The abolition of the Lupercalia

Apparently there is a legend that Valentine’s Day derives from the ancient Roman festival of the Lupercalia.  I admit that I had never heard this one — but the excellent Bill Thayer has gone to some trouble to research it, so clearly it does.

He has also added an article from Classical Philology about the festival in the 5th century here.  This contains a number of interesting statements, all derived from a letter of Pope Gelasius defending the abolition of the festival.

When it was finally abolished by the efforts of Gelasius, he addressed to a group of senators an epistle defending the step, which approximates the length of an apologetic treatise. He admits that the old pagan rite had continued under his predecessors, through the days of Alaric, Anthemius, and Ricimer, and had been abolished only in his own time; but he defends the earlier popes by saying that ills could not be healed at once, and that perhaps they had tried to remove this superstition but had failed to win the support of the imperial court. …

The Lupercalia, then, must belong to the class of superstitions which lingered on among a nominally Christian people. Something of the nature of this superstition may be learned from the letter of Pope Gelasius cited above.

1. As to the purpose of the Lupercalia. — A pestilence had broken out in Campania, which Andromachus and other senators ascribed to the suppression of the Lupercalia. The Pope replied that the purpose of the festival was not to avert pestilence but to promote the fertility of women; that pestilence and ills of every sort had been abundant while the Lupercalia continued; and that there was no connection between a city festival and happenings in Campania.

This reply raises a question as to the purpose of the rites. Gelasius cites an account from the second decade of Livy (292‑218 B.C.), to the effect that the Lupercalia was instituted to relieve the sterility of Roman matrons….

Now that sounds like an interesting letter!  And uses the (lost) second decade of Livy as well?  Hmmm….!

The notes say that it was published in the Collectio Avelana, in CSEL 35.1, p.390 f.  But 390 is wrong — it is in fact letter 100, on p.453-464, to Andromachus.

The letter ought to be translated into English.  My calculation is that it’s about 1,800 words long.  I might see if I can find a translator on Student Gems.

Solon and Lycurgus in the marquis de Sade

Few of us, I hope, will have spent our time turning the pages of the kind of literature written by and for the corrupt.  If you are what you eat, in body at least, then what does “what we read” make us?  We need to be at least as careful of what we let into our heads.  I myself could do without some of the images that have come my way down the years.

An interesting email reached me, however.

I was reading a copy of De Sade’s Philosophy in the Bedroom for a history class and I came across a reference to Solon’s using pornography in the theater as public moral conditioning.

I would like to find out if this is really true; and Wikipedia says the source is an excerpt form one of Philemon’s plays- but they wrongly attribute Menander’s The Brothers to Philemon.

The reference to the pornographic work of De Sade, La Philosophie dans le boudoir, may be found easily enough online.  The French is here:

Lycurgue et Solon, bien pénétrés que les résultats de l’impudeur tiennent le citoyen dans l’état immoral essentiel aux lois du gouvernement républicain, obligèrent les jeunes filles à se montrer nues au théâtre[6].

The English translation reads:

Lycurgus and Solon, fully convinced that immodesty’s results are to keep the citizen in the immoral state indispensable to the mechanics of republican government, obliged girls to exhibit themselves naked at the theater.13

(The footnote is not a reference, unfortunately, but an elaboration).

I quickly found via Wikipedia that the 2nd century writer Athenaeus, in the Deipnosophists (= The foodies), book 13 (“Concerning Women”) (here), mentions that Solon established brothels at Athens, quoting the comic writer Philemon.

25. And Philemon, in his Brothers, relates that Solon at first, on account of the unbridled passions of the young, made a law that women might be brought to be prostituted at brothels; as Nicander of Colophon also states, in the third book of his History of the Affairs of Colophon, — saying that he first erected a temple to the Public Venus with the money which was earned by the women who were prostituted at these brothels. But Philemon speaks on this subject as follows : —

But you did well for every man, O Solon;
For they do say you were the first to see
The justice of a public-spirited measure,
The saviour of the state— (and it is fit
For me to utter this avowal, Solon) ; —
You, seeing that the state was full of men,
Young, and possess’d of all the natural appetites,
And wandering in their lusts where they’d no business,
Bought women, and in certain spots did place them,
Common to be, and ready for all comers.
They naked stand : look well at them, my youth, —
Do not deceive yourself; a’nt you well off?
You’re ready, so are they : the door is open —
The price an obol : enter straight — there is
No nonsense here, no cheat or trickery;
But do just what you like, and how you like.
You’re off: wish her good-bye; she ‘s no more claim on you.

