Papers of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens — 1.1882-1883

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It need hardly be said that we have here a representation of the
birth of Dionysus. The seated figure is Zeus, from whom the youthful
god Hermes has just taken the new-born child. The subject was a
favorite one with the ancients, as is shown by the frequency of the
scene in bronzes, gems, and coins, besides the other instances in
sculpture.* The two figures upon either side of Zeus and Hermes
are more difficult to explain, though they evidently stand as guards
over the birth of the infant. The legs of the figure upon the extreme
left of the group are entirely destroyed, and of the lower parts of the
body only portions of the feet remain. The right arm is wanting
below the elbow, but with the left the figure holds aloft a round shield.
The figure upon the other side of the group has suffered less, and,
with the exception of the lower right arm, it is in good preservation.
With his left arm this guardian also holds a shield, but does not
raise it aloft as his companion does. Matz suggests that these figures
have been introduced at the birth of Dionysus in imitation of the
Cretan myth about the infant Zeus, and remarks : " The Orphic
bards thenceforth assigned the same protectors {i.e., as to Zeus) to
Dionysus Zagreus, son of Zeus and Persephone (Lobeck, Aglaophamus,
P- 555)' t0 defend him from the wiles of the Titans, whence the
transfer to the son of Semele is very easy." \

The next group also can be interpreted with tolerable certainty.
Upon each side of a small altar stands a male figure. The one upon
the right is clad in a short garment, over which is cast an animal's
skin ; he wears also a cothurnus. Behind him is the graceful figure
of a young man, over whose left shoulder and arm hang a light
mantle, caught together just below the right shoulder. His right
arm, now gone below the elbow, was extended ; and the hand, as
Matz suggests, may have shaded his face. The figure upon the left
of the altar is more simply clad in a short tunic ; with his right arm,
now destroyed, he was evidently dragging a goat,! which is seen

* Cf. yonrnal of Hellenic Studies, April, 1SS2, p. 107; and an article in the
same number, by A. H. Smith, upon the Hermes of Praxiteles, in w hich, although
the author has collected a large number of representations of the birth of Diony-
sus, our relief has been overlooked.

f Upon the subject of the Curetes and Corybantes, and their relations to the
myth of Dionvsus, cf. A. Brown, The Great Dionysiack Myth, Vol. I. p. 128 ff.
Cf. Gerhard, Antike Bildwerke, CIV.; and Muller-Wieseler, Denkm'dler der alien
Kunst, II. XXXV. 412.

% Verg. Georg., II. 380: Non aliam ob culpam Baccho caper omnibus aris
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