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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: May 2011
  • First published in: 1909

CHAPTER VI - CULT-MONUMENTS OF DIONYSOS

Summary

There is no divinity whose presence is more familiar among the various monuments of Greek art than Dionysos. It is especially the works of the fifth century and the later period that testify how inwardly the imagination of the world of Hellenic paganism was possessed with the Bacchic myth, cult, and enthusiasm. But though the art-record abundantly illustrates the complex conception of his nature, the monuments are mainly mythologic rather than sacral, and comparatively few reproduce for us the actual scenes of ritual or the types of temple worship.

His character as a tree-god, which, we have seen reason to believe, belonged to his aboriginal nature, can be illustrated by an interesting art-form that, though iconic, bears still some reminiscence of the aniconic fashion. We have literary record of sufficient authority, a verse of an oracle and a fragment from the Antiope of Euripides, both quoted by Clemens, to prove that his earliest agalma at Thebes was a mere fetish, an upright pillar; and simple villagers, even in the latest period, still attracted his beneficent power to the orchard by the consecration of a rude tree-stump: even Dionysos-Kadmos was represented by Thebes as a column of wood, supposed to have fallen from heaven, which later piety decorated with bronze, but never changed into human semblance.

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