Panel with the Triumph of Dionysos, Early Byzantine, 4th century
Egypt; said to be from Panopolis (Akhmim)
Undyed linen and purple wool; tapestry woven; 8 5/8 x 13 3/8 in. (21.9 x 34 cm)
Gift of George F. Baker, 1890 (90.5.873)
Like most textiles from Egypt, this fourth-century panel may have been part of a ritual or festive garment. It was manufactured in the Early Byzantine period from undyed linen and purple wool in tapestry weave technique.
Dionysos, the center figure, rides a chariot drawn by two panthers. As the god of wine and intoxication, he holds in his raised right hand a characteristic bunch of grapes. Immediately adjacent to him caper two maenads (female followers). On his far right is a satyr and on the opposite side is an Indian captive in spotted pantaloon. This scene is meant to celebrate a stage in the god's legendary conquest of India, through which he achieves a triumph in this world and a place in heaven. This popular theme was with Egyptian ruler mythology from the time of Alexander the Great, who was also seen as a god. He conquered India in 325 B.C., a few years after founding the great Egyptian city of Alexandria.