Apis In Egyptian mythology, Greek name for the sacred bull, Hapi, associated with the god Ptah of Memphis and regarded as his earthly manifestation during the Ramesside period (1320–1085 b.c.e.). When an Apis bull died, it was given great honours similar to those for a dead pharaoh. The animal was buried at Memphis in the Serapeum, a vast system of catacombs cut into the limestone beneath the desert sands. A committee of priests was then appointed to search throughout Egypt for another Apis bull to replace the dead one. The replacement had to have 29 marks, the most important being a rich black coat intermingled with white patches and a triangular blaze on the forehead. Once chosen, the new Apis was enthroned in his own palace, or sikos, located to the south of the temple of Ptah at Memphis.
Apis was also associated with Osiris, the major god of the dead. In one myth Apis assisted Isis, Osiris’s wife, in searching for the body of Osiris. It was believed by the ancient Egyptians that the bull’s fecundity and generative powers could be transferred to the deceased, ensuring him or her rebirth in the next life. In another myth, the Apis was stabbed to death by the invading Persian king Cambyses. After the bull was killed, its corpse was thrown out of the temple, but no carrion eaters would approach the body except for dogs. After devouring the body of the bull, dogs lost their place of honour in Egyptian religion.
Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow-Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante