Apis

Apis

(Α᾿πις), the sacred bull of Memphis, worshipped by the ancient Egyptians, who regarded it as a symbol of Osiris, the god of the Nile, the husband of His, and the great divinity of Egypt (Pomp. Mela, 1:9; AElian, Hist. An. 11, 10; Lucian, De Sacrif. 15).

A sacred court or yard was set apart for the residence of Apis in the temple of Ptah at Memphis, where a numerous retinue of priests waited upon him, and sacrifices of red oxen were offered to him. His movements, choice of places, and changes of appetite, were religiously regarded as oracles. It was an understood law that Apis must not live longer than twenty-five years. When he attained this age he was secretly put to death, and buried by the priests in a sacred well, the popular belief being that he cast himself into the water If, however, he died a natural death, his body was embalmed, and then solemnly interred in the temple of Serapis at Memphis. The burial-place of the Apis bulls has lately been discovered near Memphis (Wilkinson, Ancient Egyptians, abridgm. 1:292). As soon as a suitable animal was found for a new Apis, having the required marks — black color with a white square on the brow, the figure of an eagle on the back, and a knot in the shape of a cantharus under the tongue — he was led in triumphal procession to Nilopolis at the time of the new moon, where he remained forty days, waited upon by nude women, and was afterward conveyed in a splendid vessel to Memphis. His Theophany, or day of discovery, and his birth-day were celebrated as high festivals of seven days' duration during the rise of the Nile (Herod. 3, 28). The worship of the golden calf by the Israelites in the wilderness, and also the employment of golden calves as symbols of the Deity by Jeroboam, have been very generally referred to the Egyptian worship of Apis. — Smith's Dict. of Class. Mythol. s.v. SEE CALF (GOLDEN).

 
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