Watch and Listen

Panel from a Dionysian sarcophagus

What if death were not the end? Dionysus and his followers invite viewers to share in a joyous celebration in the afterlife...

Panel from a Dionysian sarcophagus
Late 2nd century – early 3rd century A.D.
63.5 x 206.4 x 10.2 cm

Narrated by Dr Isabelle Tassignon, Curator of the Classical Archaeology Collection

"This Roman sarcophagus panel is decorated with a Dionysian procession carved in high relief. In the centre, beneath the pediment of a temple, we can see the handsome and young Dionysus, also known as Bacchus, leaning casually on a small satyr. These two very calm friends are surrounded by satyrs and Pan figures, who twirl and dance with Bacchantes. The procession’s participants gyrate at a fiendish rhythm: you can almost hear the sound of the cymbals and tambourines shaken by the Bacchantes, the satyrs’ cries and the clopping hooves of the Pan figures. This joyous image represents the Dionysian happy madness: the intoxication that Dionysus, the god of wine, bestows on his followers, even in death. This cult was highly popular during the imperial era, which explains the large number of sarcophagi ornamented with similar themes in the Roman Empire."