Interactions between Science, Religion, and Literature
Edited By Luis Arturo Guichard, Juan Luis García Alonso and María Paz de Hoz
Isis, Sarapis, Cyrus and John: Between Healing Gods and Thaumaturgical Saints: Laurent Bricault
Isis, Sarapis, Cyrus and John: Between Healing Gods and Thaumaturgical Saints
Isis of Menouthis, Sarapis of Canopus: two toponymic hypostasis of the tutelary gods of Alexandria that comprise the same functional reality. Both are healing divinities that one would visit hoping for a better life. Already in the late 4th century BC – if we trust Diogenes Laertius –, Demetrius of Phaleron, affected by ophthalmia, consulted the oracle of the god. Eight centuries later, once the Alexandrian Serapieion crumbles under the attacks of Theophilus and his troops, the images of Sarapis and, especially, of Isis are still very present in private residences along the coast. This presence reached such a degree that Christian authorities tried to impose the cult of two thaumaturgical saints, Cyrus and John.
A scholarly, and relatively persistent rumour, wanted the cult of Sarapis and the god himself – despite having been born in Egypt – to be a Greek creation that did not have much to do with the ancient Egyptian religious spirit. Forged in the Alexandrian fashion by Macedonian dynasts who drew their inspiration from Memphite traditions – more or less vaguely –, it spread thereafter throughout the Hellenistic world from the so-called Alexandrian “customs”.
That scenario, still followed by many scholars, ignores the fact that Memphis remained under the Ptolemies an important centre for Egyptian cults, especially for those of Isis and Sarapis.1 This centre ← 97 | 98 → was probably at the origin, among other things, of the...
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