Associations in the Greco-Roman World (AGRW)

An expanding collection of inscriptions, papyri, and other sources in translation (run by Philip A. Harland)

[221] Story Concerning a Temple for the Egyptian God Sarapis (ca. 200 BCE) Delos - Southwestern islands

Delos (Southwestern islands, Aegean Islands), ca. 200 BCE
AGRW 221 = IG XI,4 1299 = RICIS 202/0101 = SIG² 663 = SEG 24 (1969), no. 1158 = PHI 63784 = AGRW ID# 1564


Free-standing column found in the courtyard of the building identified as “Sarapieion A,” now in the Archaeological Musem at Delos (inv. no. E 767). Other inscriptions from Delos refer to a group that met in this small temple as “the ones who serve” (hoi therapeuontes) the god (IG XI,4 1217 and 1290), a variant on the “therapeutists” attested elsewhere in AGRW. There were at least two other structures dedicated to Sarapis on Delos: Sarapieion B, where several associations met; and, Sarapieion C, the largest one. Only the first, prose part of this inscription (lines 1-28) is translated here; lines 29-94 present a poetic retelling of the same events in hexameter verse.

The priest Apollonios [II] inscribed this according to the command of the god. For our grandfather, Apollonios, an Egyptian from the priestly class, having brought his god with him from Egypt, continued serving (therapeuōn) his god according to ancestral custom and, it seems, lived for ninety-seven years. My father, Demetrios, followed him in serving the gods and, because of his piety, he was honoured by (10) the god with a bronze image which was set up in the temple (naos) of the god. He lived for sixty-one years.

After receiving the sacred things and performing the services (therapeiai) in a diligent manner, the god instructed me through a dream that I should dedicate his own temple of Sarapis (Sarapieion), and that he was not to be in rented rooms anymore. Furthermore, he would find the place where the temple should be located, indicating this by a sign. And this is what happened. For there was this place full of manure which was advertised for sale (20) on a small notice on a passage to the market-place. Now since the god willed it, a contract of purchase was completed and the temple was quickly built in six months.

Now certain people conspired against us and the god, and sought a judgment against the temple and myself in a public trial, seeking either punishment or a fine. But the god promised me in a dream that we would win the case. Now that the proceedings have ended and we have won as is worthy of the god, we praise the gods by demonstrating appropriate gratitude.

The remainder of the inscription (lines 29-94) is a poetic re-telling and expansion of the incidents above in the form of a hymn. In its description of the temple, the hymn mentions “seats and dining couches” which were installed “for the feast to which the god invites us.”

The hymn also expands on a description of the victory at the trial (lines 77-94) which, the hymn claims, was a result of Sarapis himself paralyzing the opponents as if they were statues that could not utter the charges (translation of lines 77-94 adapted from Nock 1933, 52):

“Cast care from your mind. No human vote will destroy you, for this action affects me myself (i.e. Sarapis) and no (80) man will say that it prevailed against me: so don’t be downcast any longer.” And when the time for the trial came, the whole city along with all the multitudes of strangers from many lands came quickly to the temples to hear divine justice.  Then you and your spouse performed that awesome wonder. You paralysed the wicked men who were bringing the action, making their tongues speechless within their mouths, so that no one praised their ability or the evidence which they had to give in support of their case. In truth by divine operation they stood like god-struck images (90) or stones. And all the people in that day marvelled at your power, and you brought great glory to your servant in heaven-established Delos. Welcome, blessed one, you and your consort who are the gods of our temple! Welcome much hymned Sarapis!

