Robert Brown.

The great Dionysiak myth online

. (page 31 of 38)
Online LibraryRobert BrownThe great Dionysiak myth → online text (page 31 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the divine Cup-bearer,^ who hands man the wine of
life-vigoiu- and enjoyment. These statues can never be
better described than in the words of Winkelmann :
* In the most beautifiil statues, he always appears with
delicate, round limbs, and the full expanded hips of the
female sex,^ for according to the fable, he was brought
up as a maiden.* The type of Bacchus is a lovely boy,
who is treading the boundaries of the spring-time of hfe
and adolescence, in whom emotions of voluptuousness, like
the tender shoots of a plant, are budding, and who, as if
between sleeping and waking, half in a dream of exquisite
delight, is beginning to collect and verify the pictures of
his fancy.' Of one of these statues Muller remarks * the
very femininely formed torso is remarkably beautiful.'*
It was the genius of Praxiteles, B.c. 360, amongst whose
creations were the exquisite Aphrodite of Knidos and
the renowned Eros of Thespiai, an infinite advance on the
ancient statue of the god there which was only a rough
stone,^ which chiefly deUghted in delineating the androgy-
nous softness of the two-natured lakchos. The statues of
the youthful Dionysos are comparatively numerous;
amongst them is the marble group of Dionysos, Ampelos
or the Vine personified, and tiger, now in the British
Museum. Of this Payne Biiight remarks, * On one side
is the Bacchus Diphues, or Creator, of both sexes, known
by the efieminate mould of his limbs and countenance, and
on the other, a tiger, leaping up, and devouring the
grapes which spring from the body of the personified
vine, the hands of which are employed in receiving
another cluster from the Bacchus. This composition
represents the vine between the creating and destroying

» 11. It. 2. * Ancient Art. 491.

• Vide inf. VHI. i. Thdymorphos. * Paus. ix. 27.

' Apollod. iii. 4.

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


attribtites of the god ; the one giving it fruit, and the other
devouring it when given. The tiger has a garland of ivy-
round his neck, to shew that the destroyer was co-essential
with the creator, of whom ivy, as well as all other ever-
greens, was an emblem representing his perpetual youth
and viridity/ ^ Dionysos is also represented as enthroned
and surrounded by his train, reclining, lying down, stag-
gering as intoxicated, carried by Hermes to the Nymphs,
when a child, and overcoming Pentheus, Lykourgos, the
Tjrrrhenian pirates, and the Indians ; also handing grapes
to the panther, pouring out wine from a karchesion or
drinking cup, etc. ; but these delineations require no
special notice, as they do not additionally illustrate the
concept of the god. The Itinerary of Pausanias shows
that in his time a multitude of Bakchik statues existed all
over continental Hellas : amongst them was a torch -bear-
ing lakchos at Athenai, the work of Praxiteles* ; a statue
in the Odeion or concert-hall there ; * a statue of Dionysos
Eleuthereus the Liberator, yearly carried into a temple
near the Akademeia,* brought from Eleutherai,^ on the
Boiotik border, and a place anciently included in Boiotia ;
a wooden statue at Korinthos, covered with gold-leaf,
except the face, which was painted with vermilion ; near
it a statue of Artemis Ephesia similarly adorned ^ ; a statue
of ivory and gold in the god's temple at Sikyon, and near
it statues of the Bakchai of white stone ; ^ a statue at
Argos said to have been brought from Euboia ; ® a bearded
statue at Epidauros ; ^ a wooden seated statue of Dionysos
Soter, at Lerne ; ^^ a statue of Hermes, carrying the infant
Dionysos at Sparta ; ^^ a bronze statue at Thebai, where

» Wcrihip of Priapus, 75. ^ Ibid. ii. 7.

» Pau8. i. 2. « Ibid. 23.

» Ibid. 14. » Ibid. 30.

* Ibid. 29. '0 Ibid. 38.

* Ibid. 38. " Ibid. iii. 11.

* Ibid. ii. 2.


