polytheist extractions

Tag Archives: serapis

IG 10.2.255

“It seemed in his sleep that Serapis was standing near him and ordered him to come to Opus so that he might announce to Eurynomos son of Timesitheos that he should receive him and his sister Isis, and that he should present to him the letter under his pillow. When he woke up he wondered at the dream and was at a loss to know what to do, because he was a political enemy of Eurynomos. But falling asleep again, and seeing the same thing again, and waking, he found the letter under his pillow exactly as had been signified to him. Going home, he delivered the letter to Eurynomos and announced to him what orders had been laid on him by the god. Eurynomos, taking the letter and hearing what Xenainetos said, was at a loss as to what to do since, as previously mentioned, the two were political rivals. But opening the letter and seeing written in it what accorded with what Xenainetos had said, he received Serapis and Isis.”- IG 10.2.255

Achilles Tatius, Leucippe and Clitophon 5.2

“We were fortunate to arrive in time for the sacred festival of the great god whom the Greeks call Zeus, the Egyptians Serapis, and there was a procession of torches. It was the greatest spectacle I ever beheld, for it was late evening and the sun had gone down; but there was no sign of night — it was as though another sun had arisen, but distributed into small parts in every direction; I thought that on that occasion the city vied with the sky for beauty. I also visited the Gracious Zeus and his temple in his aspect as god of heaven; and then praying to the great god and humbly imploring him that our troubles might be at last at an end, we came back to the lodgings which Menelaus had hired for us.” – Achilles Tatius, Leucippe and Clitophon 5.2

UPZ 1.8

“To Dionysios one of the friends and strategos, from Ptolemaios son of Glaukias, Makedonian, one of those in katoche in the great Serapeion in Memphis in my 12th year. Being outrageously wronged and often put in danger of my life by the below-listed cleaners from the sanctuary, I am seeking refuge with you thinking that I shall thus particularly receive justice. For in the 21st year, on Phaophi 8, they came to the Astartieion in the sanctuary, in which I have been in katoche for the aforesaid years, some of them holding stones in their hands, others sticks, and tried to force their way in, so that with this opportunity they might plunder the temple and kill me because I am a Greek, attacking me in concerted fashion. And when I made it to the door of the temple before them and shut it with a great crash, and ordered them to go away quietly, they did not depart; but they struck Diphilos, one of the servants compelled to remain by Serapis, who showed his indignation at the way they were behaving in the sanctuary, robbing him outrageously and attacking him violently and beating him, so that their illegal violence was made obvious to everybody. When the same men did the same things to me in Phaophi of the 19th year, I petitioned you at that time, but because I had no one to wait on you it happened that when they went unwarned they conceived an even greater scorn for me. I ask you, therefore, if it seems good to you, to order them brought before you, so that they may get the proper punishment for all these things. Farewell. Mys the clothing seller, Psosnaus the yoke-bearer, Imouthes the baker, Harembasnis the grain-seller, Stotoetis the porter, Harchebis the doucher, Po… os the carpet-weaver, and others with them, whose names I do not know.” – UPZ 1.8

P.Lond. 26

“To King Ptolemy and Queen Kleopatra the sister, gods Philometores, greeting. Thaues and Taous, twins, perform rites in the great Sarapeion at Memphis. And formerly, when you stayed in Memphis and went up to the temple to sacrifice, we petitioned you and presented a petition to you, carrying before you our complaint that we had not received the required salary that should have been given to us by the Sarapeion and the Asklepeion. But since we still have not received this in full, we have necessarily been compelled— undone as we are by hunger—to peition you once again and to place before you in a few words the selfishness of those who are treating us unjustly. For you had previously set aside an allocation for the Sarapeion and the Asklepeion; and from this the twins who preceded us also received the daily necessities. And furthermore, they indicated to us, when we first went into the temple, for a few days rightaway, that whatever was appropriate for us would be carried out in due course; but subsequently it has not been done. Consequently, we both sent people who petitioned the director, and we reported on these things to you when you happened to be in Memphis. And when the appointed administrators of the Sarapeion and Askleprion were cruel to us, and denied us the privileges you granted, and paid no attention to religious duty, being oppressed by necessities, we asked Achomarres, the temple supervisor, several times to pay us. And we approached the son of Psintaes, the temple supervisor, when he was going up to the temple the day before yesterday, and gave him information about each of these things. And when he had summoned Archomarres, he ordered him to pay all we were owed. But the latter, who is the most unfeeling of men, promised us that he would comply with the order. But when the son of Psintaes had departed from Memphis, he (Archomarres) no longer took any account of the issue. And not only this man, but also others associated with the Sarapeion and others in the administration of the Asklepeion, from whom it is customary for us to receive our necessities, are cheating us, whose names and obligations, on account of being so numerous, we decided not to record. We beg you, therefore—hoping on the basis of the aid which comes from you—to send our petition to Dionysios—a member of the court and stratêgos —in order the he might write to Apollonios the director so that he, in turn, having received from us the written list of what pay is owed us, and for what length of time and by whom, may compel them to pay it to us in order that, when we have everything in order, we may fulfill the customary duties to Sarapis and Isis much better on behalf of you and your children. May it be granted to you to rule all the land that you desire. May you prosper.” – P.Lond. 26