Translation by: Harland

ὁ ἱερεὺς Ἀπολλώνιος ἀνέγραψεν κατὰ | πρόσταγμα τοῦ θεοῦ· ὁ γὰρ πάππος ἡμῶν | Ἀπολλώνιος, ὢν Αἰγύπτιος ἐκ τῶν ἱερέων, | τὸν θεὸν ἔχων παρεγένετο ἐξ Αἰγύπτου || θεραπεύων τε διετέλει καθῶς πάτριον ἦν | ζῶσαί τε δοκεῖ ἔτη ἐνενήκοντα καὶ ἑπτά. | διαδεξαμένου δὲ τοῦ πατρός μου Δημη|τρίου ἀκολούθως τε θεραπεύοντος τοὺς θ̣ε[ο]ύς, | διὰ δὲ τὴν εὐσέβειαν ἐστεφανώθη ὑπὸ || τοῦ θεοῦ εἰκόνι χαλκεῖ ἣ ἀνάκειται ἐν τῶι ναῶι | τοῦ θεοῦ· ἔτη δὲ ἐβίωσεν ἑξήκοντα καὶ ἕν. | παραλαβόντος δέ μου τὰ ἱερὰ καὶ προσκαθη|μένου ταῖς θεραπείαις ἐπιμελῶς, ὁ θεός μοι ἐχρη|μάτισεν κατὰ τὸν ὕπνον ὅτι Σαραπιεῖον δεῖ || αὐτῶι ἀναδειχθῆναι ἴδιον καὶ μὴ εἶναι ἐν μισ|θωτοῖς καθὼς πρότερον, εὑρήσειν τε τόπον | αὐτὸς οὗ δεῖ ἑδρασθῆναι σημανεῖν τε τὸν | τόπον. ὃ καὶ ἐγένετο. ὁ γὰρ τόπος οὗτος ἦν κόπρου μεστὸς ὃς προεγέγραπτο πω||λούμενος ἐν βιβλιδίωι ἐν τεῖ διόδωι τῆς | ἀγορᾶς· τοῦ δὲ θεοῦ βουλομένου συνετελέ|σθη ἡ ὠνὴ κατεσσκευάσθη τε τὸ ἱρὸν συντόμως | ἐν μησὶν ἕξ. ἀνθρώπων δέ τινων ἐπισυνστάντων | ἡμῖν τε καὶ τῶι θεῶι καὶ ἐπενενκάντων κρίσιν κατὰ τοῦ ἱεροῦ || καὶ ἐμοῦ δημοσίαν, τί χρὴ παθεῖν ἢ ἀποτεῖσαι, ἐπην|γείλατο δ’ ἐμοὶ ὁ θεὸς κατὰ τὸν ὕπνον ὅτι νικήσομεν. | τοῦ δ’ ἀγῶνος συντελεσθέντος καὶ νικησάντων ἡμῶν | ἀξίως τοῦ θεοῦ, ἐπαινοῦμεν τοὺς θεοὺς ἀξίαν χάριν ἀποδιδόντες. | γράφει δὲ καὶ Μαιΐστας ὑπὲρ τοῦ ἱεροῦ εἰς τὴν ὑπόθεσιν ταύτην. || μυρία καὶ θαμβητὰ σέθεν, πολύαινε Σάραπι, | ἔργα, τὰ μὲν θείας ἀνὰ τύρσιας Αἰγύπτοιο | ηὔδηται, τὰ δὲ πᾶσαν ἀν’ Ἑλλάδα, σεῖο θ’ ὁμεύνου | Ἴσιδος· ἐσθλοῖσιν δὲ σαώτορες αἰὲν ἕπεσθε | ἀνδράσιν οἳ κατὰ πάντα νόωι ὅσια φρονέουσιν. || καὶ γάρ τ’ ἀμφιάλει Δήλωι ἀρίσημα τέλεσσας | τἀπολλωνίου ἱρὰ καὶ εἰς μέγαν ἤγαγες αἶνον. | αὐτὸς δ’ οἱ δηναιὰ πατὴρ ἐκόμισσεν ἀπ’ αὐτῆς | Μέμφιδος, ὁππότε νηῒ πολυζύγωι ἤλυθεν ἄστυ | Φοίβου, ἔνδον εἱῶι δ’ ἀέκων ἵδρυσε μελάθρωι || καί σε φίλως θυέ<ε>σσιν ἀρέσσατο. τὸμ μὲν ἄρ’ αἰὼν | γηραιὸν κατέπεφνε, λίπεν δ’ ἐν σεῖο τεράμνωι | υἷα θυηπολέεν Δημήτριον, ὧι ἐπίπανχυ | γήθησαν θέραπες. τοῦ μὲγ κλύες εὐξαμένοιο, | εἰκῶ χαλκεΐην νειῶι θέμεν εὖ δὲ τέλεσσαι, || ἔννυχος Ἀντιπάτροιο καθυπνώοντι φαανθεὶς | δεμνίωι ἤνωγες τέλεσαι χρέος. ἀλλ’ ὅτε καὶ τὸν | γηραλέον λίπε μοῖρα, πάϊς γε μὲν ἐσθλὰ διδαχθεὶς | ἐκ πατρὸς μεγάλως σέβεν ἱερά, πᾶν δὲ κατ’ ἦμαρ | σὰς ἀρετὰς ἤειδεν, ἀεὶ δ’ ἐλλίσετο νειὸν || ὅππηι σοι δείμειεν ἀριφραδέως κατάλεξαι | ἔννυχος ὑπνώοντι, διηνεκὲς