrayed themselves in their gayest garments, and fell to feasting and jollity: which when Cambyses saw, making sure that these rejoicings were on account of his own ill success, he called before him the officers who had charge of Memphis, and demanded of them- “Why, when he was in Memphis before, the Egyptians had done nothing of this kind, but waited until now, when he had returned with the loss of so many of his troops?” The officers made answer, “That one of their gods had appeared to them, a god who at long intervals of time had been accustomed to show himself in Egypt- and that always on his appearance the whole of Egypt feasted and kept jubilee.” When Cambyses heard this, he told them that they lied, and as liars he condemned them all to suffer death.

When they were dead, he called the priests to his presence, and questioning them received the same answer; whereupon he observed, “That he would soon know whether a tame god had really come to dwell in Egypt” — and straightway, without another word, he bade them bring Apis to him. So they went out from his presence to fetch the god. Now this Apis, or Epaphus, is the calf of a cow which is never afterwards able to bear young. The Egyptians say that fire comes down from heaven upon the cow, which thereupon conceives Apis. The calf which is so called has the following marks: — He is black, with a square spot of white upon his forehead, and on his back the figure of an eagle; the hairs in his tail are double, and there is a beetle upon his tongue.

When the priests returned bringing Apis with them, Cambyses, like the harebrained person that he was, drew his dagger, and aimed at the belly of the animal, but missed his mark, and stabbed him in the thigh. Then he laughed, and said thus to the priests: — “Oh! blockheads, and think ye that gods become like this, of flesh and blood, and sensible to steel? A fit god indeed for Egyptians, such an one! But it shall cost you dear that you have made me your laughing-stock.” When he had so spoken, he ordered those whose business it was to scourge the priests, and if they found any of the Egyptians keeping festival to put them to death. Thus was the feast stopped throughout the land of Egypt, and the priests suffered punishment. Apis, wounded in the thigh, lay some time pining in the temple; at last he died of his wound, and the priests buried him secretly without the knowledge of Cambyses.

And now Cambyses, who even before had not been quite in his right mind, was forthwith, as the Egyptians say, smitten with madness for this crime.

Cambyses no sooner heard the name of Smerdis than he was struck with the truth of Prexaspes’ words, and the fulfilment of his own dream- the dream, I mean, which he had in former days, when one appeared to him in his sleep and told him that Smerdis sate upon the royal throne, and with his head touched the heavens. So when he saw that he had needlessly slain his brother Smerdis, he wept and bewailed his loss: after which, smarting with vexation as he thought of all his ill luck, he sprang hastily upon his steed, meaning to march his army with all haste to Susa against the Magus. As he made his spring, the button of his sword-sheath fell off, and the bared point entered his thigh, wounding him exactly where he had himself once wounded the Egyptian god Apis. Then Cambyses, feeling that he had got his death-wound, inquired the name of the place where he was, and was answered, “Agbatana.” Now before this it had been told him by the oracle at Buto that he should end his days at Agbatana. He, however, had understood the Median Agbatana, where all his treasures were, and had thought that he should die there in a good old age; but the oracle meant Agbatana in Syria. So when Cambyses heard the name of the place, the double shock that he had received, from the revolt of the Magus and from his wound, brought him back to his senses. And he understood now the true meaning of the oracle, and said, “Here then Cambyses, son of Cyrus, is doomed to die.”

– Herodotos, The Histories 3.28ff

Suidas s.v. Serapis

“Archbishop Theophilus destroyed his statue in Alexandria at the time of emperor Theodosius the Great. Some said this depicted Zeus, some said it was the Nile 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, a rich man and king in the Egyptian city Memphis. 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.” – Suidas s.v. Serapis

Suidas s.v. Apides

“They were gods honored by the Egyptians, having a sign around the tail and the tongue, indicating that they are Apides. These are begotten from time to time, as they used to say, from the shining of the moon. For them they would celebrate a great festival and certain priests perform the ritual around the ox that is born, presenting a complete banquet to feed them sumptuously. Apis: this Apis an Egyptian god. Egyptians honor him with a moon, and this ox was sacred to the moon, as Memphis to the sun. Okhos having killed Apis wanted to hand him over to the butchers, so that they might cut him up for meat and prepare him for dinner.” – Suidas s.v. Apides

Strabo, Geography 17.555

“Before the enclosure where Apis is kept is a vestibule, in which also the mother of the sacred bull is fed and into this vestibule Apis is sometimes introduced, in order to be shown to strangers. After being brought out for a little while he is again taken back. At other times he is only seen through a window. The temple of Apis is close to that of Hephaistos which last is remarkable for its architectural beauty, its extent, and the richness of its decoration.” – Strabo, Geography 17.555

Aelian, On Animals 18.10

“As soon as a report is circulated that the Egyptian god has manifested himself, certain of the sacred scribes, well versed in the mystical marks known to them by tradition, approach the spot where the divine cow has deposited her calf, and there, following the ancient ordinance of Hermes, feed it with milk during four months, in a house facing the rising sun. When this period has passed the sacred scribes and prophets resort to the dwelling of Apis, at the time of the new moon, and placing him in a boat prepared for the purpose convey him to Memphis, where he has a convenient and agreeable abode, with pleasure-grounds and ample space for wholesome exercise. Female companions of his own species are provided for him, the most beautiful that can be found, kept in apartments to which he has access when he wishes. He drinks out of a well or fountain of clear water; for it is not thought right to give him the water of the Nile, which is considered too fattening. It would be tedious to relate what pompous processions and sacred ceremonies the Egyptians perform on the celebration of the rising of the Nile, at the fete of the Theophania in honour of this god, or what dances, festivities, and joyful assemblies are appointed on the occasion, in the towns and in the country. The man from whose herd the divine beast has sprung, is the happiest of mortals, and is looked upon with admiration by all people. Apis is an excellent interpretation of futurity. He does not employ virgins or old women sitting on a tripod, like some other gods, nor require that they should be intoxicated with the sacred potion but inspires boys who play around his stable with a divine impulse, enabling them to pour out predictions in perfect rhythm.” – Aelian, On Animals 18.10