Serapis is an underrated god, his cult spread across international borders. Apis, the sacred bull of Egyptians, represented Ptah powers of renewing life. At the time of a Pharaoh ‘s death a bull which symbolized Apis was sacrificed and Osiris takes ownership of Apis–this combination of Osiris and Apis was named Osorapis, the deity who the Greeks named Serapis. When Alexander the Great conquered Egypt, he searched for a deity in which would unite the Egyptians and and the Greeks; he failed, but his death brought about the sacrifice of the bull symbolizing Apis. Alexander’s adviser, Ptolemy I Soter, took control of Egypt and successively found a deity who could bring together Egyptians and Greeks–Serapis, who at the site of Alexandria, the locals worshiped Osorapis.
Greeks preferred gods of human form, so they favored Osiris over Apis and made the god in the image of the their Underworld deities, Hades and Pluto. Another god of more ancient roots may have played a role in the creation of Serapis because Serapsi which translates to ‘king of the deep,’ a title of Ea/Enki.
A serpent is another symbol of Serapis; which, brings to mind the Minoan culture’s worship of bulls and serpents. Healers and heralds hold serpent staffs, and Serapis is a healer; heralds travel between realms, and Serapis is a god of resurrection. Ningishzida, the Sumerian god of vegetation also wields a serpent staff, and is called the ‘the lord of the good tree, so one must wonder if this is Old Testament’s ‘tree of knowledge. Gnostics adopted Serapis, in their teachings, and one emperor caleed worshipers of Serapis–Christians. You may have heard the phrase, ‘All roads lead to Rome;’ you could also say all gods lead to Serapis. Name a god and you will often find a close link to Serapis, from the Persian Mithras to the Hindu Yama.
The two Egyptian deities links to great goddesses; Apis, the son of Hathor, and Osiris, the husband of Isis. Official recognition of Serapis by a Greek priest of the Eleusinian Mysteries and well-respected Egyptian priest let the deity’s cult thrive.
Serapis is partnered with Isis due to Osiris. Isis is much more renowned than Serapis, so she doesn’t need a write-up. Their cults were separate, but entwined. The cults even gained favor in the Roman Empire, in the Flavian era, and appeared on coins. Like Serapis, Isis links to many deities. When you think of major religions, you may not think of the cults of Isis and Serapis, but you probably should.