Serapeum
Overview
 
A serapeum is a temple
Temple
A temple is a structure reserved for religious or spiritual activities, such as prayer and sacrifice, or analogous rites. A templum constituted a sacred precinct as defined by a priest, or augur. It has the same root as the word "template," a plan in preparation of the building that was marked out...

 or other religious institution dedicated to the syncretic
Syncretism
Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. The term means "combining", but see below for the origin of the word...

 Hellenistic
Hellenistic civilization
Hellenistic civilization represents the zenith of Greek influence in the ancient world from 323 BCE to about 146 BCE...

-Egyptian
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

 god Serapis
Serapis
Serapis or Sarapis is a Graeco-Egyptian name of God. Serapis was devised during the 3rd century BC on the orders of Ptolemy I of Egypt as a means to unify the Greeks and Egyptians in his realm. The god was depicted as Greek in appearance, but with Egyptian trappings, and combined iconography...

, who combined aspects of Osiris
Osiris
Osiris is an Egyptian god, usually identified as the god of the afterlife, the underworld and the dead. He is classically depicted as a green-skinned man with a pharaoh's beard, partially mummy-wrapped at the legs, wearing a distinctive crown with two large ostrich feathers at either side, and...

 and Apis
Apis (Egyptian mythology)
In Egyptian mythology, Apis or Hapis , was a bull-deity worshipped in the Memphis region.According to Manetho, his worship was instituted by Kaiechos of the Second Dynasty. Hape is named on very early monuments, but little is known of the divine animal before the New Kingdom...

 in a humanized form that was accepted by the Ptolemaic Greeks
Ptolemaic dynasty
The Ptolemaic dynasty, was a Macedonian Greek royal family which ruled the Ptolemaic Empire in Egypt during the Hellenistic period. Their rule lasted for 275 years, from 305 BC to 30 BC...

 of Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

. There were several such religious centers, each of which was a serapeion or, in its Latinized form, a serapeum ("seh-rah-peh-um").
31°10′55"N 29°53′49"E
The Serapeum of Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

 in Ptolemaic Egypt
Ptolemaic Egypt
Ptolemaic Egypt began when Ptolemy I Soter invaded Egypt and declared himself Pharaoh of Egypt in 305 BC and ended with the death of queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt and the Roman conquest in 30 BC. The Ptolemaic Kingdom was a powerful Hellenistic state, extending from southern Syria in the east, to...

 was a temple built by Ptolemy III (reigned 246–222 BCE) and dedicated to Serapis, the syncretic Hellenistic-Egyptian god who was made the protector of Alexandria.
Encyclopedia
A serapeum is a temple
Temple
A temple is a structure reserved for religious or spiritual activities, such as prayer and sacrifice, or analogous rites. A templum constituted a sacred precinct as defined by a priest, or augur. It has the same root as the word "template," a plan in preparation of the building that was marked out...

 or other religious institution dedicated to the syncretic
Syncretism
Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. The term means "combining", but see below for the origin of the word...

 Hellenistic
Hellenistic civilization
Hellenistic civilization represents the zenith of Greek influence in the ancient world from 323 BCE to about 146 BCE...

-Egyptian
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

 god Serapis
Serapis
Serapis or Sarapis is a Graeco-Egyptian name of God. Serapis was devised during the 3rd century BC on the orders of Ptolemy I of Egypt as a means to unify the Greeks and Egyptians in his realm. The god was depicted as Greek in appearance, but with Egyptian trappings, and combined iconography...

, who combined aspects of Osiris
Osiris
Osiris is an Egyptian god, usually identified as the god of the afterlife, the underworld and the dead. He is classically depicted as a green-skinned man with a pharaoh's beard, partially mummy-wrapped at the legs, wearing a distinctive crown with two large ostrich feathers at either side, and...

 and Apis
Apis (Egyptian mythology)
In Egyptian mythology, Apis or Hapis , was a bull-deity worshipped in the Memphis region.According to Manetho, his worship was instituted by Kaiechos of the Second Dynasty. Hape is named on very early monuments, but little is known of the divine animal before the New Kingdom...

 in a humanized form that was accepted by the Ptolemaic Greeks
Ptolemaic dynasty
The Ptolemaic dynasty, was a Macedonian Greek royal family which ruled the Ptolemaic Empire in Egypt during the Hellenistic period. Their rule lasted for 275 years, from 305 BC to 30 BC...

 of Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

. There were several such religious centers, each of which was a serapeion or, in its Latinized form, a serapeum ("seh-rah-peh-um").

