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Representation of Maenads on Archaic Red-Figure Vases

  • Mark W. Edwards (a1)


There have been two works of major importance dealing with the characteristics of Greek maenadism, separated by seventy years of rapid advance in the study of comparative religion. The first, which appeared in 1872, is Rapp's detailed study ‘Die Mänade im griechischen Cultus, in der Kunst und Poesie’. This has remained valuable long after the contemporary theories of nature-symbolism have been abandoned, and the distinctions he drew between the ‘artificial’ maenads of poetry or art and the actual cult-practice of Dionysiac religion in historical Greece is still on the whole valid. The second work is E. R. Dodds' article ‘Maenadism in the Bacchae,’ published in 1940, which has supplemented, but not basically altered, Rapp's principles by showing that, although it may be doubted whether anything very much like the ecstatic possession depicted in the Bacchae took place in classical Greece, sufficiently strong parallels exist between the presentation of maenads on vases and in the Bacchae on the one hand, and historical and clinical descriptions of hysterical excitement on the other, to suggest that the maenad had been at some time more than an imaginary creature; and in fact Bacchic practices of some types, apparently traditional, can be proved to have occurred in Hellenistic times. Somehow, it seems, some practical knowledge of religious hysteria reached Euripides and the vase-painters of the late sixth century, either surviving from the past or brought in from other parts of the Greek world.



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1 RhM xxvii (1872) 1 f., 562 f.

2 HThR xxxiii (1940) 155 f. The first part is reprinted as an appendix to the author's The Greeks and the Irrational (Berkeley, 1951) and the evidence is further presented in his introduction and notes to the Bacchae (Oxford, 1944).

3 Lawler, , in ‘The Maenads’ (MAAR vi (1927) 69 f.), has published useful descriptions and statistics of occurrences of attributes on red-figure vases from 480–330 (I think the upper date limit would now be put earlier); Philippart, , ‘Iconographie des Bachantes d'Euripide’ (Rev. belge de philol. et d' hist. ix (1930) 5 f.) covers the illustrations of the stories of the Bacchae and is good for maenad-reliefs generally; Rizzo, G. E.'s Thiasos (Rome, 1934) is limited to discussion of bas-reliefs of a later date. E. Coche de la Ferté's unpublished thesis Les Ménades: origines et formation de leur type dans l'art grec I know only from a résumé given in Bull. des Musées de France xi. 6 and 7 (1946) 10–13, but he appears to have restricted his work almost entirely to black-figure, where his general conclusions agree with mine; his article ‘Les Ménades …’ in RA xxxviii (1951) 12 f. is concerned only with representations in which the icon of Dionysos appears. Ganszyniec, R. in his now superseded article ‘Dionysos et les Ménades’ (Przeglad Historyczny xi (1934) 279 f., 309) anticipated Dodds' work in part by stressing the realistic nature of the representations but attributed the delirium to a form of epilepsy or ‘psychic paroxysm’ for which, because of its similarity to drunkenness, Dionysos was held responsible. The works of larger scope on Greek religion or Dionysos do not examine the vases in detail.

4 The substance of this article formed part of a M.A. dissertation submitted to the University of Bristol in 1956. It was written under the supervision of Professor T. B. L. Webster, to whom I am greatly indebted.

5 A complete bibliography to that date of studies of the padded dancers is given by Herter, H. in his Vom Dionysischen Tanz zum komischen Spiel (Iserlohn, 1947) 43, 47 n. 45, to which should now be added Webster, T. B. L.'s Greek Theatre Production (London, 1956) 2835, 128–44, and the same author's more detailed article in Rylands Bulletin xxxvi (1954) 563 f. My knowledge of representations of dancers on Corinthian vases owes much to a list of such vases compiled and indexed by Mr Axel Seeburg of Oslo University. I know of nothing of importance added to knowledge of satyrs since the definitive work of Brommer, F., Satyroi (Würzburg, 1937).Greifenhagen, A. in his valuable work Eine attische schwarzfigurige Vasengattung und die Darstellung des Kontos im 6 Jhdt. (Königsburg Pr., 1929) treats the interaction of komos and satyr-maenad scenes on vases of the third quarter of the century with great skill and brevity (pp. 49–52).

6 List and references, Beazley, , ABV 2337; interpretations, Greifenhagen, 1 f.; and Webster, , Greek Theatre Production 2835, and Ryl. Bull. xxxvi (1954) 582 f.

7 Chitons, a vase in the manner of the KY Painter (ABV 33/1) and those by the Palazzolo, painter (ABV 34–5); naked, ABV 36, vases ‘connected with the Komast Group’ nos. 2 and 3 (no. 1 here, which Beazley describes as ‘naked woman dancing’ shows only a naked leg and is not conclusive). Webster suggests that there may have been a native Attic komast type of naked men and women in short chiton, and it seems very possible that the type of men in Corinthian chiton and naked women may have been borrowed. Actually these Attic vases are dated to the first quarter of the century and the Corinthian to the second, but the number of vases is small and, I imagine, the dating not sufficiently precise to make this an insuperable objection.

8 The Caeretan hydria, Louvre Ca 10227, published Mon. Piot xli (1946) 29 f. (women in very short chiton and naked men). Boeotian vases, Ure, Black Glaze Pottery pl. 7.266–7; CVA Gallatin III G pl. 8.2 (naked); Athens C.C. 821, pl. 33 (in long robes). I exclude from consideration, in all fabrics, both the common long-robed flute-players, whether or not they are definitely female, and ako the ‘Reigentanz’ of walking long-robed women which is found on some vases in most fabrics (it has been treated by Brinkmann, A. in Bonner Jahrb. 130 (1925) 118 f.).

9 E.g. Greifenhagen, 57–62; Brommer, 22; Herter, 12; Webster, , especially Ryl. Bull. xxxvi (1954) 580.

10 On three Return of Hephaistos scenes, quoted by Webster, op. cit., 580, and Greek Theatre Production 133; and three instances are known of a padded dancer wearing a panther-skin, Webster, , Greek Theatre Production 134–5.

11 The terms require some definition. ‘Satyr’ I use as synonymous with ‘silen’ and indicating the male figures, sometimes labelled ΣΙΛΗΝΟΣ on vases, having usually a horse's ears and tail or, failing these, the hairy pelt which is characteristic of many equine satyrs. ‘Nymph’ I use for a female figure, clothed or not, accompanying satyrs but not having any Dionysiac attribute such as the nebris, pardalis, snake, or thyrsos. These are the ΝΥΦΑΙ of the François Vase:

(Hymn to Aphrodite 262–3.)

12 ABV 23 (Athens), 42/37, 12/22.

13 There are, for instance, only five Dionysiac scenes (nos. 107–11) among the 121 Tyrrhenian neckamphorae listed by Beazley in ABV.

14 Return of Hephaistos representations have been listed, and many reproduced, by Brommer, in JdI lii (1937) 198 f.

15 The Corinthian satyrs and nymphs, Payne, Necrocorinthia no. 1372: other Corinthian satyrs, Payne nos. 1282a, 1258, and 1432.

16 Chalcidian, , Rumpf, Chalk. Vasen (Berlin, 1927) nos. 2, 13, 20, 57, and 111, and also separate figures or pairs of figures, of many types, on eye-cups. Clazomenian, , BM 88.2–8. 75a and 88.2–8. 76a (= CVA II Dn pls. 2, 3); BSA xlvii (1952) pl. 29, 4; AA (1936) 382 nos. 31, 32. Northampton group, Louvre E736, published Mon. Piot xliii (1949) 32 f. Kymean, BM 1904.6–1.1 (= CVA II Dn pl. 11). Caeretan, , Webster, , JHS xlviii (1928) nos. 7, 8, and 18, and a hydria in the Giulia, Villa published in Mon. Piot xliv (1950) 1 f. (‘Hydria “B”’).

17 The first strikingly maenadic scene is that on a Tyrrhenian amphora in the Louvre, no. E831 (ABV 103/108) which, though badly repainted (see Pottier, , V. A. du Louvre (Paris, 1901) 76), seems certainly to show six maenads with Dionysos; one of the maenads holds a snake, another a panther-cub, and a third holds her hands to her head as if overwrought with some emotion. The vase has a band of dicing, which according to Bothmer, von (AJA xlviii (1944) 164) would seem to place it latish in the group. The nebris, together with snakes, appears on the Metro politan Museum Lydos crater (ABV 108/5).

18 I distinguish the nebris, or fawnskin, from the pardalis, the skin of some feline; there are various ways of wearing each, but in almost all cases the hoofs or paws, or the head if visible, are sufficiently clearly drawn to leave no room for doubt. The nebris is the common wear of warriors, Hermes, the Gorgons, Iris, and Nike, and on five vases known to me is worn by a woman among naked men in what seem quite clearly scenes of actual life (BM B377, a ripe-black-figure mastos, not in ABV: an eye-cup in the Vatican, Beazley, Racc. Guglielmi no. 66, pl. 23: a lekythos of about 540–530, Castellani no. 556, Haspels, ABL 34 no. 3: a kotyle of about 530, Mingazzini, pl. 88. 7, 8, not in ABV: a lekythos in Leningrad, Haspels, ABL 37, published AA 1913. 205 fig. 51). Nebris also occurs as a woman's name on a Corinthian cup (Payne no. 995). These vases may, of course, indicate nothing more than a bored and careless painter.

