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The Appropriation of the Hellenistic-Egyptian Cult of Serapis: A Multi-Disciplinary Study Focusing on Augustus, Nero, Hadrian, their Coinage, and Villas

Authors:
Andrews University
Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary
THE APPROPRIATION OF THE HELLENISTIC-EGYPTIAN
CULT OF SERAPIS: A MULTI-DISCIPLINARY STUDY
FOCUSING ON AUGUSTUS, NERO, HADRIAN,
THEIR COINAGE, AND VILLAS
A Dissertation
Presented in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree
Doctor of Philosophy
by
Vivian A. Laughlin
April 2019
©Copyright by Vivian A. Laughlin 2019
All Rights Reserved
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DEDICATION
I dedicate this to every person of color that was ever told, “you cannot” and/or
“you will not.” You can and you will!
ABSTRACT
THE APPROPRIATION OF THE HELLENISTIC-EGYPTIAN
CULT OF SERAPIS: A MULTI-DISCIPLINARY STUDY
FOCUSING ON AUGUSTUS, NERO, HADRIAN,
THEIR COINAGE, AND VILLAS
by
Vivian A. Laughlin
Advisor: Sarolta A. Takács
The Appropriation of the Hellenistic-Egyptian
Cult of Serapis: A Multi-Disciplinary Study
Focusing on Augustus, Nero, Hadrian,
their Coinage, and Villas
Abstract
Problem
Augustus, Nero, and Hadrian harnessed Egyptian religious influences within their imperial designs as
intentional measures to increase their power, influence people, and expand the imperial cult. However,
archaeological studies only refer to Egyptian iconography as “imperial art” or “exotic art.” In doing so, the
connection of the Egyptian iconography to the Hellenistic-Egyptian cult of Serapis has not been provided.
Using historiography, numismatic samples, and various other material culture located from within the
imperial villas (i.e., House of Augustus, the Golden Palace, and Hadrian’s Villa) this study provides an
interpretive analysis of how Augustus, Nero, and Hadrian effectively employed the Hellenistic-Egyptian
cult of Serapis.
Method
To understand the Hellenistic-Egyptian cult of Serapis’ influence and function within ancient Roman
society an amalgamated multi-disciplinary analytical approach was implemented to include empirical,
qualitative, structuration, historical theory and practice methodologies with various perspectives drawn
from archaeology, ethnoarchaeology, anthropology, history, ethnohistory, sociology, and religion. Of
particular interest was the structuration model. Because the structuration method originated within the
sociology field and was later used within anthropology and archaeology, its model allowed the agent to be
elucidated from the coinage and material culture derived from the villas. A multi-faceted approach was
essential to engage and reevaluate prior scholarship that may or may not have expanded its findings to
include the Hellenistic-Egyptian cultural background and origins embodied within certain ancient Roman
material culture.
Results/Conclusion
This study exhibits that Augustus, Nero, and Hadrian, like the Ptolemies, used motifs stemming from the
Hellenistic-Egyptian cult of Serapis within their coinage and material culture from their villas. By
appropriating Egyptian deities and its cultural philosophies, the Emperors created hybrid forms of the cult
that, perhaps, contributed to them being viewed as divine beings. To date, no archaeological research has
pointed to Roman iconography having obtained its influences from the Hellenistic-Egyptian Serapis cult.