Digitized by VjOOQ IC


was a tradition that when Semele was slain a piece of
wood fell from heaven which was adorned with bronze
and called Kadmeian Dionysos ; ^ the three Graces were
often placed in the head of statues of the god ; * a stone
statue at Thelpouse in Arkadia, seven feet high, near
similar statues of Demeter and Persephone ; • a statue
near Megalopolis, with buskins, holding a cup and a
thyrsos ; * a statue at Phigaleia, the lower parts of which
were concealed in laurel and ivy leaves, and the upper
rubbed with vermilion and thus made to shine/ ^ Legend
told that, on the destruction of Troia the hero Eurypylos
received as his share of the spoils a statue of Dionysos
Aisymnetes, made by Hephaistos.^ Macrobius teUs us
that ' Dionysos, who is Liber, is represented as an infent,
a youth, of middle age, and as an aged man/^ * By these
were signified the four seasons of the year, the vine being
dedicated to Sol, in whom they all exist.' ^ These are the
four feces of lakchos the Time-king, the Baal of Manasseh,
and the Hermes Tetrakephalos of Athenai. With'them
we may compare the Latin Janus Quadrifrons.

The remaining subjects of Dionysiak Statuary are the
various associates of the god and members of his train,
*the good-for-nothing and wanton Satyroi,'* Seilenoi,
Mainades, Nymphs, and Pan and his Paniskoi. 'The
natural life whose purest blossom we observe in Dionysos
now appears in lower cycles.' ^^ The Satyroi present
powerftil limbs, but not ennobled by gymnastics, snub-

1 Paus. iz. 12. idolB, continaed to the last to be be-

* Ibid. 35. ** smeared with red-ochre, according to

* Ibid. viiL 25. the ancient practice* (Antique Oems,

* Ibid. 31. 263).

* Ibid. 39. Mr. King, after noticing • Vide inf, VIII. i. Aisymnetes,
that members of the Bqikchik train ' Sat, i. 18.

were often depicted on Hhe ver- ^ Sahnon, Poly^aphice, 1685, iv.

milion jasper,' observes 'The last 22.

stone by its colour manifested a kin- ^ Hesiod. apud. Strabo, x. 3.

dred nature to tiie rosy god, whose *® MiQler, Anct, Art, 496.

rustic figures, like the primitive

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


noses, ignoble countenances, pointed goat-like ears, bald
foreheads, bristly hair, and sometimes a scanty tail.^
This description includes the Seilenoi or older Satyroi.
In the satyrik drama the bearded, hair-covered figures
were called Pappo, or Down-covered Seilenoi. As r^ards
the equable Seilenos himself, MUller observes, * Yet is this
happy daemon, in a deeper mode of thinking which was
unfolded especially by the Orphici, full of a wisdom to
which all the restless bustle of mankind appears folly ;
the plastic art also represents him in nobler and grander
forms as the fosterer and instructor of the young Dionysos.'*
Of the female figures Ariadne is the protagonist; she
is represented as beautiful, ivy-crowned, and frequently
richly draped. Female Satyroi very rarely occur ; and
the Mainades have their serpents, flying garments, torn
fawns and thyrsos staves as usual. The whole Dionysiak
Cycle in art as elsewhere is of the earth earthy ; from
Dionysos downwards all the concepts are the links in a
descending scale from the most refined voluptuousness to
the grossest lust. But little innocent hilarity is found
amid the maddened revel ; but Kttle rural freshness in
the turbulent excitement. According to Miiller, * Nature
overpowering the mind, and hurrying it out of the repose
of a clear self-consciousness, hes at the basis of all Diony-
sian creations.' • This is in a measure true ; but yet is a
very imperfect expression of the root-cause of these con-
cepts. It is not so much Nature as human nature, the
lower nature in man, which in the later developments of
the Dionysiak Myth overpowers the higher and crushes
down the aspirations towards infinite good, the grossest,
i.e.^ most patent, instance of this overpowering occurring
in the case of abuse of wine.

Here may be noticed the Arkadian divinity Pan, who,

* Westropp, Handbook ofArchaeol, * Ancient Art. 499.

184. » Ibid. 488.