19 E.g. the vase by the Amasis Painter in the Bibl. Nat. (ABV 152/25) on which two maenads appear alone with Dionysos, and fragments by the same painter (ABV 156/72).

20 Vienna 218, Webster, in JHS xlviii (1928) no. 7, published by van Lücken pls. 62–3.

21 Concerning the vase in Rome (Conservatori, Webster, op. cit., no. 8) Plaoutine, 's plausible suggestion (RA xviii (1941) 18), made from study of a photograph only, that the apparent running maenad behind the mule is a repainted riding Hephaistos was not supported by my own not very expert examination of the vase.

22 Mentioned above, n. 17.

23 Op. cit., 48–52, 64–5.

24 This is the theme traced out by Picard, in his ‘Groupes d'enlèvement dans l'art grec’ (Genova xiii (1935) 63 f.), though he does not deal with vase-painting.

25 The actual numbers of scenes considered, either from the vase or from reproductions, were: Early Archaic 68, Late Archaic 112. Listed in ARV but unpublished were: Early 29, Late 55. Seen but disregarded because of fragmentary condition: Early 10, Late 9. The black-figure sides of bilinguals were found indistinguishable, for this purpose, from black-figure vases, and were ignored.

26 Eight scenes out of 68 seen in the Early period, 20 out of 112 in the Late.

27 A very good example is ARV 267/2, by the Briseis Painter (published by Farnell, , Cults v pl. 45). Jeanmaire, in his book Dionysos (Paris, 1950) 494 section 4 mentions another, BM E439, which I have not traced.

28 It occurs eight times in the period considered.

29 E.g. ARV 80/2, 109/10.

30 ARV 19/5, 138/112.

31 Seven times; Beazley, , Attic Vases in Mus. of Fine Arts, Boston (Oxford, 1954) ii, text to no. 113, gives a list of these representations, the only black-figure one being that on the crater painted on the Amasis Painter fragments from Samos, Beazley, , Level, of Attic B.-F. pl. 26.1.

32 ARV 302/17; Brommer, , Satyrspiele (Berlin, 1944) figs. 33–4, 36–7 (= ARV 401/3, 420/21, and a bell crater in Ancona, not in ARV).

33 The only examples I have seen are ARV 47/35 and 288/118. The first is influenced by the komos of men and naked women on the exterior.

34 Though this is suggested by Nilsson, ; ‘Die Satyrn, welche so oft mit den Mänaden zusammen dargestellt werden, buhlen nicht mit ihnen, sondern mit den Nymphen: die Mänaden wehren sich gegen ihre Zudringlichkeit’ (Geschichte (Munich, 1941) i 540 n. 1).

35 ARV 13/gamma, 35/5, 58/3.

36 ARV 37/42.

37 E.g. ARV 26/13: 151/theta: 172/9.

38 Painter, Kleophrades, ARV 121/5, 124/40; Painter, Brygos, ARV 247/14, 247/15; Makron, , ARV 303/31.

39 It is found especially in the Painter, Brygos (ARV 247/14, 247/15, 253/132), Douris (285/78), and Makron (304/37, 313/221). It has been noticed by Beazley, , BSA xxx (1930) 109.

40 Mid-thigh, ARV 37/33, 41/86, 80/2; knee, 69/20: mid-calf, 205/8; naked, 47/35 (influenced by komos on exterior), 71/Munich, 214/12, 227/6 (symposium scene), 104/4 (maenads drawing satyrs in a chariot), and a lekythos by the Sappho painter, Boston 98.885, Haspels, ABL 106, 236 no. 81.

41 I have seen it in the work of Epiktetos, (ARV 47/31); Kleophrades Painter (124/40, and a hydria in a private collection, Antike Kunst i (1958) 6); Copenhagen Painter (193/10); Brygos Painter (247/14, 247/15, 247/17, 253/132); Briseis Painter(267/2, 267/4, 269/39): Dokimasia painter (272/24); Douris (285/78, 286/91, 287/112). Usually several, and sometimes all, figures in a scene show this action. It is not found on the vases I have seen of Makron, whose maenads usually hold some attribute in their hands.

42 Haspels, ABL 264 no. 33; ABV 560/518: Six's Technique, Haspels, ABL 236 no. 49.

43 Lawler found thirty-five cases in her ‘conventional’ group, and declared the motif appeared almost always in the ‘free’ period, which I think would now be called the early classical. I have noticed it on a maenad on a phlyakes vase published by Bieber, M., History of Greek and Roman Theatre (Princeton, 1939) 295 fig. 400.

44 ARV 362/8: also New York 41.162.10, not in ARV (said to be by the Cleveland painter).

45 ARV 542/15, published in JHS xiii (1892–1893) 135.

46 I have seen the nebris on 7 Early and 10 Late scenes, the pardalis on 16 Early and 45 Late; only the pardalis is found in the work of Makron.

