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Lecture 14

CLA204H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 14: Demigod, Pan Flute, Odysseus

Course Code
Vichi Ciocani

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CLA204H1 Lecture 14 Dionysus (Roman Bacchus/Liber)
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
- NB Monday’s class: Hermes (Roman Mercury)
o Many depictions of Hermes with beard in particular contexts; some depictions show him without beard
o Deity of artistic creation
Artistic creation uses violence
Seen in creation of panpipes
NB the Syrinx myth: Syrinx changed herself into reeds to escape Pan’s advances, but
Pan cuts up the reeds (Syrinx herself)
o NB Pan also pursues the nymph Echo + (un)willingly destroys her; her voice is
the only thing that remains
There’s also another myth about Echo: she loved Narcissus, who loved
himself. Narcissus was so consumed with himself that he drowns and
dies when trying to look at his reflection in the water (I think there’s also
another version that says he stabbed himself)
Act of violence against maidens doesn’t reflect social reality
- There’s a correlation between nature + culture
o Culture must recognize its roots
o Opposition of nature + culture fuse
- With different versions of myths, we must be able to extract the important points and figure out how they relate (if
they relate at all)
- Hermes’ flaw in not being able to overthrow Zeus
o He’s in between of everything the “middle man” (he makes connections between different realms +
o He creates lyre, but gives it away (to Apollo)
- Pan (offspring of Hermes + Dryope (oak tree nymph)) = fertile element of Hermes
Dionysus (Roman Bacchus/Liber)
- Represents unrestrained male sexuality
- “Dio- god
- -nysus” Nysa place
- “The twice-born” son or the “god of Nysa” (unidentified mountain)
- 2 births (born twice in 2 different versions of his birth)
o 1) His parents are Zeus and Semele, daughter of Cadmus, the founder of Thebes, which is close to
Athenians also loved Dionysus
Dionysus = a foreign + new god
Most commonly came from India
Cadmus = brother of Europa (NB Europa captured by Zeus in the form of a bull)
Cadmus had 4 daughters: Semele, Ino (will talk about other 3 later)
Semele is tricked by Hera and burnt to a crisp by Zeus
The baby Dionysus is saved and sewed into Zeus’ thigh
After birth he is taken by Hermes and entrusted to Semele’s sister, Ino, to be raised (as a
girl) or the nymphs of Nysa
Semele = tricked by Hera (who = jealous; disguises herself as old woman) into asking Zeus to
reveal/show himself in his full form to her (Semele) Semele (pregnant) = burned to death
Dionysus = saved from her womb by Zeus Zeus takes + sews him into his thigh b/c Dionysus =
still too small to be taken + raised by the nymphs)
o Dionysus born 2nd time from Zeus’ thigh
Double birth of Dionysus: Semele’s womb + Zeus’ thigh
After Dionysus’ birth, Hermes takes him to either Semele’s sister, Ino (where he’s raised as a girl
so that Hera wouldn’t find him), or to the nymphs of Nysa
NB story of Achilles = reminiscent to Dionysus’ upbringing as a girl: Thetis tries to
protect Achilles (prophecy says that he’d die in the Trojan War if he partakes in it). She
sends him to (this river place forgot what Prof said) + hides him among the maidens (he
dresses up as a woman). But Odysseus finds Achilles + convinces him to join the war.
Achilles joins dies
NB Dionysus = demigod, whereas both Hermes + Apollo = divine Dionysus struggles
to be accepted among the immortals + to replace Hestia in Olympus
o Also: Hera wanted to kill him b/c she doesn’t like demi-gods (explains why she
wanted to kill him + not, for example, Hermes who, like many of the other
gods/goddesses, has a different mother (not Hera’s son))
o 2) The Orphic version of the birth of Dionysus (aka Zagreus)
Zeus and Persephone conceive Zagreus
Zeus + Persephone (his daughter; mother = Demeter; goddess of the Underworld
(husband = Hades)) offspring = Zagreus
The baby Dionysus is being raised by Nymphs and the Curetes
NB Curetes young men”
NB both Nymphs + Curetes = also in Zeus’ creation myth
Titans (relatives of Hera; not the original Titans that you’re thinking of!) trick him, dismember
and eat him
Trick Dionysus with mirror/toys take him out of cave, dismember + kill him
Zeus saves his heart, swallows it and the seduces Semele
Dionysus’ heart = saved by Zeus, which he eats Zeus seduces Semele (notice the
connection to the 1st birth story!) + Dionysus = born again
Dionysus Zagreus is born again from Semele
Symbolic death (sparagmos “dismemberment”) followed by rebirth
Zeus blasts the Titans with his thunderbolt and from their ashes creates humankind
Zeus blasts Titans into ashes humankind = created (another creation story)
o humans have an evil side (Titans) + good side (Zagreus, who Titans ate)
Dionysus’ appearance
- Leopard skin; rides a chariot drawn by panthers
o Often wears animal skin
- Associated with dolphins
o NB Apollo changed into a dolphin + punished pirates
o Dolphins: testicles = hidden, unable to tell whether animal = male/female
- Wreath of vine, ivy, cups, other drinking paraphernalia, wine
- Most often depicted with beard
o Followers (satyrs) also represented with beard (few depictions show them without beard)
Dionysus’ followers
- 1) Bacchae (Bacchants) also called 2) Maenads (“raging women”)
o Hold thyrsus (staff with entwined ivy and pine cone on top)
o Depicted holding drums, cymbals, double flute, bagpipes
o Fawnskins and skins as clothing
o Often represented with animals that they’re about to rip apart
- Satyrs + Silenus = main followers
- 3) Satyrs (part men, part horse/donkey; usually bald, with pointed ears and big round noses). The lower
goat-like appearance stems from the identification with the Roman rustic god Faunus (Greek Pan)
o Often drinking or drunk
o Often depicted with erect phalluses
o Overly sexually aroused men
o Half-men, half-horse
Roman: half-men, half-goat
- 4) Silenus teacher of Dionysus
o Best known for the myth of King Midas
Midas wishes that he can turn everything to gold, which Silenus grants
Midas accidentally turns his daughters into gold
Midas asks for Dionysus’ help, who tells Midas to bathe in River Lydia Midas escapes
curse; river embedded with gold
o Often depicted old, drunk, riding on a donkey
NB Hephaestus’ return to Olympus: rode a donkey + was also drunk
o All Satyrs are sometimes called Sileni
- Satyrs pointy ears + round nose mark their comedic aspect