The verse is satirical, of course, and perhaps we need not entertain this claim against Solon too seriously, particularly considering that it is being made six centuries after the supposed events.

But it’s not really the same story.

Searching further online for material about Athenian prostitution, I find suggestions that that prostitutes who danced and could provide entertainment were known as auletrides — the familiar ‘flute-players’ of ancient literature.  There is a History of Prostitution by William W. Sanger online, which on p.43 discusses (with references, thank heavens!) the miserable profession in ancient Greece.  But nothing in it associates Solon with any of this, beyond the reference in Athenaeus.

And there the trail goes cold.  Does anyone else know of anything to support the allegation of De Sade?

UV light to reveal colours of ancient statuary?

An interesting article here via Dyspepsia Generation:

Original Greek statues were brightly painted, but after thousands of years, those paints have worn away. Find out how shining a light on the statues can be all that’s required to see them as they were thousands of years ago.

Something about this reporting — reproduced widely on non-scholarly sites — makes me nervous.  It’s not very coherent, and no sources are quoted, no researchers given.  The source for the images is supposed to be a certain Venzenz Brinkmann, and there is yet another non-scholarly item — a PDF — here.

Do we find the New Testament church in the Fathers?

The New Testament is the word of God, and the basis and of a Christian’s daily walk with Christ.  It is our SatNav in the motorway network of life.  May we always turn to it before we get to Spaghetti Junction!

The church that we see in the NT is (a) mostly Jewish (b) based on local congregations, but with an emotional loyalty to the apostles in the Jerusalem Church (c) not blessed with bishops and priests.

Very often, when we come to read the Fathers — especially the apostolic Fathers — our motivation for doing so is that we want to know what happened next.  I would myself always refer people first to Eusebius Church History, in the excellent Penguin translation by G. A. Williamson, for answers to that, not least because he quotes verbatim otherwise lost early sources.   Then I would recommend the reading of the apostolic fathers, and then all 10 extant Fathers writing before 200 AD.  Such a course of reading gives one a mastery of the data not to be obtained in any other way, and really takes very little time.  The whole lot could be skim-read in a week during the evenings.

But I suspect that many of us cannot help feeling that the Church (with a capital C) that we see in those works is a very different animal to that which we find in the New Testament.  All these bishops, for one thing, look markedly unapostolic, and they look ever less apostolic as they swell in importance (and self-importance, sadly) in the years after Cyprian. 

Indeed already, ca. 215 AD, Tertullian has cause to criticise one bishop as a “veritable pontifex maximus, a bishop of bishops”, who has ventured to take on himself the right to forgive adultery and fornication on application at his office! (De Pudicitia, 1).  Tertullian suggests that the letter issuing this instruction should be posted where it will be of most use to those affected, namely in the red-light district, outside certain temples, or over the doorways of brothels.  When one modern editor commented, “Churchmen have not liked Tertullian; they praise him with reservations,” it is perhaps passages like this that explain why.  Another bishop is accused by Tertullian of violating the Scantinian law, which prohibited sodomy.

But it is less the abuses of the church in late antiquity that trouble us, so much as a sense that the organisation looks little like that which we see in the bible, and the literature emanating from it equally so.  I think the impression is a valid one, and deserves consideration.  Why is this the case?

Of course for a Roman Catholic the answer is that the New Testament does not concern itself primarily with such matters, but that the apostles appointed bishops and set up the organisation to take things forward.  No doubt there is truth in this, and certainly the texts witness to such appointments.  Whether the prelates of late antiquity such as Cyril of Alexandria were quite what Peter and John had in mind may, I think, be legitimately debated.

But there are other factors.  Much of second century Christian literature — I exclude the apocrypha and the scribblings of heretics — consists of apologetic literature directed to an uncaring pagan emperor and casting itself in whatever form the author thought might gain a hearing.  Other portions consist of anti-heretical literature.  The NT contains neither, and these together give a quite misleading impression.  If we exclude these, we are left with a selection of letters, more or less, mostly from the apostolic fathers. 