B B 2

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


although originally as unconnected with -Dionysos as
Hermes with the hemiai^ has been enrolled in the
Bakchik train through accidental circumstances. The
Panisks * represent the secret pleasure and the dark horror
of sylvan solitude. Here also there occurs, and that too
in their native Arcadia, a human form which is only
characterized as Pan by the shepherd's pipe, the pastoral
crook, the disordered hair and also, perhaps^ sprouting
horns. This is the usual shape on coins and vase-paint-
ings of the best period.' ^ So that even in the case of
Pan, a mere local genius of flocks and herds, not a divinity
of Olympos, the anthropomorphic principle was so strong
in the best period of Hellenik art that little budding
horns, and perhaps not even these, formed the only un-
natural feature in the figure of the rustic daemon. I have
already * endeavoured to point out that there is no real
connection between Pan and Dionysos ; but their points of
apparent affinity and assimilation are chiefly the following :
Each is a nature-god and a horned-god. It is the late
Pan of the age of Praxiteles who appears folly homed,
hook-nosed, and goat-legged. Each is a kosmogonic
god ; Dionysos is the animated universe, and through a
false etymology Pan is made to represent the All, and
consequently is thus addressed : —

Strong pastoral Pan, with suppliant voice I call.
Heaven, sea, and earth, the mighty queen of all.
Immortal fire ; for all the world is thine.
And all are parts of thee, power divine.

— {Orphik Hymrif XI. Taylor's Translation.)

Pan, it will be observed, has nothing kosmogonic about
him in origin ; but the Orphiks fasten on the innocent
country divinity all the dread, mystic and occult attributes
and adjuncts of Dionysos, calling him the ' horned Zeus *

» Ancient Art, 501. • Sup. IV. iii. 2.

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


and * universal queen/ like Semele, • Pan,' says Pausanias, * in
the same manner as the most powerful gods, consummates
the prayers of men and punishes the wicked ; before this
Pan a fire, which is never extinguished, burns.' ^ This is
the later not the earlier cult of Pan ; like Zagreus, he
has become the equal of the highest gods, and is sym-
bolized in accordance with the Orphik Hymn by * immortal
fire.' The fabled loud voice of Pan, another connecting
link between him and Bromios the Noisy, is the mountain
Echo whom he loved. His mythic parentage, again, as the
son of Hermes, shows his Aryan character. His cult was
not introduced into Attike until after the Persian Wars.^
A noisy, horned, nature-god, whose name was supposed
to signify *all,' could not avoid being connected with
Dionysos, and so the luckless Pan is thrown into the
Dionysiak train, and thoroughly degraded as a goatish,
ithyphallic, grotesque monster. 'It was the misappre-
hension of later times, which, however, was very wide
spread, that first transformed the ancient god of pasture
into a universal daemon, and his unpretending reed-
piping into the harmony of the spheres.' * Mr. Boscawen *
compares the Kaldean Heabani (i. e.^ * Hea makes ') with
Pan. Heabani * is always drawn with the feet and tail of
an ox, and with horns on his head.'^ I should rather
connect the iriend of Izdubar with other tauromorphic
personages of Semitic regions.

The following example, though not strictly an instance
of Statuary, may be here appropriately noticed. The
androgynous Demiurge, with female breasts, and holding
a scarf or fillet in the right hand and a serpent in the left,
stands by the Dionysiak column. The scarf is wrapped
round the arm and one end held over the head.^ This

» Paus. viii. 87. Genem^ 196.

• Herod, vi. 106. * Montfaucon, Suppletnent v. PI. 1.
' Miiller, And. Art. 601. Fig. 2. Some sages of the past called

* Trans. Soc. Bib. Arch. iv. 28G. it a Kleopatra ♦


Geo. Smith, Chaldean Account of

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


scarf or kredemnon^ in addition to a frequent meaning^
previously noticed/ here signifies the veiling of darkness,
the Demiurge being concealed in the Under-world, the
secret home of life-potency. This kredemnon of black-
ness, the eiact opposite to that of Ino,* is well illustrated
by a beautiful sable figure of Night,* with rays of darkness
round her head, reversed torch, the flaming Sun having
sunk to the Under-world, and holding a very large black
scarf which surrounds the rays and is star-spotted, and
thus equivalent to the kosmic Dionysiak panther-skin.
Another similar figure * holds the scarf over her head with
both hands, and without it are three eight-rayed stars.
Europe, i. e. Ereb, the West,* as the region of night and
darkness at times, appears on Kretan coins, holding this
scarf over her head when carried away westwards by the


As in Statuary the shapeless block, often a supposed
ouranopipt, preceded the carved figure; so in coinage,
using that term in its widest sense, the familiar circular
form was the last and highest development of the art,
and the successor of other and ruder shapes ; and further,
as such forms in statuary were peculiarly connected with
Dionysos, so were they in coinage. Ploutarchos writes
that the money anciently in use at Sparta ' was of iron,

* Sup. see. i. N08. X., XLV. rian Qrammar, Sjrllabary, No. 60).

