An inscription dedicated to “Sol Serapis”

You can learn quite a lot from looking at non-English versions of Wikipedia.

For instance the German Mithras article is quite a bit superior to the English one in several respects, handling the Mithra-Mithras dichotomy well.  It lacks the heavy referencing that I added to the English one; but since all that work did not save the article from deliberate poisoning by a troll, it has to be asked whether it was a good idea anyway.

Looking around these articles, I am struck by the number of images of tauroctonies which are language-specific.  There were some quite useful images of various sorts.

But quite accidentally, I came across something else.  We’re all familiar with “Soli Invicto Mithrae” in inscriptions — “to the unconquered sun Mithras”.  But did anyone know that Serapis is also treated as a sun-god?  This image says so:


Apparently (for this is Wikipedia, remember — the encyclopedia edited by anybody) this is CIL XIII, 8246.  The text is:

IN H(onorem) D(omus) D(ivinae)
FILIA AGGRIPP(inensis) D(ono) D(edit)

To Sol Serapis
And his  throne
In honour of the imperial house,
Dextrina Justa,
Daughter of L. Dextrinus Justus, from Colonia Agrippinensis (Cologne), gives (this) as a gift.

It indicates how “sol” as a descriptive term has very little distinguishing power, between one deity and another.


16 thoughts on “An inscription dedicated to “Sol Serapis”

  1. “CVM SVA CLINE” is in fact in classical Latin “CVM SVA CLVNE” that is “with his butt, buttocks” maybe “seat”, believe it or not, no way “throne”

  2. By the way, talking about “Soli Invicto Mithrae” sentence make me remember another sentence in the Christian Orthodox Liturgy depicting Christ as “the undefeated Sun”, and the 25th December as “Dies Natalis Solis Invicti”, as long ago Ovid said: “omnia mutantur, nihil interit”.

  3. A correspondent has written about “cline”:

    I noticed a strange linguistic point relating to a Sarapis inscription at your blog — one commenter suggesting that “cline” = “clune”; that is not the case, as you rightly said — the word is simply borrowed from Greek κλίνη, with the technical sense of a sacred ceremony in which (the statue of) the god sits on a couch and is given food by worshippers — I’m attaching a bit of p. 55 of Vidman, “Sylloge Inscriptionum Religionis Isiacae Et Sarapiacae”, explaining this and giving some bibliography…

  4. The date of 1598 (M.D.XCVIII) at the end of the bottom section is the giveaway — it’s a renaissance inscription. The word “restauraretur” — “it was being restored” in the subjunctive — suggests that the inscription was found while some work was being done, and someone added the new inscription at the bottom; in fact “(c)ippus iste erutus est | (in?) veteri muro dum haec | (d)omus restauraretur” = “this stela was uncovered in an old wall while this house was being restored”?

  5. κλίνη “bed, couch” still not “throne”, see Lat. “lectisternium” i.e. “bedding”, but seems to be a special term as quoted above, so “To Sol Serapis with his ceremony…”

  6. Macrobius & Julian preserved for us an Orphic expression- “Zeus, Hades, Helios Serapis: three gods in one godhead!” Given that Serapis was a Ptolemaic repackaging of Osiris, this “Sol/Helios Serapis” epithet might merely be an extension of that. By that I mean Osiris was said to periodically unite with the chief sun god Re into a single being, which for the Egyptians represented the solar-lunar conjunction of the new moon phase. Several inscriptions of “Re-Osiris/Osiris-Re” still remain. Given that, just as Osiris was often still identified with Serapis in the Roman era (see Plutarch), and Re was occasionally identified with Helios, “Sol/Helios Serapis” might simply be a Hellenized throwback to the old Egyptian union of Osiris & Re. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  7. Perhaps; although I would be wary of back-projecting 5th century statements into previous eras because of the influence of Christianity on late paganism.

  8. Not sure I follow what you’re driving at. Nothing need be back projected in what I wrote, so far as I can tell, and xianity is not relevant here at all, so why you mention that is… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Is there some more prominent union of a solar god and a chthonic/lunar god within that mythos that I’m unaware of?
    But that would be moot anyway as far as I’m concerned, since the chronology of what I laid above is- There’s the cyclical union of Osiris with sun god Re, which is documented at least as far back as the New Kingdom era, so no back projecting needed there.
    Then comes the identification of Re with Helios/Sol at least as early as Herodotus in the 5th cen. BCE, so no back projecting needed.
    Then there’s the Ptolemaic invention of Serapis based on Osiris (et al, somewhere around the 4th century BCE, and an identification maintained by various writers on into the Roman era, so no back projecting there.
    And finally the references to Helios/Sol-Serapis in the late Roman Era.
    I am merely pointing out that the two deities who make up this composite figure were due to syncretism identified with two older deities who likewise made up a composite figure.
    That’s all.
    We good now?

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