This herma embodies two busts, Ariadne and Dionysus. Dionysus is the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness, fertility, theatre and religious escstacy in Greek Mythology; in Roman mythology he is known as Bacchus. Ariadne was the daughter of Minos, the King of Crete in Greek Mythology. She is mostly associated with mazes and labyrinths, due to her involvement in the myths of Theseus and the Minotaur.
After Athens fell under attack from Minos for killing his son, the Athenians asked for terms. One of these terms was that they were required to sacrifice seven young men and seven maidens every seven to nine years to the Minotaur. One year the sacrificial party included Theseus who volunteered to come and kill the Minotaur. Ariadne fell in love at first sight and helped him by giving him a sword and a ball of thread so he could find his way out of the Minotaur's labyrinth.
From then she eloped with Theseus after he achieved his goal, but according to Homer "He had no joy for her, for ere that, Artemis slew her in a seagirt Dia because of the witness of Dionysus", speculating that she was already marriedto Dionysus when Theseus ran away with her (Oxford Classical Dictionary). Theseus thus abandonded Ariadne sleeping on Naxos, Dionysus rediscovered and wedded her.
It is the subject of Titian's many masterpiece paintings. The painting was passed onto Titian after originally being commissioned to Raphael who passed away in 1520. Read more about the story in Catallus' Poem (#64), The Wedding of Peleus and Thetis.
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