Weltkunst, 47, 1975, p. 521; E. Bloch-Diener, Antike Kunst, 1977, no. 259; and W. Hornbostel, "Sarapiaca I" in M. B. de Boer and T. A. Edridge (eds), Hommages à Maarten J. Vermaseren, II, Leiden, 1978, pp. 505-506, pl. XCIX, no. 12.
The Graeco-Roman period, namely the centuries that followed the conquest of the East by Alexander the Great and the subsequent spread of Roman rule over a large part of Europe, Western Asia and the north coast of Africa, was one of great cultural diversity. The mingling of Greek, Roman and foreign cultures and traditions gave birth to a new and cosmopolitan culture. The latter, while keeping in essence the classical Greek traditions and increasing the focus on accentuating the cult of local divinites, incorporated the fusion of divinities and the amalgamation of various religious beliefs into new ones ('syncretism'). A typical case is that of the god Serapis, a combination of the Egyptian gods Osiris and Apis with the Greek gods Hades and Zeus.
While the main sanctuary of Serapis was in Alexandria, there were many other sanctuaries dedicated to him elsewhere.
Of the Roman sculptures of Serapis that survive, two main types are identifiable: those with the hair swept up from the forehead (anastole) and those, like the above, with five curled locks of hair falling on the forehead. Many are attributed to the original cult statue in Alexandria, a colossus made of bronze in the early to mid-3rd Century B.C., reputedly the work of the Greek sculptor Bryaxis (who had worked on the famous funerary monument of Mausolus at Halicarnassus around 350 B.C.). Bryaxis had made the statue for the city of Sinope on the north coast of Asia Minor, from which it was transferred to Alexandria in about 285 B.C. by King Ptolemy I of Egypt. The refurbishment of the cult statue by Hadrian in the first half of the 2nd century A.D. is said to have stimulated a demand for portable small-scale representations of the god (busts such as these were part of the paraphernalia of the Alexandrian priesthood of the time) and his cult continued to flourish under Hadrian's successor, Antoninus Pius, and later Marcus Aurelius.
For examples of the type, cf. H. Hoffmann, Ten Centuries that shaped the West, Texas, 1971, p. 72, no. 22; also M. Bieber, The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age, New York, 1961, figs. 296-7.