* Sup, VI. i. 2. So Aides, as king of the Undeivworla,

* Montfaucon, L Pt ii. PI. ccxiy. is called * Hesperoe Theos * (Soph.
Fiff. 1. Old, Tyr, 177), and a westward po-

* Ibid. Fig. 2. sition was generally adopted when
^ The Homerik Erebos, which was invoking inieraal dlyinities (Of/, x.

in the West (Orf. xii. 81) ; the As- 528. Of. Ihid, xi. 37. Mitford,
Syrian erihu, to 'deacendy enter j or set,* History (^ Greece, xxii. 2).
as the sun (Kev. A. H. Sayce, Aasy-

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


dipped in vinegar while it was red hot, to make it brittle
and unmalleable, so that it might not be applied to any
other use. Besides, it was heavy, and difficult of carriage,
and a great quantity of it was but of Uttle value. Perhaps
all the ancient money was of this kind, and consisted
either of pieces of iron or bronze, which, from their form,
were called obeliskoi ; whence we have still a quantity of
small money called oboloij six of which make a drachme
or handful, that being as much as the hand can contain.' ^
To the same effect writes the learned Isidoros, Bishop of
Hispahs (Seville), a.d. 600-636 :— * The obol was made
formerly, from bronze, Uke an arrow, whence also it
received the name Obel (Arrow) from the Greeks.'^
Obolos and Obelos are only lonik and Attik differences
in pronunciation,* and belos is a glance, an arrow, or their
effect. Obeliskos^ the diminutive, is any small pointed
instrument. Speaking of obelisks, Plinius remarks that
* monarchs have entered into a sort of rivalry with one
another in forming the elongated blocks known as obelisci
and consecrated to the divinity of the Sun. The blocks
had this form given to them in resemblance to the rays of
that luminary, which are so called in the Egyptian lan-
guage. Mesphres, who reigned in the city of the Sun
[Han, On, Heliopolis], was the first who erected one of
these obelisks, being warned to do so in a dream.' * So
Herodotos notes that the Kamic King whom he calls .
Pheron presented two stone obelisks to the temple of the
Sun.^ These obols or obelisks are identical with the
sacred conical stones above referred to,^ which formed the
germ of statuary, and like them were frequently supposed
to have been heaven-fallen thimderbolts,^ and represent

' * Plout. LysandroSf xvii. * Herod, ii. 111.

• Origin, xvi. 23. • Sup. sec. iL

» loul. Pol. ix. 77. 7 Cf. Dllancarville, Arts rfe* la

* Plin. xxxvi. 14. Chkce. i. 1.

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


the spears, rays, arrows, or golden-locks of tlie beaming
sun; for, as Macrobius observes, * Under the name of
arrows the darting of the rays is shewn/ ^ By the Nile,
Euphrates and in Syria, monetary transactions were
anciently conducted by weighing the metals employed.
Barter appears to have suflBced for the earlier Phoenicians,
chiefly engaged in traflBc with barbarous peoples, and it
was reserved for the Lydians to originate a regular
coinage.^ Thus the solar disk was substituted for the
solar rays. Pheidon of Argos, cir. B.c. 750, according to
the Parian Chronicle, first introduced copper and silver
coinage into Hellas from Asia, and at the same time depo-
sited in the temple of Here a number of the ancient
obeliscal arrows.® Aigina was then part of his dominions,
and his coining is said to have been carried on in the
island; hence the Aiginetan standard which prevailed
generally in early times and in later was used throughout
the Peloponnesos, except at Korinthos. Phnius says, * the
form of a sheep was the first figure impressed upon
money, and to this fact it owes its name pecunia' * He
is speaking only of Roman history, but there is an Eastern
parallel, for the ♦ shekel is, in the Book of Job, called
kesitahy a lamb, the weight being possibly made in that
form/* Gesenius observes that *most of the ancient
interpreters understand by kesitah a lamb, a sense which
has no support either from etymology or the kindred
dialects ; '^ and Professor Jevons remarks, * I am informed
by my learned friend. Professor Theodores, that this trans-
lation probably arises ftx)m an accidental blunder, and
that the original meaning of the word kesitah was that of

» Sat, i. 17. * PHn. xxxiii. 13.