47 Two cases of the nebris known to me (ARV 121/5, 285/78) and 19 of the pardalis. On ARV 128/90 the centaurs attacking Iris wear it, perhaps to stress this unusually satyric nature in them.

48 Geschichte (1941) i 538.

49 See n. 10 above.

50 Papen, F.-G. von, Der Thyrsos (Berlin, 1905).

51 The only black-figure vases known to me on which the thyrsos is found are later than 530 B.C.; perhaps the translation to black-figure drawing was not easy, as is also suggested by the variety in style of the instances found. The examples are: Haspels, , ABL 53, Vienna 196, published by Jacobsthal, , Orn. pl. 5: several vases by the Diosphos painter, e.g. CVA Robinson Collection i pl. 30. i, CVA Gallatin Collection i pl. 7. 7, CVA Goluchow i pl. 13: and three quoted by de la Ferté, (RA xxxviii (1951) 15 n. 6).

52 Rev. de l'Histoire des Religions lxvi (1912) 1 f.

53 E.g. Euripides, Helen 1360; Bacchae 176, 1054. Once at least thyrsoi are explicitly distinguished from branches; Palaiphatos xxxiii (= Myth. Gr. iii 2 p. 50 Festa), describing the Bacchae following Orpheus; .

54 Anakreon fr. 113 Diehl (= 108 Bergk) is dubious; see Weber, , Anacreontea (Göttingen, 1895).

55 Rohde, E., Psyche (English tr., Oxford, 1925) 267 n. 4.

56 Reinach, in the article referred to above, gives references to the word in three later writers (Lykophron, , Alex. 459, 720, 929; Oppian, , Kynaget. i 26; Orphic, Argonautica 907, 1089, Hermann). The most obvious meaning would be ‘sacrificial victims’ in Lykophron, where the context is not Dionysiac, and ‘sacrificial rites’ in the others. Reinach carries his argument far beyond the evidence in including the sense of θύω ‘rage’ in the word and concluding with the meaning ‘branches’ since they are the only portable sacrificial implements. Etymologically the suffix would seem to suggest ‘things with which….’

57 Geschichte (1941) i 116: ‘Der gewöhnliche Thyrsos, neben dem in den Händen der Mänaden Nebenformen vorkommen, Tannenzweige, Zweige mit Ästen und Narthexstauden, ist m.E. eine Sonderform des Mais, ein mit Efeu und Binden umwundener Stab, der an der Spitze einen Pinienzapfen trägt. Die Rankendes Efeus, der auch im Winter grünt zu der Jahreszeit, in der die Mänaden die Orgien feierten, waren als Laubschmuck besonders geeignet, und haben wie der Pinienzapfen Beziehung zur Fruchtbarkeit.’

58 E.g. Euripides, Bacchae 251; and the mysterysaying quoted below.

59 The mystery-saying, Plato Phaedo 69C (text of Burnet, OCT); the cista, Clem. Alex. Protrept. ii 19, Potter, quoted by Reinach loc. cit.

60 Nilsson, , ‘Dionysos Liknites’ (Bull. Soc. Royale des Lettres, Lund, 19511952 1 f.). On the Lenaea, the evidence is given by Pickard-Cambridge, A., Dramatic Festivals of Athens (Oxford, 1953) 33–4.

61 See Fränkel, C., Satyr- und Bakchennamen (Halle, 1912) 43.

62 A debatable point, however; see Dodds, , HThR xxxiii (1940) 170 n. 71 and references there. But it is not easy to go against Herakleitos fr. B15 (Diels) where βάκχοιare mentioned, and the adventures of Scyles in Herodotus iv 79.

63 See Brommer, , Satyrspiele (Berlin, 1944).

64 E.g. by Webster, T. B. L., Bull. London Inst. of Classical Studies v (1958) 43–6.

65 Fr. B15 (Diels). Compare also Nilsson's remark on the confusion of the wine-god with the orgiastic god; ‘Der Orgiengott is nicht ursprünglich der Weingott; dazu ist dieser erst spät geworden. Als Dionysos in späterer Zeit hauptsächlich zum Weingott geworden war und der orgiastische Trieb erlahmte, musste der Wein herhalten, um die Orgiasmus hervorzurufen’ (Bull. Soc. Royale des Lettres, Lund, 1933, iii 47 = Op. Sel. (Lund, 1951–1952) ii 458).

66 Cf. de la Ferté, op. cit., 13: ‘Au disparate des origines correspond une certaine complexité de caractère sans qu'on puisse dire pourtant que l'évolution typologique se soit conformée à ce que nous savons de l'histoire du culte dionysiaque; au contraire, les divergences sont frappantes.’

Representation of Maenads on Archaic Red-Figure Vases

  • Mark W. Edwards (a1)


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