Beginning in the 500s B.C., Greeks placed herms, pillars surmounted by a head of the god Hermes, at physical boundaries, such as crossroads or even doorways. Such places were sites of ritual and worship, where the herms served a magical, protective function. By the Hellenistic period, the repertoire of heads found on herms had expanded to include other gods and even famous mortals, and people began to use the herms for non-religious, decorative purposes.
This herm carries a head of Dionysos wearing a turbanlike headdress of loosely wound ribbons. Both the hair and the beard of Dionysos have been carved in a style that would have looked old-fashioned to the contemporary viewer. Greek bronze statues typically had eyes made of contrasting materials. In most instances the eyes have been lost, but this herm still retains the ivory inlay of the white of its left eye, giving a better idea of the work's original appearance.