This is crucial to making this research unique and innovative. While this research addresses an under-
researched area that is currently attracting interest, researchers are either focused on Rome’s conquest and
implementation of a Romanized Egypt; or, has indicated Egyptian influences as imperial art or culturally
exotic forms. Thereby, not recognizing those Egyptian influences, indeed, originated from the Hellenistic-
Egyptian Serapis cult. However, this research exhibits Roman imperialism created a hybrid form of the
Hellenistic-Egyptian cult of Serapis, which consequently created hybrid cultic material culture that
embodied subtle to bold Serapian iconography in order to serve within the religious and political activities
of the Roman Emperors. In its utilization, the importance of the pax deorum, peace of all the gods, was
thoroughly enacted; and, thereby gave sustenance to the creation of the Imperial cult. This research bridges
the gap within the cultural sectors of archaeology connecting the Roman archaeological world to the ancient
near eastern archaeology world. These new collectives further contribute overall to the fields of
anthropology, archaeology, ancient religions, and art history as it cultivates deeper understandings of the
ancient religions that impacted global history.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS...................................................................................... ix
PREFACE ................................................................................................................ xii
Chapters
1. INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................ 1
Thesis Statement ................................................................................. 2
Background to the Study ..................................................................... 3
Statement of the Problem .................................................................... 15
Purpose Statement ............................................................................... 21
Justification ......................................................................................... 23
Scope and Delimitations ...................................................................... 24
Methodology ....................................................................................... 25
Conceptual Framework................................................................. 25
Field Research .............................................................................. 27
Analysis and Theory ..................................................................... 27
Syncretism, Assimilation, Acculturation, Enculturation, and
Dualism ................................................................................. 32
2. HELLENISTIC EGYPT ............................................................................... 38
Ptolemy I ............................................................................................. 40
The Innovation of Serapis .................................................................... 42
From Marduk to Serapis ...................................................................... 44
Osiris, Isis, and Apis............................................................................ 46
Dissemination of the Cult of Serapis—Implications of Trade .............. 53
Ptolemy II ........................................................................................... 60
Ptolemy III .......................................................................................... 64
Ptolemy IV .......................................................................................... 66
Ptolemy V ........................................................................................... 69
Ptolemy VI, Ptolemy VII, and Ptolemy VIII ........................................ 71
Cleopatra VII ...................................................................................... 73
Cleopatra VII, Queen of Egypt ..................................................... 74
Cleopatra VII and Caesar .............................................................. 77
Cleopatra VII as the New Isis ....................................................... 79
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Cleopatra VII and Marc Antony ................................................... 82
Conclusion .......................................................................................... 84
3. FROM CAESAR’S REPUBLIC TO AUGUSTUS’ PRINCIPATE ............... 87
Caesar and the End of the Republican Period ....................................... 88
Caesar’s Four Major Reforms ....................................................... 89
Caesars Death ............................................................................. 92
Augustus and the Principate ............................................................... 93
Rome’s Egyptian Conquest .......................................................... 93
The Utilization of the Cult of Serapis............................................ 94
From Octavian to Augustus .......................................................... 96
Augustus, A Living God ............................................................... 97
Augustus’ Disdain for Egypt ........................................................ 100
Augustus’ Religious Reforms .............................................................. 101
Sacerdotalism and the Imperial Cult ............................................. 102
Isis and Serapis ............................................................................. 103
Mithraism ..................................................................................... 106
Magna Mater/Cybele .................................................................... 108
Imperial Cult ............................................................................... 111
The Imperial Cult and Material Culture .............................................. 113
Roman Imperialism in the Near East ............................................ 114
Sebaste .................................................................................. 115
Caesarea ................................................................................ 116
The Early Christian Period .................................................................. 118
Conclusion .......................................................................................... 121
4. AUGUSTUS, NERO, AND HADRIAN ....................................................... 127
Augustus (27 BCE-14 CE) .................................................................. 129
Coinage ....................................................................................... 129
Augustus’ Domus and the Temples ............................................... 130
House of Livia ....................................................................... 134
Aula Isiaca ............................................................................ 142
Nero (54-68 CE) .................................................................................. 143
Coinage ....................................................................................... 143
Domus Aurea/Golden House ........................................................ 145
Hadrian (117-138 CE) ........................................................................ 151
Coinage ....................................................................................... 151
Villa Tiburtina/Hadrian’s Villa ..................................................... 151
La Palestra/Gymnasium ........................................................ 153
The Canopus/Serapeum ......................................................... 154
The Antinoeion ...................................................................... 156
Additional Objects ................................................................. 158
The Water and Tree Connection ................................................... 159
Conclusion .......................................................................................... 160
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5. EPILOGUE: ISIS, SERAPIS, AND THE EMPEROR’S BURGEONED
DIVINITY ........................................................................................... 163
Numismatics and Villa Analysis ......................................................... 163
The Cult of Isis and Serapis in Italy ..................................................... 165
The Divine Emperor ............................................................................ 168
Further Study ...................................................................................... 171
Appendix
A. ILLUSTRATIONS ....................................................................................... 173
BIBLIOGRAPHY .................................................................................................... 213
VITA ....................................................................................................................... 249
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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I am eternally thankful to Bibliotheca Alexandrina Antiquities Museum, The
BritishMuseum and its Trustees, Capitoline Museum, Gregoriano Egizio-Vatican
Museum, Soprintendenza Archeologia Del Lazio E. Dell’Etruria Meridionale, and
MiBAC, Istituto autonomo Villa Adriana e Villa d’Este for graciously allowing me photo
copywrite permissions.