These are far more like the NT than we might imagine.  1 Clement deliberately harks back toPaul’s letters to the Corinthians.  The letters of Ignatius may be troubled by docetists, but their relation to the NT is also obvious.  The Didache is not a letter, but is both Jewish and refers to apostles and prophets.

We must also remember that 99% of literature written before 200 AD is lost.  What we have is largely a matter of accident.   The large quantity of apologetic literature is the produce of a single accident.  In the 10th century Archbishop Arethas of Caesarea was interested in early Christian apologies, and got one of his toadys to give him a book with a whole load of them copied into it.  That book has survived, and thereby  influences our perceptions.  Other collections doubtless might have been made at that time; but since no-one was interested in copying such old and out-of-date texts, they perished.

Finally, and by no means least, we must consider the question of translation.  Most of us will read this pre-200 literature in stilted older translations, often written by men in the Oxford Movement and steeped in ecclesiasticism.  There is quite a gulf between these and a modern NIV, and still more a Good News Bible.  This again fosters a sense of distance, which is purely accidental.

I suggest, therefore, that our picture of the early church in the first century should really follow New Testament lines.  As time goes on, things change; but probably more slowly than we realise.  I doubt that Polycarp, who died ca. 155, knew of a church other than that founded by John the Apostle.  I have my doubts that Irenaeus, writing ca. 180, did so, although things were very clearly changing.

Change is inevitable, and so is a return to God.  That is the nature of human beings, and it is the history of the church also.  But I do not think we should be troubled if we find something very ecclesiastical in our reading.  Think instead of the house churches that must have continued, where no member never wrote a line that has reached us, but in which the early Christians actually worshipped.

More Papias fragments

Tom Schmidt writes:

I added 11 new fragments to my page on Papias. I also gave parallel translations from the Syriac and Greek of Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History and Armenian and Greek of Andrew of Caesarea’s Commentary on Revelation among other things as well.

All very useful to us all!

The Realencyclopadie on the festival of the Adonia

A commenter asked about the date of the Adonia.  I confess I had never considered the matter, and posted the German text of the Realencyclopadie entry in the comments.  Here is a translation. 

Adonia. The feast of Adonis, celebrated in midsummer festival, whose main component is the lament for the death of Adonis who was represented by wooden dolls. The festival, of uncertain origin, is certainly an ancient one on the soil of Greece, Asia Minor and Syria, first mentioned at Athens under the name A)dwnia (Aristophanes Peace 419. Plutarch Nicias 13; Alcibiades 18) on the occasion of the Sicilian expedition as a private celebration for women.  In the 4th century B.C., the comic writers several times refer to it as for courtesans. So in Diphilus, fragment 43, 39 (II 554 K., ibid. 557; in the Theseus of Diphilus, the courtesans gave each other obscene riddles at the Adonia).

An honorary decree of the Thiasotai of Aphrodite for their leaders from the year 302 (Dittenberger Syll. 427) sets out his services in the πομπή (solemn procession) of the Adonia, which must therefore have been a major festival.

There is a portrayal of a splendid celebration of the Adonia in Alexandria, favored by Ptolemy Philadelphus, in Theocritus, 15th Idyll; a description of the celebration in Byblos, probably from the 1st century A.D., in [Lucian] de dea Syria 6ff; in Antioch in 362 AD (Ammianus Marcellinus XXII 9, 15) the festival was still celebrated annually. For the history of the god and its importance see Adonis.

The opening of the 15th idyll of Theocritus, and a link to the full English version, is in the post referenced above.  The hymn that is sung refers to Adonis receiving all the fruits — late summer, perhaps? — while another bit refers to “Oh dear, oh dear, Gorgo! my summer cloak’s torn right in two”, and the footnote suggests that it may have been held on the longest day.

Of course this is Ptolemaic Alexandria.  We need not suppose the festival was held on the same day everywhere.  Indeed in the Greek world, where each city could have different months, where the year started at different times, and there was no agreement on any universal chronology, it would be quite difficult to hold a festival on the same day throughout the Greek world, except by tying it to the solstice or some other astronomical event. 

