Knife-wielding women of the Bacchanalia.
Representations of knife-wielding maenads were common in late Republican and early Imperial Roman art, particularly during the Augustan period. (1) The relief of a revealingly clad maenad who holds a dagger above her head and a butchered animal behind her was the most copied Greek-style work after Polykleitos's Spearbearer. (2) While Greek artists primarily put her on vases, Roman artists rendered the knife-wielder far more often and on a greater variety of media, including gems, lamps, and especially reliefs found in the houses of the wealthy. The creation, persistence, and increased popularity of this motif through time have never been studied. Scholars such as Fuchs have dismissed the so-called neoAttic knife-wielder of Roman art as devoid of social meaning and have instead presented reconstructions of non-extant Greek prototypes. (3) My goal is to examine the Greek roots of the knife-wielding maenad not to recreate lost models, but to explore the cultural motivations for constructing such an image. Following a study of the Greek sources of this motif, I investigate how and why the Romans appropriated and multiplied visual representations of the knife-wielder. Ultimately, the question is whether these representations have any relationship to reality or actual maenadic practice. If so, what are the connections? If not, why create this image?
The maenad with or without weapons was a complex character that was the product of overlapping ideas based in Greek thought, religion, art, and theater. (4) Athens during the Classical period, our richest source of evidence, generated many of the concepts that the Romans adopted and adapted. In Greek thought, the maenad, as a specifically female character, expressed culture-bound beliefs about the potentially unruly behavior of women. In religion the maenad was part of the mythical entourage of Dionysos and was presumably the model for actual practitioners of exclusively female rites as early as the Hellenistic period. In art the maenad was a beloved image on vases and eventually other media. In theater she was the subject of an immensely influential play, Euripides' Bacchae. Many of these themes persisted in Roman art and culture. I argue that the knife-wielding maenad of art, with her man-made weapon and frequently bared breast, embodied the most exaggerated visualization of a threatening, yet titillating female. The success of the image was that, as art or performance, the knife-wielder provided voyeuristic pleasure without any real danger to the viewer. However, the notion of women, if these images referenced actual women, acting out and requiring temporary liberation may indeed relate to foundations in cult practice where their actions were cathartic and ultimately beneficial to the community.
The knife-wielding maenad of art may have connections to actual cult practice. According to Henrichs, maenadism, as a component of Dionysiac worship, insured the fruitfulness of the land and a stable and profitable economy. (5) The rites as described in Hellenistic sources took place outside the city and women abandoned domestic tasks to participate in them. Evidence indicates that men for the most part were excluded from maenadic rites at least through the end of the Hellenistic period. (6) Men could only speculate about what occurred during the women's celebrations. (7) As men were the primary patrons and producers of art, performance, and literature, one then wonders on what models they based their images of maenads, especially the knife-wielder. Was it illicit observation, rumor, or pure fantasy?
One might assume that a knife-wielding maenad was a reference to sacrificial practices in cult activity. In art, knife-wielders often carry their victims, typically goats, fawns, and rabbits, all animals associated with Dionysos. Occasionally, the victim is human, but those representations seem always to be Pentheus, the ill-fated king of Thebes. However, as far as the scant epigraphical, literary, and visual sources indicate, women of the actual cult did not slit the throats of sacrificial victims in either the Greek or the Roman period, although Osborne among others challenges this blanket assumption. (8) Nonetheless, in art, the knife as an implement of sacrifice and the presence of sacrificial victims were recognizable and readily associated concepts. (9) If we accept the general prohibition against women slaughtering an animal in actual ritual, this image that appears in art is clearly a fabrication, but why? What were other potential sources for the image? Instead of being empirically based on real religious practices, the knife-wielder image in art relied much more heavily on stereotypes of the female, other related images in art, and characters from the theater. Art did not "illustrate" theater, but rather both visual art and performance art often expressed fantasy and exaggerated concepts of gender. Both media had traditional perceptions of female nature as their foundation.
In patriarchal Attic society and similarly in Rome, upper-class men established only slightly varying ideals for female comportment: women had to demonstrate competence and obedience within the domestic environment. (10) Women's ideal roles, while probably not practiced consistently across class and location, contrasted to the traditionally public and military roles of men. (11) However, women, particularly women of the upper class, were empowered within the domestic sphere and undoubtedly exerted influence on men in their families that resulted in public action. (12) Even so, women were not encouraged to cross over into a clearly prescribed male domain, like the bearing of dangerous weapons. Male family members hoped that their women folk would live up to the ideals that patriarchy established for them. However, numerous literary sources express male anxieties that women had a capricious, unstable, and sometimes violent psyche. For example, Simonides' essay from the Greek archaic period compared the nature of women to that of various animals such as the vixen, who is clever, treacherous, and uneven in temperament. The author concluded that women are the single worst plague that Zeus has inflicted on man. (13) Even though Simonides probably offered these remarks ironically, the humor came from his audience's ready ability to connect women to animals. These perceived subversive tendencies in women who sought to undermine their husbands ran counter to the established ideals for female behavior in Greek society.
While Roman women of all classes enjoyed greater social freedom than Greek women, the notion that women had less control of themselves than men was still prevalent in late Republican and early Imperial Rome. Livy's well-known recording/fabrication of Cato's railings about the license of women in History 34 is relevant to understanding perceptions of women in both Cato's and Livy's lifetimes. The weaknesses of women made guardianship, that is, male control, necessary. (14) Many men certainly esteemed the talent and intellect of women in their families--Augustus's respect of Livia's opinions comes to mind. (15) Roman grave epitaphs also frequently praise women. (16) Nonetheless, the stereotype of women's inherent inferiority and the social boundaries confining women, with their deep roots, were only rarely challenged. This fairly consistent male understanding of capricious female nature informed the creation of a great variety of female figures in art and literature and the knife-wielder takes this impression to its extreme.
Additionally, the Greek roots of the knife-wielder reveal a combination of several myths that vase painters portrayed in art. In particular, artists conflated the visual characteristics of two other female weapon-wielding groups: Amazons and the Thracian women who slew Orpheus. (17) On Greek vases various attributes and formulaic poses shifted flexibly among these deviant and violent women. The maenads, like the Amazons and the Thracian women, had a wholly human appearance and were therefore indistinguishable from real women. This human female appearance of the maenad is central because artists and patrons purposefully chose this form. Artists could have selected a semi-bestial form for the female followers of Dionysos. After all, the male counterparts of the maenads in art were the satyrs, and Greek culture abounded in polymorphous creatures such as the centaur and a host of female monsters such as sphinxes, sirens, and gorgons. Instead, maenads were human in appearance, and, from the fifth century BCE onward, readily identifiable by their costumes, attributes, and actions.
These characteristics visually separated them not only from monsters and polymorphs, but also from representations of decorous women, such as those found on Greek white-ground lekythoi or grave stelai. This artistic choice of the human female form reflected a deep-seated conflict about the nature of women that had its origins in archaic Greek culture. The knife-wielding maenad with her weapon, above other images of maenads in art, signals a significant gender inversion.
Attesting to the periodic violence of maenads in Greek art are scenes in which maenads tear victims apart by hand. This act, called sparagmos, appeared in early fifth-century red-figure vase painting. Dionysos initiated this practice, but then the women followed. (18) On a lekythos by the Oinokles Painter, dated c. 480/470 BCE, and now on display in Syracuse, Italy, a maenad dances ecstatically with her head pressed to her chest while she raises two halves of a torn fawn above her shoulders. (19) It is this violent stereotype of maenadism that Euripides' Bacchae exploited to great dramatic effect. (20) The maenads, led by King Pentheus's mother and aunts, reportedly tore apart a herd of cattle. The playwright likely chose the bovine victims in order to reveal how potent and empowering the influence of Dionysos could be, and simultaneously how depraved the behavior of the women had become. The final terrible act was the sparagmos of King Pentheus by his own mother. This action did not take place on stage. One must also note that Euripides described the bare-handed rending of victims with no reference to swords or daggers.
