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Ancient Greek mythology, religion and art
Dionysus (Διόνυσος, Dionysos, "Born of Dios" or "Twice Born"; also known as Βάκχος, Bakkhos, and to the Romans as Bacchus), the Greek god of grape harvests, wine, revelry and religious ecstasy. His Etruscan equivalent was Fufluns (see below
According to one version of the myths concerning Dionysus, he was the son of Zeus and the mortal woman Semele, and was the only of the Twelve Olympian Gods to have a mortal mother. 
Some time after his conception, Semele died when Zeus revealed himself to her in his true form, a sight so awesome that mortals can not survive it. Zeus took the unborn Dionysus and sewed him into his thigh, and some months later he was born on Mount Pramnos on the island of Ikaria (near Samos, in the southeastern Aegean).
The name Dionysus is thus thought to mean either Born of Dios (Zeus) or Twice Born. However, "nysus" may refer to Nysa, a mythological place in Phoenicia, Arabia, Ethiopia or Libya, which was also believed to have been where he was born or raised. Because he had two "mothers", he received the epiphet Dimetor (of two mothers).
Hera, Zeus' jealous wife, attempted to kill Dionysus, so the infant was put in the care of Hermes who took him to be raised secretly either by King Athamas and his wife Ino (Dionysus' aunt), or according to another version, to the Hyades, rain nymphs of Nysa. The subject of Hermes carrying the infant Dionysus to safety was depicted in Greek art from at least the Classical period (see photos on the Hermes page
of the People section).
Dionysus' death and rebirth were important aspects of Greek and Roman mystical cults. The myths concerning his birth and relationship to other gods (for example, as a younger brother to Hermes) have led many authors, including Herodotus
, to deduce that he was a relatively late introduction to the Greek pantheon, although some modern scholars believe that he may have been worshipped from at least the Mycenean period (around 1500–1100 BC) from mention of the name "di-wo-nu-so" on two tablets, written in Linear B script, discovered at Pylos. It has also been suggested that there may have been a Dionysian type cult in Minoan Crete. Mythological tales relating that he travelled through Asia, including India, and that he brought wine to the Greeks suggest that his cult was connected with the introduction of viniculture.
The cult of Dionysus included dance rituals which developed in ancient Greece into drama, and he was the patron of the Dionysia, the Athenian dramatic festival. Greek theatres were usually part of sanctuaries of the god (for example, theatres at the Athens Acropolis
Dionysus had many lovers or consorts, including Ariadne (daughter of King Minos of Crete, see Selçuk gallery 2, page 2
), Aphrodite and Circe, and his children included Priapus, Iacchus and Comus.
In Greek art Dionysus was often depicted as a mature bearded male, but from the Classical period (5th century BC) he was also portrayed as young, clean-shaven and athletic, as was his half-brother Hermes
. He is also shown as androgynous and sometimes so incapably drunk that he has to be supported by Pan
or a satyr. However many later works, particularly Archaistic works (imitating the style of the Archaic period, 8th - 5th centuries BC), he was still shown with a beard.
Among the many types of depictions of Dionysus, are several sculptures of the god unbearded, with long hair, parted in the middle and falling in wavy tresses to either side of his neck, his head leaning to one side, and with almost feminine features (for example, the head in the photo, above right). These types are very similar to representations of Apollo and Artemis, which has often led to problems of identification of the works and deities, especially in cases where only a head or part of a statue has been found without the deity's attributes.
In sculpture groups, and on reliefs, paintings, vases and mosaics, Dionysus is often shown accompanied by his retinue, the thiasos (θίασος), including: the rustic, goat-footed god Pan and satyrs; Silenus and silens, often with horse's ears and tails; maenads (μαινάδες), his female followers, usually dancing ectastically (see photos below
); Eros (Cupid) or a number of Erotes. 
He is also frequently shown accompanied by or riding a large cat, usually identified as a "panther", but often represented as a leopard (see photos below
). The panther, one of his symbols, is also an important feature of images of Dionysus known as "triumphs" or "Indian triumphs", in which the god either rides a panther or a chariot drawn by the cats in a triumphal parade with his retinue of satyrs, silens and maenads (see photos below
). Triumph imagery was particularly popular during the Roman Imperial period, and many people throughout the empire chose the theme as decoration for their sarcophagi.
Other symbols of the wine god and his cult are vines, grapes and ivy, as well as "bucolic" objects associated with the countryside and agriculture, but also including musical instruments and tortoises. He carries a thyrsos, a staff of made of a fennel stalk, with a ribbon tied around it and topped by pine cone. Around his head he wears either an ivy wreath, a headdress of grapes or a ribbon, variously described as a tainia (headband) or mitra (headband of cult initiates).
In Archaic and Archaistic images, Dionysus is shown wearing elaborate costumes. However, from the Classical period he is increasingly nude or wearing only a himation (a rectangle of woollen cloth used as a cloak or wound around the body).
|Sections on this page|
Dionysus in Ancient Greek,
Roman and Etruscan art
|Dionysus with women|
|Dionysus with a panther|
|Dionysus and the theatre|
|Dionysus and this thiasos|
|The Triumph of Dionysus|
|References to Dionysus|
on My Favourite Planet
|Mosaic of Dionysus riding a panther in Pella|
Archaeological Museum, Macedonia, Greece.
With photos of other examples of Dionysus
in ancient art.
Pella gallery, pages 9-11
|Mosaic of Dionysus and Ariadne on Naxos, from|
Ephesus, now in the Izmir Archaeological Museum.
With photos of other artistic depictions of this theme.
Selcuk gallery 2, page 2
|The Theatre of Dionysos, below the Athens Acropolis.|
Athens Acropolis gallery, page 36
|Temple of Dionysus at the Hellenistic theatre
on the Pergamon Acropolis.
Pergamon gallery 2, page 7
Head of mature, bearded Dionysus.
Parian marble. Early Archaistic work,
circa 480-470 BC. Found south of
the Acropolis, Athens.
National Archaeological Museum,
Athens. Inv. No. 96.
Marble head of a statue of youthful Dionysus.
From the east monument of the sanctuary
of Dionysus, Thasos, Greece.
Late 4th century BC.
Thasos Archaeological Museum.
Marble head of a statue of Dionysus.
Late 4th century BC.
Holes drilled in the right side, below
the tainia (headband) indicate that
a metal wreath was affixed to it.
Pergamon Museum, Berlin.
Detail of a Hellenistic statue of Dionysus.
From Miletus, 160-170 AD.
Altes Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. Sk 1797.
See photo and details below.
Marble head of a statue of
a singing or talking Dionysus.
Roman period, after a Greek original from
270-250 BC. Height 53.5 cm. One of several
ancient copies, of which the "Head from the
South Slope" of the Athenian Acropolis is
considered the most excellent. The model
may have been a famous Hellenistic statue
by Skopas in the Sanctuary of Dionysus,
below the Acropolis.
The almost identical "Head from the
South Slope", of Pentelic marble and
dated 325-300 BC, is in the National
Archaeological Museum, Athens
(Inv. No. 182), where it is labelled
as "either Ariadne or Dionysos".
Altes Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. Sk 610.
Acquired 1842 from the Riccardi
Dionysus was depicted as a mature, bearded god
in Archaic art and later works imitating the Archaic.
Dionysus running to the right, looking behind him.
Detail of a red-figure calyx-krater, around 510 BC. Formerly attributed to
the Pan Painter, now to the Orizia Painter. From Akragas (Agrigento), Sicily.
Dionysus, with a heavy crop of hair and long beard, wears a chiton with wide,
flowing folds. He carries a panther skin on his left arm, holds an ivy branch in
his left hand and a spear (?) in his right. The other side of the krater (Side B) a
satyr stands facing right, holding an animal-skin sack in his extended left hand.
Agrigento Regional Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. C. 1538.
Small terracotta head of Dionysus from Taranto, southern Italy.
5th century BC.
Barracco Museum, Rome. Inv. No. MB 221.
Formerly in the Tyskiewicz Collection.
Fragments of a colossal marble statue
of Dionysus, from the Attic deme of Ikaria
(today Dionysos). Around 520-510 BC.
The fragments were found during excavations
at Ikaria in 1888-1889, directed by Carl Darling
Buck. The head was recently associated with
the body. It is uncertain whether the right
hand with the kantharos (wine cup) belongs
to the statue. 
This may have been a cult statue of the god
in the Archaic Dionysion of Ikaria. According
to myth, viniculture was introduced to Attica
at Ikaria after Dionysus taught Ikarios the
art of winemaking there (see below).
National Archaeological Museum, Athens.
Inv. No. 3072-3074, 3897.
Marble statue of a seated Dionysus.
Pentelic marble. About 500 BC. Found in Athens.
Dionysus wears a mantle which leaves his right
shoulder bare. He and sits on a folding stool with
lion paws at the end of the legs, and covered by
a panther skin. The stool was covered with
painted motifs (meander, chequered pattern).
National Archaeological Museum, Athens.
Inv. No. 3711.
|Marble stele with a Neo-Attic Archaistic relief of Dionysus.
1st century BC. Found at Loutses, between the districts of Chalandri and Agia Paraskevi, Attica.
Dionysus, in profile, walks to the left, holding a kantharos (wine cup)
in his right hand and his thyrsos staff in his left hand.
National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Inv. No. 3727.
Detail of a fragment of a marble krater (wine bowl) with an Archaistic relief
showing Dionysus carrying his thyrsos staff, topped by a pine cone.
Pentelic marble. Roman period, 1st century BC.
Barracco Museum, Rome. Inv. No. MB 169.
|Restored fragment of an Archaistic marble relief of Dionysus.
Beginning of the 1st century AD.
Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (SMB).
Inv. No. Sk 940 (Skulpturen I, S. 270).
Acquired in 1869 in Rome by Wolfgang Helbig (1839-1915).
|The left and lower sides and the top right corner of the relief are modern, speculatively restored with fine, crystalline marble to resemble similar extant reliefs of Dionysus, including a marble candelabra base in Dresden (Skulpturensammlung, Albertinum, Inv. No. Hm 027), a plaster cast of which was acquired by the Berlin museum around 1842 (known to have been exhibited in the Neues Museum in the 1850s, Inv. No. I.G. 1545 FW 423). The relief was cleaned in 1993.
Dionysus is shown in the Archaic style as a mature, dignified, bearded figure (comparable to Archaic depictions of Hermes). His head is shown in profile, while his body is presented in a three-quarter view. His hair is brushed forward to a point at the front, beneath a crown of ivy leaves, and is tied at the back with a knot (krobylos). Two corkscrew locks on either side of the head fall from behind the ears and rest on his chest. His long beard is also brushed forward to a point.
He wears a long chiton over which is a himation (cloak) which clings tightly to his body. In his right hand he holds a long thyrsos staff. His left arm, completely covered by the himation, is bent behind him so that the back of the hand rests on the top of his hip; the pressure of the hand causes deep creases on the side of the himation. His slightly bent right leg is in front of the left leg which carries his weight. The restoration shows the god barefooted.
In the restoration, the thyrsos rests on the low base of a tall pedestal on which stands a tripod with animal-paw feet. Such tripods were awarded as trophies to winners of theatrical competitions during the annual Great Dionysia festival in Athens, and set up as votive offerings to Dionysus in public spaces (see, for example, the Choragic Monument of Thrasyllos and the Choragic Monument of Nikias).
The left side of the relief has not survived, however, other extant reliefs show a woman (perhaps a priestess) decorating a tripod with a victor's headband (tainia).
Height 72 cm, width 34.5 cm, depth 8.5 cm.
|A large marble krater (wine bowl) with a Neo-Attic relief showing Dionysus, holding
a kantharos and his thyrsos, leading two maenads. Pentelic marble. 1st century AD.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples. Inv. No. 6778. Farnese Collection.
Colossal marble mask of Dionysus.
Pentelic Marble. Roman period, 1st century BC.
From the Athens Acropolis.
The mask was probably set high up. On vase
paintings (particularly Lenaia vases) such
masks, made of various materials, are shown
set up on trees, wooden poles or stone columns,
sometimes draped with clothing, at sanctuaries
of Dionysus, with rituals being performed
around them (see photo below right).
Acropolis Museum, Athens. Inv. No. 6461.
Head of Dionysus.
Archaistic sculpture of the Augustan period
(27 BC - 14 AD). Pentelic marble.
Barracco Museum, Rome. Inv. No. MB 86.
Colossal limestone mask of Dionysus from Cyprus.
100 BC - 100 AD. Found at Lefka,
probably from Soloi, Cyprus.
The cult of Dionysus was introduced to Cyprus after around 300 BC, during the Hellenistic period, perhaps because the Ptolemies of Egypt who ruled the island claimed descent from the god.
British Museum. GR 1910,10-14.1.
Worshippers sacrificing in front
of an image of Dionysus.
Detail of an Attic red-figure vase, 470-450 BC.
Photo © British Museum
Dionysus mask between two large eyes on an Attic black-figure neck amphora.
Made in Athens around 520 BC, Archaic period. Attributed to the Antimenes Painter.
The other side (Side B) shows a similar mask of a satyr between two large eyes.
Pergamon Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. F3997.
Acquired in 1884 from the Castellani Collection.
Fragment of a vase with a mask of Dionysus.
Parian marble. 1st century BC - 1st century AD.
Barracco Museum, Rome. Inv. No. MB 168.
|"Bärtiger Dionysos" (Bearded Dionysos), marble Archaistic herm of Dionysus.
Roman, 1st - 2nd century AD. Height 69 cm.
Pergamon Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. K. 207.
|Acquired in 1766 from the Natali Collection in Rome by Bianconi. Formerly in Sanssouci, Potsdam.
Restoration included the repair and addition of part of the left eyebrow, most of the top lip, the back of the head, the bust with most of the back and shoulders, side-locks and the end of the beard.
As the museum labelling mentions, such representations of Dionysus and his brother Hermes became so similar that they become almost impossible to distinguish.
See: Alexander Conze, Beschreibung der antiken Skulpturen mit Ausschluss der pergamenischen Fundstücke (Description of the ancient sculptures with the exception of the Pergamon finds), page 53. Generalverwaltung, Königliche Museen zu Berlin. Verlag von W. Spemann, Berlin, 1891. At the Heidelberg University Digital Library.
If you can understand German, it well worth reading this illustrated catalogue of many of the ancient sculptures acquired by Berlin museums up to the end of the 19th century. Naturally, since 1891 there have been many new acquisitions, as well as reappraisals of several objects. Many of Berlin's antiquities went missing during World War II, including the famous Mycenaean jewellery discovered by Heinrich Schliemann, and a painted head of Athena (pages 39-49; see a photo of it on Athens Acropolis gallery, page 13).
See more about herms on Pergamon gallery 2, page 15.
Detail of an Attic black-figure pelike with a worshipper sacrificing before four herms of Dionysus.
Last decade of the 6th century BC.
National Archaeological Museum of Paestum, Campania, Italy.
See: Beazley Archive Database, Vase No. 14643
|Marble statue of the "Dionysos-Sardanapalos" type, depicting the god
with a long wavy beard and tresses, and wrapped in a himation (cloak).
Pentelic marble. 1st century AD copy of an original by Praxiteles,
around 325-300 BC. Found in the Theatre of Dionysos, Athens.
National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Inv. No. 1656.
Marble head of the "Dionysos-Sardanapalos" type on a modern herm.
Mid 2nd century AD copy of a late 4th century BC Greek original.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples. Inv. No. 6306. Farnese Collection.
Terracotta bust of Dionysus from a
household shrine in Pella, Macedonia.
Pella Archaeological Museum.
Marble bust of bearded Dionysus.
2nd century AD.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples.
Inv. No. 6350.
Marble head of bearded Dionysus
of the Athens/Kos type, related to
the "Dionysos-Sardanapalos" type.
1st century AD Classicistic work inspired
by 4th BC century originals. Found in
the theatre near Zea Harbour, Piraeus.
National Archaeological Museum, Athens.
Inv. No. 3478.
Bronze bust known as "Dionysus-Plato", from Herculaneum.
According to one theory, the subject may be the god Priapus.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples.
Dionysus was depicted as youthful and clean-shaven
from the Classical period (5th centuy BC).
A cast of the marble sculpture of Dionysus from the east pediment of the Parthenon,
on permanent exhibition in the Acropolis metro station, Athens. Width 1.3 metres.
The original is in the British Museum, part of the "Elgin Marbles".
Inv. No. 1816,0610.93 (East pediment D).
|The pedimental sculptures of the Parthenon were made of Pentelic marble by Pheidias and his pupils 438-432 BC. According to Pausanias (Description of Greece, Book 1, chapter 24, section 5), the theme of the east pediment was the birth of Athena, and that of the west pediment the contest between Athena and Poseidon for the patronage of Athens.