I want to thank the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) for providing
fellowships and a welcoming format to present the ideas that helped to formulate and
complete this dissertation. The embracing from senior scholars and peers helped me to
realize the need for this particular scholarly study. I also want to thank the Forum for
Theological Exploration (FTE) for not just granting me a large fellowship to assist with
me completing my studies without financial strain, but also for being there and seeing me
as a human being. I do not know how I would have soared without your mentorship,
guidance, and developmental strategies.
I want to thank my entire dissertation team. Dr. Gregor, thank you for “answering
the call.” Dr. Cortez, thank you for joining my team at the last minute (thirty days before
my defense, to be exact). Your background in New Testament has added keen insight to
this study and helped to facilitate it in an area I had not originally anticipated, New
Testament—making it far more multidisciplinary.
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Of the five dissertation committee members, three were comprised of professors
not employed at my degree institution. Dr. Sarolta A. Takács, Dean of Humanities and
Social Sciences at the College of Staten Island – City University of New York and
Professor of History, whose book, “Isis and Serapis in the Roman World” helped
formulate my framework. Initially, you were asked to be a specialist on my dissertation
team. Nevertheless, when asked to take the lead, you did not hesitate to assume the both
roles as my faculty advisor and chair. Your mentorship and guidance in all aspects of this
study have been extremely instrumental. Your constant encouragement and positivity
were motivating, to say in the least. Your consistent availability for me, this study, and
with overall guidance have been beyond appreciated.
Dr. Theodore W. Burgh, Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Religion and
Archaeology at University of North Carolina-Wilmington. From the moment we met at
one of my first excavations you took me under your wings and began to mentor me. I am
both a better person and scholar because of your presence. You have shown me the
importance of reaching back and pulling those up behind you. Thank you for being
available, believing in me, and being my rock.
Dr. Stephen Chappell, Associate Professor of History at James Madison
University. I am grateful for your input and participation; especially given you and I had
not ever been acquainted until the day of my defense. To my surprise, when asked at the
last minute to serve as an external reader you undertook the role immediately. Your
support and input have been beneficial to this study in ways I could not imagine. Your
appreciation of my work has uplifted me to a greater realm of confidence I wasn’t sure
xi
was possible. Your expertise and mentorship are welcomed far beyond the limitations of
this study. It is my hope that I can evolve to be as great as you all.
Lastly, but certainly not least, I have been blessed to have a great community of
relatives, friends, mentors, peers, and colleagues who supported and often times even
guided me throughout my doctoral program. There is an old African Proverb that say’s
“it takes a village to raise a child.” I say it took a village to nurture me. Without my
community, I would not have made it through. I thank all of you.
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46 Dissemination of the Cult of Serapis-Implications of Trade
  • Isis Osiris
  • . . Apis
Osiris, Isis, and Apis............................................................................ 46 Dissemination of the Cult of Serapis-Implications of Trade.............. 53