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Thyrsos - A Symbol of Dionysos
, the Greek god of wine and the theatre, was often depicted in mythology and art with a thyrsos
(also spelled thyrsus
). Indeed, the thyrsos
was one of the god's symbols. This rather odd looking attribute was basically a staff upon which ivy or grape vines were wound, topped with what appears to be a large pine cone - and if you use your imagination, you might notice that the thyrsos
resembles a giant stalk of asparagus.
In addition to the images of Dionysos carrying the thyrsos in ancient Greek vase painting and relief sculpture, there are many examples of Maenads or Bacchantes holding this distinctive staff. So it is important to remember that these female followers of the frenzied god of wine also carry the thyrsos in art and myth. Occasionally, satyrs (those creatures, half man and half goat, who form the male portion of Dionysos's entourage) and/or Sileni are portrayed holding this distinctive symbol as well.
Here is a detail of an ancient Greek vase painting that depicts a maenad (or bacchante) with a thyrsos:
More images and information about representations of the thyrsos in ancient Greek art can be found in the following book:
Art and Myth in Ancient Greece | T.H. Carpenter
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.
The stories of Classical myth come to life in Bulfinch's book. This edition also features legends from other cultures.
Do you have a specific question about Greek, Roman, and Celtic mythology? Then try the Mythography forum!