Tuesday, April 16, 2013
"Interesting Serpent Deity"

One of my favorite travelers who takes her camera photographed a fascinating serpent-deity, Serapis Amun Agathodaemon:

Copper alloy statuette of the god Serapis Amun Agathodaemon,
one of the rare preserved statues of this deity.
Egyptian Collection of Athens Museum, #915.
(Photographed by Heidi Kontkanen)

Could the colorful squares on its torso be more than just decorative? Could they suggest the chakras?

I looked up about this unusual deity, and wasn't able to find much in online book searches.

"The god Serapis was a fusion of Egyptian and Greek religious concepts originating in Alexandria, where Ptolemy I started his cult and constructed the first known shrine to him, which was called the Serapeum. His worship continued through the Roman period and his temples spread throughout the Roman Empire.

"Serapis was frequently combined with other deities both Egyptian and Greek. Such combinations were Serapis-Zeus, Serapis-Helios and Serapis-Amun." (Zawi Hawass, editor, Bibliotheca Alexandrina: The Archaeology Museum, (Supreme Council of Antiquities, 2002), page 108)

But there's a question of whether or not Serapis was in existence before Ptolemy I. "There are traditions that attribute the foundation of the cult of Serapis to Alexander himself, in the city he had just founded, while others assert the existence of this cult in the Egyptian settlement that is supposed to have existed before the founding of Alexandria (the name Rakotis, which has been thought to be that of this settlement, can be translated as 'the construction site' and would thus be the Egyptian designation of the new city under construction). (Francoise Dunand and Christiane Zivie, translated by David Lorton, Gods and Men in Egypt: 3000 BCE to 395 BCE,(Cornell University, 2004), page 215)

Meanwhile, some authors "prefer to list Sarapis, Agathos Daimon, the snake-bodied Good Spirit of Alexandria associated with Serapis, and the similarly snake-bodied Isis-Agathe Tyche, the Good Fortune, with the Greek/Roman deities." László Török, Hellenizing Art in Ancient Nubia 300 B.C. - AD 250 and Its Egyptian Models, (Brill, 2011), page 84

Whether or not these were earlier, by at least "the Roman Period, there were images of Serapis with a serpent's body, stressing his function of agathos daimon, guarantor of the fertility of the fields and good harvests". (Dunand and Zivie-Coche, page 217)

Also I learned of "cobras representing Serapis-Agathodaemon" which are at the entrance to a burial chamber in Alexandria, suggesting a rejuvenating role in the afterlife. (Judith A. Corbelli, The Art of Death in Graeco-Roman Egypt, (Shire Publications, 2006), page 17)

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