On a very fragmentary vase, now in the Kerameikos Museum and assigned to the Meidias Painter, and thus roughly contemporary to Euripides' drama, one sees only the heads of two women with Pentheus between them. (21) To the right of the main scene is an ecstatically dancing maenad with a sword. Of approximately the same period, a Campanian skyphos, appropriately a wine-drinking cup, now in Boston, has a maenad holding a youthful human head in one hand and a long sword in the other. (22) She follows another maenad who throws her head back and marches along with her thyrsos. On the back of the vase, between them two maenads suspend a kid that they intend to tear apart. These compositions mirror one another formally and thematically in their exploration of a violent Dionysiac sacrifice. However, unlike the Meidias Painter's vase, the Boston skyphos portrays the queen herself with a sword. In this latter case, the image seems to borrow from the tradition of Orpheus's death at the hands of the Thracian women. Thus, while the extant literature about Pentheus stated that unarmed Theban women tore him to pieces, we have an Attic and a South Italian variant in which a sword-wielder is present, once as accomplice, once as killer.
On both sides of an earlier pelike now in Berlin, a maenad with a long sword holds up the bloodied leg of a fawn (fig. 1). (23) A piece of drapery hangs over her left shoulder, but it leaves both breasts exposed, an indecorous display compared to scenes such as the stately, well-covered female participants in the Parthenon frieze. A violent and possibly erotic image, she stands her ground with legs spread wide apart as she holds up the victim to a heavily cloaked diaulos player. Erika Simon has pointed out that the flute player indicates that this scene probably relates to theater. (24) As is often the case in images referencing theater, the artist did not indicate that the maenad wore a mask, thus he blurred the borders of myth, history, and reality. Another question is whether a bloodied, severed leg could be a prop on stage. Furthermore, in the extant corpus of Greek dramas and comedies, there are no examples of maenads with weapons other than their thyrsi, an implement that appears in vase painting at the beginning of the fifth century. On several vases, such as the famous vase by the Kleophrades Painter, maenads defend themselves from the amorous advances of satyrs with their thyrsi, which are made of materials found in nature, a wooden staff crowned by leaves. Thus, the appearance in the Berlin pelike of a blade, a "man-made" weapon, contrasts with the typical thyrsos, a "natural" weapon that maenads more frequently used.
Greek artists did not produce knife-wielding maenads exclusively for vase decoration. In the Villa of Good Fortune in the Greek town of Olynthus an elaborate pebble floor pavement bears a frieze of sixteen maenads, Pan, and a satyr framing the central rectangular image of Dionysos in a panther chariot. (25) Several little animals accompany the women who hold still other animals, thyrsi, tympana, a kantharos, and knives (fig. 2). One knifewielder is paired with another maenad who holds the back legs of the fawn they suspend between them. On the opposite side of this rectangular frieze, another knife-wielder dances with her head thrown back. She holds the blade straight up and from her left hand hangs the dismembered leg of a victim. Yet a third knife-wielder holds her weapon up in a similar fashion, this time dancing with head down. In her case it is a tympanon, not a victim, in her outstretched left hand. Since its initial excavation, this space has been identified as the andron, or men's room. (26) Whether or not the identification is accurate, this room certainly received a lavish floor paving and was presumably intended for entertaining and was clearly one of the more public rooms in the house. The imagery of this room demonstrates on a grand scale male interest in maenadic subjects. If one considers each length of the frieze a sort of summary of maenadic activity, three of four sides displayed a knife-wielder. These wild women were subject to the gaze of viewers in various states of sobriety who could supply their own narratives and fantasy scenarios. However, in their position on the floor and confined to the borders, the maenads remained securely under foot.
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The presence of the imagery in the diverse media of vase painting and floor paving suggests a broad cultural knowledge of the image and an acknowledgement of its force. Ceramic vessels, because of their inexpensive materials and production costs, were probably available to a broad section of the populace. Mosaic floor pavements, although only affordable for the wealthy, could easily have existed with this same imagery in other sites beyond Olynthus. We should also note that the majority of vases on which knife-wielders appeared were vessels for wine consumption, serving, and storage. The Olynthus floor pavement was probably in a room that would have hosted symposia. It should come as no surprise that these contexts involve wine and the realm of Dionysos.
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Another class of vessels intended for use in wealthy homes and eventually for dedications in the grave was made of precious metal. A chance survival of a bronze crater, dated to the first quarter of the fourth century and now in Berlin, demonstrates that violent maenadic imagery aligned with the interests and beliefs of the upper class that could afford to commission these objects (fig. 3). (27) Excavators discovered the crater in southern Russia, but Zuchner suggested that artists from Asia Minor made the vessel and then it was traded to its final destination. If an Ionian origin is plausible, then it should be noted that knife-wielder imagery was present in Athens, South Italy, and Asia Minor by the fourth century BCE.
The crater, bent and fragmented, shows an arrangement of six figures in the main register. Two dancing maenads holding an animal between them are armed with swords. The composition is divided between seemingly harmless revelers and maenads who act viciously. No narrative context is suggested. Ultimately, a wealthy individual paid handsomely for this precious metal vessel with its inlays of silver and copper. Although it cannot be known whether the object was first displayed in a domestic environment, the owners deemed the object suitable for its final context, the grave. The maenads' presence on a grave good probably results from associations with the Dionysiac cult's promise of an afterlife, but the particular choice of dangerous maenad types seems hardly to suggest a blissful eternal existence with merriment and song. Is knife-wielding demonstrating excessive frenzy or imposed madness? Or, conversely could the patrons attribute positive associations to this action? Battle and hunting imagery with male figures would celebrate the prowess and victory of the protagonists and by association, the deceased. Are we somehow to see appropriate and acceptable images of sacrifice here--action taken in the woodland rather than in the staid formal settings of a temple precinct, but with the same beneficial results?
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Another metal vessel from the fourth century is a splendid egg-shaped vase of gilded silver that was found in a burial deposit at Borovo near Rousse in a context immediately below burials dated by coin evidence to c. 300 BCE. (28) The top register includes a knife-wielding maenad who holds a neatly sliced animal leg. Dionysos and Silenus seated, Ariadne grasping a snake, Eros, a satyr with a thyrsos, and another maenad with a short thyrsos and head thrown back complete the mythological ensemble, but it does not seem like the figures are part of a known moment within a narrative. They appear as generic representatives of Dionysiac revels and rituals, but with the inclusion of the knife-wielder the scene is hardly blissful and idyllic. Nonetheless, this violent component must have intrigued the owner enough to purchase the object. As was the case with the Berlin crater, it is impossible to determine whether this luxury object was first displayed in the home. One wonders whether the preciousness of the objects caused the family to debate its use as an heirloom or a grave good. Again, it is likely that the overall Dionysiac theme rather than individual figures and moments on these metal vases linked to the afterlife. However, the choice of knife-wielding maenads shows that the realm of Dionysos offered ambiguous messages: pleasure, but also potential violence. Female violence may have been sanctioned by its reference to sacrifice.
In another fourth-century BCE example of a violent maenad, the famed maenad by Skopas, the patron is unknown, but must have been a wealthy individual or community. However, the original of this famous sculpture no longer exists. This statue seems to have made a significant break with the Greek artistic traditions that had confined the maenad to two-dimensional representations. The literary sources provide poignant evidence about the maenad's appearance, about the sculptor, and about the later reception of the work. An excerpt from a Hellenistic writer attributes these words to the earlier philosopher poet Simonides, who had claimed that the visual arts were silent poetry. (29) The description takes the form of a dialogue:
Who's this? A maenad? Who carved her? Skopas Who made her frenzied, Bacchus or Skopas? Skopas. (30)
The author presented the dialogue as if the discussants were in close proximity to the statue. The speakers assumed that an outside agent inspired the maenad's madness: either the god or the artist. Although one can certainly imagine the tongue-in-cheek delivery of the remark, the authoritative speaker tells his companion that the sculptor made the maenad frenzied. This statement reinforces the notion that in art, maenads and maenadism were fabrications. Dionysos did not give the figure the power to kill, the sculptor did. It is Skopas's fantasy, his construct. Relying on traditional notions that women were unstable, men fabricated these images of madness for other men to enjoy. In another literary reference to this statue, Glaucus of Athens related that Skopas had created a "frenzied slayer of goats." (31) However, none of these sources explicitly mentioned a knife, although all comment upon the engaging, life-like quality of the statue.
