Robert Brown.

The great Dionysiak myth online

. (page 32 of 38)
Online LibraryRobert BrownThe great Dionysiak myth → online text (page 32 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


antiquity is free from such blemishes. The Sphinx of
Chios or the Gryphon of Teos would be as unimportant
as the animals in a child's toy ark did they hot contain
a meaning and a history which excite curiosity and
challenge investigation. Things in themselves signify but



Digitized by VjOOQ IC



DIONYSOS IN ART. 381

little ; the reason of their use and existence is alone of
real importance. We might as well, like a weary novelist,
note down and tabulate the trivialities of daily Ufe, as
crowd the brain with facts from antiquity merely regarded
as dry facts. What matters it that ApoUon had a bow or
Athene an owl? Nothing.- Who or what is Athene,
what does she symbolize or signify, and why and how ?
This is her only important aspect, and in this respect every
recorded detail of her myth, however slight, becomes
replete with interest. Keason must consider nothing less
than reason ; its pabulum should be as god-Uke as itself.
Thus Cause, which is invariably aUied with Order, is alone
worthy. Chaos alone unworthy, of consideration. Apples
fall but one way (cause) ; did they fall any or every way
(chaos) the phenomenon would have been valueless.
Apparent chaos is, however, by no means always real, and
to extract cause from this is the highest of achievements,
the merit rising in proportion with the intricacy. To do .
this in the world of art is to think as men have thought ;
to do it in the world of nature is to think as God has
thought.

Believing, then, in the truth and certainty of coin-
teaching, we find on the Dionysiak Coins mentioned the
following eleven symbols used in connection with the
god : — ^The Est or Chest of the Mysteries, Grape-cluster,
Kanthar or Diota, Ivy, Thyrsos, Serpent, Panther, Horns,
Eays, a Beard, and Beardlessness. It is evident from them
that Dionysos is not merely a wine-god, for what has a
wine-god specially to do with ivy or with a beard ? It is
equally evident that Dionysos is not merely a nature-god
or merely a phalhc god, for what have such concepts to
do with rays ? But as all these symbols were considered
to be appropriate to the god, his real concept must have
included them all. Now divide them between his true



Digitized by VjOOQ IC



882 THE GREAT DIONYSIAK MYTH.

protagonistic phases,^ and the result is as follows : —
(1) Theoinos. Grape-cluster and Kanthar. (2) Tauro-
keros. Horns. (3) Chrysopes, Jlays. (4) Erikapeios.
Thyrsos, Panther, Ivy, Beard, Beardlessness. (5) Zagreus,
Kist and Serpent. Of course some of these symbols
harmonize also with other phases of the god besides with
those under which they are here classed, but the above
arrangement is sufficient for the purpose, and shows to
demonstration that the god is vinal, bovine, solar, vital,
and chthonian, in the proportions of -j^ths, -nr^h, iV^h,
-^ths, and -^ths. These proportions, by no means mathe-
matically exact, are yet sufficiently accurate and fairly
reflect the facts ; we see at a glance that the vinal element
is in a small minority, and know that the other four
elements blend and change into each other harmoniously.
But it may still be objected, as heretofore, that the solar,
bovine, and other non-vinal phases of the god were
engrafted on a simple earlier cult : an assertion incapable
of proof, and to which the facts of the case as unfolded in
the enquiry fully reply. Dionysos succeeded in forcing
his way into the Aryan Olympos because there was room
for him there ; yet could he fully obtain in one only of his
great aspects as the god of the hfe-heat and growth-power
of nature. The solar seat was filled already, as was the
throne of the Under-world ; ApoUon and Aides held their
own against the Stranger, and the result of this is that the
solar and chthonian and many other aspects of the god
are crushed down and overshadowed so that, as was noticed
when speaking of the early statues of Dionysos,^ his
phases and cult are frequently attributed to other divi-
nities. Thus, for instance, localities addicted to a solar
cult may naturally be connected in idea with Apollon,
but the ritual which really prevailed there may have been

» Vide tn/ EX. « %>. sec. ii.



