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Sylloge Inscriptionum Graecarum: 663


STORY CONCERNING THE TEMPLE OF SARAPIS AT DELOS

Greek text:   IG_11.4.1299
Date:     c. 200 B.C.

For a full discussion of this inscription, see J.C.Hanges, "Paul, Founder of Churches", chapter 3.1 ( Google Books ); his translation is reproduced here.   The poem of Maiistas has been analysed by I.S.Moyer, "Egypt and the Limits of Hellenism", pp.179-194 ( Google Books ).


The priest Apollonios publicly inscribed, according to a command of the god, the following:

Our grandfather, Apollonios, being an Egyptian, a member of the priestly class, came from Egypt bearing the god with him, and as he served the cult, he carried out his duty according to native tradition. It is thought that he lived for ninety-seven years.   Having received the cultic responsibility from him, my father Demetrios, following after him and performing the ritual duties for the gods, because of his piety was crowned by the god 10 with a bronze image, which stands in the temple of the god. And he lived for sixty-one years.

When I had received the sacred rites of the cult, and in the course of attending carefully to my cultic responsibilities, the god gave me an oracle as I slept, telling me that it was necessary that a Sarapeion of his own be set up and that he no longer be housed in rented quarters as had been the case prior to that time; and that he himself would locate the place where this sacred precinct is to be established, and that he would signify the location. And so it happened. For there was this place full of sewage, which was posted for sale 20 in a public notice in the entry of the agora. With the god willing it so, the sale was finalised and the temple was prepared quickly in six months.

But when some men joined in opposition to us and against the god, and brought a civil action against the temple and me, an action carrying possible corporal punishment or fines, the god promised me in a dream that we would be victorious. And having gone through the trial, and having won the victory in a manner worthy of the god, we began to praise the gods, offering up appropriate gratitude.

And Maiistas also writes on behalf of the temple on the issue of this suit:

30 Many and marvellous are your deeds, praiseworthy Sarapis, both the deeds which are recited along the sacred towers of Egypt, and those of your consort, Isis, performed throughout all Greece! And as saviours, you always follow men who in all things consider carefully whatever is on their minds. For you also carried out obvious marvels in the sea-girt Delos, and you brought the cultic rites of Apollonios to great praise.

But Father himself brought his ancient cultic object from Memphis itself, when he came in a well-banded ship to the city of Phoibos. Under his own roof he reluctantly established your cult, 40 and he pleased you with burnt sacrifices offered with devotion.

While time took the man, old from the years, he nevertheless left, in your chamber, his own son, Demetrios, to perform the sacrifices, a man in whom at all times the servants of the god rejoiced. And you gave ear nightly to the father's successor praying to place an honorary bronze statue in the temple and to do it well; appearing to him, as he lay fast asleep in his bed, you urged him to fulfil this need.

But when fate abandoned this old man also, a young boy, one who was taught noble things by his father, greatly reverenced the cultic rites, and every day sang hymns of your great deeds, and always did he beseech you regarding a temple 50 to tell him plainly, at night as he slept, in what place he should build for you; till at last, having been installed in your sacred precinct, you stand fast continually, no longer to depart your place of residence here for a strange place. But you revealed a place, formerly one of shame and without distinction, having been continually filled with every kind of defilement over the passage of time. For at night, approaching him in bed, you said, "Get up, and go out into the middle of the colonnade which surrounds the entry of the agora and look in at the written instructions tucked back slightly into the place in the wall. Careful study of the document will instruct you where you should prepare a precinct for me and a glorious temple.

60 Then awestruck he arose immediately. And with great haste he went; welcoming the sight of the text, he paid the banker the price for which the property was being offered for sale. By your will {Sarapis}, at the same time, quickly arose both the temple and the altars for whose making sacrifices; all the chairs in the hall were finished, as well as the couches, for those summoned by the god to the banquets.

And then indeed it was that evil jealousy cast madness upon evil men, the two who took him who served you to court on a charge full of air. And on the basis of an evil regulation they filed their charge, 70 a charge the result of which could be either a penalty of corporal punishment or fines. Oppressed by a wicked fear, terror day and night encircled your servant's heart. As he let fall a tear, he approached you as a suppliant and begged you to watch out that no shameful penalty would result, and also that you restrain from him the pains of death.

But you, who are attendant with an all-remembering heart, did not forget him, but coming during the night to the man's bed, you said, "Usher grief from your heart; a lot cast by a man will not undo you, since against me alone has this charge been filed. No-one other than me 80 will have the last word. But you harbour wrath no longer." And when the time of the court trial arrived, the whole city assembled in the sanctuaries, and all the tribes and foreigners were intermingled so that they might enter in on the divinely-guided case.

Whereupon you provided in the midst of these men that frightening marvel, that is you and your consort. For you fettered evil-minded men, who then prepared the case, and subdued the tongue in their jaws, leaving it speechless, from which no-one could hear either veneration or a word to help their case. But then divinely they appeared to be fixed in place, truly like stone images blasted with divine lightning. 90 The whole populace then was awestruck at your demonstrated power on that day, and you provided great fame for that one who served you throughout divinely-founded Delos.

Greetings, Blessed One, and to your consort, you gods who rejoice in our sanctuary, O much-hymned Sarapis.

inscription 664


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