A Sculpture of the God Dionysus Discovered at Stobi

July, 09 2019 | Ioannes Stobaeus


A marble sculpture depicting the god Dionysus was discovered at the archaeological site of Stobi last week. This unique discovery is a result of the excavations conducted as part of the summer international field school for archaeology. The sculpture, which was likely made in the 2nd-3rd century AD, is preserved in ~50 cm in height. It was discovered in a secondary context within the remains of a collapsed wall from a house of the 6th century AD where the sculpture itself was used as a building material. Because of this, we are missing the head, right hand, feet, and base. Having in mind that in the 6th century Christianity is the dominant religion, it was common at that time to destroy and reuse sculptures of pagan deities from previous centuries as construction material.


The newly discovered sculpture represents Dionysus, the god of wine, fertility, theater, and religious ecstasy, leaning on the trunk of a tree which is encircled with grape vines and hanging grapes. Dionysus himself is half naked with a cloak covering his left shoulder and lower half of the body. A panther is depicted along his left leg, which is one of his main symbols along with grape vines, ivy leaves, a thyrsus (a specific wand topped with a pinecone) and a kantharos (wine goblet). This is not the first marble sculpture of Dionysus found at Stobi. Previously, a full sculpture, two heads and one hand were discovered. Nevertheless, this is the first sculpture of Dionysus of this type thus far discovered at the site and its importance in a wider archaeological context will be precisely established with future analysis.


This is the 10th annual international archaeological field school held at Stobi as a result of the collaboration between National Institution Stobi and the Balkan Heritage Foundation from Bulgaria. This season, the school has 17 students and volunteers from the USA, Canada, China, Sweden, El Savador, and Australia. The professional archaeologists from NI Stobi who conduct these excavations are as follows: MPhil. Zlatko Kovanciliev – dig director, MPhil. Jovan Radnjanski – field instructor, and MPhil. Goce Pavlovski – field instructor.

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