Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Jeffrey Becker


As the Mediterranean cities expanded in an ever-more interconnected Hellenistic world, people longed for a rustic lifestyle because the urban landscape was seen to be engulfed by materialistic and vain concerns.[1] People faced many stresses in these urban centers and consequently searched for relief through art. How did Dionysiac art reflect political and social ideas and the identity of Hellenistic people through pastoralism? Pastoralism in art embodied the idea that satisfaction and carefreeness were attained through connecting with an environment unaffected by the calamity of the city. The countryside was populated by herdsmen and farmers, as well as the god Dionysus and his followers, including satyrs, and centaurs. These pastoral elements were associated with an idealistic way of living in that they described a utopia of sorts, one that provided an escape from the stresses of life in the city.[2] Ideals presented in Dionysiac art was utopian in all aspects, located in an ideal place (eu-topos) that overcame boundaries, both worldly and geographic (ou-topos), and allowed one to achieve an elevated state of mind in a pastoral locus amoenus.[3] The idealistic pastoral place filled with Dionysiac imagery was found where people welcomed natural resources, rather than vain amenities of the city, abandoning their identity as a city dweller for an identity defined by pastoralism. Dionysiac art provoked the viewer, such as the sleeping Hermaphroditus statue, confronting the viewer with boundary challenging issues—the world of ordinary versus the Dionysiac world, the pastoral world versus one’s own world.[4] Boundary challenging presented the idea of finding one’s way, integrating, and belonging, like mystery cults in which people found a new identity through participation in an escapist community.[5] Although people wanted to escape one aspect of their life, they found their way to something else of their own: the Dionysiac, pastoral world.

[1] Alpers 1972, 354.

[2] Witke 1966, 20.

[3] Dang 2010, 120.

[4] Von Stackelberg 2014, 398.

[5] Bøgh 2015, 281.