Digitized by VjOOQ IC



DIONYSOS IN ART. 883

frequently that of the Semitic Sun-god. Can it be sup-
posed for an instant that the ApoUon of Klaros, whose
oracle declared that * the higl^est of gods is lao,' was really
identical with the ApoUon of Delphoi? We might as
well expect to find the Delphik oracle declaring that the
highest of gods was Dionysos. The matter is perfectly
simple : the Sun-god of Klaros in his Pantheon corre-
sponded with the Sun-god of Delphoi in his. No Hellene
of the early ages would ever have considered that
Dionysos and ApoUon were identical ; to him all Sun-gods
were ApoUon. Comparatively late philosophical enquirers
considered this question of identity, but were incorrect
in their attempted solution of it. Macrobius practically
reasons thus : There is only one Sun ; ApoUon is the Sim ;
Liber is the Sun ; therefore ApoUon is Liber (Dionysos) :
or in numbers, there is but one Four ; 2 and 2 are 4 :
3 and 1 are 4 : . • . 2 and 2 are 3 and 1. But they are not ;
they are only equivalent to 3 and 1 ; so with respect to
solar mythology, the Aryan ApoUon is the equivalent of
the Semitic Dionysos. These considerations require to be
borne in mind, for it may be said : If Dionysos be a solar
divinity with widely spread cult, and if coins afibrd most
ancient and truthful representations of Eeligious-mytho-
logy, then we shaU naturaUy meet with numerous numis-
matic examples of the solar Dionysos. But we do not
meet with such ; therefore, Dionysos was not solar. The
answer to this is, that we should have seen numerous
examples of the solar Dionysos had it not been for the
brightness of the solar ApoUon. However, as already
noticed, we have at least one such imdoubted example,
and one in this case is sufficient; given a few scattered
bones, and we can reconstruct the animal. Ehode the
Eosy, the warm flush of the sunlight, daughter of Posei-
don and Aphrodite, two Phoenician divinities, in the isle
of Ehodos, to which she gave her name, bore HeUos, the



Digitized by VjOOQ IC



384 THE GREAT DIONYSIAK MYTH.

Sun seven sons, who became the heads of the seven
branches of the Heliadai, or Sun-children, its early or
earliest inhabitants. Into this portion of the myth it is
unnecessary to enter, as the connection between the island
and a solar cult is the only point at present imder consi-
deration. Wlien Ehodos was overwhelmed with a deluge,
ApoUon, whom we here first meet with in connection with
it, raised it fi-om the waves, and its coins show —

Head of Helios, with flowing locks, generally also
with the caput radiatum.

Head of Dionysos, above noticed, with ivy and berries,
sometimes radiate.

The infant Herakles, strangling two serpents. — Rev.
A pomegranate.

Head of Helios, radiate. — ^Eev. Female, with stole.

Poseidon, at an altar, with trident and dolphin.

Head of HeUos. — ^Rev. Large and small diota.

Head of Helios, with flowing locks. — ^Eev. Winged
sphinx and the special Khodian flower.

Now all the divinities on these coins, except Poseidon,
are solar; and, moreover, are identical and without
exception Semitic. The Klarian Oracle declares the
identity of the * one Helios one Dionysos,' and the coins
confirm it. Hehos is accompanied by the Bakchik
kanthar and pomegranate,^ and Dionysos has the caput
radiatum of the Sun-god. The snake-entangled Herakles
is not the Aryan son of Alkmene, but the Rhodian Hera-
kles, Bouzygos or Yoke-of-oxen, in whose cult two sacred
oxen were set apart, one of which was ofiered up with
imprecations : a mode of sacrifice, as Lactantius observes,
unknown to the Hellenes, but famiUar to the Phoenicians
and Egyptians.^ ' Of the Hercules with whom the Greeks
are familiar,' says Herodotos, * I could hear nothing in any

» Vide in/, VIII. ii. Pomegranate. Place, iv. 212 ; Plout. Pe»'i Is, Ixxiii.
* Movers, i. 399 ; Bunsen, Egypt's



