Sarapis (also called Serapis) was a syncretistic god who combined Egyptian and Hellenistic aspects. Based on the god Osiris and the bull Apis (which became Osir-Apis, in Greek Sarapis), the god was also identified with Asklepios (the god of healing), Dionysos and Hades. Linked to Osiris Sarapis was a god of the earth, fertility and regeneration. But he had also solar aspects, being associated with Helios and becoming Lord of All, like the sun god in ancient Egypt; around 400 CE Macrobius wrote: "Evidence that the sun, under the name of Sarapis, is the object of all this reverence …" (Saturnalia I, 20, 13; translation P. Davies, 1968). Together with his (in fact Osiris') consort Isis Sarapis was also seen as saviour ("Soter"), and he could be a healer. He also gave oracles and appeared in dreams and visions.
Sarapis was not only worshipped in Egypt but also in other parts of the Graeco-Roman world.
In this bronze statuette the god is depicted in the usual way, as a Greek god with a full beard and long free-flowing hair, including characteristic vertical locks on the forehead. He has a conical modius on his head, adorned with olive branches. The modius is a basket or measure for grain, symbolizing fertility of the earth and linking the god with Osiris. The bust is supported on a stylised lotus flower, linking him with the sun.
Nancy Thomas - Gerry D. Scott, III - Bruce G. Trigger, The American Discovery of Ancient Egypt (Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1995), p. 225, no. 115;
Wilhelm Hornbostel, Serapis. Studien zur Überlieferungsgeschichte, den Erscheinungsformen und Wandlungen der Gestalt eines Gottes (Études préliminaires aux religions orientales dans l'empire romain, 32), Leiden, 1973;
G.J.F. Kater-Sibbes, Preliminary Catalogue of Sarapis Monuments (Études préliminaires aux religions orientales dans l'empire romain, 36) (Leiden, Brill, 1973);
John E. Stambaugh, Sarapis under the Early Ptolemies (Études préliminaires aux religions orientales dans l'empire romain, 25) (Leiden, Brill, 1972).
Circa 2nd century C.E.
Height 8.4 cm without stand (10.7 cm including stand), maximum width 5.1 cm.
Dutch private collection; with Christie's New York, sale 8684 of 6 June 1997, lot 190.
Intact with a dark patina covering almost the whole bust except in a few tiny spots where the underlying bronze is shining through; a very small triangular area (2 mm maximum width) of damage to the rim on the back side, near the left shoulder (as visible on the photograph); some incrustation; a few miniscule dents; comes with a custom made stand.