Alexandria

31°10′55"N 29°53′49"E
The Serapeum of Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

 in Ptolemaic Egypt
Ptolemaic Egypt
Ptolemaic Egypt began when Ptolemy I Soter invaded Egypt and declared himself Pharaoh of Egypt in 305 BC and ended with the death of queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt and the Roman conquest in 30 BC. The Ptolemaic Kingdom was a powerful Hellenistic state, extending from southern Syria in the east, to...

 was a temple built by Ptolemy III (reigned 246–222 BCE) and dedicated to Serapis, the syncretic Hellenistic-Egyptian god who was made the protector of Alexandria. By all detailed accounts, the Serapeum was the largest and most magnificent of all temples in the Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 quarter of Alexandria. Besides the image of the god, the temple precinct housed an offshoot collection of the great Library of Alexandria
Library of Alexandria
The Royal Library of Alexandria, or Ancient Library of Alexandria, in Alexandria, Egypt, was the largest and most significant great library of the ancient world. It flourished under the patronage of the Ptolemaic dynasty and functioned as a major center of scholarship from its construction in the...

. The geographer Strabo
Strabo
Strabo, also written Strabon was a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher.-Life:Strabo was born to an affluent family from Amaseia in Pontus , a city which he said was situated the approximate equivalent of 75 km from the Black Sea...

 tells that this stood in the west of the city. Nothing now remains above ground.

Excavations at the site of the column of Diocletian
Pompey's Pillar (column)
Pompey's Pillar is a Roman triumphal column in Alexandria, Egypt, and the largest of its type constructed outside of the imperial capitals of Rome and Constantinople...

 in 1944 yielded the foundation deposits of the Temple of Serapis. These are two sets of ten plaques, one each of gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

, of silver
Silver
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

, of bronze
Bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

, of faience
Faience
Faience or faïence is the conventional name in English for fine tin-glazed pottery on a delicate pale buff earthenware body, originally associated with Faenza in northern Italy. The invention of a white pottery glaze suitable for painted decoration, by the addition of an oxide of tin to the slip...

, of sun-dried Nile
Nile
The Nile is a major north-flowing river in North Africa, generally regarded as the longest river in the world. It is long. It runs through the ten countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Egypt.The Nile has two major...

 mud, and five of opaque glass
Glass
Glass is an amorphous solid material. Glasses are typically brittle and optically transparent.The most familiar type of glass, used for centuries in windows and drinking vessels, is soda-lime glass, composed of about 75% silica plus Na2O, CaO, and several minor additives...

. The inscription that Ptolemy III Euergetes built the Serapeion, in Greek and hieroglyphs
Hieroglyphs
Hieroglyph or hieroglyphics may refer to:*Anatolian hieroglyphs*Chinese character*Cretan hieroglyphs*Cursive hieroglyphs*Dongba script*Egyptian hieroglyphs*Hieroglyphic Luwian*Mayan hieroglyphs...

, marks all plaques; evidence suggests that Parmeniskos was assigned as architect. The foundation deposits of a temple dedicated to Harpocrates
Harpocrates
In late Greek mythology as developed in Ptolemaic Alexandria, Harpocrates is the god of silence. Harpocrates was adapted by the Greeks from the Egyptian child god Horus. To the ancient Egyptians, Horus represented the new-born Sun, rising each day at dawn...

 from the reign of Ptolemy IV were also found within the enclosure walls.

Subterranean galleries beneath the temple were most probably the site of the mysteries of Serapis. In 1895, a black diorite
Diorite
Diorite is a grey to dark grey intermediate intrusive igneous rock composed principally of plagioclase feldspar , biotite, hornblende, and/or pyroxene. It may contain small amounts of quartz, microcline and olivine. Zircon, apatite, sphene, magnetite, ilmenite and sulfides occur as accessory...

 statue representing Serapis in his Apis bull
APIS
APIS may refer to:*Advance Passenger Information System*Armour Piercing Incendiary Shells...

 incarnation with the sun-disk between his horns was found at the site; an inscription dates it to the reign of Hadrian
Hadrian
Hadrian , was Roman Emperor from 117 to 138. He is best known for building Hadrian's Wall, which marked the northern limit of Roman Britain. In Rome, he re-built the Pantheon and constructed the Temple of Venus and Roma. In addition to being emperor, Hadrian was a humanist and was philhellene in...

 (117-38).

Destruction of the Alexandrian Serapeum

The Serapeum in Alexandria was destroyed by a Christian crowd or Roman soldiers in 391. Two conflicting accounts for the context of the destruction of the Serapeum exist.

A film called Agora
Agora (film)
Agora is a 2009 Spanish historical drama film directed by Alejandro Amenábar and written by Amenábar and Mateo Gil. The biopic stars Rachel Weisz as Hypatia, a female mathematician, philosopher and astronomer in 4th century Roman Egypt who investigates the flaws of the geocentric Ptolemaic system...

was released in 2009 depicting these and other events, with semi-historical accuracy .