We’re used to the Christian chronology, which is universal.  But that was a product of late antiquity, of the labours of Eusebius of Caesarea.  It did not exist in the classical Greek period.

UPDATE: Aristophanes, Peace, is here:

HERMES: Is it then for this reason that these untrustworthy charioteers have for so long been defrauding us, one of them robbing us of daylight and the other nibbling away at the other’s disk?

TRYGAES: Yes, certainly. So therefore, Hermes, my friend, help us with your whole heart to find and deliver the captive and we will celebrate the great Panathenaea in your honour as well as all the festivals of the other gods; for Hermes shall be the Mysteries, the Dipolia, the Adonia; everywhere the towns, freed from their miseries, will sacrifice to Hermes the Liberator; you will be loaded with benefits of every kind, and to start with, I offer you this cup for libations as your first present.

Plutarch, Alcibiades, is here.  The time is the arguments at Athens over sending the disastrous expedition to Syracuse.

After the people had adopted this motion and all things were made ready for the departure of the fleet, there were some unpropitious signs and portents, especially in connection with the festival, namely, the Adonia. 3 This fell at that time, and little images like dead folk carried forth to burial were in many places exposed to view by the women, who mimicked burial rites, beat their breasts, and sang dirges.

 Plutarch, Nicias, here refers to the same events:

7. Not a few also were somewhat disconcerted by the character of the days in the midst of which they dispatched their armament. The women were celebrating at that time the festival of Adonis, and in many places throughout the city little images of the god were laid our for burial, and funeral rites were held about them, with wailing cries of women, so that those who cared anything for such matters were distressed, and feared lest that powerful armament, with all the splendour and vigour which were so manifest in it, should speedily wither away and come to naught.

These last two come from Lacus Curtius, the splendid site created by Bill Thayer.  Here the Adonia is being celebrated at Athens when the expedition is despatched — but when was this, I wonder?

Bill has linked ‘adonia’ in the Alcibiades to a dictionary article that he has digitised, here.

ADOʹNIA (Ἀδώνια), a festival celebrated in honour of Aphrodite and Adonis in most of the Grecian cities, as well as in numerous places in the East. It lasted two days, and was celebrated by women exclusively. On the first day they brought into the streets statues of Adonis, which were laid out as corpses; and they observed all the rites customary at funerals, beating themselves and uttering lamentations. The second day was spent in merriment and feasting; because Adonis was allowed to return to life, and spend half of the year with Aphrodite. (Aristoph. Pax, 412, Schol. ad loc.; Plut. Alcib. 18, Nic. 13). For fuller particulars respecting the worship and festivals of Adonis, see Dict. of Biogr. s.v. Adonis.a

And Bill  has added his own note:

a For a different set of references altogether, see Prof. Crosby’s note on the 62d Discourse of Dio Chrysostom.

But Dio reads:

On the contrary, it was his custom to slip away into the women’s quarters in his palace and there sit with legs drawn up on a golden couch, sheltered by purple bed-hangings, just like the Adonis who is lamented by the women [5],…

and the note is:

5. As early as the fifth century Athenian women honoured him with a two-day festival in which the lament was prominent; cf. Aristophanes, Lysistrata 389.  A celebration in Alexandria forms the background of Theocritus’ fifteenth idyl; cf. also Bion’s Lament in Edmonds, Greek Bucolic Poets (L. C. L.), pp386‑395.

Few sites indeed, other than Lacus Curtius, would give us so much for a few clicks. 

Aristophanes, Lysistrata is here:

MAGISTRATE: Have the luxurious rites of the women glittered
Their libertine show, their drumming tapped out crowds,
The Sabazian Mysteries summoned their mob,
Adonis been wept to death on the terraces,
As I could hear the last day in the Assembly?
For Demostratus–let bad luck befoul him–
Was roaring, “We must sail for Sicily,”
While a woman, throwing herself about in a dance
Lopsided with drink, was shrilling out “Adonis,
Woe for Adonis.” Then Demostratus shouted,
“We must levy hoplites at Zacynthus,”
And there the woman, up to the ears in wine,
Was screaming “Weep for Adonis” on the house-top,
The scoundrelly politician, that lunatic ox,
Bellowing bad advice through tipsy shrieks:
Such are the follies wantoning in them.