By comparing literary testimonies to a Roman statuette of a maenad who twists her body in the manner ascribed to Skopas, art historians believe they have found an image related to the celebrated original (fig. 4). While the Dresden maenad may have been based on the famed fourth-century work, both the literary accounts and this statuette were produced well after the fourth century. (32) The Dresden maenad is definitely not the maenad who held a knife over her head that became so popular in the Roman period. (33) Her missing right arm was lowered. One hand must have held the dead goat. While it is not possible to reconstruct with confidence any attributes she may have carried, her loosened hair, gyrating pose, and revealing, swirling drapery were all maenadic characteristics continuing the conventions established in the fifth century. Significantly, Skopas's maenad may have been the first maenad rendered in the round, and possibly on a monumental scale. (34) In any case, the original sculpture was post-Euripidean and well within the contemporary visual tradition that emphasized active body movement and inner psychology as much as the standard ensemble of attributes. Even if she was not a knife-wielder, the maenad of Skopas was certainly an image of graphic violence intertwined with grace and beauty, a dangerous and threatening combination. Ancient observers agree that her madness was the artifice of the sculptor, life-like, but a fantasy. As a three-dimensional piece, that fantasy came much closer to reality.
One of the routes by which maenadic images reached Rome was through the Etruscans. On a poorly executed oinochoe from the Etruscan site of Volterra, the painter depicted a bacchante and a nude youth on the vessel's belly, while on the neck is an image of a maenad looking left and rushing right. (35) In one hand she holds a thyrsos and in the other a knife. Despite the great number of violent mythological and dramatic scenes found on Volterran funerary urns, artists do not seem to have adopted the theme of the knife-wielding maenad from the repertoire of Greek-inspired subjects. However, from the late fifth and into the fourth century come several south Italian vases bearing knife-wielding maenads. On a fifth-century Lucanian oinochoe from a tomb in Pisticci, now in the Metaponto Antiquarium, a satyr sits in profile on an overturned amphora while he plays the double flute. (36) In her outstretched arms his maenad companion carries a long dagger and a writhing snake. Her garment swings open to reveal her left breast. Again, the artist combined an indecorous display of breasts and violence.
The Tarporley Painter, working around 380/370 BCE, seemed to favor the image of the knife-wielder. At least two knife-wielders can be attributed to him and his followers rendered others. (37) A nude youth and a satyriskos flank a knife-wielder on a bell crater by the Tarpoley Painter now in Zurich. (38) The knife-wielder stands on her toes with her right arm holding the dagger behind her head. She grasps a neatly butchered fawn by its front legs. Her gravity-defying breasts, free from covering garments, thrust upward, a figure at once erotic and dangerous. On another vase by the same painter, two thyrsos-wielding maenads frame images of Dionysos and a satyr. (39) One maenad holds a torch and the other, a dagger. Both throw their heads back in an agitated dance. These four figures are found on the secondary side of the vase. On the primary side is an Amazonomachy that also contains two males and two females. (40) The Amazons seem to have the upper hand. On this vase, the two most prominent groups of deviant, arms-bearing women came together, expressing variations of female violence. A second south Italian painter mixed the same two subjects. On an impressive volute crater, the Baltimore Painter depicted an Amazonomachy on the neck of the vessel and a Dionysiac scene below. (41) On the lowest register, Dionysos and Ariadne ride in a panther biga followed by an ecstatic, knife-wielding maenad. Again, armed Amazons and maenads appear together and affirm the violent tendencies of each, an inversion of decorous female behavior. In the case of the Amazons, even if they occasionally best an opponent, they always lose as a group, resulting in the restoration of order. Similarly, the gender inversion of the knife-wielding maenad, while needing control, is ultimately beneficial, for sacrifice sets things aright with the gods.
Athenaeus's description of Ptolemy Philadelphus's (r. 282-246 BCE) spectacular procession in honor of Dionysos in Alexandria is the first and only literary reference to Dionysiac women carrying daggers, but writing in the early third century of the common era, Athenaeus was not an eye-witness. (42) The king sponsored the erection of a pavilion with ornate decoration, including a dining room that had columns in the shape of thyrsi. Large numbers of the populace took part, both men and women. Men dressed as satyrs and silens, while women took on the roles of Nikes and bacchantes. Following the priests and priestesses who trailed behind an enormous statue of Dionysos were "Macedonian bacchants, the so-called 'Mimallones,' and 'Bassarae' and 'Lydian women,' with hair streaming down and crowned with wreaths, some of snakes, others of smilax and vine-leaves and ivy; in their hands some held daggers, others snakes." (43) The procession celebrates role-playing on a grand scale through ornate costumes and attributes. Several groups of satyrs punctuate the ranks, but the bacchants appear only once within this lavish retinue. Their attributes combine elements prevalent in fifth-century Athenian vase painting as well in Euripides' Bacchae. (44) Snakes are part of the headdress and some women carry them. The presence of daggers is intriguing. Athenaeus, presumably following Callixeinus of Rhodes, used a term for daggers, encheiridia, common in prose, rather than any of the terms that specifically des ignated a sacrificial knife. The prominence of the dagger and snake-handling within this festival would seem to demonstrate that there was a tradition, ritual, literary or theatrical, for their appearance in the third century BCE. Whereas mentions of snake-handling maenads appear in several literary sources, Athenaeus's reference is the only written evidence connecting knives and maenads. Because the pageant had royal sponsorship, the inclusion of women dressed as maenads who carried snakes or daggers probably cannot be understood as negative or subversive. The presence of the knife in this instance would finally seem to link a motif that has only appeared in the arts to actual cult practice. However, this elaborate procession also included men costumed as satyrs and silens, who were clearly imaginary creatures. Thus, the element of fantasy perhaps superseded reference to actual cult practice. Therefore, the retinue may mimic art and theater rather than reality.
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The pageantry of the eastern Greek kingdoms both fascinated and repulsed prominent citizens of the rising power, Rome. Roughly two centuries after Ptolemy's Dionysian celebration, similar role-playing greeted Antony upon his arrival in Asia at Ephesos, where women dressed as bacchantes and men as satyrs. (45) Capitalizing on Antony's pride in his reputation as the new Dionysos, Cleopatra devised a similar opulent display at their famous meeting in Tarsus. These displays included a prominent Roman participant, albeit in the Greek East. Even though the knife-wielder was not part of Antony and Cleopatra's spectacle, this type of role-playing and the accounts of it were probably prominent means by which the motif made its way into Roman art.
In the Roman world, the genre in which artists most often rendered the single maenad swinging a knife was terracotta lamps. They came from sites all over the expanding territories of Rome, including Germany, Corfu, North Africa, Alexandria, Cyprus, Switzerland, and within Italy. D.M. Bailey notes that the knife-wielder was most popular during the late first century BCE and the first half of the first century CE. (46) All of these mold-made lamps are virtually identical in composition, and usually found in funerary contexts. Typically, a lone maenad storms to the left with her head thrown dramatically back (fig. 5). In her left hand, she thrusts forward half an animal; in her right, she holds up her dagger blade. The appearance of this violent figure on lamps found throughout the Mediterranean decidedly demonstrates the broad appeal and acceptance of the subject. Lamps could be mass-produced and presumably various classes of people could afford them. They were small, portable, and useful in everyday life and appropriate as grave goods.
