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THYRSUS

THYRSUS (θύρσος), a wand or sceptre carried by Dionysos (Bacchus) and by Satyrs, Maenads, and others engaged in Bacchic rites (Eurip. Bacchae, 25, 80, 88, 733, 762, 1099; Cyclops, 62, Βάκχαι τε θυρσοφόροι; Athen. 14.631 a; Verg. A. 7.390; Hor. Od. 2.19, 8, &c.). It usually consists of a straight staff surmounted by a pine-cone (Anth. Pal. 6.165, θύρσου χλοερὸν κωνοφόρου κάμακα), or by a bunch of vine-leaves and grapes or ivy-leaves and berries (Ov. Met. 11.27, 28; Propert. 3.3, 35). A riband or fillet is found attached to it, just below the pine-cone or the bunch of leaves. On the monuments, the pine-cone

Thyrsi, from a Greek vase. (Hamilton.)

appears most commonly to form the head of the thyrsus. The pinecone-headed thyrsus is held by Dionysos on an Attic terracotta of early style figured in Baumeister, Denskm., art. Dionysos, fig. 481, and is seen in the hands of Dionysos and a Satyr on an amphora of good style figured ib., art. Dionysos, fig. 491 = Mon. Inst. vi. vii., Taf. 70. It may also be seen on red-figured vases of the best period (e. g. in the British Museum, vases labelled E 164, E 179, E 356, E 372, E 379) and on later vases (British Museum, F 91), on gems (A. H. Smith, Brit. Mus. Cat. Engraved Gems, Nos. 957, 1023), on Roman reliefs (Anc. a Marbles in Brit. Mus. ii. pl. xii.), and on coins (the thyrsus is an occasional type and a not infrequent symbol on coins. It has the pine-cone head). The thyrsus with the ivy-bunch top is found on vases both of the dine (British Museum, E 54, E 109, E 153) and later periods (Brit. Mus. F. 377). Occasionally, as on certain Roman terracotta reliefs in the British Museum (Descript. of Anc. Terracottas in Beit. Mus., No. xxi., pl. xiii.; ib. No. xxxvii., pl. xx.), the thyrsus has the pine-cone at each end of the staff. An interesting coin of Amisus in Pontus, struck under the influence of Mithridates Eupator (the Great), shows a pineconeheaded thyrsus with the staff formed of a pinebranch: from the riband attached to this thyrsus is suspended a bell on a cymbal, an unusual addition (see Wroth, Catal. Pontus, &c. pl. iii. No. 10; p. 18, No. 58: cp. the thyrsus, ib. pl. iii. Nos. 7, 8, 9).

The pine-cone or leafy bunch of the thyrsus was sometimes supposed to conceal a spear-head, used as a weapon by Dionysos and his followers. This is what is properly called the θυρσόλογχος (Callix. ap. Athen. 5.200; Diod. 3.65, 4.4; Macr. 1.19; Lucian, Bacch. 4; Ov. Met. 3.667).

It may be added that the pillars of the banquetchamber built for the great festival of Ptolemy Philadelphus, described by Athenaeus, 5.196 sq., represented thyrsi and palm-trees alternately. (For another example of a thyrsus, see woodcut under VANNUS

[W--K. W--H.]

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