Each of the sculptures are actually free-standing statues, executed in the round, rather than reliefs known from the pediments of other temples (see for example the high relief of Dionysus from the Temple of Apollo in Delphi below). They are remarkably detailed and finished, particularly considering that they stood so high on the Parthenon that many parts would not be visible to the viewer on the ground. An entire pediment can be seen only when standing some distance from the building; the view of the figures from the angle shown in the photo above was not possible when they were in place.
"Figure D", the only sculpture of the pediments still with an intact head, has been identified as Dionysus, although Herakles and Theseus have also been suggested. The youthful, athletic god is shown lounging on a rock covered with a panther skin, between the horses of the chariot of the sun god Helios (left) and the seated figures of Demeter and Persephone (right).
Reconstruction drawing of the
Dionysos relief from Delphi
(surviving parts in blue), showing
the god holding a kithara and
wearing a long chiton and himation.
|Marble high relief of youthful Dionysus from the west pediment
of the Late Classical Temple of Apollo in Delphi. Circa 330 BC.
Delphi Archaeological Museum, Greece.
|According to Pausanias, the pediments of the Temple of Apollo were made by the Athenian sculptors Praxias and Androsthenes. The reliefs on the east pediment (above the entrance) depicted Artemis, Leto, Apollo, Muses and a setting Sun; the west pediment reliefs depicted Dionysus with the Thyiads. Praxias died during the lengthy construction of the temple, thought to have taken around twenty years, and his work was completed by Androsthenes.
"The carvings in the pediments are: Artemis, Leto, Apollo, Muses, a setting Sun, and Dionysus together with the Thyiad women. The first of them are the work of Praxias, an Athenian and a pupil of Calamis, but the temple took some time to build, during which Praxias died. So the rest of the ornament in the pediments was carved by Androsthenes, like Praxias an Athenian by birth, but a pupil of Eucadmus."
Description of Greece, Book 10, chapter 19, section 4.
The sculptures of the east pediment have not been discovered, and may have been taken to Rome. Only a few fragments have survived of the west pediment's frieze, which show Dionysus standing in the centre of a group of dancing female figures, believed to be Thyiads (Θυιάδες, Thiades; singular, Θυία, Thyia), women in his thiasos who held dances on Mount Parnassos. 
Dionysus resided at Delphi in the winter when the oracle was closed and Apollo stayed among the Hyperboreans (Ὑπερβόρεοι, the mythical people who lived beyond the North Wind). The grave of Dionysus was said to be within the temple. Athens sent a delegation of women known as Thyiads to the orgia (ὄργια), ecstatic sacred rites on Mount Parnassos that took place in winter.
"The Thyiads are Attic women, who with the Delphian women go to Parnassus every other year and celebrate orgies in honor of Dionysus. It is the custom for these Thyiads to hold dances at places, including Panopeus, along the road from Athens."
Pausanias, Description of Greece, Book 10, chapter 4, section 3.
"Others maintain that Castalius, an aboriginal, had a daughter Thyia, who was the first to be priestess of Dionysus and celebrate orgies in honor of the god. It is said that later on men called after her Thyiads all women who rave in honour of Dionysus. At any rate they hold that Delphus was a son of Apollo and Thyia. Others say that his mother was Melaena, daughter of Cephisus."
Pausanias, Description of Greece, Book 10, chapter 6, section 4.
The figure of Dionysus wears the mitra (headband) of cult initiates, a long chiton belted at the waist, and a himation (cloak) which hangs from his shoulders. Unusually, he is thought to have originally held in his left hand a kithara , normally an attribute of Apollo (as "Apollo Kitharodos"). At either end of the frieze was a seated panther.
|Marble statue of a xouthful, unbearded Dionysus.
Found at Eleusus, Attica, Greece. Pentelic marble. Mid 4th century BC.
The god's hair, parted in the middle, hangs in long wavy tresses.
He wears a himation which covers his left shoulder and arm, and is
wound around the lower part of his otherwise naked body.
National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Inv. No. 255.
Bronze statuette of Dionysos holding
a kantharos (wine cup). Perhaps made
in Taranto, Italy, around 200 BC.
British Museum. GR 1851.8-13.1 (Bronze 808).
Comarmond Collection. From Chessy, France.
Bronze statuette of Dionysus on a round base.
Roman period, modelled on works
of the late 2nd century BC.
The figure wears a panther skin over his
left shoulder and sandals. his left foot rests
on a lying dog. He may have held his thyrsos
in his right hand and a bowl in the left.
Part of the "Ambelokipoi Hoard" of
Roman period statuettes discovered
in Ambelokipoi, Athens in 1964.
National Archaeological Museum,
Athens. Inv. No. 16773.
|Marble statue of Dionysus from the Temple of Dionysus in Cyrene (Libya).
Roman Imperial period, 2nd century AD. Perhaps the cult statue of the temple. Thought
to be a Roman adaption of an existing type of statue rather than a copy of a Greek original.
The god, depicted as young and clean-shaven, wears an ivy wreath and holds a bunch of
grapes. The broad swathe of the lower part of his himation is revealing and overtly erotic.
British Museum. Inv. No. 1861,0725.2 (Sculpture 1476).
Marble head of youthful Dionysus, originally part of a statue. Mid 2nd century AD.
Mounted on a Classicistic marble tile, probably in the 19th century.
Height 56 cm, width 47 cm, depth 28 cm.
Pergamon Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. Sk 121.
Marble head of Dionysus.
Pentelic marble. Roman eclectic work inspired by Hellenistic models.
From the Horti Lamiani, Rome; found 1882 near the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele.
Palazzo dei Conservatori, Capitoline Museums, Rome. Inv. No. MC 1129.
Marble statue of a youthful Dionysus.
50 - 1 BC. Found near
Stazione Termini, Rome.
Pergamon Museum, Berlin.
Detail of a marble table support with a Dionysic
group: Dionysus, Pan and a satyr.
170-180 AD. From Dokimeion, Anatolia (Asia Minor). Unknown provenance.
The nude Dionysus holds a rhyton (ritual drinking
horn), one end of which is shaped like the front
of a panther. On the left goat-footed Pan holds
a lagobolon (a stick for throwing at hares).
In front of him a snake emerges from a small
cylindrical basket. A satyr climbs the vine behind
Pan and cuts grapes with a sickle in his left hand.
A lagobolon hangs from the vine.
National Archaeological Museum, Athens.
Inv. No. 5706.
Marble table support with Dionysus.
From Argos, Peloponnese, Greece.
Turn of the 2nd - 3rd century AD.
Height 91 cm, width 26,5cm,
depth 24 cm.
Dionysus stands naked, resting his left arm on a tree trunk support around which grows a grapevine. A small panther sits below the trunk, next to a discarded, empty kantharos (wine tankard). The god's right forearm (now missing) rest on top of his head, a gesture also seen in depictions of Apollo, and thought to represent resting and inner vision.
Pergamon Museum, Berlin.
Inv. No. Sk 91.
Marble statuette of Dionysus holding a kantharos
(wine cup) with which he poured wine into the
mouth of the small panther at his feet.
From the Temple of Isis, Pompeii. Claudian age.
The statuette was originally gilded and painted.
The inscription on the base states that it was
a votive gift from Numerio Popidio Ampliato,
father of Popidio Celsino, who restored the
temple with his money. The Romans identified
Dionysus with the Egyptian god Osiris.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples.
Inv. No. 3.7.
Marble statuette of Dionysus holding
a kantharos and a bunch of grapes.
From Eleusis, Greece. Roman period.
Eleusis Archaeological Museum.
||Dionysus with women
Dionysus is often depicted with female figures,
such as his mother Semele or his consort Ariadne.
Dionysus and a female figure sitting together.
Detail of an Archaic Attic black-figure ceramic plate.
Made in Athens around 575-525 BC.
Found at Marathon, Attica. Diameter 19 cm.
Dionysus, holding a rhyton (drinking horn), sits on a folding stool opposite
a woman holding a flower, who sits on a block or rocks. It is not known
whether she is his mother Semele, Ariadne or one of the god's other consorts.
Antikensammlung SMB, Berlin. Inv. No. F 1809.
Dionysus and Ariadne flanked by two dancing satyrs.
Detail of an Archaic Attic black-figure amphora.
Made in Athens around 520-510 BC.
Atributed to the Rycroft Painter.
The other side of the amphora shows a warrior on a four-horse
chariot (quadriga) bidding farewell to family members.
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Inv. No. AN.1911.256.
Relief of Dionysus, Ariadne and a panther on the Derveni Krater.
See detail below.
Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum.
Detail of the relief of Dionysus, Ariadne and a panther on the Derveni Krater (side A), 4th century BC.
Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. B1.
|The scene is thought to represent the marriage of Dionysus and Ariadne on Naxos (see Selcuk gallery 2, page 2). Dionysus lounges drunkenly, with his right forearm on top of his head and his right leg resting on the left thigh of Aradne, who sits to his left. A small panther sits right of him, rather like a domestic pet. Two grapevines stretch horizontally, from left and right, meeting above Dionysus' head. Maenads dance to left and right, and two more sleep on the neck of the vessel.
The Derveni Krater is a volute krater (wine mixing bowl), made of an alloy of bronze and tin, elaborately decorated with several figures including Dionysus, Ariadne and maenads. Dated to the 4th century BC, it was probably made in Athens.
Height 90.5 cm, weight 40 kg.
It was discovered in 1962, carefully buried in a tomb at Derveni, near Thessaloniki, Macedonia, Greece.  It had been used as a funerary urn for a Thessalian aristocrat and contained the burnt bones of a man aged 35–50 and a younger woman. An inscription in the Thessalian variant of the Aeolian dialect, engraved on the base of the krater, names the man as Astiouneios, son of Anaxagoras, from Larissa:
Ἀστιούνειος Ἀναξαγοραίοι ἐς Λαρίσας
Tondo of an Etruscan red-figure kylix (drinking cup) showing
Dionysus/Fufluns with a female figure.
330-300 BC. From Chuisi (Italy). Height 11 cm, diameter 24 cm.
Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (SMB). Inv. No. F 2943.
|A bearded Fufluns stands naked apart from a cloak carelessly draped around his left forearm and wound around his right knee, holding a kantharos (drinking tankard) in his right hand and his thyrsos in the left hand. He looks downwards to his left, and appears to be gazing into a patera (libation bowl) held by a female figure (who has been referred to as an "attendant" or maenad) in her right hand; in her left hand she holds a jug. She wears a long, transparent chiton. It has been suggested that they are practicing lekanomanteia, the reading of a prophecy in a liquid. 
Behind the god is a tree at the foot of which an owl is perched on a stump of a branch or a rock decorated with a schematic ivy branch.
Marble statue of Dionysus and Ariadne and a panther. Roman, 4th century AD.
Restored by German academic sculptor Emil Wolff (1802-1879) ,
who added new parts and made repairs with plaster.
Schinkel Museum, Friedrichswerdersche Kirche, Berlin
(part of the Nationalgalerie of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin).
|The heads of Dionysus and Ariadne from the above statue in the Schinkel Museum, Berlin.
||Dionysus with a panther
Dionysus is often depicted with a large cat,
usually referred to as a "panther".
An Attic bronze funerary hydria with a relief of Dionysus and a panther
(see detail below). The hydria contained the bones of a 40 year old man.
From Thasos, Greece. Late 5th century BC.
Thasos Archaeological Museum.
The relief of Dionysus and a panther on the Thasos hydria.
Dionysus tenderly strokes the head of the seated cat which
places its left forepaw on his upper arm. The head of a small
figure (Pan or a silen?) appears from behind the god's legs.
Marble Neo-Attic relief showing Dionysus seated. 1st century AD.
The god is naked apart from a himation (cloak) covering his left shoulder and thighs.
On his head is a wreath of vine leaves, and he wears high-strapped sandals. In his left
arm he holds his thyrsos staff, with his extended right hand he holds a kantharos (wine
cup) into which the hand of a figure (now missing) pours wine from a jug. A panther lies
beneath his chair, the legs of which have the form of panther paws.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples. Inv. No. 6728. Farnese Collection.
Detail of an Attic red-figure bell krater (wine mixing vessel) depicting Dionysus riding a panther.
Made in Athens, 375-350 BC, Classical period.
In his left hand Dionysus holds his thyrsos staff, and in his right a kantharos (wine cup).
He is accompanied by a dancing maenad (left) playing a tympanon, a silen, a small,
white Eros and a satyr (right).
Pergamon Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. F 2648.
Dionysus dancing with his panther. Inscribed panel from a mosaic floor. 4th century AD.
One of a number of mosaic panels found in a villa in Halicarnassus, Anatolia
(Asia Minor; today Bodrum, Turkey). Other mosaics depict Meleager and Atalanta.
British Museum. GR 1857.12-20.414 (Mosaics 54c).
Mosaic panel depicting Dionysus with his panther.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples. Inv. No. 9989.
|Statue of a sitting female panther.
Pavonazetto marble, with eyes of yellow stone. Roman Imperial period.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples. Inv. No. 6223. Farnese Collection.
Statue of a lying female panther.
Black granite. Roman Imperial period.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples. Inv. No. 6225. Farnese Collection.
||Dionysus and the theatre
Dionysus was the patron god of the theatre and actors.
See also "Ikarios reliefs" further down the page.
Inscribed marble relief in honour of the Athenian playwright Euripides.
From the vicinity of Smyrna (Izmir, Turkey). Late Hellenistic era.
1st century BC - 1st century AD. Height 60 cm, width 68.5 cm.
The tragedian (centre), seated and holding a scroll in his left hand, hands an actor's mask
of Herakles to Skene, the young female personification of the theatre (left), while an
Archaic statue of Dionysus (right) looks on, holding a kantharos in his right hand.
Gustave Mendel suggested that the relief should be called "the Apotheosis of Euripides"
because of the similarity of subject and treatment to the "Apotheosis of Homer" relief.
Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. 1242 T. Cat. Mendel 574.
Purchased from the Misthos antiquities collection in Smyrna; taken to Istanbul in 1900.
Dionysus on an inscribed marble votive relief found in Piraeus. Dedicated to to the god
by actors after a theatrical performance, possibly Euripides' Bacchae. Circa 400 BC.
Dionysus sits on a kline (couch), holding a rhyton (drinking horn) and phiale (libation bowl).
A woman, Paideia, sits at the foot of the kline with her face turned towards a man holding
a theatrical mask. On the left stand two actors, one holding a tympanon (hand drum),
the other a mask and a tympanon.
National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Inv. No. 1500.
||Dionysus and this thiasos
Dionysus is often depicted with his thiasos (retinue),
including Pan, maenads, satyrs, silens and Silenus. 
In many cases these creatures appeared without the god.
Detail of an Attic black-figure psykter-amphora (wine cooler) depicting Dionysus
(right of the spout, holding a rhyton) with satyrs a maenad and a hare.
Made in Athens about 560-540 BC. Attributed to the painter Lydos.
The vessel has double walls between which cold water was poured to keep the wine cool.
The other side of the psykter shows Theseus killing the Minotaur.
Height: 32 cm, width: 23 cm, weight: 2 kg.
British Museum. Inv. No. GR 1848,0619.5 (Vase B 148). Acquired in 1848.
Dionysus stands between a satyr and a maenad dancing and playing clappers
(κρόταλα, krotala; singular, κρόταλον, krotalon), similar to castanets.
Detail of the lower part of an Attic black-figure calyx-krater,
made in Athens around 510 BC. Related to the Antimenes Painter.
The main scene above shows Athena and Herakles riding a chariot, surrounded by
other deities. On Side B of the krater, Dionysus standing between satyrs and maenads.
Found in Tomb 41 of the necropolis in the area of the Santuario Madonna delle Lacrime,
Syracuse, Sicily, it held the cremated ashes of an adult.
Paolo Orsi Regional Archaeological Museum, Syracuse, Sicily. Inv. No. 50960.
Dionysus, holding a rhyton (drinking horn) and an ivy branch, with two ecstatic dancing maenads.
An Attic red-figure stamnos by the Syleus Painter, 480-470 BC. From Tarquinia, Etruria, Italy.
Dionysus, with long beard and locks wears a crown of ivy leaves, and a himation over a long
chiton. He walks to the right, looking to the left, carrying an ivy branch in his left hand and
a rhyton in his right. Both dancing maenads hold krotala in each hand (see above).
The other side (Side A) shows the Judgement of Paris: Paris seated on a rock, Hermes
and Aphrodite with a sceptre and bird; a snake, a deer and a hedgehog on rock.
Pergamon Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. F2182.
See: Beazley Archive Database, Vase No. 202509
Dionysus, holding a kantharos and a vine branch, followed by a satyr carrying a tripod.
Detail of an Attic red-figure pelike, attributed to the Berlin Painter, 480-470 BC.
Found in Tomb 175, Santa Venera, Paestum.
National Archaeological Museum, Paestum, Campania, Italy. Inv. No. T175 (4908).
See: Beazley Archive Database, Vase No. 19103
A Dionysiac scene, with Dionysus, holding a kantharos and thyrsos, and a satyr playing
an aulos (double flute), between two maenads. The maened on the left holds a long
torch and a oinochoe (wine jug). The torch suggests that the scene is occurring at night.
Detail of an Attic red-figure pelike, attributed to the Christie Painter, 450-425 BC.
Found in a tomb in the Necropoli del Fusco, Syracuse, Sicily. It contained the ashes
from a cremation. The other side of the pelike shows maenads conversing.
Paolo Orsi Regional Archaeological Museum, Syracuse. Inv. No. 35188.
A similar painting of the same scene by the Christie Painter can be seen on a red-figure
bell-krater, circa 440 BC, in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland. Inv. No. 48.74.
A black-figure trefoil oinochoe (wine jar) with Dionysus and two satyrs.
5th century BC. From the extended north cemetery of Pydna, Macedonia, Greece.
Dion Archaeological Museum.
Detail of a red-figure bell krater showing Dionysus seated among his thiasos (retinue).
From Ancient Antisara (modern Kalamitsa), Macedonia, Greece.
Dionysus, holding a thyrsos, looks behind at a figure carrying a bowl.
In the centre, a white winged figure plays an aulos (double flute),
and on the left is a dancing maenad holding a thyrsos.
Kavala Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. A 3832.
Detail of an Apulian red-figure amphora showing Dionysus seated among his thiasos.
From Ceglie (southern Italy). Attributed to the Dareios Painter, 350-330 BC.
The lower register shows an Amazonomachy (a battle between Greeks and Amazons).
The other side (Side A) shows Europa riding the bull (Zeus) and Nereids; the lower
register shows a Centauromachy (battle between Greeks and Centuars).
Height 96.5, diameter 45 cm.
Pergamon Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. F 3241.
Terracotta relief of a dancing maenad and satyr with the infant Bacchus (Dionysus).
Campana plaque. Roman, made in Italy around 20 BC - 50 AD.
Bacchus lies in a liknon, a winnowing basket used to
separate the grain from the husks after harvesting.
British Museum. GR 1805.7-3.21 (Terracotta D 525). Townley collection.
Terracotta relief of Bacchus (Dionysus) and a satyr.
Campana plaque. Roman, made in Italy around 20 BC - 50 AD.
Bacchus, naked apart from a cloak and ivy wreath, holds his thyrsos staff.
The naked satyr holds a torch and carries a wine amphora on his shoulder.
British Museum. GR 1843.5-31.45 (Terracotta D 530). Townley collection.
Statue of Dionysos and a young satyr.
Marble. 160-170 AD.
From the Faustina Baths, Miletus, Turkey.
"Presumably under Christian influence, the
genitalia of both statues were chiselled off
in late antiquity." From the museum labelling.
Altes Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. Sk 1797.
Acquired in 1904.
Height 235 cm, width 98 cm, depth 73 cm.
A marble table support depicting a drunken
Dionysus supported by Pan and a young satyr.
Roman period, mid 2nd century AD.
Acquired 1846 in Rome by Gerhard from the art
dealer Trebi. Until 1859 in Sanssouci, Potsdam.
Height 78 cm, width 47.5 cm, depth 27 cm.
Pergamon Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. Sk 97.
Marble relief with drunken Dionysus supported by a satyr between two maenads. Late 2nd century AD.
Dionysus and the satyr both hold thyrsos staves. Below them are an oddly diminutive Pan,
a panther and Eros. The maenad on the left plays cymbals and the other a doulbe flute.
Another satyr, on the far left, carries a wine krater on his left shoulder.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples. Inv. No. 6684. Farnese Collection.
Gold relief of drunken Dionysus with a panther
and satyr in a naiskos (small temple).
Gold, garnets and emeralds. 2nd century BC.
National Archaeological Museum, Athens.
Helen and Antonios Stathatos Collection.
Marble table support with
Dionysus and a panther.
From Dion, Macedonia.
2nd century AD.
Dion Archaeological Museum.
Dionysus, supported by a young satyr in a leopard skin, discovers the sleeping Ariadne on Naxos,
in the Sleeping Ariadne mosaic in Thessaloniki. 200-250 AD. Ariadne's feet can be seen, right.
Right of Dionysus and the satyr is Pan or Silenus with a wine cup and a lagobolos (hunting stick).
Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum.
Detail of a relief on a marble table support: two satyrs expose a sleeping female (Ariadne?).
From Pergamon (perhaps from the Asclepieion). Late Hellenistic, 1st century BC.
Antikensammlung SMB, Berlin. Inv. No. AvP VII, 407.
|The marble slab is decorated on both sides with Dionysiac motifs (the other side has a relief of two male goats with an amphora). The museum labelling describes this scene simply as "satyr and maenad". The satyrs crouch opposite each other on the symmetrically intertwining stems of two enormous flowering vines which take up most of the height of the slab. The figure on the left uncovers a naked female who lies asleep on an acanthus leaf. She may be a maenad, but the scene is reminiscant of the uncovering of Ariadne as Dionysus discovers her on Naxos.
Height of marble slab 71 cm, width at bottom 34.5 cm,
width at top 32 cm, maximum depth at top 12 cm.
See also a Gorgon relief from Ephesus with a similar giant plant motif.
|Marble statue of a young satyr pouring wine from a jug into a rhyton (drinking horn).
Around 150 AD. One of a number of Roman period statues thought to be
copies of a lost Greek original made by Praxiteles circa 370-350 BC.
Altes Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. Sk 257.
From a villa at Monte Calvo, Sabina (Italy). Acquired in 1826.
Ceramic relief of drunken Dionysus riding a mule, supported by a silen.
Dionysus holds a kantharos in his right hand and his thyrsos in the left.
A small male figure leads the mule.
Clay with traces of white ground as well as red and yellow.
A "Melian" relief, allegedly found on the island of Melos. Probably
made in Athens around 480 BC. Height 16 cm, width 14.5 cm.
Altes Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. TC 6297. Acquired in 1873.
Three-lobed oinochoe in the form of the head of Silenus or Dionysus. 5th century BC.
Museo Civico, Castello Ursino, Catania, Sicily. Inv. No. 4172. From the Biscari Collection.
Marble relief of a nymph and an aged satyr (Silenus).
From Herculaneum. 1st century AD.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples. Inv. No. 6724. Secret Cabinet.
The tondo of an Attic red-figure kylix (wine cup) by the Chairias Painter
(also known as Painter of the Agora Chairias cups), depicting
a maenad holding Dionysus' thyrsos staff. 510-500 BC.
Agora Museum, Athens. Inv. No. P 24116.
|The kylix is one of of three similar cups found in a well beneath the south end of the Stoa of Attalus in the Athenian Agora in June 1954. It was complete apart from the foot, and has been restored from several fragments. The tondo (the round painted panel in the centre of the inside of the cup) has a painting of a maenad running to the right, with the upper part of her body twisted so that she looks behind her. She wears as sakkos (σάκκος, a soft woven cap or a piece of material wrapped around the head), a himation (cloak) over a long chiton (tunic), earrings and a necklace. Her right arm is outstretched, and in her left hand she carries a thyrsos, pointed downwards.
The inscription: to the right of her, Χαιρίας (Chairias); and left of her, καλο[s] (kalos, good, beautiful). Diameter of tondo 10.8 cm.
Large bronze bust of a maenad. Around 50 BC.
She wears grapes, vine leaves and ivy leaves in her hair,
and a doe skin is tied at the right shoulder. Height 29.2 cm.
The bust may have been part of an attachment of a large
monument, such as a building or statue base.
Pergamon Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. 1967.5.
Detail of a Neo-Attic relief with dancing maenads, female followers of Dionysus.
Based on models by Kallimachos (late 5th century BC). Pentelic marble.
Barracco Museum, Rome. Inv. No. MB 124. Purchased in Rome.
Marble relief of a dancing maenad
Hellenistic, late 3rd century BC. Found in
September 1896 reused in a wall, southwest
of the Upper Agora of the Pergamon Acropolis.
Istanbul Archaeological Museum.
Inv. No. 764 T. Cat. Mendel 575.
A Neo-Attic marble relief of a dancing maenad.
Pentelic marble. Part of a circular monument.
A copy of a choragic votive offering site for
Euripides' play The Bacchantes, made by
Kallimachos in 406-405 BC. Found 1875
in the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, Rome.
