Department of Greek & Latin


Dionysus in Rome


3-4 September 2015
University College London



Though attested in Greek culture since the Mycenaean palace records, Dionysus always remained quintessentially 'other.' He is usually considered a Greek god in his Greek contexts, from the eastern Mediterranean to southern Italy. This international conference will shift the focus to his reception in Rome and Italy, aiming to establish what was essentially Roman or Italian about the naturalized Roman Bacchus, and examining the importance of Roman filtering to the ways in which Dionysus was understood in later ages, e.g. the Italian Renaissance.

Dionysus' mythical conquest of India, and his passage from East to West make him a suitable figure to think about colonization narratives and cultural transfer. But we aim to go beyond the binary notion of 'Rome receiving Greece' and beyond the idea of hermetic national categories by looking at the closely-meshed interactions between Greek and Italian culture in early-Hellenized Italy, and by expanding the frame of reference to include countries around the Mediterranean that came under Roman control, including Greece itself. What is 'Roman' about the versions of Dionysus articulated by writers from north Africa or the Greek east of the Roman period? Do Romanized Greeks of the imperial period think differently about Dionysus from their pre-Romanized counterparts? What was the role of native Italian religion in taming the ecstatic Greek god for his new Roman audience? What does Roman policy about the cults of Liber and Bacchus tells us about the Romans' relationship with this god?

Ancient historians, and historians of art, religion and literature will gather to offer collaborative perspectives on the Roman and Italian dimensions of this Greek god. A version of the conference proceedings will be published as a book.

Speakers and titles

Valentina Arena (UCL) - The temple of Ceres, Liber, and Libera

Caroline Campbell (National Gallery) - The Dangers of Reception: Bacchus's (in)visibility in Italian Renaissance Furniture Painting

Elena Giusti (Glasgow/Cambridge) - The Metapoetics of Bacchus: Dionysian Sublime in Seneca's De Tranquillitate Animi

Steve Heyworth (Oxford) - Liber in Ovid, Fasti 3

Gesine Manuwald (UCL) - Dionysus / Bacchus / Liber in Cicero

Francesco Massa (Aix-Marseilles) - Liber and Dionysus in the Roman Imperial Period? - The Contribution of Latin Christian Literature

Daniele Miano (UCD) - Liber, Fufluns, and the Others. Identities of Dionysus in Latium and Etruria (5th- 3rd centuries BC)

John Miller (Virginia) - Bacchus and the Exiled Ovid (Tristia 5.3)

François Quiviger (Warburg) - Release and restraint: Rubens' Sleeping Silenus and Renaissance Banqueting Culture

Alessandro Schiesaro (La Sapienza) - Flavian Bacchus

Julietta Steinhauer (UCL) - Dionysian Associations in Rome

Phiroze Vasunia (UCL) - Dionysus and India

Stéphanie Wyler (Paris - Diderot) - Dionysian landscapes in Augustan images


For further information please contact dionysusinrome@gmail.com

Graduate bursaries

Thanks to the generosity of the Classical Association, a limited number of graduate bursaries were made available.


We gratefully acknowledge the generous support of our sponsors, the Institute of Classical Studies, the Jowett Copyright Trust, the A. G. Leventis Foundation, and the Classical Association.