Lawrence Alma-Tadema painted Women of Amphissa in 1887.
Guy Hedreen wrote a full account of the anecdote from Plutarch’s writings that inspired the work in an article in the Journal of the Walters Art Gallery: essentially, a group of Thyiades (priestesses of Dionysus), became lost while performing a rite and ended up in Amphissa, a town near Delphi. In lieu of a better spot, they all slept in the marketplace—where the women of the town found them in the morning. Concerned for the priestesses’ safety in a time of war, the Amphissan women encircled the sleeping priestesses until they awoke—at which point the women of the town fed them, and then led them out of town.
Though the Dionysian priestesses all possess an air of self-assured languor, taking up space and making bold eye contact (even, in one case, with the viewer), the expressions of their demure proctectresses run the gamut from maternal to wary. One woman bends smilingly to talk to a cross-legged Thyiad, while another—also bending, in her case to proffer food—looks watchfully across the market.
They literally defeat the bad guy using friendship. That’s such a gloriously uncynical idea, and to make it the cornerstone of a massive franchise-starter populated by sarcastic degenerates is unexpected and affecting. So many comic-book movies focus on a lone hero who’s forced by grim fate to go it alone. Guardians of the Galaxy realizes that you only get by with a little help from your friends.