Dionysos, Roman Mosaic

Dionysos, Roman Mosaic

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Domestic and Divine: Roman Mosaics in the House of Dionysos (Harvard East Asian Monographs 165) Hardcover – April 6, 1995

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Archaeological excavations of Delos by the French School at Athens began in 1872, [4] with initial descriptions of the mosaics published in a report by French archaeologist Jacques Albert Lebègue in 1876. [5] Precisely 354 mosaics from Delos survive and have been studied by French archaeologist Philippe Bruneau. [2] [6] [7] Most date to the late Hellenistic period, contemporaneous with the late Roman Republic (i.e. the last half of the 2nd century BC and early 1st century BC). [2] [6] [8] [9] [10] A handful were dated to the Classical period, [6] with one mosaic attributed to the Imperial Roman era. [6] Bruneau believed that nominally undated pieces, on the basis of their styles, were produced within the same period as majority of examples, roughly between 133 and 88 BC. [6]

In 167 or 166 BC, after the Roman victory in the Third Macedonian War, Rome ceded the island of Delos to the Athenians, who expelled most of the original inhabitants. [3] The Roman destruction of Corinth in 146 BC allowed Delos to at least partially assume the former's role as the premier trading center of Greece. Delos' commercial prosperity, construction activity, and population waned significantly after the island was assaulted by the forces of Mithridates VI of Pontus in 88 and 69 BC, during the Mithridatic Wars with Rome. [11] Despite the invasions by Pontus, the island was only gradually abandoned after Rome secured a more direct trading link with the Orient that marginalized Delos as a pivotal midway point for trade leading to the East. [12]

Composition Edit

The composition of the Delos mosaics and pavements include simple pebble constructions, chip-pavement made of white marble, ceramic fragments, and pieces of tesserae. [2] [6] [13] The latter falls into two categories: the simpler, tessellated opus tessellatum using large pieces of tesserae, on average eight by eight millimeters, [14] and the finer opus vermiculatum using pieces of tesserae smaller than four by four millimeters. [2] [6] [15] Many Delian mosaics use a mixture of these materials, while chip pavement is the most common. The latter is found in 55 homes and usually reserved for the ground floor. [16] The majority of Delian mosaics comprise broken pieces of marble set into cement floors other flooring bases are composed of either rammed earth or gneiss flagstones. [17] Pavements in kitchens and latrines were built with pottery, brick, and tile fragments for the purpose of waterproofing. [18] Thin strips of lead set into the cement are often used to distinguish the contours of geometric-patterned mosaics, but are absent in the more complex tessellated, figured mosaics. [19]

Arrangement and location Edit

While some mosaics have been unearthed from religious sanctuaries and public buildings, most of them were found in residential buildings and private homes. [20] The majority of these houses possess an irregular-shaped floor plan, while the second largest group were built with a peristyle central courtyard. [21] Simple mosaics were usually relegated to normal walkways, whereas rooms designated for receiving guests featured more richly decorated mosaics. [22] [23] However, only 25 houses of Delos feature opus tessellatum mosaics and only eight houses possess the opus vermiculatum-style motifs and figured scenes. [6] [15] The vast majority of decorated floors feature only simple geometric patterns. [6] It is also more common for opus vermiculatum and opus tessellatum mosaics to be found in upstairs rooms than on the ground floors of ancient Delian homes. [24] With the exception of the House of Dionysos and House of the Dolphins, the courtyards of peristyle homes in Delos feature only floral and geometric motifs. [23]

Patterns and motifs Edit

Among the various patterns and motifs found in Delian mosaics is the triple-colored lozenge that creates a three-dimensional illusion of cubes in perspective for the viewer. [1] [2] This pattern appears in fifteen different locations, making it one of the most common. [1] Other motifs include waves and stepped triangles, while major themes include maritime, theatrical, natural, or mythological objects and figures. [24] The single wave pattern, a common motif in Hellenistic art, is the most predominant type of border design for mosaics at Delos and can be found at other sites such as Arsameia (albeit arranged in the opposite direction). [14] [26] The rosette motif, which is found in the mosaics of various Hellenistic sites across the Mediterranean, is often coupled with single-wave borders in Delian mosaics. [25] The typical Hellenistic palmette motif is used in a mosaic of Delos to fill the four corners around a central rosette motif. [27] The illusion of three-dimensional relief in the figured scenes of Delian mosaics was usually achieved by the use of polychrome, with white, black, yellow, red, blue and green hues. [14]

