MARON was the rustic Seilenos (Silen) god of Maroneia in Thrake--one of the finest wine-producing regions in the ancient world. He was also the charioteer of the god Dionysos.
Maron first appears in Homer's Odyssey as a priest of Apollon in Maroneia where he presents Odysseus with a gift of his finest wines. Euripides later describes him as a son of Dionysos and pupil of Seilenos (Silenus).
In late Hellenistic and Roman art Maron is often confounded with Seilenos or portrayed as one of three elderly Seilenoi in the retinue of Dionysos.
His name was derived from the word marôn which means "whitish-grey"--an adjective used to describe the colour of an ass's hide. He was, of course, also the eponym of the region of Maroneia.
FAMILY OF MARON
[1.1] EUANTHES (Homer Odyssey 9.197, Hesiod Catalogues Frag 3)
[2.1] DIONYSOS (Euripides Cyclops 141)
[2.2] DIONYSOS & ARIADNE (Theophilus to Autolycus 7)
[3.1] SEILENOS (Nonnus Dionysiaca 14.96)
[4.1] OINOPION (Other references)
[1.1] THE SATYROI (Nonnus Dionysiaca 14.96)
MARON (Marôn). A son of Evanthes (some also call him a son of Oenopion, Seilenus. or of Bacchus, and a pupil of Seilenus, Nonn. Dionys. xiv. 99; Eurip. Cyclop. 141, &c.), and grandson of Dionysus and Ariadne, was a priest of Apollo at Maroneia in Thrace, where he himself had a sanctuary. He was the hero of sweet wine, and is mentioned among the companions of Dionysus. (Hom. Od. ix. 197, &c.; Eustath. ad Hom. pp. 1615, 1623; Philostr. Her. ii. 8; Athen. i. p. 33; Diod. i. 18.)
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
PARENTAGE OF MARON
Homer, Odyssey 9. 97 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"Maron, Euanthes' (Evanthes') son; he was priest of Apollon, the guardian of Ismaros [in Thrake (Thrace)], and he lived in the god's leafy grove."
Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragment 86 (from Eustathius on Homer 1623. 44) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"Maron, whose father, it is said, Hesiod relates to have been Euanthes (Evanthes) the son of Oinopion (Oenopion), the son of Dionysos."
Euripides, Cyclops 141 ff (trans. Vellacott) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"Odysseus : What is more, Maron, the god's own son, gave me the drink.
Silenos (SIlenus) : The lad I once raised in these very arms?
Odysseus : Dionysos' son, to make my meaning clear."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 14. 96 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[Rhea summoned rustic spirits to the army of Dionysos for his war against the Indians :] Old Seilenos (Silenus) also . . . that horned son of the soil with twiform shape. He brought three festive sons : Astraios (Astraeus) . . . Maron came too, and Leneus followed, each with a staff to support the hands of their old father in his travels over the hills. These ancients already weak and vinebranches to support their slow bodies: many were the years of their time, from these had sprung the twiform generation of the muchmarried Satyroi (Satyrs)."
Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus 7 (Greek Christian epistles C2nd A.D.) :
"In the Dionysian tribe there are distinct families . . . [each of these] families have their names [from a founding son of Dionysos] . . . the Maronian, from Maron, son of Ariadne and Dionysos."
MARON & ODYSSEUS
Homer, Odyssey 9. 97 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"I [Odysseus] had a goatskin full of dark fragrant wine, given me by Maron, Euanthes' (Evanthes) son; he was priest of Apollon, the guardian of Ismaros [in Thrake (THrace)], and he lived in the god's leafy grove; because in reverence we protected him and his wife and child, he gave me both this and other gifts. They were all noble: seven talents of wrought gold, a mixing-bowl all in silver, and then this wine--he drew twelve jars of it altogether--unmixed and fragrant, a drink fro the gods. In his own house, neither manservants nor maidservants knew of it; it was a secret he shared with his wife and with one housekeeper. When they drank this red delicious wine, he would pour just once cupful of it into twenty measures of spring-water; from the mixing-bowl there would be wafted a fragrance beyond all words, and no one could find it in his heart to refrain. Of this wine I now carried a great goatskin with me [on his journey to the Kyklops' (Cyclops') cave]."