Digitized by VjOOQ IC



DIONYSOS IN ART. 385

part of Egypt.' ^ Because he is a purely Aryan personage,
and also has no Kamic counterpart. * But the Egyptian
Hercules is one of their ancient gods. In the wish to get
the best information that I could on these matters, I made
a voyage to Tyre in Phoenicia, hearing that there was a
temple of Hercules at that place, very highly venerated.'
The priests told him that the temple, like the city, was
2300 years old. 'In Tyre I remarked another temple
where the same god was worshipped as the Thasian Her-
cules. So I went on to Thasos, where I found a temple
of Hercules, which had been built by the Phoenicians
who colonised that island when they sailed in search
of Europa. Even this was five generations earlier than
the time when Hercules, son of Amphitryon, was bom in
Greece. These researches show plainly that there is an
ancient Hercules.' ^ We have already had a glimpse of
the ' Tyrian Hercules ' in Melikertes, this latter personage,
again, being only Dionysos ;® but in connection with the
coins of Ehodos those of Thasos, where, as we have seen,
his cult was established,* deserve attention. These latter
display —

Head of bearded Dionysos, as noticed. — Eev. Herakles,
clad in the lion's skin.

Head of Herakles.

Eam-homed head of Dionysos, crowned with ivy and
berries.

Here, again, as at Ehodos, we have Herakles and
Dionysos together, and the Hellenes have clad the Tyrian
divinity in the lion's skin of the son of Alkmene. There
is but one god figiu'ed on Thasian coins, Dionysos-Meli-
kertes. Eckhel, K. 0. Miiller, and their followers on the
question say that Dionysos is worshipped at a place

^ Herod, ii 43. vetustus fuit, nam Phoenices ei ibi

3 n>id. 44. Btatuiflse templam ' (Eckhel, Doct.

» Sup. VI. i. 2. iVwm. Vet, ii. 52).

* 'Herculifl cultus in haec insula

C C



Digitized by VjOOQ IC



886 THE GREAT DIONYSIAK MYTH.

because the vine flourishes therey and Eckhel explains the
Dionysiak cult of Thasos on this principle, just as he says
that bos on a coin 'laeta pascua indicat/ Unfortunately,
for this simple explanation of an obscure matter, the ox
appears on the coins of places not remarkable for rich-
ness of pasturage ; Dionysos is found where the vine is
absent ; and conversely, pastures and vine-districts exist
without numismatic oxen or Dionysoi. I, of course, admit
that when Dionysos is firmly established as the Wine-
god, he is especially reverenced by vine-growers, as at
Maroneia ; but this circumstance, whilst illustrating his
phase as Theoinos, does not interfere with his other mani-
festations, and but brief consideration will serve to satisfy
us that his cult was introduced at Thasos not by vines,
but by Phoenicians. On the Ehodian coins, as on the
Thasian, there is but one god figured, HeUos-Dionysos-
MeUkertes. The myth of Herakles strangling the snakes
sent to destroy him does not belong to the earlier story
of the son of Alkmene, and the snakes which encircle
the Sun-god of Ehodos may be the serpents that crown
Dionysos. These, according to the Natural Phenomena
Theory, are * the horrid snakes of darkness which seek to
destroy their enemy,' ^ the Sun; but this explanation
must be looked upon with great suspicion, for (1) the sun
comes to the darkness to destroy it, not the darkness to
the sun ; but the snakes come to the infant Herakles :
and (2) serpents, we find, are the creeping light of
morning,* not the darkness of night But if a serpent be
a symbol of anything which creeps, darkness does not
creep but falls. (I do not think the Vedic Vritra the
Cloud-concealer, who is also Ahi the stranghng snake who
binds up the waters which the thirsty earth requires, is a
snake of darkness principally, for the Cloud-concealer is not
a snake, and the binding snake acts by day.) The coins

> Mythol, of the Aryan Nations, ii. * Ibid, I 419, ii. 00.

44.



Digitized by VjOOQ IC



DIONYSOS IN ARTc 387

of Ehodos and Thasos thus prove on examination to
belong to the Dionysiak cycle ; in the former island the
strong Semitic element in its mythic history prevents the
intrusion of the Aryan Apollon, although it is pre-emi-
nently a solar locality. In Thasos we find Dionysos, as
in the Comedy of Aristophanes, concealed beneath the
lion-skin of Herakles ; but as the garment does not make
the man, he is Dionysos still. But the natural question
hare arises, May not the coins of other localities which
bear Herakles and Apollon or their attributes represent
in reality the Tyrian Herakles and Helios, or in other
words Dionysos-Melikertes ? Far be it from me, however,
to attempt to overstrain the point. I have too much
respect for Apollon and his Aryan kindred to wittingly
infringe upon their rightful dominions.