P. Bologne Dem. 3173.1-7

“First dream: I was going up the sacred dromos of Serapis with a woman named Thaues, who is a virgin. I was chatting with her and said, ‘Thaues, is your heart sad at the thought of my making love to you?’ She answered, ‘If that happens, my sister and (the goddess) Thoeris will be angry with me.'” – P. Bologne Dem. 3173.1-7

UPZ 1.78.1-28

“In my dream I seemed to be walking in Memphis, from west to east, and I climbed up a pile of straw, and a man coming toward me from the west also climbed up. My eyes were as though closed, and when I suddenly opened them I saw the twins in Tothes’ classroom. They were calling me. I answered, ‘Don’t be discouraged, Tothes is tired of finding the way to me, because I’ve overturned my bed!’ I then heard Tothes answer, ‘Go away! Why are you saying that? I’ll bring you the twins.’ … I walked toward them until I reached them, and I walked for a while in the street with them. I said, ‘I have very little time left outdoors and what I was will disappear tomorrow morning.’ Immediately I saw one of them go into a dark corner of a house, and she sat down on the other side and did many things which I cannot describe. I begged Serapis and Isis with these words, ‘Come to me, goddess of goddesses, have pity and hear me! Pity the twins whom you have made twins. Save me! I am old and I know the end will soon come. But they will be women, and if they are sullied, they will never again be pure.'” – UPZ 1.78.1-28

I.Faiyum 2.112

“Place of asylum by royal ordinance. Access forbidden to undesirables. To King Ptolemy Alexander, god Philometor, greetings on behalf of the priests of Isis Sachypsis, the very great goddess who was the first to appear, of the temple in Theadelphia … Oh very great king, given that the sanctuary in question has been sacred since the time of your ancestors, and that it has been venerated and placed in the highest rank in all times past, but that now, certain impious people, who are behaving contrary to convention, are not only driving out by force the suppliants who come to take refuge there, but also, by treating them roughly and using the most terrible violence, are committing sacrilegious acts, offending the piety you display toward the divine and especially toward the goddess Isis, oh most holy king, we therefore pray you, victory bearing god, if it pleases you, to ordain that the said sanctuary be a place of asylum, and that stelai of stone be erected towards the four winds, at a distance of fifty cubits around the temple, bearing the inscription ‘access denied to undesirables.’ That, most great king, in your interest … so that the sacrifices, libations, and all the other ceremonies instituted by you, your children, and your ancestors in honor of Isis and Serapis, might be better celebrated, and so that we might be blessed by your beneficent deeds. Good fortune. Reply of the King: To Lysanias, the strategos of the nome; execute the request of the priests. Year 21, Mekhir 7.” – I.Faiyum 2.112

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

Expositio Totius Mundi Et Gentium 35

“Alexandria is a very great city, famous for her arrangement, abounding in all advantages and rich in food; she eats three kinds of fish, something which no other province has – river fish, lake fish and sea fish. All kinds either of perfume or any other barbarian merchandise can be found in the city. All sorts of people flock her streets, including those from beyond the extreme part of Thebais and the people of India, and receiving everything Alexandria stands above all. But what makes Alexandria so exceptional is the devout way that the Alexandrians worship the gods. Here is the temple of Serapis, the most unique and wonderful spectacle to be found in the whole world. Nowhere on earth can you see another temple with such beauty and symmetry, nor the extraordinary rites of worship celebrated there. Egypt is granted first place among all the countries on account of this single temple alone.” – Expositio Totius Mundi Et Gentium 35

