Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY

The inside of this Attic wine cup, painted by the Athenian artist Exekias around 540 B.C.E., depicts the wine-god Dionysus transforming Etruscan pirates into dolphins. According to the Homeric Hymn to Dionysus, an ancient Greek poem that may or may not have been written by Homer, Etruscans kidnapped Dionysus, hoping to extort a healthy ransom for the god. But as the pirates sailed off, “wondrous deeds unfolded before their eyes…On the topmost sail a vine spread about/all over, and many grapes were hanging down/in clusters.” Dionysus then transformed himself into a lion. The frightened Etruscans plunged into the wine-dark sea, but Dionysus mercifully turned them into dolphins. The story, retold in Book III of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, immortalizes the fierce Etruscan seafarers, known widely for their piracy.