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Ancient Egyptian deities: The Apis bull

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Apis

    The Apis, Hp , MdC transliteration Hp, was the Memphite bull deity, a fertility god, herald of Ptah, later also the "beautiful soul" of Ptah in the form of a bull. Ramses III called him Ptah's august son who is by Ptah's side. He had a brother named Renuy, rnwy , MdC transliteration rnwy,[5] who is mentioned in a New Kingdom magical text as having come from Punt.[7]
    Apis bulls were carefully selected–they had to be black, have a white diamond on their forehead and a scarab-shaped mark under their tongue–and lived long, pampered lives in their temple at Memphis.
They sought his beauty in every place of the Northland, and he was found at the temple of Shedebod, after three months, when they had gone around the regions of the delta, and every district of the Northland
2nd Serapeum Stela of Pediese [1]
    The ritual of Running of the Apis (MdC pHrr Hp) is known from as early as the first dynasty and was performed to fertilise the fields. He is depicted as having worn a menat, a protective necklace sacred to Hathor.[2] Herdsman of Apis mdw Hp,[6] was a coveted title during the Old Kingdom, and noblemen like Hemiunu, Khafkhufu, Hesi, and many others list it among their titles.

Apis, courtesy Simon Hayter Khaemwaset, son of Ramses II, who became a famous literary magician figure, bringing offerings to Apis.
New Kingdom [3]

    After an Apis bull's death he merged with Osiris as Osiris-Apis (Greek Serapis). His carcass was mummified and buried in a sarcophagus, the gAwy.t, in the Serapeum. The Serapeum Stela of Ahmose II records the life and death of an Apis bull:
Year 23, first month of the third season (ninth month), day 15, under the majesty of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Khnemibre (Amasis), given life forever.
The god was conducted in peace to the Beautiful West, to let him assume his place in the necropolis, in the place which his majesty made for him, the like of which never was made before; after there had been done for him all that is done in the pure house (i.e. the place of embalmment).
Low, his majesty had in remembrance how Horus did for his father, Osiris, and he made a great sarcophagus of granite. behold, his majesty found it good to make it of costly stone /// all kings of all times. He made a shroud of mysterious linen of Resenet and Mehenet, to attach to him his amulets, and all his ornaments of gold and every splendid, costly stone. They were more beautiful than what was done before, for his majesty loved Apis, the Living Son, more than any (other) king.
The majesty of this god went forth to heaven in the year 23, third month of the second season (seventh month), day 6. He was born in the year 5, first month of the first season, day 7. He was installed in the house of Ptah in the second month of the third season (tenth month), day 18. The beautiful lifetime of this god was 18 years, 1 month, 6 days.
Ahmose (II)-Sineit, given satisfying life forever, made (it) for him.
The Serapeum Stela of Ahmose II [4]

    Since the New Kingdom he carried the sun disk between his horns. From the Late Period on he was depicted on coffins carrying the mummy of the deceased at a trot to his grave. The Apis cult grew in importance during the Graeco-Roman Period, but being very hellenized, it was more popular with the Greeks than the native Egyptians. The Romans depicted him at times as a human with a bull's head.
    Fanatical Christians destroyed the Serapium at Alexandria in the year 385 and Emperor Theodosius outlawed the cult of the Apis.
 
Other bull deities: Mnevis, Buchis
Bibliography:
Bard 1999
J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Chicago 1906
Bunson 1991
Lurker 1998, p.45
Shaw & Nicholson 1995
K. van der Toorn, Bob Becking, Pieter Willem van der Horst (eds.), Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1999.
 
Footnotes:
[1] Breasted 1906, Part Four, § 780
[2] van der Toorn et al., 1999, pp.68ff.
[3] Courtesy Simon Hayter
[4] Breasted 1906, Part Four, § 1009-1012
[5] Wb 2, 429.10
[6] Wb 2, 178.14
[7] Kossuth Lajos Tudományegyetem, Acta classica Universitatis scientiarum debreceniensis, Volumes 26-27, 1991; Christian Leitz (ed.), Lexikon der ägyptischen Götter und Götterbezeichnungen, Volume 4 Orientalia Lovaniensia analecta ; 110-116, 129, Peeters Publishers, 2002, p.678
 

 
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March 2010
July 2009

 

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