' Vide Rawlinson's Herodotus, i. • Humphrey, The Coin CoUectart

663 et sea,, where the contrary Manv/il, 8.

opinion of Col. Leake is considered. • Cf. Wilson, Bnff. and Heb, Lejr,

■ £tym. Maynum, In voc. Obe- In voc. Money,

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


" a certain weight/' or "an exact quantity." '^ It is quite
admitted that kesitah properly means * somethmg weighed
out,' but how could this idea become confused with a
lamb, and why should there be such unanimity in so
singular a mistake ? ^ There is nothing at all incredible
in supposing either that the coin bore the rude figure of
a sheep, or that being also a weight, it was actually in that
form.^ Lion-shaped weights, with ring handles on the
'back, have been found at Khorsabad; and * on the tombs
at Thebes there are representations of men weighing rings
of gold, the weights having, like these, the fOTm of some
animal, as stags, sheep^ and gazelles.' * With kesitah the
English cosset^ ' a lamb brought up without the dam,' ^
has been compared ; but this latter word, though curiously
resembling kesitah^ means more properly * pet lamb ' or
* pet ' generally, being connected with the Old Enghsh
cosse, * kiss.' ^

Dionysiak Coins are such as illustrate the Dionysiak
Myth ; either directly, by bearing figures or symbols
evidently Bakchik ; or indirectly, by designs which, though
not manifestly of this character, are foimd on examination
to belong more or less to the same cycle of idea. It will
be well to take the former class first, as all reasoning must
be from the known, and their consideration will materially
assist the further examination of the subject.

The lists of Coins mentioned, though far from ex-
haustive are, it is beUeved, suflScient for the purpose.^

* Money and the Mechanism of • Vide Halliwell, Diet of Archaic
Exchange, 89. Words, in voc. Cosset.

* Vide the Chaldee Tarffum, LXX. ^ Priiici|)al authorities: — ^Montfau-
in Job xlii. 11. amnada ; Vulgate, in con, VAntiquiU Expliquie, Eckhel,
loc. ovem. Doctrina Numorum Veterum. Cal-

' Vide Parkhuist, Heb. Lex, In met, Diet, of the Bible, by Taylor,

voc. Kemtah. 1841. D'Hancarville, Arts de la

* Bonomi; Nineveh and its Palaces, Grhce, Leake, Numismata HeUenica,
337. Humphrey, Coin Collector's Manual,

* Johnson, in voc.; cf. Bailey, Eng, Smith's Classical Diet, Ges^^nius,
Diet, 1724, in voc. Cosset, Scripturae Lingu>aegue Phoeniciae,

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


The following coins bear the head or the figure of
Dionysos : —

Amisos. A city of Pontes. Head of Dionysos. —
Eeverse. Mystic kist of Dionysos and thyrsos. A late coin.

Andros. Ivy-crowned head. — Kev. Thyrsos, on

BoioHa. Head of horned Dionysos, ivy-crowned. —
Eev. Boiotik buckler.

Herakleia. In Bithynia. Head, ivy-crowned, with
thyrsos behind.

Histiaia. In Euboia. Female head. The * Bacchi
foemineum caput,' crowned with grape-clusters. — ^Rev.
A woman, sitting on the prow of a ship. Homeros calls
the place *rich in grapes,'^ and Sophokles applies the
same epithet to Euboia.*^

los. Head of bearded Dionysos. — ^Eev. A palm tree.

Karthaia, In the island of Keos. Head, ivy-crowned.
— ^Eev. Grape-cluster, under a star.

Korkyra. Dionysos, panther-carried. — ^Eev. Satyr,
pouring drink from one diota or double-eared cup into

Kydonia. Head, crowned with ivy and clusters of
ivy-berries. — ^Eev. A she-wolf, suckling a little boy.

