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Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898), Bathyllus taking the pose [1896]

Bathyllus was a dancer/performer of pantomimus in Rome during the period of Augustus. Born in Alexandria, he was the favourite comedic performer of Maecenas.[1]

He is often described with the performer Pylades, who was seen as the epitome of tragic performance, while Bathyllus was seen as the epitome of comedic performance. They were both former slaves and they are both credited with having modernised pantomime in Rome adding different forms of dance which are often described as erotic. Each founded a school and had some political influence in Rome occasionally leading to their supporters clashing in the streets.

According to Juvenal, a pantomime named Bathyllus, dancing, provoked Roman matrons to a state of sexual frenzy. Bathyllus appears in the illustrated edition of Juvenal's satire 'Against Women' by Aubrey Beardsley.[2]

References to a different, earlier, Bathyllus are found in the writing of Horace (epode 14) who describes him as beloved of Polycrates the Tyrant and the poet, Anacreon, who described him in his 29th ode.


  1. ^ Tacitus, Annals, 1.54
  2. ^ Edith Hall; Rosie Wyles (20 November 2008). New Directions in Ancient Pantomime. OUP Oxford. pp. 126–. ISBN 978-0-19-155257-1.