Gems were also among the small-scale media, portable but more expensive, that bore the image of the knife-wielder. During the second and first century BCE, gem artists typically reduced representations of the bacchic thiasos to studies of individual figures. Maenads were common subjects. (47) On an oval carneol dated to the early first century BCE, a maenad with a disproportionately large head strides to the left. What catches the eye is the sword that she thrusts outward and upward. (48) Knife-wielders on ring stones are of particular interest; although they were tiny images, gems were items of personal adornment, owners displayed gem collections, and gems could be used as seals and thus multiply the image. Both men and women wore rings with precious stones or glass and the same image could have had different meanings depending on the gender of the owner. (49) For men the image may have been a scintillating portrayal of a violent and scantily clad woman, while for women they may have had significance as symbols of the temporary liberating power of Dionysian celebrations. In either case, they were more likely fantasy images and did not represent actual cultic activity or have any sacred function. The image of the dagger-swinging maenad had far-reaching appeal that transcended media and class since it appeared on lamps and gems. However, for lamps the final context was typically funerary, while gems with knife-wielders offer greater insight into daily life and Roman pleasure culture.
That Roman patrons indeed sought out the knife-wielding maenad as a subject is evidenced by reliefs on a wide variety of stone luxury objects such as relief plaques, well-heads, oscilla, fountains, and altars that decorated wealthy Roman houses of the late Republic and early Empire. Already in 1889, Friedrich Hauser observed that sculptors repeated eight maenad types in different numbers and combinations. (50) Two of the figure types held knives. The Roman period artists rendered these figures in the style of late fifth-century Athens. Fuchs's attribution of the figures to an original by Kallimachos is highly speculative as none of this sculptor's works survives and the ancient sources make no reference to a group of maenads by him. However, it is highly likely that artists based these figures on some specific prototype, probably also in relief. It was probably on an accessible, public monument from which drawings could be made and possibly even plaster casts. However, as this presumed prototype came into the Roman world, the setting for the figures shifted almost exclusively into the domestic sphere.
This group of figures held typical bacchic attributes such as the thyrsos, wreath, tympanon as well as the knife. Hauser Type 30 holds a dagger and suspends a little animal by its back leg. Behind her she holds her knife with the blade pointing up. Her head is thrown back. However, of these eight maenad types, the knife-wielder with the blade above her head and butchered animal behind her was decidedly the most popular. Not only did she appear more frequently than the others, she was frequently central in the composition or at the front of processions on a large number of marble luxury objects found in houses.
But clearly maenadic imagery was not for everyone. Cicero's correspondence concerning his selection of art provides meaningful insights into Roman collecting practices in regard to maenads. Cicero indulged in candid justifications for his choices and decisions, especially when it came to the price and the suitability of the objects in question. This reflection upon the process of art buying and reception is thus invaluable. In a letter dated 46 BCE, Cicero reprimands his agent, M. Fabius Gallus, for buying unsuitable art works, among them statues of bacchantes. While no armed maenads were mentioned, this correspondence provides rare insight into perceptions of maenads in art and it is therefore worth reproducing most of this letter:
But everything would be straightforward, my dear Gallus, if you had bought what I needed and within the price I had wished to pay. Not but what I stand by these purchases you say you have made, indeed I am grateful. I fully understand that you acted out of good-will, affection indeed, in buying the pieces which please you (I have always regarded you as a very fine judge in any matter of taste), and which you considered worthy of me. But I hope Damasippus doesn't change his mind, for frankly, I don't need any of these purchases of yours. Not being acquainted with my regular practice you have taken these four or five pieces at a price I should consider excessive for all the statuary in creation. You compare these Bacchantes with Metellus's Muses. Where's the likeness? To begin with, I should never have reckoned the Muses themselves worth such a sum--and all Nine would have approved my judgment! Still, that would have made a suitable acquisition for a library, and one appropriate to my interests. But where am I going to put Bacchantes? Pretty little things, you may say. I know them well, I've seen them often. I should have given you a specific commission about statues which I know, if I had cared for them. My habit is to buy pieces which I can use to decorate a place in my palaestra, in imitation of lecture-halls. But a statue of Mars! What can I, as an advocate of peace, do with that? (51)
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A number of issues surface in Cicero's explication of his needs. By Cicero's time, art collecting and the decoration of houses and villas was a common practice for the wealthy. (52) The bacchantes in no way projected Cicero's desired image. However, a group of female statuary that would have meshed with Cicero's sensibility was the Muses. The contrast of these two exclusively female ensembles is quite interesting. The Muses, of course, inspired the arts and were integrally linked to the finest aspects of Greek culture as appropriated by the Romans. Bacchantes did nothing of the sort. Cicero's opposition to such subject matter is then reinforced by his negative response to the Mars sculpture. Although Cicero did not mention the attributes held by these bacchantes, if Mars the war god was unacceptable, imagine his response to a knife-wielding maenad!
Although Cicero cast his choices as if they were based on purely personal needs, he used his art collection to project how he wished his contemporaries to recognize him. The Roman house hosted a great variety of its owner's personal contacts. Cicero was a man of reason; the activities of the bacchantes were antithetical to his chosen lifestyle. Cicero was a man of peace and the god of war had no place in his home. In the latter case, the value of the Mars statue as a work of art was not even considered in its condemnation. Of the bacchantes, Cicero stated that he was familiar with them and even found them attractive, but they were too expensive and not appropriate for his villa. (53) The suitability of the object for its proposed environment was prominent among Cicero's guiding principles for purchase. (54)
Another wealthy patron of a slightly later period about whom we have considerable information is Maecenas, the powerful advisor and friend of the emperor Augustus. His luxury villa on the Esquiline Hill in Rome was located within easy walking distance of the forum. In the nineteenth century archaeologists unearthed two reliefs of knife-wielders in his gardens. Despite the fact that numerous reliefs with the knife-wielding figure are extant, only a few were excavated in controlled contexts. In the case of these two objects the excavators noted only their presence within the confines of Maecenas's property rather than their exact location. (55) The first of these lovely objects is a fountain in the shape of a rhyton, or drinking horn (fig. 6).56 Around the neck are three bacchantes carved in shallow relief. One holds a knife. An artist named Pontios, who states that he is an Athenian, signed this over one-meter-tall fountain. The second object is a large, slightly rounded relief plaque (fig. 7). (57) On it a lone knife-wielder, which is roughly two-thirds life-size, dances ecstatically. It should be noted that both of Maecenas's objects are relatively large, made of fine marble, and exhibit excellent craftsmanship. One imagines that they were readily visible in their original setting since they were monumental objects. Regarding Maecenas and others in similar positions, Wallace-Hadrill observed that "the symbolic message flagged by this particular use of the hortus was a sort of philosophical detachment from and superiority to the hubbub of the forum." (58) Thus many of Maecenas's purchases may quite deliberately have evoked a world separate from that of the city and business. Because of their garden setting, Maecenas could cultivate his enjoyment of images that included violent and erotic women. In fact, none of the extant, armed maenads appears to come from temples or fora. Romans seem to have placed some of them in the funerary context as evidenced by lamps, while the other media were found in the domestic context, whether house or garden.
Numerous other images of the eight maenad types, including the most popular knife-wielder, appeared with great regularity on objects dated to the Augustan period, the time of the greatest production of these images. Artists rendered them in the elegant style of the Golden Age of Athens, a style that had tremendous appeal during the Augustan era. The choice of the medium--marble--and the Greek style were common to many works of this period. What separates the bacchantes from other images of female subjects is their demeanor. They dance ecstatically and seem to pay no attention to the fact that their gyrations have loosened their garments, often to reveal their breasts.
The bared breast would not have been appropriate for representations of actual Roman maids or matrons unless they were in the guise of another persona, yet actual Bacchantes were part of an event in the not-so-distant past of Rome. In 186 BCE, the Roman Senate suppressed the Bacchanalia. Livy related this story in his multi-volume history of Rome directed to an Augustan-period audience. (59) His account resembled a New Comedy. He used a family's intrigues to describe the debauchery of the Bacchanalia and the aspirations of the initiates to overthrow the government. Livy noted that the subversive character of the group included their admission of young men under twenty into the cult, but the historian assigned primary blame to the women, even women of the Senatorial class. Interestingly, no documentation states that the Senate ever revoked the ban, nor did Livy mention lifting of prohibitions. Livy did, however, stress that he was writing to teach a contemporary audience through exempla from the past. (60) In his account of the Bacchanalian suppression, he attempted to demonstrate the dire repercussions of men allowing unsupervised women to leave the home. Valerius, who wrote during the reign of Tiberius, also commented briefly on the suppression of the Bacchanalia: 1.3.1, "A new custom of the Bacchic rites which had been introduced was terminated since it was degenerating into deadly madness." (61) Valerius probably based his note on Livy, but his remark about "deadly madness" nonetheless demonstrates the potency of the perceived threatening character of the Bacchanalia.