There is one very conspicuous coin-type, the bull, ox,
or cow, which demands special notice on account of the
numerous points of connection between Dionysos and this
animal.^ Of course, the type might in the abstract appear
on coins for reasons unconnected with Dionysos, and each
particular instance must therefore be decided on its own
merits. The following is a list of some bovine coin-
types: —

Akanthos. Lion tearing a bull The solar heat dry-
ing up humidity ; or, more broadly, the apparent contest
in the material world between the destructive and renew-
ing principles.^ This is a widely Spread type, a circum-
stance which indicates its highly symbolical nature. It
appears, for instance, on ancient Phoeniko-Kilikian coins
inscribed with Phoenician characters.^ The lion is also
said to be a sjnoabol of the diurnal, the bull of the noc-
turnal, sun.

Akarnania. Beardless head, with bull's horns and

» Videm/;Vm.u.I?titt; IX. iii. * Videseciv.; G«m,No.XX.
• If^. Vra. ii Lion.

2



Digitized by VjOOQ IC



388 THE GREAT DIONYSIAK MYTH.

neck. — Eev. ApoUon, naked, with the comucopiae. Akar*
nania is the land of Kameioe, the Horned Sun,^ but Eckhel
truly observes that the ' monstrum biforme in his numis
€st Achelous/ the largest river in Hellas, and conse-
quently the tjrpe of water and humidity in general.' And
he adds, somewhat too generally, * Fluvia taurina fonna
passim fueri efBcti.' As to Acheloos, bom of Okeanos and
Tethys,* he fought in bovine form with Herakles for
Deianira, but was conquered and had one of his horns
broken off, which he recovered by giving up the horn
of the Kretan goat Amaltheia, the cornucopia which was
ever full. Says Deianira : —

A river was my suitor— Acheloos*

In triple form he sought me of my siie :

Now would he come a bull in all his limbs ;*

Anon, a curling, speckled snake ; anon^

Anthropomorphic, with a bovine head.

From his shaggy beard

The springs of liquid fountains ever flowed.

Sophokles, Track. 9-14.

The myth forms an appropriate commentary on the
coin of Akanthos just noticed. The Sun-god Herakles
withers up the humidity of earth and takes away the
horn of plenty which belongs to moisture, but the humid
principle is only despoiled for a time ; he can again
receive from and give to the sun fresh treasures, and so
the eternal apparent contest, but real harmony, ever con-

^ Sup. sec. ii. Of. Paus. iii. 13. similar wise man has said that the

' Of. Aristoph. JLt/sut, 382. Ohor. Humber was so named from its

of Women ; ' Thy task, Acheloos.' humming somid. As to the sup^

(^The women empty their buckets on posed bml-roaringofLake Onchestos,

the men' 8 heads.) Tide Fioseidon, iv. The passage in

' Some said he was their eldest H. xxL, where the enraged riyer

son, but Hesiodos very properly puts Xanthos, to whom many bulls had

Neilos at the head of the river &mily been o£^d in accordance with tiie

(Hes. Theoff. 340^. principle above referred to, rushes at

* Of. The late imitation of Hora- Achilleus. roaring like a bull, is not

tins, Car. iv. 14. ' Tauriformis Au- to the pomt, for a supernatural and

fiduS.' The sapient Scholiast in Eur not a natural action of the water is

Orest. 1372 attributes the myth to the spoken of.
roaring of the river waters, as a



Digitized by VjOOQ IC



DIONYSOS m AET. 889

tinues. The son of Semele * is lord of the whole humid
nature,'^ but at the same time, Sun and Bull, Herakles
and Acheloos, are in truth two parts of the * one stupen-
dous whole/ the kosmic Dionysos.

Amphipolis. The Bull, — ^Rev. Head of Europe.

Also Europe carried oflf on the bull : over her head
she holds the mystic girdle of love and darkness.^

Aspendos. In Pamphilia. BuU, in contorted posi-
tion. ' In exactly the same attitude and gesture as when
fighting with the Uon.'*

Athenai. Theseus seizing the Minotauros, a bull-
headed man, by one horn-

The same subject. Theseus forces the monster to the
ground and is about to kill him with a club.*

Chalkedon. A BulL — ^Rev. Four triangular incuses.