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

P. Oxy. 1213

“To Zeus Helios, great Serapis, and the associated gods. Menandros asks: is it granted me to marry? Answer me this.” – P. Oxy. 1213

Suidas s.v. Magnêtis

“There is a certain stone so-called, which has a natural power to draw iron to itself. In Egyptian Alexandria in the Serapeion there was a mechanism of deceit and wickedness of this kind: having made a statue of bronze and nailing iron inside the head, they fixed this stone above in the coffers of the ceiling opposite. The statue being drawn by the natural force of the stone, for it was hung up in the air, by great mechanism and skill was held between the floor and the ceiling, causing great amazement and not at all pulled down.” – Suidas s.v. Magnêtis

P. Oxy. 241

“Caecilius Clemens to the agorabomos, greeting. Register a contract of loan from Thonis, son of Harpaesis, son of Petseranthis, his mother being Petosiris, daughter of Harpaesis, of the city of Oxyrynchus, chief bearer in the temple of Thoeris and Isis and Serapis and Osiris and the associated most mighty gods …” – P. Oxy. 241

Strabo, Geography 17.16

“Canopos is a city situated at a distance of one hundred and twenty stadia from Alexandria if one goes on foot, and was named after Canopos, the pilot of Menelaüs, who died there. It contains the temple of Sarapis which is honored with great reverence and effects such cures that even the most reputable men believe in it and sleep in it — themselves on their own behalf or others for them. Some writers go on to record the cures, and others the virtues of the oracles there. But to balance all this is the crowd of revelers who go down from Alexandria by the canal to the public festivals; for every day and every night is crowded with people on the boats who play the flute and dance without restraint and with extreme licentiousness, both men and women, and also with the people of Canopos itself, who have resorts situated close to the canal and adapted to relaxation and merry-making of this kind.” – Strabo, Geography 17.16

Acta Alexandrinorum CPJ 2.157

“While Hermaiskos was saying this, the bust of Serapis which the ambassadors had carried in suddenly broke into a sweat. Trajan was amazed at the sight. And soon crowds gathered in Rome, numerous shouts rang forth, and everyone began to flee to the highest parts of the hills ….”  Acta Alexandrinorum (CPJ 2.157)

Tertullian, Apology 6.8

“Serapis, Isis, Harpokrates, and the Dog-head were forbidden on the Capitol – in other words, expelled from the assembly of the gods; and Piso and Gabinius – consuls, not Christians, you know – actually overturned their altars and banished them, in the endeavor to restrain the vices that go with foul and idle superstition.” – Tertullian, Apology 6.8

Eunapius, Lives of the Philosophers

“For on account of its temple of Serapis Alexandria was a world in itself, a world consecrated by religion: at any rate those who resorted to it from all parts were a multitude equal in number to its own citizens. But then the cult of the temples in Alexandria and at the shrine of Serapis were scattered to the winds, and not only the ceremonies of the cult but the buildings as well, and everything happened as in the myths of the poets when the Giants gained the upper hand. The temples at Canobus also suffered the same fate in the reign of Theodosius, when Theophilus presided over the abominable ones like a sort of Eurymedon who ruled over the proud Giants, and Evagrius was prefect of the city, and Romanus in command of the legions in Egypt. For these men, girding themselves in their wrath against our sacred places as though against stones and stone-masons, made a raid on the temples, and though they could not allege even a rumour of war to justify them, they demolished the temple of Serapis and made war against the temple offerings, whereby they won a victory without meeting a foe or fighting a battle. In this fashion they fought so strenuously against the statues and votive offerings that they not only conquered but stole them as well, and their only military tactics were to ensure that the thief should escape detection. Only the floor of the temple of Serapis they did not take, simply because of the weight of the stones which were not easy to move from their place. Then these warlike and honourable men, after they, had thrown everything into confusion and disorder and had thrust out hands, unstained indeed by blood but not pure from greed, boasted that they had overcome the gods, and reckoned their sacrilege and impiety a thing to glory in. Next, into the sacred places they imported monks, as they called them, who were men in appearance but led the lives of swine, and openly did and allowed countless unspeakable crimes. But this they accounted piety, to show contempt for things divine. For in those days every man who wore a black robe and consented to behave in unseemly fashion in public, possessed the power of a tyrant, to such a pitch of virtue had the human race advanced! All this however I have described in my Universal History. They settled these monks at Canobus also, and thus they fettered the human race to the worship of slaves, and those not even honest slaves, instead of the true gods. For they collected the bones and skulls of criminals who had been put to death for numerous crimes, men whom the law courts of the city had condemned to punishment, made them out to be gods, haunted their sepulchres, and thought that they became better by defiling themselves at their graves. ‘Martyrs’ the dead men were called, and ‘ministers’ of a sort, and ‘ambassadors’ from the gods to carry men’s prayers, these slaves in vilest servitude, who had been consumed by stripes and carried on their phantom forms the scars of their villainy.” – Eunapius, Lives of the Philosophers