The origins of the composition, techniques, layout, and style of Delian mosaics can be found in 5th-century BC pebble mosaics of Olynthus in the Chalcidice of northern Greece, with mosaics positioned in the center of cement floors and utilizing garland, meander, and wave patterns around a centralized motif or figured scene. [28] This design scheme is similar to that of 4th-century BC mosaics of Pella in Macedonia, although the pebble mosaics there employ a wider range of colors to create the effects of volume. [29] The transition from pebble mosaics to more complex tessellated mosaics perhaps originated in Hellenistic-Greek Sicily during the 3rd century BC, developed at sites such as Morgantina and Syracuse. [29] [30] Much like Olynthus, mosaics of Morgantina contain the garland, wave, and meander patterns, although the latter was finally executed with perspective. [29]

Culture and ethnic origins Edit

Aside from a symbol of the Punic-Phoenician goddess Tanit, all pavement motifs are typically Hellenistic Greek in origin, although some pavement mortars used with tesserae designs betray some Italian influence. [9] The three major ethnic groups of Delos included Greeks (largely of Athenian origin), Syrians/Phoenicians, and Italians/Romans, but it is very likely that many of these Italians were Italiotes, Greek-speaking natives of Magna Graecia in what is now southern Italy. [31] Delian inhabitants of either Greek, Italian, and Syrian origins owned mosaics in their private households, but Vincent J. Bruno asserts that the designs of their mosaic artworks were indebted entirely to Greek artistic traditions. [32]

The surviving corpus of Hellenistic mosaic art Edit

The French archaeologist François Chamoux considered the mosaics of Delos as the "high-water mark" and pinnacle of ancient Greek mosaic art utilizing tesserae to create rich, detailed and colorful scenes. [8] This Hellenistic style of mosaic continued until the end of Antiquity and may have influenced the widespread use of mosaics in the Western world during the Middle Ages. [8] In her study of the households and artworks of Mediterranean trading centers, Birgit Tang analyzed three archaeological sites: Delos in the Aegean, Carthage in what is now modern Tunisia, and Emporion, modern Empúries in Catalonia, Spain, which was once a Greek colony. [33] The reasons for her choosing these sites in particular for investigation and comparison include their status as major maritime trading hubs as well as their relatively well-preserved ruins of urban households. [34]

Ruth Westgate writes that Delos contains roughly half of all surviving tessellated Greek mosaics from the Hellenistic period. [35] In her estimation the sites of Delos and Morgantina and Soluntum in Sicily contain the largest amount of surviving evidence for Hellenistic Greek mosaics. [36] Hariclia Brecoulaki asserts that the Delos mosaics represent the single largest collection of Greek mosaics. [2] She also states that only the Macedonian capital of Pella ranks as an equal in having private homes (as opposed to royal residences) decorated with elaborate wall paintings, signed mosaics, and freestanding marble sculptures. [37] Katherine M. D. Dunbabin writes that while many Hellenistic mosaics have been found in mainland Greece, Asia Minor, and northeast Africa (i.e. Cyrene), it is only at the site of Delos where they occur in "sufficient numbers to allow general conclusions about their use and nature." [6]

Comparisons with Roman Pompeii Edit

In her comparative analysis of mosaic art in the Greco-Roman world, Hetty Joyce chose the mosaics of Delos and Roman Pompeii as chief representative samples for determining distinctions in the form, function, and production techniques of mosaics in the Greek East and Latin West. [38] Her reasoning for the selection of these two sites are their well-preserved pavements, the secure dating of the samples to the late 2nd and early 1st centuries BC, and, thanks to the extensive documentation of Delian mosaics by Bruneau, a sufficient amount of academic literature dedicated to each site to form comparisons. [39] Ruth Westgate, in her survey and comparative study of Hellenistic Greek mosaics with mosaics of Pompeii, concludes that the Roman mosaics, dated to the Pompeian First Style of wall painting in the late 2nd and early 1st centuries BC, were derived from the Greek tradition. [40] However, she stresses that Pompeian mosaics departed from their Greek counterparts by almost exclusively featuring figured scenes instead of abstract designs, in plain pavement most likely set by local craftsmen and produced separately from the figured panels, the latter of which were perhaps made by Greek artisans for their Roman patrons. [41]

Due to the similarities between the Hellenistic wall paintings at Delos and the First Style of Pompeii, Joyce contends that the differences in Delian and Pompeian mosaics are the deliberate product of artistic preference rather than the result of ignorance of each other's traditions. [42] These differences include the widespread use of opus signinum at Pompeii, with only four known examples at Delos the use of opus sectile at Pompeii and its complete absence at Delos the prevalent use of polychrome patterns and intricate, three-dimensional figured designs in Delian mosaics versus two-dimensional designs at Pompeii, which at best utilize two colors. [43] Complex three-dimensional figured mosaics using polychrome designs to achieve the illusion of light and shadow were not produced at Pompeii until the Pompeian Second Style of wall painting (80–20 BC) and are considered an adoption from Hellenistic art trends. [44] While lead strips were used in Hellenistic mosaics of Delos, Athens, and Pella (Greece), Pergamon (Turkey), Callatis (Romania), Alexandria (Egypt), and Chersonesus (the Crimean peninsula), they are absent in Western Mediterranean mosaics of Malta, Sicily, and the Italian peninsula. [19] Westgate affirms that Hellenistic mosaics can be divided into two broad categories: eastern and western, based on their different styles and production techniques. [41]

Connections to other mediums of ancient Greek art Edit

Red-figure pottery was no longer produced by the time the Delos mosaics were made. The black background technique of red-figure pottery was still appreciated in 4th-century-BC Macedonian pebble mosaics from Pella and in mosaics at Delos, such as the white-figured Triton mosaic with tesserae. [45] The black background technique was later used in glass art such as cameo glass, particularly Roman glass (e.g. Portland Vase, Gemma Augustea, Great Cameo of France, etc.). [45]

The undulating garland motif against a black background from the masonry-style mural paintings at Delos were earlier featured in Greek works ranging from vases to 4th-century-BC Macedonian mosaics of Pella, particularly the Stag Hunt Mosaic. [46] However, the painters of Delos arguably invented their own decorative genre using a combination of these older elements with new naturalistic coloring. [46] Aside from the black background, mosaics like the Stag Hunt Mosaic were also inspired by the illusionist, three-dimensional qualities of Greek paintings. [47] At Delos, paintings and mosaics inherited the same Classical Greek standards of craftsmanship, lighting, shading, and coloring. [32] Sculptors, painters, and mosaic artists may have all been part of the same system of patronage at Delos, which in some instances would have necessitated the importation of foreign artists. [48]

Mosaics from the Northern Quarter Edit

The northern quarter of Delos contains the Jewelry Quarter, where older structures such as workshops and other archaeological remains dating to the 3rd century BC and early 2nd century BC have been discovered. [49] By the second half of the 2nd century BC these were replaced by private homes built in the most characteristic fashion for Delos: a narrow, rectangular floor plan with a central courtyard, a vestibule service room in the front, and a larger, main room in the rear. The quarter of the House of the Masks is the only area of Delos without this archetypal house plan. [50] Some houses of the Northern Quarter feature mosaic decorations with mythological scenes, including Lycurgus of Thrace and Ambrosia in an upper-story mosaic, as well as Athena and Hermes together with a seated woman in a main-room mosaic. [24]

Detail of the centerpiece of a mosaic from the Jewelry Quarter of Delos depicting Hermes and Athena, 2nd century BC

Detail of a mosaic from the Jewelry Quarter of Delos depicting a bull's head with foliage

Detail of a mosaic from the Jewelry Quarter of Delos depicting an ancient Greek theatre mask

Detail of a mosaic from the Jewelry Quarter of Delos depicting an ancient Greek theatre mask

Mosaics from the Theatre Quarter Edit

Most houses in the crowded Theatre Quarter of Delos have irregular-shaped floor plans (such as trapezoidal designs), as opposed to square or rectangular designs. [51] The narrow and irregular street grid is unlike that of other quarters, where streets usually meet at approximately right angles. [52] Similar to the majority of excavated homes of Delos, those in the Theatre Quarter feature an open courtyard without porticoes, instead of the peristyle layout with columns. [53] Some of the houses in the Theatre Quarter lack interior decoration altogether, with neither wall murals nor mosaics, which is unusual for most Delian homes. [9]

Wedding of Dionysus and Ariadne

12 Celebratory wedding ceremony held after Dionysus had found Ariadne in Naxos Island, were depicted frequently in Dionysus themed compositions. We can often see theme of Dionysus and Ariadne marriage not only in mosaics but also in ivory reliefs, vase paintings and coloured fabrics of the period. In all of such depictions, Ariadne and Dionysus sit on a throne next to each other12.

Dionysus and Ariadne, Zeugma

Abadie-Reynal 2002: 748-749, fig. 4

  • 13 Abadie-Reynal 2002: 748-749, fig. 4.
  • 14 Campbell and Ergeç 1998: 115.
  • 15 Turcan 1966: 510-535 Kondoleon 1995: 196.

13 One of the earliest examples of such composition was found in the House of Dionysus and Ariadne Mosaic in Zeugma (Fig. 5). The gallery to the west of the peristyle courtyard of the house was covered later and used as a hall or a reception room. The basement of this hall was adorned with a splendid mosaic with the theme of Dionysus and Ariadne marriage13. The whole building was dated back to the end of 2 nd century and beginning of 3 rd century A.D.14. Such mosaic is the most figurative one among all Ariadne themed mosaics. The larger part of the mosaic was stolen in 1988 and the remaining parts are on display at Zeugma Mosaic Museum. To the leftmost of the panel is Satyr drinking wine with a bowl. In these cases the Satyr, sometimes holding a crater, supports a drunken Dionysus, who leans back on his companion. Next to Satyr, the Maenad was depicted with a Hymene style torch in her hands. Flame of such torch symbolizes the passion uniting couple together. The other Maenad to the right of the couple walks towards the right and carries with her raised arms an instrument or thyrsus. Figures of Maenads while carrying the thyrsus are also confronted in Ariadne themed sarcophagi15. Therefore, it is possible for the Maenad there to carry a thyrsus. In the centre of the panel are Ariadne sitting on a throne, Dionysus with a halo around his head, Eros next to the throne, two Maenads walking towards the left and to the rightmost is a Maenad holding a flute with her both hands, and behind her is a shock-head and bearded Satyr whose upper body is naked.

Dionysus and Ariadne, Shahba

14 A similar example was found in Philippolis-Shahba Syria (Fig. 6). Dated back to the second quarter of the 4 th century A.D., this mosaic is now on display in Philippolis-Shahba Museum16. Decorating one of the side-rooms of ancient villa, the mosaic includes scenes of a series of characters related to Dionysus theme and whose names were also written. In the centre of the panel is the depiction of Ariadne, sitting with Dionysus on a rock, as seen in the traditional love talk scheme: chests and legs of both of them are naked and their left arms are covered with cloth. The young woman wears jewels such as bracelets, earrings, necklaces and diadem, she holds a cup in her left hand and the God Dionysus is seen as resting her shoulder and holding thyrsus. Behind the couple is the depiction of Eros holding a Hymene style torch. In the forefront, Heracles sits by leaning on his left arm in a drunk and overbalanced way. A Putto, next to him, tries to hold him. Upper body of Heracles is naked and lower parts are covered. The last character depicted in this scene is a flap-eared old one with Satyr-type to the leftmost of the panel. If it had not been written “Maron” on the mosaic, we may have thought that it was a Silene. Janine Balty states that this mosaic bears the characteristics of Constantine Renaissance style17. In the style called Constantine Renaissance which dominates in the second half of 4 th century A.D., classical models were again in use. The most characteristic features of the style are calm appearances of figures, shapely facial lines and the importance given to details18.

15 It can be said that the scene bears resemblances with Zeugma example in terms of iconography. Such resemblance is noticeable especially in positions and styles of Ariadne and Dionysus. The slight aureole behind Dionysus, the fabric revealing his chest but covering his left shoulder, the light and shadow contrast in the fabrics, Dionysus hugging Ariadne with his right arm, face-to-face position of the couple, eyebrow, eye and lineaments of depicted characters can be specified as similarities. Besides such similarities, the objects in the hands of couples change. In the mosaic in Shahba Syria, the cup is in Ariadne’s hand, but in the mosaic in Zeugma it is in Dionysus hand. Another difference is remarkable in other characters depicted in the scene. In Zeugma example, the characters are in a mobility and excitement but in Shahba example, the figures are calm.

Dionysus and Ariadne, Zeugma

16 We understand that Dionysus and Ariadne was a popular theme in Zeugma. We see this theme in the mosaic found on the ground of Living Room of House of Euphrates, which depicts Dionysus and Ariadne sitting next to each other (Fig. 7). Dated back to the period between the 2 nd and 3 rd centuries A.D., this mosaic is on display in Zeugma Museum19. In this triangular-facade and double column building, Dionysus and Ariadne were depicted as sitting. Both figures were depicted in the same way as if drawn from a single mould. Depiction of Ariadne sitting next to Dionysus is in the centre of the panel: left feet of both of them were depicted ahead and right feet behind. Most probably, Dionysus hugs Ariadne with his right arm and upper part of Ariadne has been destroyed. But, she must have turned her face towards the God. Chest of Dionysus is naked but his arms are clothed. He rests his thyrsus on his left shoulder. While figurative panels were made into the centre in other rooms, here the panel is at the south-western corner. It seems as if a carpet was rolled out onto room floor. The mosaic was adorned with a simplified landscape or a non-figurative background beautified with flowers. In mosaics usage of environmental decoration and perspective-free isolated motifs, stylized people, regular repetition of motifs, reverse depicted motifs and covering the whole surface only for decoration purposes are influences belonging to Sassanid art20. Maybe, Zeugma mosaics display the initiation of eastern influence in the Mediterranean world we see mosaics in Antiocheia made totally for decoration purposes towards the end of 5 th century A.D.: flowers, leaves of trees, pigeons are motifs which were frequently used in mosaics. Perhaps, in the Roman world, such kind of new style mosaics were made firstly in Antiocheia and Zeugma.

Dionysus and Ariadne, Thuburbo Majus

Alexander, Khader and Soren 1994: 102-104, pl. LVI (419)

17 One of the mosaics with the theme of Dionysus and Ariadne sitting on a throne was found in Thuburbo Majus, Tunisia (Fig. 8). Dated back to the first half of the 4 th century A.D., the mosaic is now on display in Bardo Museum21. In the left part of the panel is Maenad in the centre are Ariadne and Dionysus in a sitting position Ariadne to the right and Dionysus to the left. A Satyr accompanies them in the right part of the panel. The faces of the couple turn to each other and Dionysus is almost naked and in the forefront. Dionysus hugs Ariadne with his right hand and Ariadne holds a thrysus with her right hand. There is a crown on her head, bejewelled with vine leaves. Lower half of Dionysus’ body is covered except for the right leg he wears green boots. Ariadne is depicted as sitting behind Dionysus their hairs touch each other. Contrary to Dionysus, Ariadne wears a long tunic only her arms and feet are seen. The thrysus in her hand is different from the Dionysus’ thrysus it has no vine leaves.

  • 22 LIMC III,2 1986: 417, nr. 123, 124.
  • 23 Levi 1947: 220, pl. XLIC, c Cimok 2000: 191.
  • 24 Jobst 1975: 73, fig. 115116 Dunbabin 1999: 251, fig. 266 Scheibelreiter 2008: 141-146.
  • 25 Levi 1947: 220.

18 Wedding scenes of Dionysus and Ariadne were generally depicted while they are sitting on a throne or floor. However, there are also examples in which the couple was depicted as a bust. Besides mosaics, such depictions of the couple are generally confronted in rugs and frescoes. One of them can be seen on rugs which are thought to have been made during 5 th -6 th centuries A.D. in Egypt22. In these figures, Dionysus turns his face to the right, his upper body is either completely naked or covered with a cloak his hair is curly and there is an aureole on his head. Ariadne, on the other hand, turns her head towards the left her hair was stylized with diadem and she wears a necklace and clothe. We can see bust depictions of the couple in mosaics of Antiocheia23 (Fig. 9) and Ephesus24 (Fig. 10). As noted by Doro Levi their bust are often used for decorative purposes, in small panels or medallions, together with bust of Satyrs and Bacchantes, as early as Pompeian painting25.

Dionysus and Ariadne, Antiocheia

Dionysus and Ariadne, Ephesus

4 – Queen Melanipe

  • Location : Sanliurfa Archeology and Mosaic Museum, Camlik Caddesi, Sanliurfa, Turkey
  • Period : 5th to 6th century AD

Queen Melanipe mosaic portrait

Melanipe was the queen of the mythical Amazon warriors. Here she is wearing a Phrygian cap very similar to the one worn by the Gipsy girl from Zeugma. She is thrusting her lance at a lion in a mosaic floor depicting a hunting scene.

The 5 to 6th century mosaic belonged in the luxurious “Villa of the Amazons”, which may have belonged to an important administrator of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire from Edessa (today’s Urfa).

The Late Antique Roman Villa of Noheda

In 1897, Spanish geographer Francisco Coello reported the existence of Roman ruins, with tesserae, in the district of Noheda. But the 291 square meter figural mosaics in the triclinium of the Late Period Roman Villa were not formally documented until 1984 when a local peasant plowing a field belonging to José Luis Lledó Sandoval stumbled over the stones. Even then, archaeological excavations did not begin until the end of 2005. The villa, which lies about 17 km north of Cuenca near the ruins of the ancient cities of Segóbriga , Ercávica and Valeria, was finally opened to the public in 2019. The interpretation center has been established in Villar de Domingo Garcia.

The obviously wealthy owner may have profited from the mining of lapis specularis, a variety of translucent gypsum much appreciated at the time for the manufacture of window glass. Pliny the Elder mentions this material was mined in "100,000 places around Segóbriga" and Pliny assures us that "the most translucent of this stone is obtained near the city of Segóbriga and extracted from deep wells".

The mosaic of the triclinium consists of six panels with mythological and allegorical scenes: the myth of Oenomaus, Pelops and Hypodamia, two pantomimes, the judgment of Paris and the abduction of Helena, the Dionysian courtship and a marine Thiasos (procession of Dionysus). It is presently considered the largest surviving mosaic from the Roman Empire. On average 1243 tesserae were used in each 25X25 square centimeters of the work.

Later excavations revealed the site included a complex of private thermal baths as well. Researchers have identified more than 30 types of marble used in its construction.

Images: I have tried to select the best images I could find although the site needs to be photographed by someone like Carole Raddato or Marie-Lan Nguyen. (I'm afraid my overseas travel days are pretty much at an end). My university has also not registered their Shibboleth license with Cambridge Core so I couldn't access the main article that originally appeared in the Journal of Roman Archaeology in 2013. As indicated, here in the US, images of ancient 2-dimensional artwork are considered "slavish copies" so therefore in the public domain.


The name

The name Dionysus is of uncertain significance it may well be non-Greek in origin, but it has been associated since antiquity with Zeus (genitive Dios) and with Nysa, which is either the nymph who nursed him, or the mountain where he was attended by several nymphs who fed him and made him immortal as directed by Hermes or both.

The above contradictions suggest to some that we are dealing not with the historical memory of a cult that is foreign, but with a god in whom foreignness is inherent. And indeed, Dionysus's name is found on Mycenean Linear B tablets as "DI-WO-NI-SO-JO",5 and Kerenyi traces him to Minoan Crete, where his Minoan name is unknown but his characteristic presence is recognizable. Clearly, Dionysus had been with the Greeks and their predecessors a long time, and yet always retained the feel of something alien.

The bull, the serpent, the ivy and wine are the signs of the characteristic Dionysian atmosphere, infused with the unquenchable life of the god. Their numinous presence signifies that the god is near. (Kerenyi 1976). Dionysus is strongly associated with the satyrs, centaurs and sileni. He is often shown riding a leopard, wearing a leopard skin, or being pulled by a chariot drawn by panthers. and has been called the god of cats and savagery. He always carries a thyrsus. Besides the grapevine and its wild barren alter-ego, the toxic ivy plant, both sacred to him, the fig was also his. The pine cone that tipped his thyrsus linked him to Cybele, and the pomegranate linked him to Demeter.

The Dionysia and Lenaia festivals in Athens were also dedicated to Dionysus.

Myths about Dionysus

The short mythical story of Dionysus is one of the famous legends that feature in the mythology of ancient civilizations. Discover the history of the ancient Roman and Greek gods and goddesses. Interesting information about the gods and goddesses featuring Dionysus in a short story format. This short story of Dionysus is easy reading for kids and children who are learning about the history, myths and legends of the ancient Roman and Greek gods. Additional facts and information about the mythology and legends of individual gods and goddesses of these ancient civilizations can be accessed via the following links:

