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With the Grain Came the Gods from the Orient to Rome: The Example of Serapis and Some Systematic Reflections

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Chapter Summary

The prototype of a religious enterprise based on an economic relationship with its patrons is Simon Magus, who tried to buy the ability to cure people by miracles from the apostle Paul. The notion of globalization as a unique phenomenon in history during the last two generations has been challenged by studies in cultural change and the spread of economic goods and culture in earlier historical periods. This chapter provides a striking example of a deity who was deliberately exported and imported through trade under the conditions of the market conventions of the receiving society and its taste for the sacred. It discusses an example of a god connected with the import of grain: the Egyptian Serapis. The chapter reflects on a number of systematic questions. It explains the ancient patronage of imperial Roman religion and then the theoretical categories which allows us to systematically approach different cultures and epochs.

Keywords: economic goods; Egyptian Serapis; imperial Roman religion; religious enterprise; Simon Magus; systematic reflections



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