Eunapius, Life of Sosipatra

“Antoninus, the son of Sosipatra, settled at the Canobic mouth of the Nile and devoted himself wholly to the religious rites of that place, and strove with all his powers to fulfil his mother’s prophecy. To him resorted all the youth whose souls were sane and sound, and who hungered for philosophy, and the temple was filled with young men acting as priests. He foretold to all his followers that after his death the temple would cease to be, and even the great and holy temples of Serapis would pass into formless darkness and be transformed, and that a fabulous and unseemly gloom would hold sway over the fairest things on earth. To all these prophecies time bore witness, and in the end his prediction gained the force of an oracle.” – Eunapius, Life of Sosipatra

John of Nikiû, The Chronicle 78.43-45

“Certain men took the remains of Saint John the Baptist and conveyed them to Alexandria, where they eventually came into the possession of the patriarch Theophilus, who destroyed the temple of Serapis and converted it into a massive and much decorated church. A tomb was built inside the church and the head of Saint John the Baptist was deposited there amid great rejoicings and a glorious feast. And the inhabitants of the city were uplifted because of him and made him notable with praise.” – John of Nikiû, The Chronicle 78.43-45

Socrates Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History 5.16

“At the solicitation of Theophilus bishop of Alexandria the emperor issued an order at this time for the demolition of the heathen temples in that city; commanding also that it should be put in execution under the direction of Theophilus. Seizing this opportunity, Theophilus exerted himself to the utmost to expose the pagan mysteries to contempt. And to begin with, he caused the Mithreum to be cleaned out, and exhibited to public view the tokens of its bloody mysteries. Then he destroyed the Serapeum, and the bloody rites of the Mithreum he publicly caricatured; the Serapeum also he showed full of extravagant superstitions, and he had the phalli of Dionysos carried through the midst of the forum. The pagans of Alexandria, and especially the professors of philosophy, were unable to repress their rage at this exposure, and exceeded in revengeful ferocity their outrages on a former occasion: for with one accord, at a preconcerted signal, they rushed impetuously upon the Christians, and murdered every one they could lay hands on. The Christians also made an attempt to resist the assailants, and so the mischief was the more augmented. This desperate affray was prolonged until satiety of bloodshed put an end to it. Then it was discovered that very few of the heathens had been killed, but a great number of Christians; while the number of wounded on each side was almost innumerable. Fear then possessed the pagans on account of what was done, as they considered the emperor’s displeasure. For having done what seemed good in their own eyes, and by their bloodshed having quenched their courage, some fled in one direction, some in another, and many quitting Alexandria, dispersed themselves in various cities. Among these were the two grammarians Helladius and Ammonius, whose pupil I was in my youth at Constantinople. Helladius was said to be the priest of Jupiter, and Ammonius of Simius. Thus this disturbance having been terminated, the governor of Alexandria, and the commander-in-chief of the troops in Egypt, assisted Theophilus in demolishing the heathen temples. These were therefore razed to the ground, and the images of their gods molten into pots and other convenient utensils for the use of the Alexandrian church; for the emperor had instructed Theophilus to distribute them for the relief of the poor. All the images were accordingly broken to pieces, except one statue of the god before mentioned, which Theophilus preserved and set up in a public place; ‘ Lest,’ said he, ‘at a future time the heathens should deny that they had ever worshiped such gods.’ This action gave great umbrage to Ammonius the grammarian in particular, who to my knowledge was accustomed to say that ‘the religion of the Gentiles was grossly abused in that that single statue was not also molten, but preserved, in order to render that religion ridiculous.’ Helladius however boasted in the presence of some that he had slain in that desperate onset nine men with his own hand. Such were the doings at Alexandria at that time.” – Socrates Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History 5.16

Porphyry, On Abstinence from Animal Food, iv. 9

“Water and fire, the most beautiful of the elements, they reverence as being chief causes of our preservation, and exhibit them also in their temples; as, I believe, even now at the opening of the sanctuary of Serapis the worship is performed by means of fire and water, the precentor pouring out the water and exhibiting the fire, whenever he stands upon the threshold and wakes the god in the native language of the Egyptians. ” – Porphyry, On Abstinence from Animal Food, iv. 9

P. Giessen 40.2.21

“I am informed that on the festival of Serapis and on certain other festal days Egyptians are accustomed to bring down bulls and other animals for sacrifice; for this they are not to be stopped.” – P. Giessen 40.2.21

SEG 28. 421

“Stele of Isis and Serapis. God! Good luck. A sanctuary sacred to Isis, Serapis, Anoubis. Whoever wishes to sacrifice shall enter the sanctuary, being pure: from childbirth on the ninth day; from an abortion, for forty-four days; from menstruation, on the seventh day; from bloodshed, for seven days, from eating goat meat and mutton, on the third day; from other foods, having washed onself from the head down, on the same day; from sexual intercourse, on the same day, having washed onself; from … on the same day, having washed onself … no one shall enter … enter …” – SEG 28. 421

UPZ 1.70

“To those who give true interpretation. I swear by Serapis that if I had not a little compunction you would never have seen my face again; for all you speak is lies and what your gods say likewise, for they have cast us into a deep mire, where we may perish, and when you have a vision of our rescue then we sink outright … Never again can I hold up my head in Trikomia for shame, seeing we have given ourselves away and been deluded, misled by the gods and trusting in dreams.” – UPZ 1.70

P. Oxy. 7.1070

“O my sister, know that the prayer which I previously made to all the gods for the preservation of yourself and our child and your brother and your father and your mother and all our circle now goes up with far greater force in the great Serapeion; I implore the great god Serapis on behalf of your life and that of all our circle and for the good hopes that are allotted to mankind.” – P. Oxy. 7.1070

P. Oxy. 14.1758

“I pray for you health and health for your children, whom the evil eye may not harm, and I make supplication for you before the great Serapis, praying for you and all your household the best of things.” – P. Oxy. 14.1758

PEL 4.435

“To Apollonios, greetings from Zoilos of Aspendos …. Which the King’s cousins will deliver to you. As I was worshipping the god Serapis and interceding for your health and your favor with King Ptolemy, Serapis repeatedly, in dreams, laid upon me the duty of going to you and conveying to you the following directions: a Serapieion and a sacred area must be built for him in the Greek quarter beside the harbor; a priest must be appointed and offer sacrifices there for us. When I begged him to release me from this duty, he let me fall into a severe illness, so that I was even in danger of my life. Then I prayed to him and promised that, if he would make me well, I should undertake the mission and carry out his command. Just when I had recovered, someone came from Knidos and began building a Serapieion at the place, and had ordered the stone brought there. Later on, the god forbade him to build, and he went away. When I came to Alexandria and hesitated to go to you with my message until you at last granted me the opportunity, I had a relapse that lasted for four months, and so I could not come to you immediately. Please, Apollonios, carry out the command of the god, so that Serapis may be gracious to you and lead you to still greater influence with the King and grant you fame and physical health. You need not be alarmed over this commission and the large expenditure it entails; instead, it will be greatly to your advantage, for I will myself share in managing the whole undertaking. May all go well for you!” – PEL 4.435

UPZ 1.59

“Isias to her brother Hephaistion [greeting]. If you are well and other things are going right, it would accord with the prayer which I make continually to the gods. I myself and the child and all the household are in good health and think of you always. When I received your letter from Horos, in which you announce that you are in katoche in the Serapeum at Memphis, for the news that you are well I straightway thanked the gods, but about your not coming home, when all the others who had been secluded there have come, I am ill-pleased, because after having piloted myself and your child through such bad times and been driven to every extremity owing to the price of wheat, I thought that now at least, with you at home, I should enjoy some respite, whereas you have not even thought of coming home nor given any regard to our circumstances, remembering how I was in want of everything while you were still here, not to mention this long lapse of time and these critical days, during which you have sent us nothing. As, moreover, Horos who delivered the letter has brought news of your having been released from detention, I am thoroughly ill-pleased. Notwithstanding, as your mother also is annoyed, for her sake as well as for mine please return to the city, if nothing more pressing holds you back. You will do me a favor by taking care of your bodily health. Farewell. Year 2, Epeiph 30.” – UPZ 1.59