According to early Christian sources, bishop Theophilus of Alexandria
Theophilus of Alexandria
Theophilus of Alexandria was Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt, from 385 to 412. He is regarded as a saint by the Coptic Orthodox Church....

 was Nicene patriarch
Patriarch
Originally a patriarch was a man who exercised autocratic authority as a pater familias over an extended family. The system of such rule of families by senior males is called patriarchy. This is a Greek word, a compound of πατριά , "lineage, descent", esp...

 when the decrees of emperor Theodosius I
Theodosius I
Theodosius I , also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War, establishing their homeland...

 forbade public observances of any rites but Christian. Theodosius I had progressively made (year 389
389
Year 389 was a common year starting on Monday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Timasius and Promotus...

) the sacred feasts of other faiths into workdays, forbidden public sacrifices, closed temples, and colluded in acts of local violence by Christians against major cult sites. The decree promulgated in 391
391
Year 391 was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Tatianus and Symmachus...

 that "no one is to go to the sanctuaries, [or] walk through the temples" resulted in the abandonment of many temples throughout the Empire, which set the stage for widespread practice of converting or replacing these sites with Christian churches.

In Alexandria, Bishop Theophilus obtained legal authority over one such forcibly abandoned temple of Dionysus
Dionysus
Dionysus was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy in Greek mythology. His name in Linear B tablets shows he was worshipped from c. 1500—1100 BC by Mycenean Greeks: other traces of Dionysian-type cult have been found in ancient Minoan Crete...

, which he intended to turn into a church. During the renovations, the contents of subterranean spaces ("secret caverns" in the Christian sources) were uncovered and profaned, which allegedly incited crowds of non-Christians to seek revenge. The Christians retaliated, as Theophilus withdrew, causing the pagans to retreat into the Serapeum, still the most imposing of the city's remaining sanctuaries, and to barricade themselves inside, taking captured Christians with them.

These sources report that the captives were forced to offer sacrifices to the banned deities, and that those who refused were tortured (their shins broken) and ultimately cast into caves that had been built for blood sacrifices. The trapped pagans plundered the Serapeum (Rufinus & MacMullen 1984).

A letter was sent by Theodosius to Theophilus, asking him to grant the offending pagans pardon and calling for the destruction of all pagan images, suggesting that these were at the origin of the commotion. Consequently, the Serapeum was levelled by Roman soldiers and monks called in from the desert, as were the buildings dedicated to the Egyptian god Canopus
Canopus, Egypt
Canopus was an Ancient Egyptian coastal town, located in the Nile Delta. Its site is in the eastern outskirts of modern-day Alexandria, around 25 kilometres from the centre of that city....

. The wave of destruction of non-Christian idols spread throughout Egypt in the following weeks, as documented by a marginal illustration on papyrus
Papyrus
Papyrus is a thick paper-like material produced from the pith of the papyrus plant, Cyperus papyrus, a wetland sedge that was once abundant in the Nile Delta of Egypt....

 from a world chronicle written in Alexandria in the early 5th century, which shows Theophilus in triumph (illustration, above right); the cult image of Serapis, crowned with the modius
Serapis
Serapis or Sarapis is a Graeco-Egyptian name of God. Serapis was devised during the 3rd century BC on the orders of Ptolemy I of Egypt as a means to unify the Greeks and Egyptians in his realm. The god was depicted as Greek in appearance, but with Egyptian trappings, and combined iconography...

, is visible within the temple at the bottom (MacMullen 1984).

A slightly different version of this account of the destruction of the Serapeum begins with Bishop Theophilus closing down a Mithraeum
Mithraeum
A Mithraeum is a place of worship for the followers of the mystery religion of Mithraism.The Mithraeum was either an adapted natural cave or cavern or an artificial building imitating a cavern. Mithraea were dark and windowless, even if they were not actually in a subterranean space or in a natural...

, rather than the temple of Dionysus, but details of the ensuing profanation and insinuation of human sacrifices substantially agree.

An alternate account of the incident is found in writings by Eunapius
Eunapius
Eunapius was a Greek sophist and historian of the 4th century. His principal surviving work is the Lives of the Sophists, a collection of the biographies of twenty-three philosophers and sophists.-Life:He was born at Sardis, AD 347...

, the pagan historian of later Neoplatonism
Neoplatonism
Neoplatonism , is the modern term for a school of religious and mystical philosophy that took shape in the 3rd century AD, based on the teachings of Plato and earlier Platonists, with its earliest contributor believed to be Plotinus, and his teacher Ammonius Saccas...

. Here, an unprovoked Christian mob successfully used military-like tactics to destroy the Serapeum and steal anything that may have survived the attack. According to Eunapius, the remains of criminals and slaves, who had been occupying the Serapeum at the time of the attack, were appropriated by non-Christians, placed in (surviving) pagan temples, and venerated as martyrs (Turcan, 1996).

