The Dionysos Cup

DIONYSOS, a pretty boy, was once captured by pirates, they wanted to enjoy his body, or sell him into slavery, or both. They tried to bind him, but no ropes would hold him, and he made vines grow out of the ship. Scared, they jumped into the water and were turned into dolphins.

There are many variants of this legend, I have restricted myself to the elements found on the famous Dionysos Cup by Exekias. It is a kylix, a flat bowl used for drinking wine (the English word “chalice” is derived from it), about 30cm in diameter. As the wine was drunk away, first the grapes and the dolphins would be uncovered, the ship with Dionysos on it only in the end.

The kylix is dated around 530 BC, a later work by Exekias. It was found in a tomb in Vulci in the mid-19th century and is now in the Staatliche Antikensammlungen in Munich.

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