Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) ascended the throne at the age of twenty. He began a military campaign very early on that would take him from Greece to Egypt, from Central Asia to northern India, and give birth to one of the greatest empires in history.
In 332 BC, he invaded Egypt, where the oracle of Siwa proclaimed him son of the god Amun. At his death in 323 BC, his empire was divided into four power blocks. One of his generals, Ptolemy, inherited Egypt and soon declared himself pharaoh. He thus founded the Ptolemaic dynasty which reigned over Egypt for nearly 300 years, and only died out with the disappearance of Cleopatra, in 30 BC.
Ptolemy knew that to attract the favors of the Egyptian people it was necessary for him to respect their religion. But he also wanted to ensure the support of the Greek community, installed in Egypt since the seventh century BC. Many researchers attribute to him from then on the creation of a new cult: that of the syncretic god Serapis.
Serapis was inspired by the Egyptian god Osiris and the sacred bull Apis (which gives Osir-Apis, then Serapis in Greek), but also by many Greek deities, such as Asclepius, Dionysus, and Hades. Because of his filiation with Osiris, Serapis is a god of the earth, fertility, and regeneration. But his association with Helios and Zeus also gives him a solar dimension, which earned him the title of Lord of all things.
Serapis was worshipped in Egypt and elsewhere in the Greco-Roman world, including Rome. Traces of him can even be found in the Roman province of Brittany, today’s England.
This marble head represents Serapis with a dense beard and a long mustache. His face is framed by thick, curly hair with many cavities, and features closed, almond-shaped eyes and a fine, pointed nose.
Dated to the 2nd century A.D., and measuring 12.8 cm high, it is most probably inspired by the colossal Serapis from the temple of Alexandria, attributed to the Roman artist Bryaxis. It comes from a private German collection, prior to the 1930s.
SILVER TETRADRACHM :
After his death, coins often depict Alexander’s profile surmounted by the horns of Amun, as a sign of his divine character. It is notably the case on this silver tetradrachm struck under the reign of Lysimachus.
© Alexander Fine Art
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