Sanja Pilipović

Institute for Balkan Studies

Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts


The Triad Zeus, Herakles and Dionysos

A Contribution to the Study of Ancient Cults in Upper Moesia

Abstract: The triad Zeus, Herakles and Dionysos has been attested in Upper Moesia by the relief from the village of Bukovo near Negotin, eastern Serbia. The Roman supreme god was frequently shown in association with other deities, but the presence of Bacchus and Hercules in such associations is Greek rather than Roman in origin. The association of Liber and Hercules was promoted by the emperor Septimius Severus, a native of the city of Leptis Magna whose patron gods were concurrently Liber and Hercules. Septimius even granted the dii patrii a sort of official recognition as patrons of the dynasty he founded. The village of Bukovo where the relief was found had not been known as an archaeological site. There is no specific evidence for the worship of Jupiter in that area, while the worship of Herakles is attested on the sites of Rovine and Tamnič near Negotin. The relief is close to north-Macedonian reliefs in style, and reflects Hellenistic and Thracian influence in associating the cults of Dionysos and Herakles. The depicted deities are compatible and close to Septimius Severus’ official religion. The central position of the supreme god indicates his importance as well as the fact that the other two deities are associated to him, as his children, patrons of nature and fertility in the underground and aboveground worlds. It is also important to note that the relief confirms Hellenistic religious influences in the area of the Upper Moesian limes.

Keywords: cults, triad, Zeus, Herakles, Dionysos, eastern Serbia, Upper Moesia, Hellenistic and Thracian influences