During the Augustan era, the emperor supported a variety of laws that we today would term "family values" legislation. Women's clothing became more cumbersome and concealing. Augustus urged women, particularly upper-class women, to reproduce and nurture children within the home. Additionally, Augustus restored many temples around Rome and advocated the observation of traditional Roman religions. Galinsky observed that for Augustus "laws were the means to the end of producing good mores." (62) The laws existed, but did they secure their intended results? (63) These images of knife-wielding maenads are not among the heroic or virtuous figures of history or myth, nor are they exempla of proper and decorous female behavior. At the same time, someone like Maecenas, who was a close friend and advisor to the emperor, owned them. How can we reconcile these apparent discrepancies?
Their elegant and nostalgic Greek style positioned the knife-wielders as art objects and distanced them from associations with contemporary reality. The Greek style also provided a safe context in which to display breasts and curvy contours below flowing diaphanous drapery. Moreover, knowledge of the Greek style would demonstrate the patron's good taste and erudition and it aligned with the tastes of the emperor. The elegant style also mitigated the violent character of the image. Nonetheless, the dagger in the hands of a maenad was glaringly out of place. The use of a knife may have been part of a lost literary or theatrical tradition, but it presumably was not part of actual cult. During the Augustan period the actual maenadic cult remained severely curtailed and was not part of women's lives. So why were the images so popular?
Scholars such as Hauser, Fuchs, and Touchette have examined the knife-wielder and her companions as examples of Roman copying practices. They have proposed reconstructions of a lost original and suggested who the sculptor may have been. Indeed, the Greek sources of the knife-wielder must be addressed, but this investigation should also include sources beyond earlier art. These studies have largely neglected the social significance of the subject matter in its original Greek context and its later Roman adaptation. These images of the armed bacchantes had multiple layers of meaning beyond their reference to a style associated with the tastes of the Emperor and a generic desire to evoke "the Greek."
Among extant Greek-style Roman sculptures, the knife-wielder is second in number only to Polykleitos's Spearbearer, a highly significant comparison. These images offer intriguing contrasts. The appeal of the Spearbearer derived from the reputation of its original sculptor as well as the statue's embodiment of the heroic ideal. The well-known marble Primaporta Augustus and its bronze precursor suggested a recognizable visual quotation of the Spearbearer, giving the Emperor's image even greater cache. On the other hand, the sculptor of the original maenad group of which the knife-wielder was a member is unknown, but his fame may have contributed to the group's popularity. However, the Spearbearer and the armed bacchante part company completely in content. The Spearbearer personified balance and self-discipline and the fact that he was armed with a spear was appropriate for men, where skill in battle was expected and valued. The weapon-wielding bacchante subscribed to the irrational and fantastical, even if the act loosely referenced the sacrifice. A substantial part of her impact came from popular perceptions of the Bacchanalia transmitted through the theater. The most frequent comic treatments of the rites are in the plays of Plautus, who died in 184 BCE. For example, Cistellaria 156-159 recounts night rites with excessive wine consumption and the pursuit of sexual pleasure. The playwright was undoubtedly aware of the series of events that led up to the 186 BCE suppression, later described by Livy and Valerius. (64) Moreover, upper-class Romans of the late Republican and early Imperials periods were undoubtedly familiar with Euripides' Bacchae. Consider also Plutarch's account of the Parthian king Orodes's staging of the play with the head of Crassus used as a prop, a performance that perpetuated the idea of dangerous bacchic women. (65) Theater, performance, art, and male fantasy rather than actual historical characters or real cult practice shaped the image in Roman art. The knife-wielding maenad, who surpassed her companions in popularity, presented a complex image that probably elicited a variety of responses.
Roman literature abounded with the use of positive and negative exempla. Visual images, like theater, reinforced social values. Here again, Greek sources were often revisited for a Roman audience. Euripides' Medea, like his Bacchae, was well known to Roman theater audiences. The violent tearing apart of Pentheus appeared in Roman wall painting as did Medea's heinous acts of murder. Although the bacchantes of the Bacchae engaged in sparagmos, Euripides' Medea was a knife-wielder. Several houses in Pompeii and Herculaneum displayed Medea slaying her children with a sword. This sadistic and deplorable act obviously appealed to a Roman audience on some level. (66) Medea, like the violent maenad, was a fantasy woman outside patriarchy. Medea inverted gender norms by taking up the sword and acting violently. The sorceress was an intriguing figure because of her powers and her passion, but she was no model for the ideal Roman matron. Medea was threatening and attractive, yet like the knife-wielding maenad, she remained in the realm of fantasy and was therefore no real danger.
In conclusion, Greek vase painting demonstrates that there were exceptions to the manual rending of Pentheus, for knife-wielders also appear in the demise of the king. Perhaps artists based these images on a lost literary source or perhaps they were the artists' creations. However, Athenaeus's account of the third-century dress-up gala of Ptolemy in Alexandria remains the only literary source recording bacchantes with daggers. The court of Alexandria evidently celebrated the knife-wielder as an expected part of the Dionysian cortege. However, as the knife-wielder motif came into Roman art, it was not associated with the government or the temple. On lamps, the image functioned in a funerary context, probably tied into concepts of afterlife. These images also appeared on the fingers of the living in well-executed glass and gems. Finally, these images were at home in Roman houses and gardens. They were portrayals of erotic and violent fantasy rendered on a monumental scale in marble, but safely cloaked in the classical style and confined to a two-dimensional plane. In the house, they served on one level as exempla of inappropriate female behavior, but at the same time they may have reminded female viewers of the temporary liberation of the Bacchanalia. The knife-wielder created further resonances with religion by alluding to the sacrifice, but not in any sort of documentary way. For male viewers, these images reinforced the stereotype that women were more susceptible to wild behavior, which could be dangerous and needed to be controlled. Nonetheless, the images were titillating.
Scholars of Roman art have overlooked the cultural significance of the knife-wielder. Unlike Medea, she was not part of an explicit narrative or myth. The dagger-swinging maenad typically appeared without specific elements of setting or characters with which she interacted. Therefore, scholars have labeled her as "decorative." This term implies that this provocative figure was without social meaning. Moreover, her elegant and abundant classicizing drapery inspired scholars such as Hauser, Fuchs, and Touchette to reconstruct a lost Greek model, again largely to the neglect of the Roman context of the images. Moreover, none of these scholars addressed the issue of gender. The knife-wielder, while making allusions to actual cult practice, was more a product of fantasy whose underpinning was the belief that women had the potential to lose control, albeit within the context of religion. One could view the extremely popular Roman group of ecstatically dancing maenads, including the two with knives, as a counterpart to the virtuous and heavily draped Muses. Interestingly, artists rendered the armed maenad far more frequently than any Muse. In the image of the knife-wielder, which was the wildest maenad of them all, the Romans fabricated an exemplum of the ideal bad girl.
(1.) The only thematic study of knife-wielding maenads of which I am aware is a brief article addressing the theme in south Italian vases by Konrad Schauenburg, "Das Motiv der Chimairophonos in der Kunst Unteritaliens" in Studies in Honour of Arthur Dale Trendall, ed.
Alexander Cambitoglou, (Sydney: Sydney University Press, 1979), 149154. Scauenburg largely collected and categorized the images with little interpretation of their cultural significance.
