It was the most important temple in ancient Alexandria Some ancient sources inform us that it was the largest and the highest temple in ancient Alexandria The Arabs knew it as “the Palace of Alexandria”, In antiquity, this temple had religious, tourist and curative importance.
The gods of Sarapeum Temple of Alexandria
The main god of the temple was Sarapis. The cult of Sarapis goes back to the time of Ptolemy I who decided to establish a new cult to make peace between the Greek religious beliefs and those of the Egyptians.
It was then that the famous Alexandrian triad appeared. The triad consisted of Sarapis whom the Greeks looked at as the Greek god Zeus and the Egyptians regarded him as their god Osir-Hapi, his wife Isis and their son Harpocrates.
Description of the temple:
The temple was built first on a rectangular plan inspired by the form of the ancient Greek houses with the main entrance in the east. The sanctuary contained a huge statue of the god Sarapis in the human form (resembling the Greek Zeus).
The temple also contained great entrances, passages and columns. Besides the religious function of the temple,
it embraced a great also library that was called the “Small Library” or the “Daughter Library” to be distinguished from the other famous “Great Library” or “Mother Library of Alexandria.
Although only ruins of the temple have survived, great part of the library still exists in the subterranean galleries underneath the temple.
The temple’s history and design
The temple was rebuilt in the Roman times during the reign of the Roman emperor Hadrian.
According to the ancient sources this temple had a square shape with a great façade in front of which was a marble stairway (designed on the Roman style of stairways) leading to the entrance of the temple.
The entrance opened into a hall that led to a court surrounded by columns in the four sides and decorated with scenes and episodes inspired from the Greek mythology.
The temple was also surrounded by colonnades and vestibules in the middle of which was the sanctuary of Sarapis.
The temple was built of stone and covered with marble decorated with gold, silver and bronze leafs. The entrance was preceded by two obelisks
The Sarapeum Temple represented a great administrative centre more like a small independent city.
It was also a destination for those who were seekers of a cure as the temple was provided with a sanatorium for this purpose.
The temple was destroyed during the time of the Roman emperor “Theodosius “ who gave orders to destroy the pagan constructions