Myths about Dionysus

Myths about Dionysus
by E.M. Berens

Myths about Dionysus - The Pirates
An incident which occurred to Dionysus on one of his travels has been a favourite subject with the classic poets. One day, as some Tyrrhenian pirates approached the shores of Greece, they beheld Dionysus, in the form of a beautiful youth, attired in radiant garments.
Thinking to secure a rich prize, they seized him, bound him, and conveyed him on board their vessel, resolved to carry him with them to Asia and there sell him as a slave. But the fetters dropped from his limbs, and the pilot, who was the first to perceive the miracle, called upon his companions to restore the youth carefully to the spot whence they had taken him, assuring them that he was a god, and that adverse winds and storms would, in all probability, result from their impious conduct. But, refusing to part with their prisoner, they set sail for the open sea.
Suddenly, to the alarm of all on board, the ship stood still, masts and sails were covered with clustering vines and wreaths of ivy-leaves, streams of fragrant wine inundated the vessel, and heavenly strains of music were heard around. The terrified crew, too late repentant, crowded round the pilot for protection, and entreated him to steer for the shore. But the hour of retribution had arrived.
Dionysus assumed the form of a lion, whilst beside him appeared a bear, which, with a terrific roar, rushed upon the captain and tore him in pieces the sailors, in an agony of terror, leaped overboard, and were changed into dolphins. The discreet and pious steersman was alone permitted to escape the fate of his companions, and to him Dionysus, who had resumed his true form, addressed words of kind and affectionate encouragement, and announced his name and dignity.
They now set sail, and Dionysus desired the pilot to land him at the island of Naxos, where he found the lovely Ariadne, daughter of Minos, king of Crete. She had been abandoned by Theseus on this lonely spot, and, when Dionysus now beheld her, was lying fast asleep on a rock, worn out with sorrow and weeping. Wrapt in admiration, the god stood gazing at the beautiful vision before him, and when she at length unclosed her eyes, he revealed himself to her, and, in gentle tones, sought to banish her grief. Grateful for his kind sympathy, coming as it did at a moment when she had deemed herself forsaken and friendless, she gradually regained her former serenity, and, yielding to his entreaties, consented to become his wife.

The Myths of Dionysus - Pentheus

Pentheus, king of Thebes, seeing his subjects so completely infatuated by the riotous worship of this new divinity, and fearing the demoralizing effects of the unseemly nocturnal orgies held in honour of the wine-god, strictly prohibited his people from taking any part in the wild Bacchanalian revels. Anxious to save him from the consequences of his impiety, Dionysus appeared to him under the form of a youth in the king's train, and earnestly warned him to desist from his denunciations. But the well-meant admonition failed in its purpose, for Pentheus only became more incensed at this interference, and, commanding Dionysus to be cast into prison, caused the most cruel preparations to be made for his immediate execution. But the god soon freed himself from his ignoble confinement, for scarcely had his jailers departed, ere the prison-doors opened of themselves, and, bursting asunder his iron chains, he escaped to rejoin his devoted followers.

Meanwhile, the mother of the king and her sisters, inspired with Bacchanalian fury, had repaired to Mount Cithaeron, in order to join the worshippers of the wine-god in those dreadful orgies which were solemnized exclusively by women, and at which no man was allowed to be present. Enraged at finding his commands thus openly disregarded by the members of his own family, Pentheus resolved to witness for himself the excesses of which he had heard such terrible reports, and for this purpose, concealed himself behind a tree on Mount Cithaeron but his hiding-place being discovered, he was dragged out by the half-maddened crew of Bacchantes and, horrible to relate, he was torn in pieces by his own mother Agave and her two sisters.

The Myths of Dionysus - Midas

Among the most noted worshippers of Dionysus was King Midas, the wealthy king of Phrygia, the same who, as already related, gave judgment against Apollo. Upon one occasion Silenus, the preceptor and friend of Dionysus, being in an intoxicated condition, strayed into the rose-gardens of this monarch, where he was found by some of the king's attendants, who bound him with roses and conducted him to the presence of their royal master. Midas treated the aged satyr with the greatest consideration, and, after entertaining him hospitably for ten days, led him back to Dionysus, who was so grateful for the kind attention shown to his old friend, that he offered to grant Midas any favour he chose to demand whereupon the avaricious monarch, not content with his boundless wealth, and still thirsting for more, desired that everything he touched might turn to gold.
The request was complied with in so literal a sense, that the now wretched Midas bitterly repented his folly and cupidity, for, when the pangs of hunger assailed him, and he essayed to appease his cravings, the food became gold ere he could swallow it as he raised the cup of wine to his parched lips, the sparkling draught was changed into the metal he had so coveted, and when at length, wearied and faint, he stretched his aching frame on his hitherto luxurious couch, this also was transformed into the substance which had now become the curse of his existence. The despairing king at last implored the god to take back the fatal gift, and Dionysus, pitying his unhappy plight, desired him to bathe in the river Pactolus, a small stream in Lydia, in order to lose the power which had become the bane of his life. Midas joyfully obeying the injunction, was at once freed from the consequences of his avaricious demand, and from this time forth the sands of the river Pactolus have ever contained grains of gold.