Euripides, Cyclops 141 ff (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"Silenos (Silenus) : But you, tell me, how much gold will you give in exchange [for food and provisions]?
Odysseus : It is not gold I carry but rather Dionysos' drink.
Silenos : What happy words you speak! The very thing we have lacked so long!
Odysseus : What is more, Maron, the god's own son, gave me the drink.
Silenos : The lad I once raised in these very arms?
Odysseus : Dionysos' son, to make my meaning clear.
Silenos : Is it on board ship, or do you carry it with you?
Odysseus :This is the wine-skin that holds it, as you can see, old sir.
Silenos : This would not even be a mouthful for me.
Odysseus : You would not be able to drink this wine-skin dry.
Silenos : What? Does the skin produce new wine of itself?
Odysseus : Yes, twice as much drink as flows from the wine-skin.
Silenos : What a lovely spring you speak of and one that gives me pleasure."
MARON COMPANION OF DIONYSUS
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 1. 33d (trans. Gullick) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to C3rd A.D.) :
"The Mareotan wine--also called Alexandreotic--gets its names from Lake Mareia in Alexandria and the city so named near it. In earlier times the town was important, but today it has dwindled to a village. It took its name from Maron, one of the members of Dionysos's conquering train. The vine is abundant in this region, and its grapes are very good to eat. The wine made from them is excellent; it is white and pleasant, fragrant, easily assimilated, thin, doest not go to the head and is dueretic."
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 1. 28e :
"‘Wine of Lesbos,’ exclaims Klearkhos (Clearchus), ‘which Maron must have made himself, I think.’"
Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 1. 19 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
"[From a description of an ancient Greek painting depicting Dionysos and the pirates :] A mission ship and a pirate's ship. Dionysos steers the former, on board the latter are Tyrrhenians, pirates who ravage their own sea . . He [Dionysos] is accompanied only by Lydian women and Satyroi (Satyrs) and fluteplayers, and an aged narthex-bearer, and Maronian wine, and by Maron himself . . . [and] Panes sail with him in the form of goats."
Nonnus, Dionsyiaca 18. 48 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Maron the god's [Dionysos's] charioteer took up the golden reins of the Mygdonian chariot, and drove the team of stormswift panthers with yokestraps on their necks, spring not the whip, but whizzing a lavish lash to manage the beasts. Satyroi (Satyrs) ran in front, striking up the dance and skipping round and round the hillranging car of Lyaios (Lyaeus); troops of flowerloving Bakkhante (Bacchante) women ran on this side and that side."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 21. 178 ff :
"[When Dionysos was driven into the sea by Lykourgos (Lycurgus) :] Seilenos (Silen) [Maron] danced no more, threw away his cymbals unheeded, lay with downcast looks . . . So they [the companions of Dionysos] were all restless and sad."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 21. 279 ff :
"He [Dionysos' messenger] found the Seilenoi (Silens) in high glee: Dionysos had come up out the waters [i.e. after being driven into the sea by Lykourgos (Lycurgus)] and joined the Nymphai Oreiades (Oread Nymphs). The Satyroi (Satyrs) skipt, the Bakkhantes (Bacchantes) danced about, [the Seilenos (Silen)] Maron with his old legs led the music between two Bakkhantes, with his arms laid round their necks, and bubbles of fragrant wine at his lips."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 42. 17 ff :
"[Dionysos] left he land of Tyre . . . Maron loosed the panther sweating from the yoke of his awful car, and brushed off the dust and swilled the beasts with water of the fountain, cooling their hot scarred necks."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 18. 93 ff :
"The king [Staphylos of Assyria] harried his servants and stirred up his serfs, to slaughters a herd of fine fat bulls and flocks of sheep for the Saytroi (Satyrs) of bullhorn Dionysos . . . There was dancing too; fragrant air was wafted through a house full of harping, the streets of the city were filled with sweet steamy odours, ample streams of wine made the whole house carouse. Cymbals clanged, panspipes whiffled about the melodious table, double hoboys were droning, the round of the loud-thrumming drum made the hall ring again with its double bangs, there were castanets rattling over that supper!