Palazzo dei Conservatori, Capitoline Museums,
Rome. Inv. No. MC 1094.
|A marble Neo-Attic fountain from Pontios, in the shape of a horn, with a figure of
a horse at the lower end, and reliefs of dancing maenads around the open end.
The maenad from the fountain (photo, right) is almost identical to the one
above, right and another on a sarcophagus below.
1st century AD. Found in 1874 in the area of the Auditorium, in the Horti Maecenatiani
(Gardens of Maecenas), Rome. (See also the relief fragment below, here and here.)
Palazzo dei Conservatori, Capitoline Museums, Rome.
Relief of a dancing maenad on the base of a marble candelabrum.
Pentelic marble. Neo-Attic style, early Imperial age.
From the Horti Lamiani. Found in 1874 near Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, Rome.
Palazzo dei Conservatori, Capitoline Museums, Rome. Inv. No. 1115.
A maenad and two satyrs at erotic play and a panther.
Detail of a large marble krater with reliefs of Bacchic scenes.
Pentelic marble. Found in 1872 in the Horti Vettiani, Rome.
Palazzo dei Conservatori, Capitoline Museums, Rome. Inv. No. MC 1202.
A maenad with a tympanon (hand drum), a satyr and a sitting panther on
the side of the sarcophagus of the Gymnasiarch Gerostratos (see below).
From Beirut, Lebanon. Roman period, 2nd century AD.
Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. 1417 T. Cat. Mendel 33.
Relief of a dancing maenad on a pillar in front of the theatre at Philippi.
Copy of one of the 2nd century AD marble reliefs with Dionysian motifs
on a row of pillars in front of the skene (stage house) of the theatre. The
originals are in Philippi Archaeological Museum at the archaeological site.
The theatre of Philippi (Φίλιπποι) was built during the reign of Philip II
of Macedonia, who conquered the Thasian colony of Krenides (Κρηνῖδες)
in 356 BC and renamed it after himself. It was restyled as a Roman
theatre in the 1st - 2nd centuries AD, and during the 2nd - 3rd
centuries AD it was converted into an arena for games.
Philippi Archaeological Site, Macedonia, Greece.
A small altar with a relief of a dancing maenad carrying a bunch of grapes.
1st - 2nd century AD. Unknown provenance.
Thasos Archaeological Site, Macedonia, Greece.
Fragment of a relief depicting a dancing maenad, strangely left
lying on the ground at the Stoa of Attalus in the Athenian Agora.
Pentelic marble. Roman period.
Museum of the Ancient Agora, Athens.
A marble relief on a fragment of an oval sarcophagus, showing a dancing maenad
and a satyr holding a mask of Silenus. The severed head of a goat on a pedestal
and the hand (holding a lagogolon) and leg of Pan can be seen on the left.
Roman, 200-300 AD. Excavated in Rome by Lord Arundel 1613-1614.
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Inv. No. Michaelis 109.
A marble relief depicting Dionysus with a panther, a satyr and a maenad in a Dionysiac procession.
Circa 100 AD, based on Greek prototypes of the 4th century BC.
From the Villa Quintiliana on the Via Appia, south of Rome.
Dionysus (left), as a youth, wears a panther skin and carries his thyrsos staff. The satyr (centre),
also wearing a panther skin, plays a double flute (aulis), and the maenad plays a drum (tympanon).
According to the museum labelling, the relief depicts two satyrs and a maenad. However, the satyr
in the centre clearly has a tail, whereas the figure on the left, with the attributes of Dionysus and
slightly larger than the other two figures, does not.
British Museum. Inv. No. GR 1805.7-3.126 (Sculpture 2193). Townley Collection.
A Neo-Attic marble relief of a Dionysiac scene from Herculaneum.
Made in a Neo-Attic workshop, first half of the 1st century AD. Height 54 cm, width 108 cm.
Discovered in February 2009 in a luxurious residence of the north-west insula of Herculaneum.
It is one of the latest discoveries made at the site of the ancient town which was destroyed
by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. The relief had been set into a painted plaster wall of
the house, as was a similar relief found in the same room in 1997.
On the left, two female figures stand before an archaistic statue of Dionysus with a kantharos
(drinking cup). One woman places her hand on the shoulder of the other in a protective gesture.
The object held by the woman on the left has not been identified, but is thought to be connected
with a ritual. On the right are a bearded god, probably Dionysus, and a dancing maenad.
Exhibited at the entrance to the Herculaneum archaeological site.
A marble relief representing a Dionysiac initiation scene.
Pentelic marble. Roman period copy after a Hellenistic original of the 2nd century BC.
One of a number of Dionysiac relief fragments from the Horti Maecenatiani, Rome
(see also the relief fragment below). Found in 1876 in the area of the Auditorium.
Palazzo dei Conservatori, Capitoline Museums, Rome. Inv. No. 2011.
||The Triumph of Dionysus
During the Roman period Dionysus was often depicted with his
thiasos in a procession, known as a "triumph" or "Indian triumph".
See also the images further down the page.
Detail of a relief on a sarcophagus showing a Triumph of Dionysus. The god, holding his thyrsos
staff and a vine branch, rides a panther. He is surrounded by his companions, including Pan (right),
satyrs and silens, dancing and playing musical instruments. Anatolian marble, circa 210 AD.
Skulpturensammlung, Albertinum, Dresden. Inv. No. HM 271.
Silver and gilt handle for a ceramic tray, showing the Indian Triumph of Dionysus.
Severan period, early 3rd century AD. Found between Hamadan and Kirmanshah,
Iran. Length 22.7 cm, thickness 0.47 cm, weight 672.7 grams.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Inv. No. 54.11.8.
Purchased through the Rogers Fund, 1954.
|Dionysus, standing in a triumphal pose and holding his thyrsos staff like a weapon in the manner of a triumphal Roman emperor or general (a pose which can be seen on several imperial statues), rides in a chariot/ship pulled by two large cats (lionesses, female panthers or tigers?). From his waist hangs a metal insignia with the head of a large cat, and the folds of his cloak, billowing in the wind, appear to take on the form of lotus flowers.
Pan and three satyrs accompany him, and one satyr (left) carries two elephant's tusks as booty. Another satyr (second from right) holds a long-stemmed plant with three large flowers. At the centre of the work, below the triumphal group, is a pair of cymbals, symbolic of Dionysian rites.
The martial significance of the work is underlined by the weapons and armour - trophies captured from defeated enemies - at the bottom (lower register) and sides of the object. The seated figure on the left has been interpreted as a prisoner of war with his hands tied behind his back. Another figure on the right, presumably another prisoner, is now missing.
The missing parts of the prisoners and the visible outlines around the other figures show how the pictorial elements on the handle were inlaid in the silver plate.
See: Christine Alexander, A Roman Silver Relief: The Indian Triumph of Dionysos. Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 14(3), 1955, pages 64-7.
See photos of other reliefs of Dionysus in a procession below.
See also a mosaic showing Pan carrying Dionysus, thought to be part of an Indian Triumph of Dionysus.
Dionysus returns from India
on a panther-powered ship.
A fragment of a marble statue of Dionysus reclining. Thought to be from
a sculpture group, perhaps of the god in a chariot as part of a triumph.
Luni marble. Antonine period (160-200 AD).
Found December 1874 in an underground chamber beneath the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele,
the ancient Horti Lamiani, Rome, among several other well-preserved ancient sculptures,
thought to have been made in the same workshop.
Palazzo dei Conservatori, Capitoline Museums, Rome. Inv. No. 1113.
A fragmentary marble relief of the "Ikarios relief" type (also known as "Ikarios' Feast"), showing
Dionysus and his thiasos (retinue) visiting the "Athenian actor Ikarios" (museum labelling).
From the Vedius Gymnasium, Ephesus. Roman period.
Izmir Archaeological Museum, Turkey.
||There are as many as seventeen extant examples of "Ikarios reliefs" (also referred to as "Ikarios' Feast" reliefs), with several variations but essentially similar in content and composition. They are thought to be copies of a Hellenistic relief or painting of the 2nd century BC. Apart from the relief above from Ephesus, the other best-known examples are:
Marble Neo-Attic relief "with Dionysus and Ikarios", late 1st century BC - early 1st century AD.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples. Inv. No. 6713. From the Farnese Collection.
Marble relief from Rome, possibly 1st century AD, with a chequered history and "many alterations and restorations".
British Museum, London. Inv. No. 1805,0703.123 (see below).
Marble Neo-Attic (?) relief, 1st - 2nd century AD.