MEN: O if you knew their full effrontery!
All of the insults they’ve done, besides sousing us
With water from their pots to our public disgrace
For we stand here wringing our clothes like grown-up infants.

This gives us little new information, tho.

Bion’s Lament for Adonis is here.  However, while it makes clear that the festival was annual, it gives no indication as to when it took place.

The only remaining reference in that lot is the scholia on the passage in Aristophanes.  I’m not at all sure, tho, where these might be found.

Next a search in Google books, which gave me Matthew Dillon, Girls and women in classical Greek religion.  Page 164-5 talk of Menander’s Samia, much of which was recovered in 1907 from papyri, and more in 1959 in the Bodmer papyrus, giving us four out of five sections.  This does not seem to be accessible online, however.  Dillon tells us that the festival was not a state event, but conducted in private houses, a women-only event, including both respectable women and prostitutes involved,  and he gives the Samia as his reference for this.   But he also tells us that Photius mentions the Adonia (unfortunately I cannot see the footnote 155), as coming to the Greeks from Cyprus and Phoenicia.  Interestingly he also says:

But Adonis was in no sense an eastern dying and reborn vegetation god.  The Adonis images laid out as in death, and the seed garden that never bear fruit, honour him once each year.  After the Adonia, he will not make an appearance until the next celebration of the festival (i.e. his death is commemorated each year; only late sources mention a resurrection).[156]

On p.167-8 Dillon adds that the date of the festival is disputed.  The Sicilian expedition referenced in Aristophanes was in early Spring in 415, but Plutarch gives the Adonia happening in the middle of a whole series of ill-omens before the expedition, all taking place in mid-summer.  Two passages of Theophrastus say that the Gardens of Adonis were sown in the Spring.  On p.168 he refers to, not one, but three decrees of the thiasotai (members of the thiasos), found at Piraeus.

All this is interesting.  I wish I could see the references.  The mention of Photius is perhaps a reference to the Lexicon, rather than the Bibliotheca.

There is also an entry in the Suda, although the online site doesn’t seem to allow us to link to articles.  But it gives us nothing useful.

All of which is very inconclusive.  I think we have to say, in truth, that we do not know for certain when the Adonia was celebrated.

The Serapeum of Alexandria, described by Aphthonius of Alexandria

For the last day I have been hunting down a description of the Serapeum in Alexandria.  I learned of it from Philip Amidon’s translation of Rufinus.  The description is recorded — of all places — in the handbook of rhetoric by Aphthonius of Antioch.  This writer was a friend of Libanius, and lived in the late fourth century.

The description is there, not for its content, but rather as an example of a relaxed style (!).  It has been no mean hunt to locate the materials, but in fact a complete translation of the text is available from Malcolm Heath here, and here.  The word “Serapis” does not appear in the text — on the face of it, the description is of the acropolis.  But in fact it is the Serapeum.

A text in Greek is available in Rhetores Graeci, vol. 2, 1854, p.47-49.  The 1926 Teubner by Hugo Rabe, with the commentary of the 9th century John of Sardis (compiling much earlier information), does not seem to be online.

Rather than quote the Heath translation, here is the translation by George Kennedy, who has translated and annotated four rhetorical handbooks, and some of John of Sardis.   The Google books preview only gives the opening bit.  Page numbers in Rabe are marked with R, the other numbers in [] are from the Rhetores Graeci text, whose page numbers have become standard.


Citadels, then,87 have been built in cities for the common security; for they are the highest points in the cities, and they are not themselves more fortified with buildings than they fortify their cities. The middle of Athens has embraced the acropolis of the Athenians, and Alexander had a height prepared in his own city, constructed to suit the name he gave it;88 for he set it on the highest point of the city, and it is more sensible to call it an acropolis than that on which the Athenians took counsel.89 Its appearance is as this account will describe.

