It says this is the torso of Dionysus (Greek God) and it is in the Egyptian Art section. Why would it be here?
That's a great question! The simple answer is that Egypt was taken over by Alexander the Great and it did become a part of the Hellenistic World, even though the Greek leaders of Egypt at the time still called themselves pharaohs. Dionysus, specifically, has direct ties to Egypt as well. As you may have read in the label, the Greek writer Antoninus Liberalis recounts that Dionysus hid in Egypt disguised as a goat to escape Zeus’s wrath after an attempted rebellion.
How do you know this is Dionysus?
If you look closely at the figure's right shoulder, you can see hooves of a goat or sheep which indicates that it is a sheep or goat's skin that is draped across the torso. As you may have read in the label, during the Ptolemaic period Dionysus was conflated with the Egyptian god Osiris who's sacred animal was a ram.
What can you tell me about this?
This torso of the god Dionysus is made from basalt, a stone carved exclusively in Egypt. It was made during the period when the Roman Empire ruled over Egypt, around the 2nd or 3rd century CE. Dionysus is the god of wine, drunkenness, dancing, theater and all other "out of control" behavior, hugely popular with the Greeks and the later Romans under than name Bacchus.
Why is this Greek torso in the Egyptian gallery?
That's a great question! The primary reason is that the material it's made from comes from Egypt. It also speaks to the international melting pot of the Mediterranean during the Roman period. With the entire region under one rule goods and ideas flowed freely from one area to another.
Is this Roman?
This Torso of Dionysus is probably the most Roman object on view right now! Like many Roman statues, it is a copy of a Greek original. It can be identified as Dionysus by the goat hooves on the skin he wears.
Of particular interest is the incredible craftsmanship and the beautiful black stone that was quarried in Egypt.