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Dionysus, Pan, Echo and Narcissus

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Claesson Welsh

Chapter 13Dionysus Pan Echo and NarcissusThe birth childhood and origins of DionysusDisguised as a mortal Zeus was having an affair with Semele daughter of CadmusWhen Hera found out she appeared to Semele disguised as an old woman and convinced her that she should ask her lover to appear in the full magnificence of his divinity Semele first persuaded Zeus to swear that he would grant her whatever and then revealed her demandZeus was obliged to comply and Semele was burned to a cinder by the splendor of his person and the fire of his lightning flashThe unborn child was saved and he sewed him up to his thigh from which he was born again at the proper time When Dionysus reached manhood he carried the message of his worship far and wide bringing happiness and prosperity to those who would listen and madness and death to those who dared oppositeThe Bacchae of EuripidesDionysus is basically a god of vegetation in general and in particular of wine In Euripides Bacchae Semeles her sisters Agave Autonoe and Ino and her father Cadmus still believe that Semele lied about the identity of the babys father and that she died as a result Dionysus comes to Thebes to vindicate his mother SemeleThe old men Cadmus and Tiresias though not under the same spell as the Theban women who include Cadmus daughters Ino Autonoe and Agave Pentheus mother have become enamored of the Bacchic rituals and are about to go out celebrating when Pentheus returns to the city and finds them dressed in festive garb He scolds them harshly and orders his soldiers to arrest anyone else engaging in Dionysian worshipThe guards return with Dionysus himself disguised as his priest and the leader of the Asian maenads Pentheus questions him still not believing that Dionysus is a god However his questions reveal that he is deeply interested in the Dionysiac rites which the stranger refuses to reveal fully to him This greatly angers Pentheus who has Dionysus locked up However being a god he is quickly able to break free and creates more havoc razing the palace of Pentheus to the ground in a giant earthquake and fire Word arrives via a herdsman that the Bacchae on Cithaeron are behaving especially strangely and performing incredible feats putting snakes in their hair in reverie of their god suckling wild wolves and gazelle and making wine milk honey and water spring up from the ground He tells that when they tried to capture the women the women descended on a herd of cows ripping them to shreds with their bare hands Sparagmos Those guards who attacked the women were unable to harm them with their weapons while the women could defeat them with only sticks Dionysus wishes to punish Pentheus for not worshipping him or paying him libations He uses Pentheus clear desire to see the ecstatic women to convince the king to dress as a female Maenad to avoid detection and go to the rites Dionysus dresses Pentheus as a woman and gives him a thyrsus and fawn skins then leads him out of the house Pentheus begins to see double perceiving two Thebes and two bulls Dionysus often took the form of a bull leading him The gods vengeance soon turns from mere humiliation to murder A messenger arrives at the palace to report that once they reached Cithaeron Pentheus wanted to climb up an evergreen tree to get a better view of the Bacchants The blond stranger used his divine power to bend the tall tree and place the king at its highest branches However once he was safely at the top Dionysus called out to his followers and showed the man sitting atop the tree This of course drove the Bacchants wild and they tore the trapped Pentheus down and ripped his body apart piece by
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