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Shifting Conceptions of the Divine: Sarapis as Part of Ptolemaic Egypt’s Social Imaginaries

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Chapter Summary

One of the most prominent and popular products of the intercultural encounter which took place during the Hellenistic age is the god Sarapis. The cult of Sarapis was founded in Ptolemaic Egypt. This chapter focuses on the conception of the god in Ptolemaic Egypt especially during the third century BCE, when the creation of significations around the figure of Sarapis was both intense and systematic. It demonstrates that the Ptolemaic state played a crucial role in creating a space of representations for Sarapis. The members of Ptolemaic society participated in this process, since they were the bearers of social imaginary significations. In the case of the Ptolemaic kingdom these are primarily the two major ethnic groups: the Greek- and Egyptian-speaking populations. Their imaginaries of the god include a creative element, which is subject to alterations that depend on the cultural, as well as the social, context.

Keywords: god Sarapis; Greek rulers; Hellenistic age; Ptolemaic Egypt; social imaginary significations



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