The Dancing Satyr, the discovery of a treasure

The treasures of the past emerge more and more often, as if to remind us of the glorious history of civilization. The Dancing Satyr is an example. Let’s find out what a dancing satyr is and what the meaning of the statue is.

Work on archaeological sites, the construction of an infrastructure or sometimes simply luck can bring to light traces of an important past.

In the case of the Dancing Satyr it was a stroke of luck that allowed the discovery by a fishing boat in the Channel of Sicily.


What is a satyr?

The satyr is a minor deity with male features representing the power of Nature and fertility and usually lives in the woods and mountains.

This mythological figure often accompanies the orgiastic procession of Dionysius, a Greek god linked to the fertile nature, to the metamorphosis, to the orgiastic party and to the sphere of intoxication.

The statue of the Dancing Satyr: meaning and description

From the seabed emerged the Dancing Satyr: this bronze statue of the Hellenistic era depicts a silent (then become satyr in the common imagination) that hovers.

Who made the Dancing Satyr and the dating of the statue are still uncertain: some believe it is the work “satyr periboetos” of Prassitele quoted by Pliny in the fourth century BC (confirmed by a comparison with a satyr depicted on a vase of the same period) while there are those who see the impetus of the satyr movement too far from the classical canons and more similar to the depictions of the third and second centuries BC.

Uncertain is also the event that brought the work on the seabed, even if you tend to think about the shipwreck of the boat that transported it between Pantelleria and Capo Bon with a garden or a rural church as a likely destination.


Beyond the hypothesis it is irrefutable how two thousand and five hundred years at sea were not enough to scratch the charm and beauty of the statue of the Dancing Satyr.

The sculpture is about two and a half meters high and represents a dancing satyr rotating on the right leg: the body is bent on the right side, the arms are forward and the left leg is raised.

Probably, considering other depictions of satyrs, the Dancing Satyr held the symbols of worship in his hands (the thyrsus adorned with leaves and ribbons on the right and the wine glass on the left) and carried a panther skin on his shoulders.

The passion of the satyr’s orgiastic dance in ecstasy is also transmitted by the position of the head and the flowing hair that create movement.

Dancing satyr, the fortuitous discovery

It was the spring of 1997 when, moving in the Strait of Sicily, the fishing boat “Capitan Ciccio” of Mazara del Vallo found the leg of a bronze sculpture in the catch.

In March of the following year, the same vessel was ready to recover the remaining parts of the sculpture at a depth of 400 meters. One arm was missing.

“When we saw him coming out of the water with his face facing upwards, he looked like he had clung to his rescue,” the captain of “Captain Ciccio” told the Dancing Satyr.

After the complete recovery, the Region acquired the find and started the restoration work of the incredible find.

Where is the Dancing Satyr today? The statue is placed at the Museum of the Satyr in Mazara del Vallo (former church of Sant’Egidio), but it was exposed in some of the most famous museums and palaces in the world, such as the Chamber of Deputies in Palazzo Montecitorio in 2003, the National Museum of Tokyo in 2005 and the Louvre in Paris in 2007.


Dancing Satyr: ticket price

The Satyr Museum exhibits the Dancing Satyr and many other finds recovered from the same waters, such as a bronze piece of an elephant’s foot from the Punic-Hellenistic period.

The cost of the ticket to enjoy the view of the statue of the Dancing Satyr and the other finds is three euros for the reduced ticket (children between eighteen and twenty-five years and teachers with indefinite assignment) and six euros for the full single ticket. The Museum is open every day.

Copertina: palermo

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