Sec. II-III d.C.

FILOSTRATO, Imagines, I, 19.

Testo tratto da: Philostratus, Imagines, traduzione di Fairbanks A., Londra 1931.

The Tyrrhenian Pirates

A mission ship and a pirates’ ship. Dionysus steers the former, on board the latter are Tyrrhenians, pirates who ravage their own sea. The one is sacred ship; in it Dionysus revels and the Bacchantes cry out in response to him, and orgiastic music resounds over the sea, which yields its broad surface to Dionysus as readily as does the land of the Lydians; on the other ship they go mad and forget to row and already the hands of many of them are gone. What does the painting mean? Tyrrhenian sailors, my boy, are lying in wait for Dionysus, as word has come to them that he is effeminate and a vagabond and a mine of gold so far as his ship has concerned, because of the wealth it carries, and that he is accompanied only by Lydian women and Satyrs and fluteplayers, and an aged narthex-bearer, and Maronian wine, and by Maron himself. Hearing that Pans sails with him in the form of goats, they planned to carry off the Bacchantes for themselvesand to turn over to the Pans she-goats, such as are raised in the land of the Tyrrhenians. Now the pirate ship sails with warlike mien; for it is equipped with prow-beams and beak, and on board are grappling-irons and spears and poles armed with scythes. And, in order that it may strike terror into those they meet and may look to them like some sort of monster, it is painted with bright colours, and it seems to see with grim eyes set into its prow, and the stern curves up in a thin crescent like the end of a fish’s tail. As for the ship of Dionysus, it has a weird appearance in other respect, and it looks as if it were covered with scales at the stern, for cymbails are attached to it in rows, so that, even if the Satyrs are overcome by wine and fall asleep, Dionysus may not be without noise on his voyage; and its prow is drawn out in the semblance of a gold leopardess. Dionysus is devoted to this animal because it is the most excitable of animals and leaps lightly like a Bacchante. At any rate you see the very creature before you; it sails with Dionysus and leaps against the Tyrrhenians without waiting for his bidding. And the thyrsus here has grown in the midst of the ship and serves as a mast, and sails dyed purple are attached to it, gleaming as they belly out in the wind, and woven in them are golden Bacchantes on Mount Tmolus and Dionysiac scenes from Lydia. That the ship seems to be embowered with vine and ivy and that clusters of grapes swing above it is indeed a marvel, but more marvellous is the fountain of wine and lets it drain away. But let us turn to the Tyrrhenians while they still remain; for under the maddening power of Dionysus the forms of dolphins are creeping over the Tyrrhenians- not at all the dolphins we know, however, nor yet those native to the sea. One of the men has dark sides, one a slippery breast, on the back of one a fin is growing, one is growing a tail, the head of one is gone but that of another is left, the hand of one is melting away, while another laments over his vanishing feet. Dionysus on the prow of his ship laughs at the scene and shouts orders to the Tyrrheninians as fishes in shape instead of men, and as good in character instead of bad. Soon, at any rate,  Palaemon will ride on a dolphin’s back, not awake, but lying prone upon it sound asleep; and the Arion at Taenarum makes it clear that doplhins are the companions of men, and fond of song, and worthy to take the field against pirates in defence of men and the art of music.