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Silenus



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Silenus, the Phrygian, to whom fable has assigned the distinction of being the foster-father, tutor, and companion of Bacchus, as one of the first that held the son of Jupiter and Semele in his arms, and who followed him in his travels and excited him in virtue and glory. -- Indeed some ancient traditions have exalted the character of Silenus into that of a great captain, a great physician, and a sage counseller. But (as Spanheim in Julianus Caesar sarcastically remarks) "he was evidently better versed in the knowledge of nature than in that of reasoning." In other words, he would seem to have been more the friend of wine and raillery than that of science and research -- a sort of philosophic voluptuary. And as to the representations of this personage on antique monuments, the ridiculous considerably predominates over the dignified. He is ordinarily figured as an old man with a bald head and a thick beard, a snub turned-up nose, in a state of more than half nudity and of entire drunkenness, holding a staff, or the cantharus into which he was wont to press out the juice of the grape; sometimes standing, but seldom without support, sometimes lying along carelessly on the back of an ass. -- The images of Silenus are found on medals of Macedonia, and of Ancyra in Galatia. It is a type seen on some family coins, and is of sufficiently frequent occurrence on Roman colonial medals. On a denarius of Marcius L. Censorinus, Silenus stands with one hand raised, and the wine skin at his back; behind a small pillar, on which stands an image. -- Eckhel, in his commentary on the coins of the Marcia family, acknowledges himself ignorant of the reason why the figure of Silenus appears on the medals of Censorinus. -- Among the colonial are those of Troas, in Phrygia, struck under Marcus Aurelius and Commodus, in which he is accurately recognised by Vaillant as an elderly male figure, naked, holding up his right hand towards the stars, and bearing his goat skin bottle on his left shoulder. The people of Troas, his reputed birth place, honoured his memory as the author and master of the best of studies, and worshipped him as a god. -- A coin of Bostra, under Alexander Severus, exhibits Silenus in the same posture, and with the same attribute of the wine skin, but as a younger man. -- The colonies of Coillu, in Numidia, under Caracalla, Elagabalus, and Gordianus Pius; of Damascus, under Philip senior; of Deultum, in Thrace, under Macrinus; and others, likewise bear the effigy of Silenus; on some of these his extended hand is pointing to a cypress tree.

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