Dionysus (look up a little more. A lot about ambiguity, and double (male female, mortal, god etc.)
Zeus and Semele
Semele is a human girl. Because of being teased by her sisters, she asks him to come in her
divine form. So he comes as a lightning bold and burns her to the ground. But she was pregnant.
So Zeus takes him into his hip
Hera hates him and kills him again while he is the second womb (Whose????)
o Zeus has to resurrect him
Gods aren’t supposed too die, but he does.
Dionysus is the god of wine.
Every time you drink this, you pour out a little on the table to honour him. Wine is one of his
great gifts to humanity. It brings a little bit of divinity to humanity. Wine helps us forget “count
no man happy till he is dead”, that we are human, that we have limits (being drunk).
o Wine is a medicine for the human condition.
Human beings are not supposed to be gods. So if we forget our mortal state under the influence
of wine it can be dangerous.
He makes wine, and says that the gods have shown him how to create wine. So people try it and
say it is so AMAZING something of the gods, but then they get drunk and they think that he has
poisoned them, so they kill him, and his RED blood runs like Red wine.
o So alcohol has a two way effect.
Dionysus and maenads (party girls that follow him???????)
In the play the bacchants come to follow him from Asia (the barbarian eastern land).
o Play is a fiction.
Historical basis to worship of him. So women go on this mountain to worship
him, but get cut off by a snow storm.
In this worship the women could escape their husbands, and be in the
mountains WITHOUT the control of men.
o So worshipping Dionysus allows a freedom for women.
In the play there is a role reversal between the men and women. An Inversion. There is also an
inversion of old and young, and the social inversion of king and normal man.
So unlike the Apollo religion (know thyself), the Dionysus religion tells you to FORGET your
identity in the real world. They all drank together. The greeks never drank alone. Even human
identity can be lost in this religion
o Ecstasy (ek-stasis): standing out of yourself.
o Enthusiasm (en-theos): having a god inside. These two concepts are central to his religion. You accomplish them through
song, dance and wine. The idea was to let the god and human to merge and you
stand outside your body.
The greeks themselves were sometimes unsure how he fit into their religion. He is often comes
in to Greece from the ‘outside’.
o He ‘arrives’ from the outside. Once to Ikrious to make the wine, and the other time in
the play where polytheus??? King has to make decision of how to deal with him.
He came late into their religion (but other records show that he was also there from the start).
Many still thought that Apollo was the real God (Sophrosune – idea of restraint, knowing your
o Greek religion is not dogmatic. Anyone can worship in any way. So some people
worshiped Dionysus in this wild enthusiastic way, completely different from that of
So the greeks themselves lived in this contradiction and worshiped him despite this.
Dionysus religion appealed to the non-rich because it invited everyone. The message of the
escape from the identity was really inviting.
So the difference between the two religion was quiet so.
o Not just worshipped by woman, but also by Athenian men.
There was “The City (Greater) Dionysia
A festival took in apocropolys in the religious center in Athens. This day
lasted for 3 days. 3 tragedies followed by a Sader play.
It was entertainment but also a really big festival.
The theater of Dinysus could seat 15,000 ppl.
o And most of the these people were your fellow citizens.
There were a few woman and foreigners, but the rest
were Athenian men.
The tickets were subsidized by the city. This is
how important they considered them.
The cost of producing the play were payed by
citizens as a type of tax. So instead of paying
taxes you could produce a play and those were
your taxes to the state.
o So this worship was a key part of life.
This was a religious festival. There were prayers and sacrafises before
However before the play there were also civic origins. Like the
victorious generals would offer libation to Dionysus. Or other things like
So this was a way for Athenians to come together.
So one way to read the plays is in the sophrosune way, where you are meant to be virtous, and
worship the gods. o However, the way that it does, is that it teaches you about exc