Giovanni Casadio, Dionysus in Campania
Let us now revert to Aristodemus. Besides his uncontrolled—but ritual—wine-drinking habit, which proved his undoing in the end, another indication of his membership in the bakchoi brotherhood comes from an explicit insinuation made by those same local historians from whom Dionysius of Halicarnassus derived his information: as a boy he once acted as femminiello (a Neapolitan word sounding like “drag queen” and corresponding exactly to the Greek thēlydria) καὶ τὰ γυναιξίν ἁρμόττοντα ἔπασχεν, which is an explicit exegesis of the particular initiation to which the god himself had been subjected in the mythical-ritual complex of Lerna and to which were also subjected (with varying degrees of enjoyment) the Roman youths involved in the so-called Bacchanalia affair … This was presumably the last phase in a process of successive rearrangements and functional re-adaptations of an ethos that regards inversion and androgyny as coincidentia oppositorum, an ethos whose origin can be traced back to the tragicomic parades that Aristodemus Malakos in his devotion to Dionysus imposed on the boys and girls of the Cumaean aristocracy. To quote Plutarch about the rules laid down by the tyrant (Mul. Virt. 26.261f–262a), “It was the will of the god that adolescent boys should wear their hair long, adorned with gold jewels; and he forced the girls to cut their hair short and to wear boys’ garments and scanty petticoats.”
For Tanonius Marcellinus, a most distinguished man of the consular rank and a most worthy patron as well, because of the good deeds by which he rescued the population of Beneventum from endless boredom, the entire people of this city judges that this inscription should be recorded.
Lycophron, Alexandra 712 ff
And Odysseus shall slay the triple daughters of Tethys’ son, who imitated the strains of their melodious mother: self-hurled from the cliff’s top they dive with their wings into the Tyrrhenian Sea, where the bitter thread spun by the Moirai shall draw them. One of them washed ashore the tower of Phaleros shall receive, and Glanis wetting the earth with its streams. There the inhabitants shall build a tomb for the maiden and with libations and sacrifice of oxen shall yearly honour the bird goddess Parthenope. And Leukosia shall be cast on the jutting strand of Enipeus and shall long haunt the rock that bears her name, where rapid Is and neighbouring Laris pour forth their waters. And Ligeia shall come ashore at Tereina spitting out the wave. And her shall sailormen bury on the stony beach nigh to the eddies of Okinaros; and an ox-horned Ares shall lave her tomb with his streams, cleansing with his waters the foundation of her whose children were turned into birds. And there one day in honour of the first goddess of the sisterhood shall the ruler of the navy of Popsops array for his mariners a torch-race, in obedience to an oracle, which one day the people of the Neapolitans shall celebrate.
Martial, Epigrams 4.44
This is Vesuvius, green yesterday with viny shades; here had the noble grape loaded the dripping vats; these ridges Bacchus loved more than the hills of Nysa; on this mount of late the Satyrs set afoot their dances; this was the haunt of Venus, more pleasant to her than Lacedaemon; this spot was made glorious by the fame of Hercules. All lies drowned in fire and melancholy ash; even the High Gods could have wished this had not been permitted them.
Ovid, Metamorphoses 5. 552 ff
Why should it be that the Acheloides have feathers now and feet of birds, though still a girl’s fair face, the sweet-voiced Sirens? Was it not because, when Proserpine was picking those spring flowers, they were her comrades there, and, when in vain they’d sought for her through all the lands, they prayed for wings to carry them across the waves, so that the seas should know their search, and found the gods gracious, and then suddenly saw golden plumage clothing all their limbs? Yet to reserve that dower of glorious song, their melodies’ enchantment, they retained their fair girls’ features and their human voice.
Pliny, Natural History 3.61
The coastal city of Neapolis is also called Parthenope from the tomb of one of the Sirens there.
Strabo, Geography 5.4.7
After Dicaearchia comes Neapolis, a city of the Cumaeans. At a later time it was re-colonised by Chalcidians, and also by some Pithecussaeans and Athenians, and hence, for this reason, was called Neapolis. A monument of Parthenope, one of the Sirens, is pointed out in Neapolis, and in accordance with an oracle a gymnastic contest is celebrated there. But at a still later time, as the result of a dissension, they admitted some of the Campani as fellow-inhabitants, and thus they were forced to treat their worst enemies as their best friends, now that they had alienated their proper friends. This is disclosed by the names of their demarchs, for the earliest names are Greek only, whereas the later are Greek mixed with Campanian. And very many traces of Greek culture are preserved there — gymnasia, ephebeia, phratriae, and Greek names of things, although the people are Romans. And at the present time a sacred contest is celebrated among them every four years, in music as well as gymnastics; it lasts for several days, and vies with the most famous of those celebrated in Greece. Here, too, there is a tunnel — the mountain between Dicaearchia and Neapolis having been tunneled like the one leading to Cumae,340 and a road having been opened up for a distance of many stadia that is wide enough to allow teams going in opposite directions to pass each other. And windows have been cut out at many places, and thus the light of day is brought down from the surface of the mountain along shafts that are of considerable depth. Furthermore, Neapolis has springs of hot water and bathing-establishments that are not inferior to those at Baiae, although it is far short of Baiae in the number of people, for at Baiae, where palace on palace has been built, one after another, a new city has arisen, not inferior to Dicaearchia. And greater vogue is given to the Greek mode of life at Neapolis by the people who withdraw thither from Rome for the sake of rest — I mean the class who have made their livelihood by training the young, or still others who, because of old age or infirmity, long to live in relaxation; and some of the Romans, too, taking delight in this way of living and observing the great number of men of the same culture as themselves sojourning there, gladly fall in love with the place and make it their permanent abode.
Virgil, Georgics 4.563
I, Virgil, was nursed by sweet Parthenope, and rejoiced in the arts of inglorious ease.