(2.) Rhys Carpenter, Greek Sculpture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960), 157. Lori-Ann Touchette also noted this astonishing observation in The Dancing Maenad Reliefs. Continuity and Change in Roman Copies. BICS Suppl. 62 (London: University of London Press, 1995), 31.
(3.) The most comprehensive studies of the relationship of "copy" to "original" are Friedrich Hauser, Die neu-attischen Reliefs (Stuttgart: Wittwer, 1889), Werner Fuchs, Die Vorbilder der neu-attischen Reliefs (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1959), and Touchette. An interesting study by Alice Donahue, "The Reliefs of the Dancing Maenads" Hephaistos 16/17 (1998/99): 7-46, proposed that the Roman dancing maenad group was not based upon monumental sculptural models, but illustrations in a treatise displaying inventions for automatic theaters, devices that presented mobile sculpted figures somewhat like the synchronized moving characters in European town square clocks.
(4.) A. Rapp, "Die Manade im griechischen Cultus, in der Kunst und Poesie" Rheinisches Museum fur Philologie 27 (1872): 1-22 and 562611. This is the earliest, most comprehensive attempt to separate ritual maenadism from the creations of artists and poets. Scholars repeatedly take on this issue of categorization. Refer to Albert Henrichs, "Greek Maenadism from Olympias to Messalina" Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 82 (1978): 121-160, especially 121-123. More recently the controversy has centered on distinguishing nymphs from maenads. See Guy Hedreen, "Silens, Nymphs, and Maenads" Journal of Hellenic Studies 114 (1994): 47-69, Pls. 1-5 who argued that in vase painting the companions of Dionysos and the satyrs are always nymphs. He noted that the term "maenad" is not found on any vase. Thomas Carpenter, Dionysian Imagery in Fifth-Century Athens (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 52-69, in his chapter "Dionysian Women" arrived at a similar conclusion.
(5.) Henrichs, 123.
(6.) Henrichs, 133.
(7.) Consider the verbal sparring between Pentheus and the disguised Dionysos in Euripides' Bacchae 483-490, where Pentheus maintains that nighttime rites lent themselves to debauchery. Dionysos counters that one can also commit sin in broad daylight. In On the Crown 259-260, the orator Demosthenes attacks his opponent Aeschines by connecting him to particular cultic practices that resemble the rites of Dionysos. He then notes that Aeschines' mother is also involved in the rites. Whether based on the testimonia of others or through his own fabrication, Demosthenes fashions an image of Aeschines that links the latter to subversive and distinctly feminine behavior. Demosthenes' remarks indicate a general awareness of some sort of maenadic phenomenon with negative associations based on its foreign and female character.
(8.) Athenaeus V.197-201 describes the procession of Ptolemy II in honor of Dionysos in which a contingent of women with either daggers or snakes in their hands is present. For a demonstration of how little evidence exists for actual maenadic practices, see Henrichs, 121-160. For recent discussions of women and sacrifice, see Sarah Peirce, "Death Revelry, and Thysia" Classical Antiquity 2, 12 (1993): 219-266, Robin Osborne, "Women and Sacrifice in Classical Greece" Classical Quarterly 43, 2 (1993): 392-405, and Marcel Detienne, "Women and Sacrifice in Classical Greece" in The Cuisine of Sacrifice, ed. Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant, trans. Paula Wissing (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989) , 129-147. The legend of King Battus in Ael. Fr. 44 = Suda a 4329, the 272, s 1590, 1714 relates how Cyrene slaughterers with swords castrated the king who spied on their exclusively female rites. Pausanias 4, 17, 1 tells the story of Aristomenes of Messenia who saw the Thesmophoria and its women overpowered him with sacrificial knives, roasting skewers, and torches. See H.S. Versnel, Transition and Reversal in Myth and Ritual, 2nd ed. (Leiden: Brill, 1994), 251. Mary Beard, John North, and Simon Price, Religions of Rome. 2 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 297 argued that it was likely that women were banned from killing sacrificial victims during the Roman period. Nike may be an exception, but she is not human. Typical examples of Nikes slaying bulls can be found on Roman terracotta wall reliefs. See H.B. Walters, Catalogue of Terracottas in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities in the British Museum (London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1903), 393-394, cat. nos. D569 and D574, pl. 54.
(9.) F.T. Van Straten, Hiera Kala. Images of Animal Sacrifice in Archaic and Classical Greece (Leiden: Brill, 1995), 9-10 observed that the majority of vase painting and votive plaque scenes portraying sacrifice show the events leading up to a sacrifice rather than the actual slaughter. Chapter Three entitled "The Killing" deals with scenes showing the axe or knife in use and reasserts that these scenes are rare.
(10.) See for example, Xenophon. Oikonomikos 7, which states that the gods designed women to take care of the home and indoor concerns. For an excellent interpretation of Xenophon, see Sarah B. Pomeroy, Xenophon's Oeconomicus. A Social and Historical Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994). Refer also to Ellen D. Reeder, Pandora. Women in Classical Greece (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), 20 for her overview of the ideal woman as upper-class Greek men constructed her, which Reeder then contrasts to male perceptions of female nature as incapable of restraint and self-discipline. For a recent introduction to the lives of Roman women, see Eve D'Ambra, Roman Women (New York: Cambridge, 2007) and an insightful, concise contribution by Susan Treggiari, "Women in Roman Society" in I, Claudia: Women in Ancient Rome, ed. Diana Kleiner and Susan Matheson, (New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1996), 116-125.
(11.) Mortal women bearing weapons were not often found in Greek and Roman art. Odysseus in Odyssey 21.350-353 tells Penelope that women's realm was the home where they should busy themselves with weaving and managing the servants. Only men were to use weapons. Xenophon, Oec 7, 23-25 observed that women could not endure the rigors of the campaign. In addition, women's fear was greater than men's. Refer to Fritz Graf, "Women, War, and Warlike Divinities" Zeitschrift fur Papyrologie und Epigraphik 55 (1984): 245-254 for a discussion of the historicity of accounts of Greek women in battle. Graf maintained that narratives of women in battle were often used to explain the presence of unusual rituals usually consisting of gender inversions. Polyaenus 4, 1 contains an account of Macedonian women dressing as bacchantes to fight with their outnumbered men. Again, it is difficult to affirm the veracity of this tale because it related to the founding of a cult and was probably etiological.
(12.) Judith Hallett, Fathers and Daughters in Roman Society. Women and the Elite Family (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), 31. See the review by Susan Treggiari. "The Influence of Roman Women," review of Fathers and Daughters in Roman Society, by Judith Hallett, The Classical Review 36, 1 (1986): 102-105 who acknowledged that women did indeed exert influence, but Treggiari critiqued Hallett's privileging of this particular familial relationship over others in which similar strategies were possible.
(13.) See most recently a rather literal contextual reading by Robin Osborne, "The Use of Abuse: Semonides 7," Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society 47 (2001): 47-64 who concluded, "Semonides 7 makes it clear that sex and power went together in seventh-century Greece and that male domination of society, not just temporarily in the andron but in all places and on all occasions, depended upon, and was constantly reinforced, by abuse of women." Another early example is Hesiod's description of the origin of women in Theogony 570-616.
(14.) See a concise overview in Jillian Clark, "Roman Women" in Women in Antiquity. Greece and Rome Studies 3, ed. Ian McAulsan and Peter Walcot, 36-55 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), especially 50-53. On weaknesses of women, see Gaius, Institutes 1. 144; Cicero, pro Murena 27; Seneca, Controveriae 1. 6. 5; Seneca, ad Marciam 1. 1; and Valerius Maximus 9. 1. 3.
(15.) For a discussion of Livia's influence over Augustus, see Anthony Barrett, Livia: First Lady of Imperial Rome (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), 129-133.
(16.) For example, the first century B.C. inscription from Rome, "Here lies Amymone wife of Marcus best and most beautiful, worker in wool, pious, chaste, thrifty, faithful, a stayer-at-home" (ILS 8402. L). This translation comes from Mary Lefkowitz and Maureen Fant, Women's Life in Greece and Rome, 2nd ed. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), 17.
