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Ptolemy the First created the god Serapis during the third century BCE to unite the Alexandrian Greeks and Egyptians in worship. (The worship of Serapis spread throughout the Aegean world, but the Egyptians did not accept him.) Miriam, first brought to his precinct as a child, describes him in THE DEADLIEST LIE:

All the chambers house extravagant works of art, but none is more breathtaking than Serapis himself enthroned within a semi-circular alcove at the far end of the Temple Hall. He is an enormous, exquisitely sculpted statue of marble adorned with gold plate, precious stones, and gem-chiseled ivory. Seated in profound majesty, he is lavishly bearded and robed, serene and self-centered, handsome in the Greek tradition.

In his left hand, he’s holding the scepter of power; in his right, he’s restraining Cerberus, the three-headed dog who guards the gates of Hades. Each year in a most stunning and sacred ceremony witnessed by throngs of his disciples, he’s kissed by the sun when a shaft of morning light enters the sanctuary through a window at the precise angle to illuminate his lips and thereby assure Alexandrians of his continuing protection.

Next week, Miriam will tell you what she saw in the Serapeum’s cool labyrinth of subterranean crypts and corridors. You may be surprised. If you cannot wait, then

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