Apis, bull deity, painted on the bottom of a wooden coffin, c. 700 BC; in the Roemer und elipsis
In ancient Egyptian religion, a sacred bull deity worshiped at Memphis. The cult originated at least as early as the 1st dynasty (circa
). Apis was probably at first a fertility god but became associated with Ptah
and also with Osiris
and Sokaris, gods of the dead. When an Apis bull died, it was buried with great pomp, and the calf that was to be its successor was installed at Memphis. Apis's priests drew omens from the bull's behaviour, and his oracle
had a wide reputation. The worship of Serapis (a combination of Osiris and Apis) probably arose at Memphis in the 3rd century BCE
and became one of the most widespread Eastern cults in the Roman Empire.
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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.