Chersonesos Taurika. Head of the Taurik Artemis.
— Eev. Bull.

This so-caUed Artemis is the female ' reflection * of the
Homed-^od.^

Dyrrhachion. Cow, suckling calf. — Rev. Gardens of
Alkinoos.

Euboia. Head of ox. Ox standing. *Qui typi
ad nomen insulae adludunt,' says Eckhel, apparently for-
getting his theory about the pastures. Stralx) tells us that
there was a cave in the island called Boos Aule, or the
Cow's Stall, where lo is said to have brought forth
Epaphos, and that the island may have had its name of
Abounding-in-oxen on that account.^ The ancients held
that it had been originally joined to Boiotia, but sepa-
rated by an earthquake; the derivation of this latter name
may be uncertain, but it probably signifies Ox-land. If
an ox be a symbol of rich pastures, it might well be

» Stfp, m. i. 1. * Vide inf. Knosos, IX. iii. The

* Viae inf, X. iL Minotauros.

• Knight, Worship of Pt-iapus, * Vide sit^K VI. i. 1.
71. Y'mesup. Akanthos. • Strabo^x. 1.



Digitized by VjOOQ IC



890 THE QBEAT DIONYSIAK MYTH.

applied to a region of extraordinary fertility. But, besides,
the name is in exact harmony with the cult of the locality,
and has reference to the wondrous ox or cow of Kadmos
marked with the fiill moon/ and whose very lowing gave
a name to cities.^ This ox led Kadmos through Phokis,*
the coins of which bear the head of an ox and also the
heads of three oxen placed triangularly, and lay down on
the site of Thebai ; and we learn that ' the Ox is called
Theba among the Syrians,' * a statement found elsewhere.*
Epaphos, thus connected with Euboia, is the Hellenik idea
of the Kamic Hapi, or Aigyptian Apis, and lo, herself,
possibly, Aryan in origin, becomes identified with Uasi or
Isis, with whom she so strikingly corresponds. In a word,
the cult of the Ox-god as mudi or more than that of the
Vine-god fills Boioto-Euboia from end to end.

Eretia, In Euboia, Ox lying down. — Kev. Two
pendent grape-clusters. The type probably refers to the
recumbent ox of Kadmos, and the coin presents an admir-
able illustration of the unity of the Ox-god and the Vine-
god, the two being phases of the ' one Dionysos.'

Gela. A Sikelian colony of Khodians and Kretans.
The bearded, human-headed, demi-bull. The demi-ox
also occurs on the coins of Korkyra, Syros, and Samos.
— ^The reverse of the coin of Korkyra shows two square
altars, a star between them, and on one side the field a
grape-cluster, on the other a kanthar. The reverse of
the Samian coin bears a lion's head. Two very curious
coins, attributed to the Mardians, a Persian tribe,^ re-
present a four-winged Janiform personage, one face ap-
parently asleep and the other awake, who holds a globe,
disk, or egg, which, in one instance has a bull's head in
it. This figure is supported on a kneeling, human-headed
demi-bull. The human head denotes man's intelligence

* Paus. ix. 12. * It had on each > Ibid. 12.

side a mark like the moon * (Schol. ^ Etumol, Magnum^ In voc Thebtt.



in Aristoph. Bat,. 1266). * Schol. in Lykophron, 1206.

» Paus. ix. 10. Herod, i. 126.



