A patera was an ancient Roman broad and shallow dish or bowl, mostly produced in bronze, and usually used as a sacred libation vessel. Bacchus, the equivalent of Dionysus, is perhaps best known for his position as the god of wine. Bacchants, commonly called Maenads, were the followers of Bacchus and are well known for their crazed and improper worship of the god. In the famous play of Euripides The Bacchae, the god infatuates the women of the city and causes them to behave immorally with men and they even conspire to murder under the god’s influence. This crazed bahaviour was likely linked to Dionysus’s position as the god of wine and ‘good times’. Given that this handle was probably affixed to a vessel for holding wine, the imagery is particularly apt.
To discover more about the cult of Dionysus please visit our relevant blog post: Dionysus: Madness, Release, and Wine.