Louvre, Paris. Inv. No. MR 719 / Ma 1606. From the Albani Collection. Revolutionary confiscation, 1798. Purchased by Louis XVIII of France, 1815.
Height 80 cm, width 136 cm, depth 10 cm.
Decorative marble vase ("Dionysus and his companions"), 2nd century AD.
State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg. Inv. No. A 111.
A mature, bearded Dionysus wrapped in a heavy himation (similar to the "Dionysos-Sardanapalos" type statues), accompanied by his thiasos of reveling satyrs and a maenad, visits a mortal or hero. The god, entering from the right, appears to be drunk and unsteady on his feet. His left forearm is supported by a satyr, while another removes his sandal and a third carries his thyrsos staff. On the left, the host, sitting on a kline (dining couch) with a female companion, bids the god welcome with a gesture of his raised right arm. The base of the kline is decorated with actors' masks. To the left of the figures a small herm (of Dionysus?) stands on an elaborate base resembling a fountain.
The scene appears to be taking place outside, perhaps in the host's garden or courtyard, with a long cloth draped in an apparently improvised way over the wall which provides the backdrop. The buildings behind the figures have been interpreted as either his home, a temple or part of a theatre. The youthful host himself is named Ikarios (or Icarius) on the labelling and in the literature of various museums which describe him as an "Athenian actor" or "dramatic poet".
There is no textual evidence concerning the subject of the image, and it is not mentioned in ancient literature. The identification of the figures has been discussed since the 16th century, when there were already two copies known in Rome (those now in the British Museum and Naples). It has been suggested, for example, that the host is the mythical Attic farmer Ikarios (Ἰκάριος), the eponymous hero of the deme Ikaria, who was taught the art of winemaking by Dionysus in return for his hospitality. According to other theories, the original image may have been a votive relief dedicated by the winner of a theatrical competition, or even an illustration of a scene from a theatrical performance.
The "Ikarios reliefs" combine the iconography of other Greek votive images, particularly "funeral banquet" reliefs and "Theoxenia reliefs". The subject of a funeral banquet relief is one or more deceased mortals or heroes on a kline, attended by family members and servants. "Theoxenia reliefs" (θεοξένια, literally, god hospitality; sacred feasts) depict gods and heroes attending feasts, often laid out on special tables by mortals. The most common divine subjects of such reliefs are the Dioskouri (Castor and Pollux) and Dionysus.
The arrival of Dionysus at the house of Ikarios.
Plaster cast of a marble "Ikarios relief" showing Dionysus visiting the house of "a dramatic poet".
Plaster cast in Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Inv. No. E 11.
The original relief, in the British Museum (not on display), is from Rome, tentatively
dated to the 1st century AD, "with many alterations and restorations". The scene is
almost identical to the relief in Izmir (above), with the notable execption that the
woman on the host's couch is missing (removed by later restorers?). The long building
(a temple?) in the background is garlanded and has a Gorgoneion on the pediment.
The relief on the pillar behind Dionysus shows a man on a two-horse chariot.
Original in the British Museum. Inv. No. 1805,0703.123 (Sculpture 2190).
Height 91 cm, length 152 cm.
Fragment of a marble "Ikarios relief" showing Dionysus with satyrs.
Early 1st century AD. Height 55 cm, width, 43 cm, depth 7 cm.
Pergamon Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. Sk 919.
Fragment of a marble "Ikarios relief" showing
members of Dionysus' thiasos. 1st century AD.
Pergamon Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. Sk 920.
The top left corner of a marble relief, described as "relief representing a sacred landscape".
It shows the top of a temple with a Gorgoneion on the pediment (as in the relief above),
part of a wall from which a cloth sheet is hung, a column topped by a relief and a tree (left).
It could well be a fragment of an "Ikarios relief", with the head of "Ikarios", bottom, centre.
Pentelic marble. 1st century BC - 1st century AD. One of a number of Dionysiac relief
fragments from the Horti Maecenatiani, Rome (see also the relief fragment above).
Found in 1876 in the area of the Auditorium.
Palazzo dei Conservatori, Capitoline Museums, Rome. Inv. No. MC 1426.
A procession with Dionysus and Ariadne (left) on a wagon pulled by two panthers
("a panther chariot"), led by Pan, satyrs and maenads playing music and dancing.
Eros, riding one of the panthers, plays a lyre.
Relief on a marble closure slab of a sarcophagus-like wall grave. 110-130 AD.
Found near the Tomb of Caecilia Metella, Via Appia, Rome.
Altes Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. Sk 850.
Detail of the Dionysus procession relief above.
Such reliefs with Dionysian motifs were common on
sarchophagi from the city of Rome until around 300 AD.
Relief of a triumph of Dionysus on the front of a marble sarcophagus. Roman Imperial period.
On the left, Dionysus, holding his thyrsos staff, sits in a chariot drawn by two centaurs.
Winged Eros stands on the back of one of the centaurs, and a lion and a panther run
alongside them. In the centre Pan dances in front of a satyr playing pipes and a maenad
playing a tamborine. Right, a couple (the deceased?) sit in a chariot driven by a figure
who looks like Pan, pulled by an exhausted donkey and surrounded by satyrs.
Palazzo dei Conservatori, Capitoline Museums, Rome (not labelled).
Relief of a triumph of Dionysus on the front of a marble sarcophagus. Circa 200 AD.
On the left, a drunken Dionysus, holding a kantharos (wine cup), stands in a chariot drawn
by two centaurs, one of which plays a lyre. Winged Eros stands on the back of one of the
centaurs. In the centre Pan dances with two maenads, one plays a pipe and the other a
tamborine. To the right Silenus lies drunk on a four-wheeled wagon pulled by an exhausted
donkey and surrounded by satyrs. Another, smaller figure who also looks like Pan can be
seen stepping from Silenus' wagon onto the back of the donkey.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples. Inv. No. 6693.
Relief of a triumph of Dionysus on the front of a Roman marble sarcophagus,
3rd century AD, reused as a tomb for a member of the noble Piscicelli family.
Basilica di Santa Restituta, Naples Cathedral.
|On the left, Dionysus lounges in a familiar pose, with his right forearm over his head, and in his left hand is a thyrsos which looks more like a military sceptre. His four-wheeled wagon is pulled by two panthers; the cat in front is clearly female. Below the panthers is the head of an ox in profile. To the left of the god is a vine, and to the right a maenad, probably playing a flute.
On the right of the relief, Silenus lies in a similar wagon pulled by two donkeys, below which is the head of a male in profile. To his right is Pan, who appears to have extra-long horns and to be holding a lagobolon. To the left stands a maenad playing symbols, and a garlanded circular altar on which there is a ram's head.
In the centre two satyrs, with shouldered lagobolons and wearing animal skins, hold a clipeus (round shield device) bearing the coat of arms of the Piscicelli family. Below it are two small seated figures, one clothed and the other naked (a maenad and satyr?).
An old description of the sarcophagus (A. Sorrentino, La Basilica costantiniana a Napoli e notizia di due suoi sarcofagi. Napoli, 1908) mentions "A row of comic and tragic masks shaped like a pedestal to the Bacchic scene". However, these masks are now not to be seen. They may be covered by the cement used to seal the lid.
Each of the short sides has a relief of a mask between festoons of foliage and fruit. The sarcophagus rests on two marble blocks decorated with reliefs of oak leaves. According to one source, it was the tomb of Alfonso Piscicelli (14th century), although so far I have found no confirmation of this.
Height 54 cm, length 2 metres, depth 60 cm.
Relief of drunken Hercules in a triumph of Dionysus on the front of a marble sarcophagus. Circa 200 AD.
The relief was made around the same time as the one above and depicts a similar scene.
On the left, Dionysus supported by a satyr. In the centre a drunken Hercules supported by satyrs.
On the right, in the place of Silenus' wagon, a winged eros sits on a lion led on a leash by Pan.
The sides of the sarcophagus are decorated with reliefs of griffins.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples. Inv. No. 6776.
A Dionysiac scene on the front of the sarcophagus of the Gymnasiarch Gerostratos (see above).
From Beirut, Lebanon. Roman period, 2nd century AD.
Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. 1417 T. Cat. Mendel 33.
|Satyrs, silens and satyrs make music and dance during a sacrifice to Dionysus at an altar. The maenads are shown in poses known from a number of other reliefs thought to be modelled on late 5th century BC originals by Kallimachos. See, for example other photos above: a maenad similar to one with a tympanon, left, on a relief from Rome; figures almost identical to the maenad to the right of the altar in three reliefs from Rome.