And there in the midst came [the Seilenos (Silen)] Maron, heavy with wine, staggering on unsteady feet and moving to and fro as frenzy drove him. He threw his arms over the shoulders of two Satyroi and supported himself between them, then climbed right up from the ground twisting his legs about them. So he was lifted by the dancing feet of the others, with red skin, his whole face emitting ruddy rays and shining between, them, the very image of the crescent moon. In his left hand he held a newly flayed skin teeming with the inevitable wine and tied at the neck with a cord; in the right a cup. Bakkhante (Bacchante) women were all round the old creature as he skips on other men's feet, with lolling head, every moment threatening to fall but never down."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 19. 158 ff :
"[After the funeral of King Staphylos, a friend of Dionysos, the god calls for a dancing contest :] When he [Dionysos] had ended his speech, up rose horned Seilenos (Silenus), and antediluvian Maron got up on heavy foot, with his eyes on the great mixer of shining gold [offered as prize]: not because the golden was the better, but because this alone contained the oldest wine and the finest stuff, filling it to the brim. His passion for this lovely wine made him young gain, and the Bacchic aroma was too much for his gray hair. He twirled his feet round testing his strength, to see if heavy old age had made his limbs forget how to dance.
The old man tried to appease the soul of Stayphylos by words that poured sober enough out of his shaggy beard : ‘I am Maron, comrade of Lyaios (Lyaeus) who cannot mourn. I know not how to shed tears; what have tears to do with Dionysos? Reels and jigs are the gifts I offer at your tomb. Accept me smiling: Maron knows no cares, Maron knows not groans, nor the burden of melancholy sorrow. He is the lovely lackey of Dionysos who cannot mourn. Be gracious to your Maron, even if you have drunk the water of Lethe! Grant me this boon, that I may drink that store of old wine, and let Seilenos drink the new stuff of a new vintage! I will dance for Staphylos after death, as if he were living, for I rate the dance above the steamloving table. For you I dance, Staphylos, both living and not breathing, and strike up a funeral revel. I am a servant of Bakkhos (Bacchus) [Dionysos], not of Phoibos (Phoebus) [Apollon], and I never learnt to sing dirges, such as Lord Apollon sang in Krete (Crete) shedding tears for Atymnios the beloved. I am a stranger to the Heliades. I am alien to Eridanos, not connected with Phaethon the charioteer who perished; I am no burgher of Sparta, I wear not the mourning flowers or shake the dainty petals of the lamenting iris. Today, if you sit by the side of Minos as an equal judge, or if you possess the flowery court of Rhadamanthys, and pick your dainty way in the groves and meadows of Elysium, listen to your Maron: instead of cups, without libation, I mouth out for you a drink-offering full of sense. Be gracious to your Maron, and grant me a victory of wine, the victory to be famous among all! Then I will pour over your tomb the first spoils of my golden cups, the first lovely drops from the bowl after I win my prize for victory!’
So saying, Maron danced with winding step, passing the changes right over left, and figuring silent eloquence of hand inaudible. He moved his eyes about as a picture of the story, he wove a rhythm full of meaning with gestures full of art. He shook his head and would have tossed his hair, but hair he had none. He did not what an old man of Titan blood might have done, show the Titan race in his speaking picture, not Kronos (Cronus) or Phanes more primeval still, nor the breed of Titan Helios (the Sun) as old as the universe itself: no, he left all the confusion of that ancient stuff--he depicted with wordless art the cupbearer [Ganymedes[ of Kronides (Cronides) [Zeus], or pouring the dew divine to fill up the bowl, and the other immortals in company ever enjoying cup after cup. His poet's theme was the sweet potion. Aye, he danced also the maiden Hebe herself drawing the nectar; when he looked at the Satyroi (Satyrs), with voiceless hands he acted Ganymedes, or when he saw the Bakkhante (Bacchante) women, he showed them goldenshoe Hebe in a picture having sense without words. So Maron sketched his designs in pantomime gestures, lifting rhythmic feet with the motions of an artist, as he trod the winding measures of his unresting dance. Then he stood trembling, and watched with shifty eye who should beat whom, who would go home with the larger bowl full of wine . . .
