Joe Mamma Essay, Research Paper
The Striding Apis Bull
The Apis Bull originated in Memphis, cult of Serapis during the reign of
Ptolemy I. Serapis was the god whose association with Osiris, the god of the dead, formed the name Asar-Hapi. Asar is the Egyptian name of Osiris and Hapi was the name given to the Apis Bull which was the object of worship at Memphis. The Greeks combined the two together to form Zaparrus. Even though it is not quite clear, it is certain that Serapis is the shape Apis took after death. “Apis is called the “life of Osiris, the lord of heaven, tem (with) his horns (in) his head .”He is said to give life, strength, and health to thy nostrils forever.” At the beginning of the new Empire Osiris and Apis are united by priests of Memphis to represent a funeral character which, at the time, was considered a god of the underworld. This character that was considered to be the god of the underworld was the Apis Bull.
There are several different Egyptian myths about the “Apis Bull”. However, the most common myths of the Apis Bull are alike. “In one myth Apis assisted Isis, Osiris’s wife, in searching for the body of Osiris. It was believed by the ancient Egyptians that the bull’s fecundity and generative powers could be transformed to the deceased, ensuring him or her rebirth in the next life.”
In another Egyptian myth it was said that an Apis Bull was born of a virgin cow that was impregnated by Ptah. “The Bull could be recognized by a peculiar white mark on his neck, a rump that resembled the wings of a hawk, and a scarab like hump under his tongue. He had to have twenty-nine marks; the most important being a rich black coat intermingled with white patterns, and a triangle blaze on his forehead. Once the he was chosen he was brought to Memphis where he was enthroned in his own palace located south of the temple Ptah. Everyday he was let free to roam in the courtyard of the temple for devotees to observe.
They believed that the bull’s movements could fortell the future. The Apis Bulls birthday was celebrated with a festival, and on his twenty-fifth birth year he was killed. Devotees drowned, mummified, and entombed the mummy in the Serapeum.” The Serpeum was an underground chamber in the temple. It is also known as Saqqar Necropolis. “Here he is mourned for seventy days.” This ritualistic killing was probably very symbolic of the sacrificial slaying of the king, which was a rite common in pre dynastic times. “After the bulls death a new incarnation of the god was sought, and when the right calf was found, the process was begun again.”3
The Striding Apis Bull is 18×22 7/8 inches. It is carved out of Serpentinite and has a dark polished look to it. The body structure of the bull is carved in proportion and has a nice smooth surface. The shape of the bull is very round and natural. However, below its horns on the back of its neck there are rough white lines that have been carved out. I can clearly tell that these lines have symbolic meaning. The lines roughly cross the neck and upper back forming an interesting pattern. The bull looks as if it would be soft, yet the stone that it is carved out of lets you know that the bull’s solidity is important. The Striding Apis Bull has majestic qualities. As well it stands by itself and has a powerful stare.. The front legs are locked and the horns point up and slightly forward. It stands or strides by itself which means that it had some type of freedom.
The Striding Apis Bull is a piece that has great visual characteristics. Along with those there is a strong balance of both Cthonian and apollonian characteristics. Within it I see order, clarity, and conceptual thoughts. However, I feel that the bull has stronger chthonian qualities. The fact that the body of the bull is round and bulbess, shows how it represents fertility, rebirth and re-growth. It relates directly to the worship of the female Goddess I see physicality in the bull and feel the natural side of the piece. The dark smooth surface, and the polished look that it has gives the bull a sense of order. The stance of the bull builds a relationship to hierarchy and gives it apollonian traits. Still the ‘Striding Apis Bull” has a nice balance of both apollonian and chthonian qualities. The realistic proportions and the earth tone that it has relates very well to its purpose and meaning that was once worshipped.
1. Mercatante Anthony, The Facts on File Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend (New York, New York: facts on file, c1988)
2. Mercatante Anthony, Who’s Who in Egyptian Mythology (New York, New York: C.N. Potter: distributed by Crown Publishers, c1978)
3.http://www.Touregypt.net/asar.htm York: facts on file, c1988)