The inscription, in what looks like a freehand style, just to the left of the maenad next to the altar: "Gerostratos, gymnasiarch, farewell".
The relief on the left side of the sarcophagus shows a maenad and a satyr (see above). The right side has a relief of a crouching sphinx.
"Gerostratos, gymnasiarch, farewell"
A sacrifice to Dionysus on the Gerostratos sarcophagus.
||Notes, references and links
1. The Twelve Olympian Gods
All the other Twelve Great Gods of Olympus were children of gods or other divine beings.
Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Hestia, Aphrodite, Ares, Hephaistos, Athena, Apollo, Artemis and Hermes were considered the original twelve. Hestia, goddess of the hearth, domestic order and the family, was among the first generation of Olympians, the sister of the first four in the list, as well as of Hades, and the niece of Aphrodite. However, her place appears to have been taken later by Dionysus.
2. The thiasos
In ancient depictions of Dionysus with his retinue, he is shown with male figures, mostly young, with tails and other attributes, often referred to as satyrs, silens and fauns. In some works a figure may be identified as a specific character, such as the satyr Ampelos (Ἀμπελος). Although there are differences between the types of mythical beings known from Greek and Roman literature, they are not always easy to distinguish in artworks, and many modern descriptions refer to the figures generically as satyrs. Where a mature, bearded figure appears, he is decribed as an elderly silen or as Silenus, the oldest of the silens and the mentor and teacher of Dionysus.
Likewise, the god is often shown with one or more female figures, including Semele, Ariadne, Maenads, Thyiads, Nymphs, Muses and the Seasons (Horai). In several cases the identification of the figures remains a subject of scholarly debate (see for example, discussion of the Thyiads in the note below).
For the moment, when describing such images, I have mostly followed the labelling and literature of the respective museums, particularly since this page is primarily concerned with Dionysus himself. Where possible I will attempt to add more details concerning secondary figures.
3. The statue of Dionysus from Ikaria
The Attic deme Ikaria (Ικαρία, also referred to as Ikarion), today the municipality Dionysos (Διόνυσος), on the north slope of Mount Penteli, northeast of Athens (between Kifissia and Marathon). The fragments were found during the only excavations so far undertaken there, directed by Carl Darling Buck (1866-1955) of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens in 1888-1889. The site consists of the remains of a theatre and a number of buildings, all of which have been connected by inscriptions and other finds (including choragic monuments) with the worship of Dionysus and Apollo, including a temple of Pythian Apollo.
Some of the fragments were discovered below the walls of a Byzantine church and others at "Building D", which may have been the "Dionysion", an Archaic temple of Dionysus. If this was the cult statue of the temple, it may have been one of the earliest stone cult statues in Attica.
Carl D. Buck, Discoveries in the Attic Deme of Ikaria, 1888. Sculptures (Plates VII, VIII). Papers of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Volume V, 1886-1890, pages 109-125 and figs. 1-4. Archaeological Institute of America. Damrell and Upham, Boston MA, 1892. At Heidelberg University Library.
The volume includes all Buck's papers on his Discoveries in the Attic Deme of Ikaria, 1888, including a chronological record of the excavations (with topographical description and map), inscriptions and sculptures, as well as The Choregia in Athens and Ikaria. They have been collected as a separate PDF (except the plates): ascsapapers1886_1890__p0056-0149.pdf. Also at Heidelberg University Library.
Irene Bald Romana, The Archaic statue of Dionysos from Ikarion. Hesperia, Vol. 51, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec., 1982), pages 398-409, plates 93-95. The American School of Classical Studies at Athens. PDF at www.ascsa.edu.gr.
William R. Biers and Thomas D. Boyd, Ikarion in Attica: 1888-1981. Hesperia, Vol. 51, No. 1 (Jan. - Mar., 1982), pages 1-18. The American School of Classical Studies at Athens. PDF at www.ascsa.edu.gr.
Elizabeth King Filioti, Dionysos / Ikarion. At filiotis.net.
Robert Horne, The Ikarion Sanctuary of Dionysos. At athens123.com.
John M. Camp, The archaeology of Athens, pages 289-291. Yale University Press, 2004.
4. Dionysus/Fufluns and Lekanomanteia
See: Nancy Thomson de Grummond, Etruscan Myth, Sacred History, and Legend, page 121, fig. VI.9. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, 2006.
Lekanomanteia (lecanomancy; Greek, λεκανομαντεία, from λεκάνη, lekane, dish, pan; Latin, lecanomantia), divination by interpreting the sound or effect of an object or substance falling into a liquid.
5. Dionysus and the Thyiads on the Temple of Apollo, Delphi
It has been suggested that Pausanias was mistaken in believing that the women around Dionysus on the east pediment were Thyiads, since their poses suggest more the calm of Muses in a dithyrambic dance rather than wild, orgiastic movement.
See: Jenny Strauss-Clay, Fusing the Boundaries: Apollo and Dionysos at Delphi, Mètis. Anthropologie des mondes grecs anciens, Volume 11, 1996, pages 83-100. At persee.fr.
Jenny Strauss-Clay examines the relationship between Apollo and Dionysus at Delphi, particularly during the Late Classical period in the context of the Paean to Dionysos by Philodamos, found on an inscription with an honorary decree for its author and his brothers, dated to 340-339 BC, under the Sacred Way in Delphi.
6. Dionysus with a kithara
The reconstruction of the relief of Dionysus holding a kithara (as "Dionysos Kitharodos") is conjectural. According to the Delphi museum labelling: "In the centre stands Dionysos, in the rare iconographic type of the cithara (type of lyre) player... The cithara he holds in his left hand places him on equal terms with the god of music, Apollo, and reconciles the different realms of the two deities who are both depicted on the same temple."
The other well-known example of a depiction of Dionysus supposedly holding a kithara is a fragment of a statue from the Choragic Monument of Thrasyllos, above the Theatre of Dionysos, Athens, dated 3rd - 2nd century BC. The now headless and armless seated figure, removed by Lord Elgin and now in the British Museum (see photo, right), is thought to have originally held a kithara in his left hand.
See: the Choragic Monument of Thrasyllos
7. Derveni, Lete
Derveni (Δερβένι), about 10 km northwest of Thessaloniki, between Efkarpia and Lagyna, on the road to Kavala, is the site of the necropolis of the ancient Mygdonian city of Lete (Λητή, Liti). The finds from the archeological site include the Derveni Krater, the Derveni Papyrus and a large funerary monument of the 1st century AD with a relief signed by the sculptor Evander of Veroea.
8. Emil Wolff
From 1815 Wolff studied at the Kunstakademie Berlin, and from 1818 with his uncle Johann Gottfried Schadow. He won an academic prize in 1821 which enabled him to travel in 1822 to Rome, where remained for the rest of his life. There he acquired several ancient artworks on behalf the Prussian Royal Collection (preußisch königliche Sammlung), many of which are today in the museums of Berlin.
Marble statue of Dionysos from the
Choragic Monument of Thrasyllos,
Athens. 3rd - 2nd century BC.
British Museum, London.
Inv. No. 1816,0610.111 (Sculpture 432).
|Photos on this page were taken during
visits to the following museums:
Berlin, Altes Museum
Berlin, Bode Museum
Berlin, Neues Museum
Berlin, Pergamon Museum
Berlin, Schinkel Museum, Friedrichswerdersche Kirche
Dresden, Skulpturensammlung, Albertinum
Athens, Acropolis Museum
Athens, Agora Museum
Athens, National Archaeological Museum
Delphi Archaeological Museum
Dion Archaeological Museum, Macedonia
Eleusis Archaeological Museum, Attica
Kavala Archaeological Museum, Macedonia
Pella Archaeological Museum
Philippi Archaeological Site, Macedonia
Thasos Archaeological Museum
Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum
Herculaneum, archaeological site
Naples, National Archaeological Museum
Paestum, National Archaeological Museum
Rome, Barracco Museum
Rome, Capitoline Museums, Palazzo dei Conservatori
Italy - Sicily
Agrigento Regional Archaeological Museum
Catania, Museo Civico, Castello Ursino
Syracuse, Paolo Orsi Regional Archaeological Museum
Istanbul Archaeological Museums
Izmir Archaeological Museum
London, British Museum
Oxford, Ashmolean Museum
Many thanks to the staff of these museums.
Modern plaster figure of Bacchus (with large lemons) as decoration
in the garden of a restaurant outside the Pompeii archaeological site.
|Photos and articles © David John|
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