[Next Seilenos (Silenus) performed his dance but in mid-step was transformed into a river.]
Maron crowned himself with the sweets of victory, and held in his arms the mixer stuffed with delicious wine; he took the silver bowl, the prize of Seilenos now a flood, and threw it into the river as a libation, where it intoxicated the currents of the dancing river. And so the place was named from the Mixer, and men still speak of the Euian water of murmuring Seilenos full of sweet drink. Then Maron addressed these words to the running stream : ‘Maron does you no harm, Seilenos. I will cast the ruddy wine into you and call you the Cellarer. Accept your drink, tippler never satisfied, accept the silver bowl of Bakkhos, and you shall have silvery eddies. Seilenos Twirlthefoot, you dance even in your current, you keep the spinning of your feet even in your waves, you revel still in your watery shape. Then be gracious to the Bakkhantes (Bacchantes) and Satyroi (Satyrs) and winegiving vintage, and guard the Seilenoi (Silens) your own race. Be generous to Maron who drinks no heeltaps, and let me never see that you still keep a secret grudge among the rivers. Rather let your waters increase the wine of Maron's vintage, and be done of one mind with Dionysos even among rivers. Foolish one, who taught you to strive with your betters? Another Seilenos there was [Marsyas], fingering a proud pipe, who lifted a haughty neck and challenged a match with Phoibos (Phoebus); but Phoibos tied him to a tree and stript off his hairy skin, and made it a windbag. There it hung high on a tree, and the breeze often entered, swelling it out into a shape like his, as if the shepherd could not keep silence but made his tune again. Then Delphic Apollon changed his form in pity, and made him the river which bears his name [i.e. the Marsyas River]. Men still speak of the winding water of that hairy Seilenos, which lets out a sound wandering on the wind, as if he were still playing on the reeds of his Phrygian pipe in rivalry. So you also have changed your shape by challenging one better than you, just like the earlier Seilenos. You must no longer seek a barefoot Bakkhante for your bride as before, that Bakkhante of the mountains with flowing locks; you have now for your pleasure the innumerable tribe of Naiades with flowing hair. Seek no longer the snaky wreaths of Lyaios (Lyaeus); eels are what you have to do with, the wriggling travail of streams, and instead of serpent there ware fishes with closefitted speckled scales crawling in your streams. And if you have parted from Dionysos and his grapes, I hold you the happier; for you really make the grapes to grow! What more could you want, when you have after Bakkhos now Zeus to feed your streams, the Father of all creation? Instead of your Satyroi you have your regiments of Rivers; instead of the winepress you dance on the back of murmuring Okeanos (Oceanus). Even in the waters you are like what you were; it is proper that Seilenos, once proud of his horned forehead, as a River should have the horned shape of a bull.’
So Maron spoke; and all wondered to see the winding waters of Seilenos the tumbling flood, the ever-turning river which was his very likeness."
CULT OF MARON
I. SPARTA Chief Town of Lacedaemonia (Southern Greece)
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 12. 8 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"There is also a sanctuary [at Sparta] of [the Seilenos (Silen)] Maron and of [the River] Alpheios (Alpheus)."
ANCIENT GREEK & ROMAN ART
- Homer, The Odyssey - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
- Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragments - Greek Epic C8th - 7th B.C.
- Euripides, Cyclops - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
- Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae - Greek Rhetoric C3rd A.D.
- Philostratus the Elder, Imagines - Greek Rhetoric C3rd A.D.
- Theophilus, To Autolycus - Greek Christian Rhetoric C2nd A.D.
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.
Other references not currently quoted here: Eustathius on Homer 1615 & 1623, Philostratrus Her. 2.8, Diodorus Siculus 1.18.