Bema of Phaidros

Athens, Greece

Bema of Phaidros

The Bema of Phaidros is the marble platform created in the third century CE that served as stage front to the Theatre of Dionysos Athens. It is decorated with a Neo-Attic Roman sculpture of the Hadrianic or Antonine period, this sculpture was dismantled sometime in antiquity, moved from an unknown location, and rebuilt into the Bema of the Theatre by Phaidros, archon of Athens. Four stone reliefs decorate the stage front illustrating scenes from the life of Dionysos they are: 1) The birth of Dionysos, 2) the entrance of Dionysos into Attica, 3) the sacred marriage of Dionysos and the Basilinna and 4) the enthronement of Dionysos. These scenes are framed by crouching silenoi.

The sculpture, reading the viewer’s from right to left, begins with a scene that can be taken to be the birth of Dionysos. It consists of four figures beginning with a semi-draped seated figure who is likely Zeus facing him is a youth holding a small child, presumed to be Hermes and the infant Dionysos at the moment of his second birth from the thing of Zeus. Framing the scene are two nude male figures each holding a shield, these have been conjectured to be either korybantes or kouretes. The next slab represents the bestowing of the gift of wine, the introduction of the worship of Dionysos to Attica and alludes to the beginnings of tragedy. Again there are four figures; reading right to left they are, a young male figure in a chlamys and lion skin gesturing to his right. Immediately next is a figure identified by his attributes of grapevine, leopard skin and cothurni as Dionysos. Between him and the adjacent figure to his right is a small altar, this latter figure may be Ikarios accompanied by his dog Maera and a tethered goat. To the viewer’s left is a draped female, possibly a maenad, sometimes identified as Erigone On the third slab are three figures with a fourth figure lost over time, they are conjectured to be, from left to right, Tyche Dionysos and Basilinna. The final slab on the viewer’s far left consists perhaps of, from left to right, Tyche, Theseus, Basilianna, and Dionysos enthroned.

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