Whichever the cause, the destruction of the Serapeum, described by Christian writers Tyrannius Rufinus
Tyrannius Rufinus
Tyrannius Rufinus or Rufinus of Aquileia was a monk, historian, and theologian. He is most known as a translator of Greek patristic material into Latin—especially the work of Origen.-Life:...

 and Sozomen
Sozomen
Salminius Hermias Sozomenus was a historian of the Christian church.-Family and Home:He was born around 400 in Bethelia, a small town near Gaza, into a wealthy Christian family of Palestine....

, was but the most spectacular of such conflicts, according to Peter Brown
Peter Brown (historian)
Peter Robert Lamont Brown is Rollins Professor of History at Princeton University. His principal contributions to the discipline have been in the field of late antiquity and, in particular, the religious culture of the later Roman Empire and early medieval Europe.-Life:Peter Brown was born in...

. Several other ancient and modern authors, instead, have interpreted the destruction of the Serapeum in Alexandria as representative of the triumph of Christianity and an example of the attitude of the Christians towards pagans. However, Peter Brown frames it against a long-term backdrop of frequent mob violence in the city, where the Greek and Jewish quarters had fought during four hundred years, since the 1st century BCE. Also, Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea also called Eusebius Pamphili, was a Roman historian, exegete and Christian polemicist. He became the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine about the year 314. Together with Pamphilus, he was a scholar of the Biblical canon...

 mentions street-fighting in Alexandria, between Christians and non-Christians, occurring as early as 249 CE. Plus, there is evidence that non-Christians had taken part in citywide struggles pro and against Athanasius in 341 and 356 CE. Similar accounts are found in the writings of Socrates of Constantinople. R. McMullan further reports that, in 363 (almost 30 years earlier), Bishop George was killed for his repeated acts of pointed outrage, insult, and pillage of the most sacred treasures of the city. Whatever the prior events, the Serapeum of Alexandria was not rebuilt.

Canopus

Another Serapeum was located at Canopus
Canopus, Egypt
Canopus was an Ancient Egyptian coastal town, located in the Nile Delta. Its site is in the eastern outskirts of modern-day Alexandria, around 25 kilometres from the centre of that city....

, in the Nile delta
Nile Delta
The Nile Delta is the delta formed in Northern Egypt where the Nile River spreads out and drains into the Mediterranean Sea. It is one of the world's largest river deltas—from Alexandria in the west to Port Said in the east, it covers some 240 km of Mediterranean coastline—and is a rich...

 near Alexandria. This sanctuary, dedicated to Isis
Isis
Isis or in original more likely Aset is a goddess in Ancient Egyptian religious beliefs, whose worship spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. She was worshipped as the ideal mother and wife as well as the matron of nature and magic...

 and her consort Serapis, became one of the most famous cult centers of Ptolemaic and Roman
Aegyptus (Roman province)
The Roman province of Egypt was established in 30 BC after Octavian defeated his rival Mark Antony, deposed his lover Queen Cleopatra VII and annexed the Ptolemaic kingdom of Egypt to the Roman Empire. The province encompassed most of modern-day Egypt except for the Sinai Peninsula...

 Egypt. Its festivals and rites were so popular that the site became an architectural model for sanctuaries to the Egyptian gods throughout the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

.

At this Graeco-Roman site, a sacred temenos
Temenos
Temenos is a piece of land cut off and assigned as an official domain, especially to kings and chiefs, or a piece of land marked off from common uses and dedicated to a god, a sanctuary, holy grove or holy precinct: The Pythian race-course is called a temenos, the sacred valley of the Nile is the ...

enclosed the temple dedicated to the gods, which was located behind a propylaeum or peristyle
Peristyle
In Hellenistic Greek and Roman architecture a peristyle is a columned porch or open colonnade in a building surrounding a court that may contain an internal garden. Tetrastoon is another name for this feature...

 court. Auxiliary shrines dedicated to other, less universal, Egyptian deities could be found here as well, including those dedicated to Anubis
Anubis
Anubis is the Greek name for a jackal-headed god associated with mummification and the afterlife in ancient Egyptian religion. In the ancient Egyptian language, Anubis is known as Inpu . According to the Akkadian transcription in the Amarna letters, Anubis' name was vocalized as Anapa...

 (Hermanubis
Hermanubis
In classical mythology, Hermanubis was a god who combined Hermes with Anubis . Hermes and Anubis's similar responsibilities led to the god Hermanubis. He was popular during the period of Roman domination over Egypt...

), Hermes Trismegistus
Hermes Trismegistus
Hermes Trismegistus is the eponymous author of the Hermetic Corpus, a sacred text belonging to the genre of divine revelation.-Origin and identity:...