The Myth of Dionysus
The story of Dionysus is featured in the book entitled "A Hand-Book of Greek and Roman Mythology. The Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome" by E.M. Berens, published in 1894 by Maynard, Merrill, & Co., New York.

The Myth of Dionysus - the Magical World of Myth & Legend
The story of Dionysus is one of the stories about the history of ancient gods and goddesses featured in ancient mythology and legends. Such stories serve as a doorway to enter the world of the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The names of so many of the heroes and characters are known today through movies and games but the actual story about such characters are unknown. Reading a myth story about Dionysus is the easy way to learn about the history and stories of the classics.

The Zeugma Mosaic Museum is located in Gaziantep (Turkey) and has the largest collection of Roman mosaics in the world, which together cover an area of ​​2448 m². Interestingly, further parts of the complex are to be put into operation, on which further mosaics will be visible. In total, over 3,000 m² of antique mosaics are to be made available.

The most popular mosaic is the so-called “Gypsy”, which was unveiled (from under the column) between 1998 and 1999. Interestingly, this mosaic was largely demolished and taken out of Turkey as early as the 1960s. In 2018, however, some of the mosaic fragments were lost.

Scientists gave the mosaic the name” Gypsy” because of the characteristic clothing and round earrings. It is believed, however, that the mosaic shows either one of Menadas (companion of Dionysus) or Gaia – the goddess of the earth. There are also voices suggesting that he is really a man, and maybe even Alexander the Great himself.

In addition to mosaics, in the museum tourists can see 140 m² of frescoes, 4 Roman fountains, 20 columns, 4 sculptures, a statue of Mars, grave steles and sarcophagi.

"Colors of the Romans: Mosaics from the Capitoline Collections" opens at the Centrale Montemartini in Rome

The “Colors of the Romans” exhibition at Centrale Montemartini, one of Rome’s great museums, hopes to attract tourists to the Italian capital through this lesser-known but varied selection of mosaics. The exhibition is divided into four sections.

The first showcases the history and mosaic techniques. The works chosen represent all types of mosaic floors and wall decorations, allowing to illustrate through the techniques, materials, colors, decorative motifs, the stylistic evolution and the transformation of mosaic art over time.

The second explores living and dwelling in Rome between the end of the Republican age and the late ancient age: luxury residences and domestic contexts. The route follows a chronological criterion, passing from the oldest examples - such as the large polychrome mosaic with coffered, discovered at the Villa Casali al Celio - to the more recent ones, up to the fourth century CE, the period to which the mosaic belongs with a seasonal bust, perhaps part of the floor ornamentation of a building that was owned by the Emperor Gallienus.

The third examines the mosaic’s sacred function, particularly those of the Hilarian basilica, seat of the college of priests assigned to the cult of Cybele and Attis. Manius Poblicius Hilarushe was the rich pearl merchant who incurred the financial burdens for the construction of the basilica. The first archaeological remains of the Hilarian Basilica came to light between 1889 and 1890 during the excavations for the construction of the Celio military hospital.

The fourth demonstrates how mosaics were used in funerary buildings in the necropolis of the suburb of Rome to evoke the fundamental collective values ​​of Roman society. With its bright colors, the octagonal mosaic with peacocks is an emblematic example of a decorative motif full of eschatological and salvific meanings: the peacock, a bird sacred to Dionysus, losing its tail every year and putting it back in spring with the blossoming of flowers, alludes to regeneration beyond death.

The rich and precious archive documentation , which accompanies the works on display, illustrates the findings with historical photos, watercolors and drawings, testimonies that help to tell the climate and circumstances that determined these discoveries: the urban transformations and the building fervor that characterized the history of Rome between the last decades of the 19th century and the first decades of the last century, when, in parallel with the progressive expansion of the city to meet its new function as the capital of Italy, one of the most "fortunate" pages of Roman archeology.

Watch the video: Saving an Ancient Mosaic