Dionysus

Dionysus, 2nd century ADDionysus, 2nd century AD

The ancient Greeks loved their wine. Dionysus (known to the Romans as Bacchus) was not only worshipped as their wine god, but also associated with death and earthly matters such as drunkenness and ecstasy. This is a statue of Dionysus, obviously half-drunk, raising his drinking bowl in a toast while he holds a bunch of grapes in his other hand. He is supported by a satyr, a merry, mischievous forest-dweller in the god's retinue who symbolizes sensual pleasure and ecstasy. Between them is a panther, which is holding up its paw.

From the thigh of Zeus

Dionysus lost his mother Semele even before he was born. Semele was consumed by flame when she saw her lover Zeus in his full glory, a sight never intended for mortal eyes. Zeus took the foetus from her womb and sewed it into his thigh. Born on the island of Naxos, Dionysus soon vanished into the east, where he learned the secrets of winemaking. He returned to Greece as the god of wine, dance, and ecstasy. King Pentheus of Thebes opposed the god and his licentious followers and paid for it with his life. Dionysus is a two-sided figure; his wine can provide comfort and inspiration, but can also bring on a mad frenzy. As the ancient Greeks said, ‘Nothing in excess.'

  • Material: marble
  • Height: 102 centimetres
  • Date: 2nd century AD
  • From: Italy
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