, the syncretism of Thoth
Thoth
Thoth was considered one of the more important deities of the Egyptian pantheon. In art, he was often depicted as a man with the head of an ibis or a baboon, animals sacred to him. His feminine counterpart was Seshat...

 and Hermes
Hermes
Hermes is the great messenger of the gods in Greek mythology and a guide to the Underworld. Hermes was born on Mount Kyllini in Arcadia. An Olympian god, he is also the patron of boundaries and of the travelers who cross them, of shepherds and cowherds, of the cunning of thieves, of orators and...

, Harpocrates, and others. Ritual complexes dedicated to Isis were often built around a well or a spring, which was meant to represent the miraculous annual inundation of the Nile. This was also the case in sanctuaries devoted to the Egyptian gods in Roman-era Delos
Delos
The island of Delos , isolated in the centre of the roughly circular ring of islands called the Cyclades, near Mykonos, is one of the most important mythological, historical and archaeological sites in Greece...

, where a central basin provided the water element central in the rites of Isis.

Regio tertia

The Regio III
Rioni of Rome
A rione is an Italian term used since the Middle Ages to name the districts of Rome, according to the administrative divisions of that time. The word originates from the Latin word regio A rione (pl. rioni) is an Italian term used since the Middle Ages to name the districts of Rome, according to...

within the city of Rome was named Isis et Serapis because it contained a temple dedicated to the two Egyptian deities. The structure, originally dedicated to Isis alone, was built by Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius
Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius
Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius was a pro-Sullan politician and general. He was named Pius because of his 99 BC petition to return his father from exile and was true to his cognomen for the constance and inflexibility with which he always fought for his father's rehabilitation and return to...

 in the first half of the 1st century BCE to celebrate his father's victory over Jugurtha
Jugurtha
Jugurtha or Jugurthen was a King of Numidia, , born in Cirta .-Background:Until the reign of Jugurtha's grandfather Masinissa, the people of Numidia were semi-nomadic and indistinguishable from the other Libyans in North Africa...

.
The complex, of which only parts of the foundations remain, was originally terraced; during the Flavian dynasty
Flavian dynasty
The Flavian dynasty was a Roman Imperial Dynasty, which ruled the Roman Empire between 69 and 96 AD, encompassing the reigns of Vespasian , and his two sons Titus and Domitian . The Flavians rose to power during the civil war of 69, known as the Year of the Four Emperors...

, it underwent major renovations, and the cult of Serapis was associated to that of Isis. The temple was finally demolished during the 6th century CE.

Campus Martius

This temple, dedicated to Isis and Serapis, was built in 43 BCE in Rome, on the area known as Campus Martius
Campus Martius
The Campus Martius , was a publicly owned area of ancient Rome about in extent. In the Middle Ages, it was the most populous area of Rome...

, between the Saepta Julia
Saepta Julia
The Saepta Julia was a building in Ancient Rome where citizens gathered to cast votes. The building was conceived by Julius Caesar and dedicated by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa in 26 BC. The building was originally built as a place for the comitia tributa to gather to cast votes . It replaced an older...

 and the temple of Minerva
Santa Maria sopra Minerva
The Basilica of Saint Mary Above Minerva is a titular minor basilica and one of the most important churches of the Roman Catholic Dominican order in Rome, Italy. The church, located in the Piazza della Minerva in the Campus Martius region, is considered the only Gothic church in Rome. It houses...

.

The Serapeum, 240 m long and 60 m wide, was divided in three sections: a rectangular area could be accessed first by walking under monumental arches; an open square, adorned with red granite
Granite
Granite is a common and widely occurring type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock. Granite usually has a medium- to coarse-grained texture. Occasionally some individual crystals are larger than the groundmass, in which case the texture is known as porphyritic. A granitic rock with a porphyritic...

 obelisk
Obelisk
An obelisk is a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape at the top, and is said to resemble a petrified ray of the sun-disk. A pair of obelisks usually stood in front of a pylon...

s brought to the city during the 1st century and erected in couples, followed. The centre of the square was likely occupied by the temple dedicated to Isis, while the third section, a semicircular exedra
Exedra
In architecture, an exedra is a semicircular recess or plinth, often crowned by a semi-dome, which is sometimes set into a building's facade. The original Greek sense was applied to a room that opened onto a stoa, ringed with curved high-backed stone benches, a suitable place for a philosophical...

 with an apse
Apse
In architecture, the apse is a semicircular recess covered with a hemispherical vault or semi-dome...

 presumably hosted the altar dedicated to Serapis. Fragments of the obelisks, some quite large, have been found around the current church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva; some archaeologists have proposed that the obelisk facing the Pantheon
Pantheon, Rome
The Pantheon ,Rarely Pantheum. This appears in Pliny's Natural History in describing this edifice: Agrippae Pantheum decoravit Diogenes Atheniensis; in columnis templi eius Caryatides probantur inter pauca operum, sicut in fastigio posita signa, sed propter altitudinem loci minus celebrata.from ,...

