Lamp with Wreathed Silenus

By
Michele Asuni
Michele Asuni is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Classics at Johns Hopkins University. Before coming to Hopkins, he received a BA and an MA, both in Classical Philology and Ancient History, from the University of Pisa. Primarily a Hellenist, his main interests lie in archaic and classical Greek literature and culture, textual criticism, and Silver Latin. He is currently completing a dissertation on the aesthetics of color in Greek literature, from Homer to Heliodorus.

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  • Accession Number: JHUAM 215
  • Measurements: Length: 9.3cm, Width: 7.0cm, Height: 2.8cm
  • Material: Ceramic
  • Culture/Date: Roman, 1st c. CE?
  • Provenance: Unknown

 

In Greek mythology, Silenus was the tutor of the god Dionysus. His features are similar to those of a satyr, but he is usually depicted as being considerably older. Silenus was often featured in comedies and satyr plays (e.g. Euripides’ Cyclops and Plautus’ Rudens). As early as the 5th century BCE, the terms silenus and satyr began to be used as synonyms. In his Symposion, for example, Plato compares his teacher Socrates to both Silenus (216d) and the satyr Marsyas (215b). Silens and satyrs were considered to be lascivious creatures, who often chased nymphs through the woods – a trait they share with the god Pan. Often depicted as dancing with the nymphs and drinking wine, these creatures were associated with the thiasos, Dionysus’ ceremonial group of followers.

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