Digitized by VjOOQ IC



DIONYSOS IN ART. 891

allied with bovine force, and is frequently found, as on
the coins of Neapolis, in Campania ; it presents an idea
essentially distinct from that of the Minotaurik monster.
But why is the bull cut asunder, as it were ? Demi-
animals as coin-types are not uncommon : the demi-dog
appears at Karthaia, in the isle of Keos ; the demi-gryphon
at Phokaia, in Ionia; the demi-stag at Ephesos; the
demi-horse atTanagra; the demi-wolf at Argos. Solar
worshippers, e.g. the Egyptians, have ever considered the
sun under a number of phases, such aa the setting, rising,
mid-day, diurnal, and nocturnal sun, and investigators into
Hellenik symbolism have often concluded, and, I think,
with great reason, that the taurik Dionysos is especially
connected with the Under-world. Most of the demi-
animal types appear to refer to the movements of the
heavenly bodies. Take, for instance, the demi-wolf of
Argos, a solar emblem ; ^ on some coins the demi-wolf is
represented as radiate and moving from right to left, i.e.
from east to west, as Eliktor, the Beaming Sun. On others
it is rayless and moves from left to right, that is from west
to east, as the nocturnal Sun. The one wolf is divided into
two, as the one sun is in thought divided into two ; ^ the
real unity being exactly shown in another Argeian coin,
where a whole wolf stands in the centre between two
. dolphins, the upper dolphin moving from east to west,
the lower one from west to east, and dolphins symbolize
the course of sun and stars from the two sea horizons.*
On one of the demi-buU Gelan coins, in which the bull
is moving from west to east, a dolphin appears over him,
apparently moving in the same direction. The demi-
bull of Samos and of the Mardian coins also is moving
eastward, and in the latter coins is beneath the disk-
holding winged figure, and I think, therefore, that the

' Vide mip. VI. i. 2. Thy right eye b in the essence *

^ And 80 has, or is, two eyes. {InscnptianofDanusatEl-Kfuiryeh).
' Thy left eye is in the disk at night. ' Vide Vtll. ii. Dolphin.



Digitized by VjOOQ IC



392 THE GREAT DIONYSIAK MYTH.

course of the sun through the Under-world is implied.
This is confirmed by the design on the reverse of the
Korkyrean coin above mentioned ; the one star, the sun,
appears between the two altars sacred respectively to
the Upper and Under Sun. To the former belongs the
grape-cluster ripened by his beams, to the latter the kan-
thar or golden cup of Helios, in which he sails through the
depths of the Under-world.^ So Herakles, the Sun-god,
vanquished Geryon, king of the far west, and the sacred
solar oxen swam eastward into Sikeha, like the Gelan
bull, and Herakles passed over after them in the cup of
the sun.* These oxen are not the Vedic cow-clouds, but
in one aspect the solar divinity himself, in another the
animals sacred and offered to the Sun.* The cmious
episode of the slaughter of the sacred oxen of the Sun
by the companions of Odysseus * presents a remarkable
intertwining of Semitic and Aryan idea. The island
Thrinakrie,^ where it occmred, was always identified by
the ancients with the three-cornered SikeUa or Trinakris,'
which Horatius, in archaic affectation, calls Triquetra.^
Helios, the lord of the oxen,® is just rising when Lampetie,
the Dawn-gleam, stolata as becomes a solar priestess,
hurries to him and tells him of the slaughter of his oxen,
which had been done at night while Odysseus was asleep.
Eaising his eyes to the immortals who possess the wide
heaven, Hyperion ^ the Climber exclaims : —

father Zeus and other blessed gods who live for aye.
Upon Odysseus' comrades I invoke revenge to-day ;
For they have insolently slain mine oxen which were given
To glad my heart when on my path thro' yonder starry
heaven,

» Svp, VI. ii. 3. West.

« PauB. iii. 16. The belt of He- * Od, xii.

rakles, when he came back from the ^ Ibid, xi. 107.

West, had * a pfolden goblet attached ® Of. Strabo, vi. 2.

to its clasp ' (Herod, iv. 10). ^ ^^. n, ^. 55,

' Cf. inf. XI. i., the account of * Of. ApoUon Nomios.

Melqarth and bis spoil of oxen in the ^ Od. xu. 374.



Digitized by VjOOQ IC



DIONYSOS IN AET. 39S

And when from heaven to earth I turned, descending at

the even.
Now, if they make not recompense for every single head,
m sink below to Hades' realm and shine amid the dead.

The idea of the resplendent subterranean sun, which is
pre-eminently Kamic, seems to have been not unknown
to Homeros, but it is not a feature in his Aryan Neckyo-
manteion. There was nothing new in the idea of the Sun
sinking to the realms of Kemeter, that it did nightly ; but



Online LibraryRobert BrownThe great Dionysiak myth → online text (page 32 of 38)