 (see picture) may have been repositioned from the temple to its current location.

The building was destroyed in the great fire of the year 80
80
Year 80 was a leap year starting on Saturday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Augustus and Domitianus...

 CE and rebuilt by Domitian
Domitian
Domitian was Roman Emperor from 81 to 96. Domitian was the third and last emperor of the Flavian dynasty.Domitian's youth and early career were largely spent in the shadow of his brother Titus, who gained military renown during the First Jewish-Roman War...

; further renovation was initiated by Hadrian, while Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus , also known as Severus, was Roman Emperor from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the province of Africa. As a young man he advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of...

 ordered the necessary upkeep of the temple's structure. Written records attest to the Serapeum's existence and ritual activity until the 5th century CE.

Quirinal Hill

The temple built on Quirinal Hill
Quirinal Hill
The Quirinal Hill is one of the Seven Hills of Rome, at the north-east of the city center. It is the location of the official residence of the Italian Head of State, who resides in the Quirinal Palace; by metonymy "the Quirinal" has come to stand for the Italian President.- History :It was...

 and dedicated to Serapis was, by most surviving accounts, the most sumptuous and architectonically ambitious of those built on the hill; its remains are still visible between Palazzo Colonna
Palazzo Colonna
The Palazzo Colonna is a palatial block of buildings in central Rome, Italy, at the base of the Quirinal Hill, and adjacent to the church of Santi Apostoli...

 and the Pontifical Gregorian University
Pontifical Gregorian University
The Pontifical Gregorian University is a pontifical university located in Rome, Italy.Heir of the Roman College founded by Saint Ignatius of Loyola over 460 years ago, the Gregorian University was the first university founded by the Jesuits...

.

The sanctuary, which lay between today's piazza della Pilotta and the large square facing Quirinal Palace
Quirinal Palace
The Quirinal Palace is a historical building in Rome, Italy, the current official residence of the President of the Italian Republic. It is located on the Quirinal Hill, the tallest of the seven hills of Rome...

, was built by Caracalla
Caracalla
Caracalla , was Roman emperor from 198 to 217. The eldest son of Septimius Severus, he ruled jointly with his younger brother Geta until he murdered the latter in 211...

 on the western slopes of the hill, covering over 13,000 m2 (3.2 acres), as its sides measured 135 m by 98 m. It was composed by a long courtyard (surrounded by a colonnade
Colonnade
In classical architecture, a colonnade denotes a long sequence of columns joined by their entablature, often free-standing, or part of a building....

) and by the ritual area, where statues and obelisks had been erected. Designed to impress its visitors, the temple boasted columns 21.17 metre tall and 2 metre in diameter, visually sitting atop a marble stairway that connected the base of the hill to the sanctuary.

An enormous fragment of entablature
Entablature
An entablature refers to the superstructure of moldings and bands which lie horizontally above columns, resting on their capitals. Entablatures are major elements of classical architecture, and are commonly divided into the architrave , the frieze ,...

, weighing approximately 100 tons and 34 m3 in volume (the largest in Rome), belongs to the original temple, as do the statues of the Nile and the Tiber
Tiber
The Tiber is the third-longest river in Italy, rising in the Apennine Mountains in Emilia-Romagna and flowing through Umbria and Lazio to the Tyrrhenian Sea. It drains a basin estimated at...

, moved by Michelangelo
Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

 to the Capitoline Hill in front of the Senate building.

Hadrian's Villa

Emperor Hadrian (117-138) ordered the construction of a "canopus" in his villa
Hadrian's Villa
The Hadrian's Villa is a large Roman archaeological complex at Tivoli, Italy.- History :The villa was constructed at Tibur as a retreat from Rome for Roman Emperor Hadrian during the second and third decades of the 2nd century AD...

 in Tivoli with typical imperial grandeur: an immense rectangular tank representing a canal, 119 m long by 18 m wide was surrounded by portico
Portico
A portico is a porch leading to the entrance of a building, or extended as a colonnade, with a roof structure over a walkway, supported by columns or enclosed by walls...

es and statues, leading the way to a Serapeum. Protected by a monumental dome
Dome
A dome is a structural element of architecture that resembles the hollow upper half of a sphere. Dome structures made of various materials have a long architectural lineage extending into prehistory....

, the sanctuary was composed of a public area and a more intimate subterranean part that was dedicated to the chthonic
Chthonic
Chthonic designates, or pertains to, deities or spirits of the underworld, especially in relation to Greek religion. The Greek word khthon is one of several for "earth"; it typically refers to the interior of the soil, rather than the living surface of the land or the land as territory...

 aspect of Serapis.

