May 27, 2013
CLA204 Classical Mythology Week 6
Order and Ecstasy
Apollo and Dionysus
Greek liked order and structure. Tension btw Apollo and Dionysus.
Extreme example of what gods could be he is always changing. Greeks aren’t even
sure how to represent him. Ex he is represented with a beard and without one no firm
idea if he was old or young. Hermes and Apollo always represented without beard cuz
youthful and Zeus and Poseidon always shows old with beard. Dionysus not typical
man, vegetation, ivy crown, grape leopard fur-not way gods are usually represented.
Bronze statue cant tell if trident or thunderbolt, Poisedon or Zeus.
Birth of Dionysus, Zeus + Semele
Dionysus father was Zeus who had an affair with Semele from the city of Thebes that
is why this takes place in that city, Semele gets pregnant with Zeus’s child, Hera finds
out so she disguises herself as an old women and talk to her and says he told you he
was a god but is he really you should tell him to reveal himself to her. Asks Zeus, he
says no, later he gives in, He turns into a thunderbolt to prove it to her, she dies on the
spot, he feels guilty and he rescues her embryo and sews it into his thigh, Image
shows Dionysus being born from his thigh. Dionysus is diff cuz he has a double birth
born from his mother and then from his father, he is bizarre.
Dionysus and Cybele
Hera doesn’t like Dionysus so everyone who tries to take care of is, Hera drives them
insane, Dionysus cant stay in Greece so he goes east to Egypt as far as India, he
follows path of alexander the great diff is alexander went as a colonizer to force his
way on these cultures but Dionysus adopts the culture clothing and attitude of the
places he travels too he becomes wild, isn’t raised in world of structure and order.
Spends a lot of time with Cybele (similar to Demeter cuz connected to agriculture)
who has lions, panthers and tigers, ecstatic dancing, getting drunk and orgies in the
forest that’s he type of fertility.
Dionysus s a transgressive god doesn’t fit into normal Greek role, he takes on
feminine qualities by dressing like a women, wears girls tunic on the left. Long flowy
robe on the right Greek men never wear normally. Also associated with music,
ecstatic drums, symbols, flutes, trumpets loud and exciting instruments versus Greeks
normal soothing music. He is associated with ivy and his followers ear it and carry a
staff with ivy webbed around it, “Thyrsus” =if someone has this their either him or a
follower of him.
Greeks had special rules for rituals, meeting with gods and humans, explaining rules,
Dionysus and his followers instead follow “Sparagmos”, rips animals apart (shown in
center slide). When they drank wine, Dionysus to some extent controlled what they
did, he was inside of them. May 27, 2013
Maenads (Bacchants) and Satyrs
Dionysus brings some of his followers with him as he travels around Greece trying to
get people to worship him. Satyr=half men half goat, must horny and dirty animal,
perpetually horny and drunk, they live for pleasure. Always pursuing the Maenads
sometimes also called Bacchants, Maenads=to be insane/crazy would drink wine and
take part, get dunk, wear snakes in hair, tear animals apart very different from what
women were expected to do-stay at home until married and then stay in husbands
Minor myths of Dionysus
A lot of resistance towards the cult of Dionysus, people did not want to include him in
their pantheon of gods, takes a lot of hardship, sorrow and tragedy before he finally
takes his place in Greece.
When on his way back to Greece, he gets kidnapped by pirates, other sailors realize
he must be a god, captain refuses to release Dionysus because he wants money
(ransom), wine flows across deck he turns into a lion and mulls the captain to death,
other sailors in terror jump into sea and the god turns them into dolphins.
Daughters of a king called Meneas, gossiping to themselves about Dionysus, who
bursts into the chamber as a wild animal symbols of drums start to beat and then go
insane, they eat their own children, run away into the mountains and get turned into
Proitis, punishment get leprosy type disease and turns into cows and spreads to
women who also turn into cows
Bacchae: How much do you remember?
1. What is the name of the King of Thebes in this story? - Pentheus
2. Why is Dionysus angry with Thebes? – Semele’s sisters did not believe her
story about Zeus AND Thebes refuses to accept Dionysus’ cult.
3. Who is Agave? – Mother of Pentheus, sister of Semele,
4. How many men dress up as women (or, at least, effeminately) in this play? (list
as many as you can) – Dionysus, Pentheus, Cadmus, Teiresias
5. How does the King of Thebes die? – Sparagmos at the hands of his
Major myth of Dionysus
Bacchae. Semeles entire family is from Thebes and her sisters didn’t even believe her
when she said that she was sleeping with Zeus. May 27, 2013
• Bacchae, a tragedy by Euripides
• Performed in 405 BCE after Euripides’ death
• City Dionysia (theatrical contests held in honour of Dionysus in Athens)
Pentheus expresses his doubts
Dionysus comes to Thebes to take revenge on family that rejected him.
Tiresias says that Pentheus should let the women worship him because if they are
modest about being chaste they wont be having sex in the forests. Pentheus is
convinced Dionysus is corrupting the women of his city.
What are the bacchants doing?
Messenger says they were all asleep relaxed resting on the ground, they weren’t
drunk or anything, but his mother Agave was there and they let their hair down and
looped snakes into their hair. Breastfed animals,
one of them, taking a thyrsus, struck a rock with it, and water gushed out,
fresh as dew. Another, using her thyrsus, scraped the ground. At once, the
god sent fountains of wine up from the spot. All those who craved white
milk to drink just scratched the earth with their fingertips it came out in
streams. From their ivy wands thick sweet honey dripped.
Dionysus as a fertility god in the extreme, wine milk fresh water