An ”akra” projects up from the land, going up to a considerable height, and is called an “acropolis” for two reasons: because it is raised to a height and because it has been set on the high point of a city. Roads leading to this acropolis are not alike; for here there is an incline (”anodos”) and there an entrance way (”eisodos”). The roads change their names, being called by their function: here it is possible to go on foot and the way is public and a road for those going by carriage; on another side, flights of steps have been constructed [39R] where it is not possible for carriages to go. Flight of steps follows flight of step, always increasing from the lesser and leading upward, not ceasing until there have been a hundred steps; for the limit of a number is the end [48] that reaches perfect measure.90

At the top of the stairs is a Propylaeon, enclosed by latticed gates of moderate height, and four very large columns rise up, providing several openings into one entrance passage. Above the columns stands the Oecus, fronted by many smaller columns which are not all of the same color, and when compared they add ornament to the design. The roof of the building rises in a dome, and around the dome is fixed a great memorial of things that are.91

On going into the acropolis itself, one enters a single open space, bounded by four equal sides, and its figure is rather like that of a war machine (i.e., a hollow rectangle). In the middle is a courtyard, surrounded by a colonnade. Stoas continue the courtyard and the stoas are divided by equal columns, and as for their measure, it is the largest possible. Each stoa ends [40R] in another crosswise colonnade and a double column divides it from another stoa, one ending and the other beginning again. Small covered structures are built inside the stoas; some are reading rooms for books, offering an opportunity for the studious to pursue knowledge and arousing the whole city to the possibility of wisdom; others were built as shrines to the ancient gods. Gold adorns the roof of the stoas and the capitals of the columns are made of bronze, overlaid with gold. The decoration of the courtyard is not all the same; different parts were done differently. One part has a representation of the contests of Perseus. A column higher than the others stands in the middle, making the place conspicuous.92 A visitor, up to this point, does not …

87 Unlike the other examples of composition, this begins with connective particles (”de ara”), contributing to the relaxed style; see John of Sardis’ commentary on this ecphrasis, translated below.
88 I.e.. the name “acropolis,” but the sentence is clumsy and possibly the text is corrupt. Alexander’s city is of course Alexandria.
89 The Areopagus?
90 “In its completed form the plateau on which the Temple stood was approached from the north and south sides by a carriage road and from the east side by a flight of 200 steps,” John Marlowe, The Golden Age of Alexandria (London: Victor Gollancz, 1971). p. 60. For more information about the Serapeum, see I. A. Rowe, “Discoveries of the Famous Temple and Enclosure of Sarapis at Alexandria”, Annales du Service de l’Antiquite de l’Egypte, Cahier supplementaire 2 (1946).
91 “At the top of the steps was a Propylaeum supported by four large columns and approached between two obelisks. Immediately inside the Propylaeum was an Oecus, or circular hall, covered by a gilded dome resting on a double ring of columns,” Marlow ibid. The “great memorial of things that are” was probably a religious and historical fresco.
92 This monument, some 80 feet high, was known as “Pompey’s Pillar,” but was actually erected to commemorate a visit to Alexandria by Diocletian in A.D. 297, when he suppressed a revolt.

Unfortunately the Google Books preview breaks off there.

Doesn’t that translation seem good!  Of course the Heath translation was made earlier, and is merely a rough draft.  Here is the remainder of the entry, from Heath:

…. where he is going, unless he uses the pillar as a sign of the direction) and makes the acropolis stand out by land and sea. The beginnings of the universe stand round the capital of the column. Before one comes to the middle of the court there is set an edifice with many entrances, which are named after the ancient gods; and two stone obelisks rise up, and a fountain better than that of the Peisistratids. And the marvel had an incredible number of builders. As one was not sufficient for the making, builders of the whole acropolis were appointed to the number of twelve.

As one comes down from the acropolis, here is a flat place resembling a race-course, which is what the place is called; and here there is another of similar shape, but not equal in size.

The beauty is unspeakable. If anything has been omitted, it has been bracketed by amazement; what it was not possible to describe has been omitted.

Who would have thought that so obscure a writer was nevertheless online in several Greek versions, older Latin translations, and two English versions?  Truly we live in a blessed age!

UPDATE: My thanks to Domenico in the comments for pointing out my mis-spelling of Aphthonius as Apthonius.  Aargh!

Serapis and Osiris-Apis

I always get a bit jumpy when I read statements like “Serapis is the same as Osiris-Apis.”  I want to know how anyone knows.