To mark the inauguration of his temple, Hadrian struck coinage that carry his effigy accompanied by Serapis, upon a dais where two columns support a round canopy. In this manner, the emperor became synnaos, a companion of the god's arcane naos
Cella
A cella or naos , is the inner chamber of a temple in classical architecture, or a shop facing the street in domestic Roman architecture...

and equal beneficiary of the cult of Serapis at Canopus.

Ostia antica

The Serapeum of Ostia Antica
Ostia Antica
Ostia Antica is a large archeological site, close to the modern suburb of Ostia , that was the location of the harbour city of ancient Rome, which is approximately 30 km to the northeast. "Ostia" in Latin means "mouth". At the mouth of the River Tiber, Ostia was Rome's seaport, but, due to...

 was inaugurated in 127
127
Year 127 was a common year starting on Tuesday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Rufus and Squilla...

 CE and dedicated to the sycretic cult of Jupiter
Jupiter (mythology)
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Jupiter or Jove is the king of the gods, and the god of the sky and thunder. He is the equivalent of Zeus in the Greek pantheon....

 Serapis.

It is a typical Roman sanctuary, on a raised platform and with a row of columns at the entrance, where a mosaic representing Apis in a typically Egyptian manner can still be seen. From this temple likely came the statue that Bryaxis
Bryaxis
Bryaxis was an ancient Greek sculptor. He created the sculptures on the north side of the mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus which was commissioned by the queen Artemisia II of Caria in memory of her brother and husband, Mausolus...

 copied for the Serapeum in Alexandria.

Pozzuoli

The Macellum of Pozzuoli
Macellum of Pozzuoli
The Macellum of Pozzuoli was the macellum or market building of the Roman colony of Puteoli, now known as Pozzuoli. When first excavated in the 18th century, the discovery of a statue of Serapis led to the building being mis-identified as the city's serapeum or Temple of Serapis.A band of borings...

, marketplace or macellum
Macellum
A macellum is an ancient Roman indoor market building that sold mostly provisions . The building normally sat alongside the forum and basilica, providing a place in which a market could be held...

 of the Roman city of Puteoli (now known as Pozzuoli
Pozzuoli
Pozzuoli is a city and comune of the province of Naples, in the Italian region of Campania. It is the main city of the Phlegrean peninsula.-History:Pozzuoli began as the Greek colony of Dicaearchia...

) was first excavated in the 18th century, when the discovery of a a statue of Serapis
Serapis
Serapis or Sarapis is a Graeco-Egyptian name of God. Serapis was devised during the 3rd century BC on the orders of Ptolemy I of Egypt as a means to unify the Greeks and Egyptians in his realm. The god was depicted as Greek in appearance, but with Egyptian trappings, and combined iconography...

 led to the building being mis-identified as the city's serapeum, the Temple of Serapis. Under that name, the site had considerable influence on early geology
History of geology
The history of geology is concerned with the development of the natural science of geology. Geology is the scientific study of the origin, history, and structure of the Earth. Throughout the ages geology provides essential theories and data that shape how society conceptualizes the...

 as a band of boreholes affecting the three standing columns suggested that the building had been partly below sea level for some period.

Serapea in Turkey

Pergamon

Inside Pergamon
Pergamon
Pergamon , or Pergamum, was an ancient Greek city in modern-day Turkey, in Mysia, today located from the Aegean Sea on a promontory on the north side of the river Caicus , that became the capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon during the Hellenistic period, under the Attalid dynasty, 281–133 BC...

 in Bergama
Bergama
Bergama is a populous district, as well as the center city of the same district, in İzmir Province in western Turkey. By excluding İzmir's metropolitan area, it is one of the prominent districts of the province in terms of population and is largely urbanized at the rate of 53,6 per cent...

, there is the Temple of Serapis, built for the Egyptian Gods in the 2nd c. CE. and called the Red Basilica
Red Basilica
The "Red Basilica" , also called variously the Red Hall and Red Courtyard, is a monumental ruined temple in the ancient city of Pergamon, now Bergama, in western Turkey. The temple was built by the Roman Empire, probably in the time of Hadrian and possibly on his orders...

 or Red Courtyard (Kızıl Avlu in Turkish) by locals. This is a basilica
Basilica
The Latin word basilica , was originally used to describe a Roman public building, usually located in the forum of a Roman town. Public basilicas began to appear in Hellenistic cities in the 2nd century BC.The term was also applied to buildings used for religious purposes...

-shaped building constructed under the reign of Hadrian
Hadrian
Hadrian , was Roman Emperor from 117 to 138. He is best known for building Hadrian's Wall, which marked the northern limit of Roman Britain. In Rome, he re-built the Pantheon and constructed the Temple of Venus and Roma. In addition to being emperor, Hadrian was a humanist and was philhellene in...

