Attic Red-Figure Vases

Kylix attributed to Makron

By Jessica Lamont

Accession Number: JHAM B10
Measurements: Height: 12.5 cm, Diameter: 39 cm
Material: Ceramic
Date/Culture: Greek, 490-480 BCE
Provenance: The Baltimore Chapter of the Archaeological Institute of America

Created for the symposium, this drinking cup shows a scene of wine and revelry—a glimpse into the world of Dionysos. Maenads cover all surfaces and carry torches, musical instruments, and thyrsoi as they work themselves into a  frenzy. On the cup’s exterior, they perform for Dionysos (above), who holds a drinking-vessel and umbrella of vines, heavy with grapes. Wine pulsing through them, they dance with wild abandon, ruffling their diaphanous gowns or chitones. The drapery is richly drawn, capturing their liveliness. Aroused by ecstatic dancing and see-through garments, a group of unwanted satyrs appear below. In the center, an ithyphallic satyr clutches a Maenad’s arm, and she repels him with the butt of her thyrsos. Another uses his wineskin as a weapon, swinging at the resisting Maenad. In the end, the lecherous satyrs remain frustrated.

The back of the vessel. JHAM B10

Maenads and satyrs were untamed beings, existing outside the civilized, structured society of Athens. Yet they are welcome images in the symposium, an arena in which wine flowed freely, and prostitutes and slaves danced, played music, and drank alongside citizens. In this uninhibited setting, the Maenads—denizens of distant, fantastical worlds—made fine company.