(17.) Images of armed Amazons abound in black- and red-figure vase painting. See Dietrich von Bothmer, Amazons in Greek Art (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957) and more recently, Ann Lindblom, "The Amazons: Representatives of Male or Female Violence?" Arctos 33 (1999): 67-91. Amazons carry spears, bows, battle-axes, and swords. For an example of a sword-fighting Amazon, see a black-figure dinos now in Paris, Louvre E 875 [J.D. Beazley, Attic Black-figure Vase-Painters (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1956), 104, 123]. For images of Thracian women slaying Orpheus, see Mari-Xeni Garezou, "Orpheus" in Lexicon iconographicum mythologiae classicae VII, ed. Giovannangelo Camporeale, 81-105 (Zurich: Artemis, 1994). For Greek scenes of Thracian women attack king Orpheus, see Garezou, 85-87, cat. nos. 32-51. Zosia Archibald, The Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 209 remarked, "The surprising thing about the women is that they look exactly like stereotypical Thracian slaves; this is the only way in which Thracian women are shown. They often wield rocks or weapons: commonly spears, swords, hammers, and double axes, occasionally a curved knife or even cooking utensils." A representative example of a Thracian woman slaying Orpheus with a knife is the stamnos now in Zurich, Univ. 3477 and J.D. Beazley, Attic Red-figure Vase-Painters, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963), 1652. In another example of shifting identifications is a vase on which the artist depicted Clytemnestra in her most enraged moment as a maenad. An animal pelt with head and legs dangling is girt prominently around her waist as she threateningly raises an axe above her head. Bari 1014. See Annaliese Kossatz-Deissmann, Dramen des Aischylos auf Westgriechischen Vasen (Mainz: von Zabern, 1978), 98-100, pl. 18, 1-3. The author dated the vase to the last quarter of the fourth century. See also William Whallon, "Maenadism in the Oresteia" Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 68 (1964): 317-327. Another murderess with a knife is Alkandre, the daughter of Pelias. See a kelch crater: Tarquinia 685, Beazley, Red-figure. 864, 16, dated c. 470 BCE and a bowl in the Basel Antikenmuseum of c. 450 BCE.
(18.) There are numerous scholarly disagreements about whether women actually practiced sparagmos. If one attempted to tear apart a rabbit, even a person of average strength would probably not succeed. In the Bacchae, Euripides has the maenads rip a bull to pieces: impossible, but very dramatic. Omophagia, the eating of raw flesh, is also commonly ascribed to maenads. However, in the sources it is associated with Dionysos, who is often known by the epithet, "Raw Eater," and not with his female followers. See the thoughtful discussion of the evidence in Henrichs, 147-152. Interestingly, the male counterparts of the maenads, the satyrs, did not engage in sparagmos in either literature or art.
(19.) Syracuse Inv. No. 24554. Angelika Schone, Der Thiasos: Eine ikongraphische Untersuchung uber das Gefolge des Dionysos in der attischen Vasenmalerei des 6. und 5. Jhs. v. Chr. (Goteborg: Paul Astroms Forlag, 1987), 156, cat. no. 526, pl. 29. Schone provided thorough groupings of various types of scenes and their chronologies.
(20.) Hans Oranje, Euripides' Bacchae. The Play and its Audience (Leiden: Brill, 1983) provided an historiographic overview of interpretations of the play as well as focusing on issues of audience reception.
(21.) Kerameikos Museum 2712. Schone, cat. no. 176, pl. 11.
(22.) Arthur Dale Trendall, The Red-Figured Vases of Lucania, Campania, and Sicily (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967), 199, cat. no. 14 of the Chequer Painter, pl. 79, 4. Now in Boston, MFA 03.824.
(23.) Berlin. Staatl. Mus. 3223. Beazley, Red-figure. 586, 47 dated 470/460 BCE.
(24.) Erika Simon, "Mainades" in Lexicon iconographicum mythologiae classicae VIII, ed. Giovannangelo Camporeale, 780-803 (Zurich: Artemis, 1997), 790, cat. no. 95, pl. 543.
(25.) Dieter Salzmann, Untersuchungen zu den antiken Kieselmosaiken. Archaologische Forschungen 19 (Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 1982), 102, cat. no. 87, pls. 14, 2 and 15, 1. Contains a comprehensive bibliography.
(26.) David M. Robinson, Excavations at Olynthus, part XII (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1946) 341-343, pl. I.
(27.) Wolfgang Zuchner, Der Berliner Manadenkrater. BWPr 98 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1938), Inv. 30622. Simon, cat. no. 30, pl. 528. This spectacular piece was probably once 42-45 cm; it is missing its foot.
(28.) Archibald, 264-265. See fig. 31.
(29.) As recorded in Plutarch, De gloria Atheniensium, 3.347a
(30.) Simonides in Anthologia Planudea 60. See Andrew Stewart, Skopas ofParos (Park Ridge, NJ: Noyes, 1977), 130, Appendix I.
(31.) Glaucus of Athens in Anthologia Palatina, ix. 774. See Stewart, 130-131, Appendix I for Callistratus. Statuarium descriptiones ii reveals that the goat is dead, but not the method employed.
(32.) See Stewart chapter seven on "Early Works" for a discussion of the style and placement of the maenad, Appendix I for the literary testimonia, and Appendix IV for related visual evidence. While written in 1977, this work is evidence of the continuing scholarly obsession with reconstructing lost Greek originals. Stewart did not suggest a date for the Roman period work, discuss its provenance, or assess the literary accounts as evidence of changing taste and perceptions of Greek art.
(33.) Without her lower legs the Dresden statuette is 45 cm tall. Her full height was likely c. 60 cm or roughly 2 ft. tall.
(34.) Several scholars have placed the Skopian original as late as the 340s or 320s, but Stewart, 92-93 and 93 n. 21 argued for a date around 360 BCE, while Steven Lattimore, The Marine Thiasos in Greek Sculpture. Monumenta Archaeologica 3 (Los Angeles: Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles, 1976), 61-62 suggested that the Dresden statuette is a replica of the Skopas work and that the original was possibly contemporary with or earlier than the Tegea pediments.
(35.) Enrico Fiumi, Volterra. Il Museo Etrusco e I monumenti antichi (Pisa: Pacini, 1976), 61, fig. 119.
(36.) Metaponto, Inv. no. 20146. Antonio M. Giambersio, Il pittore di Pisticci: il mondo e l'opera di un ceramografo della seconda meta del V secolo a.C. (Galatina: Congedo, 1989), 83-89, cat. no. 8a, pl. 2. Giambersio claimed that the knife-wielder was a rare subject in south Italian art and cited what he maintained to be the only two other examples of the subject. Even a brief perusal through the illustrations in the LIMC would reveal this observation to be false. Refer to Schauenburg, 149-154, pl. 41, fig. 5. See also the exhibition catalogue (8 July-28 November) of the Museo Barracco by Marina Piranomonte, Maria Luisa Nava, and Maresite Nova Sanri, Il vino di Dioniso (Rome: De Luca, 1999), 58, cat. no. 89.
(37.) For example, see the vase by the Adolphseck Painter (Fiena coll. 521), now in Nocera, on which an amorous satyr with a torch pursues a maenad who prepares with sword unsheathed to slay a rabbit. Her hair is loose and her head is thrown back, a formulaic pose for abandon. That she carries the scabbard for her sword puts this representation more firmly in a military rather than sacrificial context. Trendall and Cambitoglou, I. See also Simon, cat. no. 45, for the crater by the Berkeley Painter on which a central maenad wearing a nebris raises her knife to slash a fawn that she and another maenad hold. Dionysos turns his head toward the group, but shows no response to the act. For a more detailed description, see Elisabeth Rohde, CVA Deutschland. DDR Gotha, Schlossmuseum (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1968), 2.32-33, pl. 82. Another Apulian example executed by the Haverford Painter, now Naples 2013, shows an ecstatic maenad holding a dagger in one hand and a still untouched animal in her left. Both her breasts are exposed and she is wearing an animal skin. Trendall and Cambitoglou. I, 236, pl. 76, 5-6.