. It consists of a main building and two round towers. In the 1st century CE, the Christian
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 Church at Pergamon, inside the main building of the Red Basilica, was one of the Seven Churches
Seven Churches
Seven Churches may refer to:*Seven Churches of Asia, mentioned in the Book of Revelation*Seven Churches of Saint Thomas, a tradition in Indian ChristiansIn music it may refer to*Seven Churches , an album by Possessed...

 to which the Book of Revelation
Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation is the final book of the New Testament. The title came into usage from the first word of the book in Koine Greek: apokalupsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation"...

 was addressed (Revelation 2:12).

Ephesus

Another Temple of Serapis is in Ephesus
Ephesus
Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Asia Minor, near present-day Selçuk, Izmir Province, Turkey. It was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek era...

, which is near present-day Selçuk
Selçuk
Selçuk is the central town of Selçuk district, İzmir Province in Turkey, 2 km northeast of Ephesus.Its original Greek name, Agios Theológos referred to John the Theologian. Under the Ottoman Empire, it was known as Ayasoluk...

, Izmir province
Izmir Province
İzmir Province is a province of Turkey in western Anatolia on the Aegean coast, whose capital is the city of İzmir. On the west it is surrounded by the Aegean sea, and it encloses the Gulf of İzmir. Its area is 11,973 km.2, population 3.948.848 . The population was 3,370,866 in 2000...

, Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

. The temple is located behind the Library of Celsus. The Egyptian temple was turned into a Christian church.

Miletus

This temple built in 3rd century BC near the south agora of Miletus
Miletus
Miletus was an ancient Greek city on the western coast of Anatolia , near the mouth of the Maeander River in ancient Caria...

 and also it was restored by Emperor Julius Aurelius
Aurelian
Aurelian , was Roman Emperor from 270 to 275. During his reign, he defeated the Alamanni after a devastating war. He also defeated the Goths, Vandals, Juthungi, Sarmatians, and Carpi. Aurelian restored the Empire's eastern provinces after his conquest of the Palmyrene Empire in 273. The following...

 (270-75 AD)

Alexandria

  • Chuvin, Pierre, 1990 (B. A. Archer, translator). A Chronicle of the Last Pagans,(Harvard University Press). ISBN 0-674-12970-9 The incremental restrictions on "indigenous polytheism" of the governing class, chronicled from imperial edict to imperial edict.
  • MacMullen, Ramsay, 1984.Christianizing the Roman Empire A.D. 100-400, (Yale University Press).
  • Turcan, Robert, (1992) 1996. Cults of the Roman Empire (Blackwell) Bryn Mawr Classical review. A translation of Les cultes orientaux dans le monde romain.

Saqqara

  • Christophe, B. (2001). L'inscription dédicatoire de Khâemouaset au Sérapéum de Saqqara (Pl. V-XIII). Revue d'Égyptologie, 52, 29-55.

Ostia

  • Mar, R. (1992). El serapeum ostiense y la urbanística de la ciudad. Una aproximación a su estudio. BA, 13(15), 31-51.
  • Bloch, H. (1959). The Serapeum of Ostia and the Brick-Stamps of 123 AD A New Landmark in the History of Roman Architecture. American Journal of Archaeology, 63(3), 225-240.
  • Mar, R. (2001). El santuario de Serapis en Ostia.
  • Mols, S. (2007). The Urban Context of the Serapeum at Ostia. BABesch, 82(1), 227-232.

Rome

  • Filippo Coarelli, "Iseum et Serapeum in Campo Martio; Isis Campensis", in E. M. Steinby (ed.), Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae (LTUR), vol. 3, 1996, pp. 107–109.
  • Filippo Coarelli, "I monumenti dei culti orientali a Roma", in La soteriologia dei culti orientali nell'Impero romano, Leiden, Brill, 1982, pp. 33–67. (ISBN 9004065016).
  • Serena Ensoli, "I santuari di Iside e Serapide a Roma e la resistenza pagana in età tardoantica" in Aurea Roma, Roma, L'Erma di Bretschneider, 2000, pp.  273-282. (ISBN 8882651266).

Pozzuoli

  • Charles Dubois. Cultes et dieux à Pouzzoles. Roma, 1902.
  • Charles Dubois. Pouzzoles Antique. Parigi, 1907.


External links


  • References to another Serapeum near the Suez Canal:
    • Eastern Serapeum2 - To the west of Tussum a large group of dunes occurs which runs to the south-south-west, and at kilometer 90 we reach the Serapeum.
    • Eastern Serapeum3 - On Napoleon's Map
  • Three more Serapea - The Tabula Peutingeriana
    Tabula Peutingeriana
    The Tabula Peutingeriana is an itinerarium showing the cursus publicus, the road network in the Roman Empire. The original map of which this is a unique copy was last revised in the fourth or early fifth century. It covers Europe, parts of Asia and North Africa...

    shows 3 additional Serapea not discussed in the article (Big Map)
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