Kyzikos. Head of Persephone. — ^Rev. Dionysos, tiger-

Dionysos stolatuSy holding a torch.

Lamia. In Thessalia. Head, ivy-crowned.

Lampsakos. The same.

Larymne. In Boiotia. The same. — ^Eev. Two-handled
cup and grape-cluster.

Makedonia, Horned head. Also, head, ivy-crowned,
— ^Rev. A he-goat.^ Also, head of Seilenos. Seilenos,
according to a legend, was made prisoner in the gardens
of Midas and compelled to answer questions.*

» n. ii. 637. • Antig, 1183. from the west.'

» Cf. Dan, Tiii. 6 : 'An he-goat * Herod, viii. 138.

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


Magnesia. In Lydia, Dionysos, ivy-crowned, with
kist and serpent.

Maroneia. Head of Dionysos, with twisted horn,
ivy-crowned and with ivy-berries. — ^Eev. JIONTSOT
SnTHPOS MAPflNITflN. Naked Dionysos, standing.
Maron, priest of ApoUon, who dwelt at Ismaros, near
Maroneia, gave Odysseus excellent wine.^

Meihymna. The second city of Lesbos. Head of

Mykonos. Head of Dionysos. — ^Rev. Grape-cluster.

Naxos. Head, ivy-crowned, sometimes bearded, some-
times beardless. — ^Rev. Kanthar, sometimes with thyrsos
and ivy twined round it.

Naxos. In Sikelia. Head, ivy-crowned and bearded.
— ^Rev. Seilenos, with kanthar and ivy,

Neapolis. InMakedonia. Head of Dionysos, a thyrsos
behind it.

Parion. In Mysia. Head, ivy-crowned. Also grape-
cluster. — ^Eev. Ear of corn.

Faros. Head, ivy-crowned. — ^Eev. A woman sitting
on a kist, holding a thyrsos.

Peparethos. Head of Dionysos. — Eev. Kanthar. This
small island off the Thessahan coast is described as abound-
ing in grapes.^

Perga. Head, ivy-crowned.

Pergamos. In Mysia. Terminal Dionysos, towards
which a priest leads a bull. The prophetess Phaennis
alluded to Attalos I. king of Pergamos as * the beloved
son of a Zeus-nourished bull,' i. e.^ a special votary of
Dionysos Taurokeros, an epithet applied by the oracle of
Apollon to the King.* Other coins of the place bear a
bull's head, and serpent-worship also obtained there.

» Vide tup. IV. iii. 4. « PauB. x. 16,

« Soph. P/UloL 549.

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


Rhodes. Head of Dionysos, crowned with ivy and
berries, sometimes rayed.

Sebastopolis. In Pontos. Head, ivy-crowned. — ^Rev.
Kist of Dionysos and thyrsos.

Sidon. Head of Dionysos. On late Coins.

Sybritia. In Krete. Bearded Dionysos, half naked,
sitting, with diota and thyrsos.

Tanagra. Head, ivy-crowned. — ^Rev. Grape-cluster.

Teos. Head, ivy-crowned and thyrsos. — ^Rev. Grape-

Thasos. Head of bearded Dionysos. Also ram-
homed head of Dionysos, crowned with ivy and berries.

Thebai. Head of ivy-crowned and bearded Dionysos.
— ^Eev. Boiotik buckler.

Head of ivy-crowned and bearded Dionysos. — ^Eev.
Kanthar and thyrsos.

Coins, and more especially autonomous coins, present
a singularly interesting branch of mythological and historic
study. The various types, however apparently strange,
were never originally chosen arbitrarily, but, like the
names of places, divinities, or animals, had an appropriate
history and significance. Arbitrary invention or meaning-
less application alike belong to a later age, which has
theories to support and copies what has become famous.
Thus men, ignorant who first colonized Boiotia or founded
Eleusis, but possessed of a theory that every place was
called after some personage, were compelled to excogitate
the fabulous heroes Boiotos and Eleusis. Thus, too, any
American village may apropos of nothing be named
Babylon or Athens, according to caprice. But a real

Online LibraryRobert BrownThe great Dionysiak myth → online text (page 31 of 38)