Byzantine; Possibly made in Syria, said to have been found in Rome
Ivory; 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 in. (8.3 x 10.8 cm)
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917 (17.190.56)
Ivory pyxides--cylindrical boxes, carved from cross sections of an elephant's tusk--were used in Antiquity to hold valuables, and later used by Christians to hold the consecrated host. This pyxis shows scenes from classical mythology. Dionysos, a son of Zeus, rides in his chariot overseeing his conquest of India. The pyxis recalls the epic stories of Dionysos penned by a fifth-century poet of Egypt, Nonnos of Panopolis; both attest to the persistent popularity of Dionysiac themes well into the Christian era.