ὄφρα κε μίμνοις | σηκῶι ἐνιδρυθεὶς μηδ’ ἄλλυδις ἀλλοδαπῶι ἐν | οὔδει ἐνιχρίμπτοιο. σὺ δ’ ἔφρασας ἀκλέα χῶρον | ὄντα πάρος καὶ ἄσημον, ἀεὶ πεπληθότα λύθρωι || παντο̣ίωι μετὰ πολλὸν ἔτι χρόνον· ἐννύχιος γὰρ | εὐνῆι ἐπιπρομολὼν λέγες· ἔγρεο· βαῖνε δὲ μέσσα | παστάδος ἀμφὶ θύρεθρα καὶ εἴσιδε γράμμα τυπωθὲν | τυτθῆς ἐκ βύβλοιο τό σε φρονέοντα διδάξει | ὅππηι μοι τέμενος τεύχηις καὶ ἐπικλέα νειόν. || αὐτὰρ ὃ θαμβήσας ἀναέγρετο, βὰς δὲ μάλ’ ὠκὺς | ἀσπ[α]σίως ἴδε γράμμα καὶ ὤπασεν ἀργυραμοιβὸν | τιμὴν οὗ κτέαρ ἔσκε, σέθεν θ’ ἅμα βουλομένοιο | ῥηιδίως καὶ νειὸς ἀέξετο καὶ θυόεντες | βωμοὶ καὶ τέμενος, τετέλεστο δὲ πάντα μελάθρωι || ἕδρανά τε κλισμοί τε θεοκλήτους ἐπὶ δαῖτας. | καὶ τότε δή ῥα κακοῖσι κακὸς φθόνος ἔνβαλε λύσσαν | ἀνδράσιν οἵ ῥα δίκηι ἀνεμωλίωι ἐκλήισσαν | δοιὼ σὸν θεράποντα, κακὸν δ’ ἐπὶ θεσμὸν ἔτευχον | ἢ τί χρὴ παθέειν ἢ ἐκ τίνα τῖσαι ἀμοιβὴν || θωῆς ἐνγράψαντα κακῶι θ’ ὑπὸ δείματι πᾶσαν | ἠῶ τε {ιν} νύκτας τε περὶ κραδίην ἐλέλιζεν | τάρβος θειοπόλοιο. σὲ δὲ σταλάων ἅμα δάκρυ | λίσσετ’ ἀλεξῆσαι μηδ’ ἀκλέα τεῦξαι ἀμοιβὴν | σῶι ἱκέτει, θανάτου δὲ κακὰς ἀπὸ κῆρας ἐρῦξαι. || οὐδὲ σύ, παμνήστοισιν ἐφεσπόμενος πραπίδεσσι, | λήσαο τοῦ, νύχιος δὲ μολὼν ἐπὶ δέμνια φωτὸς | ηὔδησας· μέθες ἄλγος ἀπὸ φρενός· οὔ σέ τις ἀνδρὸς | ψῆφος ἀϊστώσει, ἐπεὶ εἰς [ἐ]μὲ τείνεται αὐτὸν | ἥδε δίκη, τὴν οὔτις ἐμεῦ περιώσιον ἄλλος || ἀνὴρ αὐδήσει· σὺ δὲ μηκέτι δάμναο θυμόν. | ἀλλ’ ὁπότε χρόνος ἷξε δικασπόλος, ἔγρετο ναοῖς | πᾶσα πόλις καὶ πάντα πολυμμιγέω<ν> ἅμα φῦλα | ξείνων ὄφρα δίκης θεομήτιδος εἰσαΐοιεν. | ἔνθα {σα} σὺ κεῖνο πέλωρον ἐν ἀνδράσι θάνβος ἔτευξας || σή τε ἄλοχος· φῶτας γὰρ ἀλιτρο<νό>ους ἐπέδησας | οἵ ῥα δίκην̣ πόρσυνον, ἐνὶ γναθμοῖς ὑπανύσσας | γλῶσσαν ἀναύδητον τῆς οὔτ’ ὄπιν ἔκλεεν οὐθεὶς | οὔτε γ<ρ>άμμα δίκης ἐπιτάρροθον· ἀλλ’ ἄρα θείως | στεῦντο θεοπληγέσσιν ἐοικότας εἰδώλοισιν || ἔμμεναι ἢ λάεσσιν· ἅπας δ’ ἄρα λαὸς ἐκείνωι | σὴν ἀρετὴν θάμβησεν ἐν ἤματι κ̣α<ὶ> μέγα κῦδος | σῶι τεῦξας θεράποντι θεόδμητον κατὰ Δῆλον. | χαῖρε, μάκαρ, καὶ σεῖο συνάορος οἵ τ’ ἐνὶ νειῶι | ἡμετέρωι γεγάασι θεοί, πολύυμνε Σάραπι.

IG XI,4 1299 = RICIS 202/0101: Story of the Foundation of Sarapis Sanctuary A.
Photo courtesy of Laurent Bricault.


Item added: January 19, 2012
Item modified: May 20, 2016
ID number: 1564
Short link address:

Leave a Question, Comment or Correction

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *