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Gardner's Art Through the Ages

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Aphrodite in Art
Aphrodite in Myth
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Maenads in Greek Mythology
Maeands (also known as Bacchantes, Bacchae, or Thyiades) played an important role in Greek mythology, literature, and art. These women worshipped the Greek god Dionysos, and, along with the notorious satyrs, formed part of the god's entourage. Indeed, Maenads frequently appear together with the frenzied deity of wine in both myth and art, where they are depicted holding Dionysian symbols such as the thyrsos, ivy, or grapes, and often shown wearing panther or fawn skins.

One of our best ancient sources for the story of Dionysos and his Maenad followers is found in the Bacchae of Euripides. In this play, the power and destructive capacity of Dionysos are emphasized. This deadly aspect of the god is conveyed primarily through the women who are drawn into his mysterious realm. These women (who, as the title indicates, are called Bacchae or Bacchantes) celebrate Dionysos by abandoning themselves to the wild, liberating energy of nature. Bacchantes, when in the trance of the deity, leave behind home and family, and haunt the forests and mountains, their roles as wives, mothers, and sisters temporarily forgotten.

The Bacchae of course is recommend reading for anyone interested in more information about these followers of Dionysos. And in light of this fact, we offer one more enticing detail about Euripides's depiction of these wild women: when possessed by Dionysos, the Maenads can become savage and brutal...

You can learn much more about Maenads from the following books:

Euripides V: Electra, the Phoenician Women, the Bacchae (The Complete Greek Tragedies) | edited by Grene and Lattimore

The Oxford Classical Dictionary | edited by Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth

Maenads in Art History
Gallery | For pictures and information about Maenads in art, visit the Mythography gallery!

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Blessed are those who wear the crown of the ivy of god. Blessed, blessed are they: Dionysos is their god!

- Euripides, Bacchae

Who's Who in Classical Mythology

This book is a great source for information about Greek and Roman mythology! Organized alphabetically, this who's who features information about over 1200 of the most intriguing characters from Classical myth and legend.