Today I was reading the Realencyclopadie article on Sarapis (col. 2369), which goes some way to answer this question:

Die ägyptische Schreibung des Namens S. ist Osiris-Apis, wie aus den bilinguen Inschriften mit zweifelloser Sicherheit hervorgeht. Die älteste hieroglyphische Schreibung in einer Bilinguis findet sich auf einem Goldplättchen, das in Alexandria gefunden ist und von Ptolemaios IV. Philopator (222-205 v. Chr.) und Arsinoe mit griechischer und hieroglyphischer Inschrift als Grundsteinbeigabe geweiht ist (Maspero Recueil de travaux egypt. assyr. VII (1886) 140-141). Eine demotische Bilinguis mit Osiris-Apis für Σαραπις bei Brugsch Thesaurus inscript. aegypt. V 917. Wo ägyptische Denkmäler den Apis-Stier darstellen, nennen sie ihn in der hieroglyphischen Beischrift häufig Osiris-Apis, z. B. Berlin 7304: Grabstein des Imhotep. Erman Relig.2 (1909) 238 Abb. 134.

Which translates as:

The Egyptian spelling of the name Serapis was Osiris-Apis, as shown in the bilingual inscriptions with indubitable certainty. The oldest hieroglyphic inscription is found in a bilingual text on a gold plate which was found in Alexandria, and dedicated to Ptolemy IV Philopator (222-205 BC) and Arsinoe, with Greek and hieroglyphic inscriptions, as a foundation deposit (Maspero, Recueil de travaux egypt. assyr. VII (1886) 140-141). A demotic bilingual text with Osiris-Apis for Serapis in Brugsch Thesaurus inscript. aegypt. V p.917. Where Egyptian monuments represent the Apis bull, they frequently call him  in the hieroglyphic inscription ‘Osiris-Apis’, for example, Berlin 7304: grave stone of Imhotep. Erman Relig.2 (1909) 238 Fig 134.

I wasn’t able to find the Maspero book online, but the Brugsch book is accessible, and there is indeed an inscription referring to Serapis.  (Ideally we would translate both sides, but I don’t know ancient Egyptian!) 

A couple of bilingual texts seems like evidence of a perceived equivalence in Ptolemaic times, at any rate.

Serapis, his origins and sources

It is often said that Serapis was a fake god, invented by Ptolemy Soter in order to unify the Greeks and Egyptians in his realm.   This has led me to wonder what the sources are for this statement.

A look at the Wikipedia article gives very little information. 

Gibbon tells us that Macrobius, book 1, chapter 7, gives us some info; also   Tacitus, Hist. iv., 83.  From Plutarch, De Iside et Osiride 28 we learn of the importation of the cult from Pontus by Ptolemy Soter.

But nowhere do I find “Ptolemy invented this.”  Hum.

While looking for information, I came across some other interesting translations online at Google Books: Pausanias, Description of Greece, tr. Thomas Taylor (1824), online vol.1, vol.2, vol.3. Also there is Arrian’s Voyage around the Euxine sea (1805)

The festival of Adonis in Alexandria

I’ve never really read much Greek poetry, but I found myself looking at the Idylls of Theocritus yesterday.  The 15th idyll depicts in dialogue form the hustle and bustle at the festival of Adonis — the Adonia — in Alexandria in Ptolemaic times.  It ends with a dirge mourning Adonis and looking forward to his resurrection.

Thanks to the wonderful Theoi site the Loeb English translation is here.

GORGO (with her maid Etychis at the door, as the maid Eunoa opens it)
[1] Praxinoa at home?

PRAXINOA (running forward)
[1] Dear Gorgo! at last! she is at home. I quite thought you’d forgotten me. (to the maid) Here, Eunoa, a chair of the lady, and a cushion on it.

GORGO (refusing the cushion)
[3] No, thank you, really.

[3] Do sit down.

GORGO (sitting)
[4] O what a silly I was to come! What with the crush and the horses, Praxinoa, I’ve scarcely got here alive. It’s all big boots and people in uniform. And the street was never-ending, and you can’t think how far your house is along it.

Do read it.

I love the kind of works that give you a real impression of the ancient world — the letters of Cicero, or Pliny the Younger; and Martial and Juvenal.  Indeed I wish I had more of them.  I had hopes of Aulus Gellius’ Attic Nights, but somehow it didn’t work for me.