(38.) Zurich Univ. 3585. Simon, cat. 42. Lilian Balensiefen, Die Bedeutung des Spiegelbildes als ikonographisches Motiv in der antiken Kunst. Tubinger Studien zur Archaologie und Kunstgeschichte 10 (Tubingen: Wasmuth, 1990), 216-218, pl. 48. The nude youth holds a tympanon in which his and the maenad's reflection seem to be conflated. It is her head and her necklace, but the image has a fillet similar to the youth's.
(39.) Geneva Mus.15036. Simon, cat. no. 42, pl. 533.
(40.) Alexander Cambitoglou, Christian Aellen, and Jacques Charnay, Le Peintre de Darius et son Milieu. Hellas et Roma 4 (Geneva: Hellas et Roma, 1986), 51-54, full-page illustrations on 52 and 53.
(41.) Arthur Dale Trendall and Alexander Cambitoglou, The RedFigured Vases of Apulia, Part I, 2nd supplement (London: London Institute of Classical Studies, 1992), 272-275, pl. 71, 3-4.
(42.) Athenaeus V.197-201. Translation by Charles Burton Gulick, Athenaeus. The Deipnosophists (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1928).
(43.) Athenaeus V.198.
(44.) Plutarch Alex. 2.7-9 maintained that Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great, was a snake-handler. See Henrichs, 143 who noted that Olympias was the "earliest historical maenad of known identity." Refer to Susanne Moraw, Die Manade in der attischen Vasenmalerei des 6. And 5. Jahrhunderts v. Chr.: rezeptionsasthetische Analyse eines antiken Weiblichkeitsentwurfs (Mainz: von Zabern, 1998), 170-72 for the associations of maenads and snakes.
(45.) Plutarch, Life of Antony 24-27.
(46.) D.M. Bailey, A Catalogue ofthe Lamps in the British Museum. Vol. 2, Roman lamps made in Italy (London: British Museum Press, 1980), 16-17. He listed numerous examples from throughout the Empire and included bibliographic references.
(47.) Wilhelmina de Haan-van de Wiel and Marianne Maaskant-Kleibrink, "Manadentypen auf Gemmen" Forschungen und Berichte 14 (1972): 164-72. With most gems it is difficult to establish ownership for often they have been separated from their ring setting and have not been found in their original archaeological context.
(48.) Erika Zwierlein-Diehl, Antike Gemmen in Deutschen Sammlungen (Munich: Prestel, 1969), 2.149-150, cat. no. 384, pl. 69, 5:1.
(49.) Marianne Maaskant-Kleibrink, "A Glass Gem from the Castra at Nymegen" Bulletin antieke beschaving 43 (1968): 70-74 described a gem with a scantily clad maenad dancing with a tympanon (tambourine/drum). Nymegen was a Roman military post and this Augustanperiod gem presumably belonged to a soldier.
(50.) Hauser, Tafel II, figs. 24-32.
(51.) Translated by David Roy Shackleton Bailey, Cicero's Letters to His Friends (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1978). See letter 209 (VIII.23) 347-349.
(52.) Cornelius Vermeule, Greek Sculpture and Roman Taste (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1977), 6. For an overview of the means by which Greek art reached Rome, see Jerome Pollitt, "The Impact of Greek Art on Rome," Transactions of the American Philological Association 108 (1978): 155-174. For a brief discussion of the function of villas outside Rome, see Paul Zanker, The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press 1990), 25-28.
(53.) Miranda Marvin, "Copying in Roman Sculpture: The Replica Series" Art History 20 (1989): 29-45, quotation on 32 n. 27. The author maintained that the sculptures were previously owned. I suggest that Cicero comments upon the fact that bacchantes, as an extremely popular subject, could be found in a number of households. Thus, the bacchantes purchased by Gallus were possibly a group of frequently replicated figures. Touchette, 55 n. 437 suggested that Cicero exhibits art snobbery because the images were so common. Cicero's reference also seems to indicate that these sculptures were free-standing rather than relief works. Very few sculptures of maenads rendered in the round are extant. Surviving images of maenads are almost exclusively in relief whether on marble luxury objects, terracotta lamps, or gems.
(54.) Marvin, 32 observed that through Cicero's correspondence with Atticus and Gallus, "[w]hat emerges strongly in these letters is Cicero's sense of the power of sculpture to affect the meaning of the architecture around it."
(55.) Chrystina Hauber, Horti Romani: Die Horti Maecenatis und die Horti Lamiani auf dem Esquilin. Geschichte, Topographie, Statuenfunde (Ph.D. dissertation: Cologne: 1991), 89 recorded the earliest excavation report from 1875 that placed the panel "in der Nahe des Nymphaeum Alexandri/sog. Trofei di Mario bei der Zerstorung der Bogen des Aquadukts." See 31-32 for citations of ancient references to the Gardens of Maecenas.
(56.) Rome, Musei dei Conservatori 1101.
(57.) Rome, Musei dei Conservatori 1094.
(58.) Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, "Horti and Hellenization" in Horti Romani, eds. Mario Cima and Eugenio La Rocca, (Rome: Bretschneider, 1998), 1-12. Quotation on 5.
(59.) Livy 39. 8-19.
(60.) See the Livy's Preface to Book 1 in a translation by Aubrey de Selincourt, Livy. The Early History of Rome (Baltimore: Penguin, 2002), 30 "The study of history is the best medicine for a sick mind; for in history you have a record of the infinite variety of human experience plainly set out for all to see; and in that record you can find for yourself and your country both examples and warnings; fine things to take as models, base things, rotten through and through, to avoid." The Bacchanalia would fall into this latter category.
(61.) Translation by David Wardle, Valerius Maximus. Memorable Deeds and Sayings (Oxford: Clarendon, 1998), 144 who noted that Valerius's source was probably Livy.
(62.) Karl Galinsky, Augustan Culture (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 129.
(63.) Suetonius, 34 discussed the noble classes' resistance to this legislation. Suetonius, 69 also described Augustus's numerous infidelities.
(64.) In a persuasive short article Robert Rousselle, "Liber Dionysus in early Roman Drama" Classical Journal 82, 3 (1987): 195 suggested that "allusions to the Bacchic cult come from Plautus's Greek models rather than from contemporary events." Indeed, this is probably the case, but at the same time, Plautus's choice of this particular material was timely.
(65.) Plutarch, Crassus 33. Richard Beacham, The Roman Theatre and its Audience (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991), 7 discussed how Euripides' plays were particularly popular in the Greek areas of southern Italy during the Hellenistic era. Also, Beacham, 123 stated that Roman playwrights, including Accius, who wrote a Bacchae, Pheonissae, and Meleager, based them on Euripidean models. For the use of Euripides in Roman education, see Stanley Bonner, Education in Ancient Rome. From the Elder Cato to the Younger Pliny (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), 214-215 and Raffaella Cribiore, "Euripides' Pheonissae in Hellenistic and Roman Education" in Education in Greek and Roman Antiquity, ed. Yun Lee Too, (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 241-258.
(66.) See the following examples now in the National Museum, Naples: from the House of Jason (IX, 5, 18) 114 321, (IX, 5, 14) 111 440, House of the Dioscuri (VI, 9, 6-7) 8977, from Herculaneum 8976, from Stabiae 8978. Frescoes in situ: Casa M. Lucreti (IX, 3, 5) and Casa del Centenario (IX, 8, 3-6). Most of these paintings post-date the Augustan era, as the majority of paintings in the Bay of Naples are fourth-style due to the renovations following the earthquake of AD 62. However, no reason exists to assume that the subject of Medea slaying her children was new or innovative. Earlier representations undoubtedly once existed. See also Kathryn Gutzwiller, "Seeing Thought: Timomachus' Medea and Ecphrastic Epigram" American Journal of Philology 125, 3 (2004): 339-386.
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|Author:||Joyce, Lillian B.|
|Publication:||Southeastern College Art Conference Review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2010|
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