Romano-Egyptian Votive Terracotta Head of Serapis


A Romano-Egyptian terracotta fragment portraying the head of Serapis. The god is depicted bearded as Zeus, wearing the modius or kalathos (κάλαθος), a flat-topped cylindrical headpiece symbolising abundance and fertility, worn in religious processions in the Egyptian and Graeco-Roman world. This head fragment would have originally belonged to a votive statuette produced in Alexandrian workshops, exported for the cult of Egyptian gods and divinities in the Mediterranean. Mould-made in two sections, the fragment displays on its sides the lines where the two halves were attached together in antiquity.

Date: Circa 2nd century AD
Provenance: From a North London gentleman collection, in storage since the 1970s; then property of a West London gentleman.
Condition: Fragment in fine condition, mounted on a custom-made stand. Minor chips to the surface.


Serapis (Σέραπις) is a Graeco-Egyptian composite deity, blending the transformative powers of the Egyptian gods Osiris and Apis with the heavenly authority of the Greek god Zeus. His cult was developed under the Ptolemaic ruler Ptolemy I Soter (305-282 BC) as a means to unify his Greek and Egyptian subjects, and later gained popularity throughout the Roman Empire, until it was banned under Theodosius I (AD 379-395). Zeus Serapis became the tutelary divinity of the Severan imperial dynasty. The god’s association with the emperor enhanced the mystique of the position, imbuing the Roman ruler with his divine qualities as a giver of salvation and immortality.

To find out more about Roman gods, please visit our relevant blog post: Roman Gods in Mythology.

Weight 24.1 g
Dimensions H 4.7 cm



Pottery and Porcelain

Roman Mythology

Reference: For a similar item, please see The British Museum, item 1904,0204.391