Today I was going through an old book on Greek sculpture and I notice that a number of pre-classical Greek statues feature Silenus and form in which he is depicted, full frontal nudity with tongue sticking out is remarkably similar to Egyptian reliefs of Bes.

However, no mention of this resemblance is made on the Wikipedia article for Silenus.

Is there a relationship between the two gods that has been studied?

1 Answer 1


It's certainly possible the Egyptian imagery influenced the Greek. Like many Egyptian gods, the worship of Bes and his wife Beset was exported from Egypt.

Beset was very popular in Crete, and Bes was venerated by the Phoenicians, who spread the imagery even further across the Mediterranean. The island of Ibiza gets its name from Bes.

Bes started out as a household protector deity, but by the Middle Kingdom (ca 2000-1600 BCE) came to symbolize the good things in life – music, dance, and sexual pleasure.

Interestingly, both the cult of Bes and Silenus feature masked festivities. It's probably the masks that are the most similar since the Egyptians usually depicted their deities in twisted perspective in their drawings.

Egyptian Mask of Bes (ca 400 BCE)

Roman Silenus Mask (ca 200 CE)

As for studies, this paper suggests a common Phoenician origin of the imagery of Bes and Silenus.

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