Dionysus in Early Greek Sources
Iliad 6. Diomedes and Glaukos
During the trojan war Diomedes, consumed in his bloodlust, encounters Glaukos. Glaukos is
defeated and before he is killed, tells Diomedes a story of his lineage in which he reveals that his
and Diomedes’grandfathers were guest-friends of each other. Thus, they cannot kill one another
and instead swap armor as a token of friendship
Diomedes says he will not fight against any god and gives the example of Lycurgus who opposed
Dionysus, and for it suffered severe punishment
Iliad 14. Zeus to Hera about past affairs
Lists Semele as mother to Dionysus
Hera had tricked Semele into asking Zeus to show himself in his true form (lightning bolt). She
was burnt to a crisp. Zeus then sewed Dionysus into his thigh and later “gives birth” to him
Odyssey 11. Odysseus recounting the women he saw in the Underworld
Traditionally Dionysus had taken as his lover. He had turned her crown into a star, immortalizing
In this version it predisposes that Dionysus andAriadne had already had n affair and then she left
for Theseus. Dionysus then had her killed
Odyssey 24. Agamemnon’s shade to Achilles, describing the latter’s funeral
After the flam of Hephaistos (the firebolt?) had consumed achilles, his bones were mixed with
wine and unguents in a krater (possible another vessel, it doesn’t say).
Theogony 940-49 in the catalogue of Zeus’consorts
Semele bore Zeus the immortal Dionysus when she was mortal, now she is immortal too
Dionysus took ariadne to be his wife and Zeus made her immortal and ageless
Works and Days 609-14 Describing what the farmer must do in September
Describes what a farmer must do in September. Includes instructions for how to make wine, the
“gifts of joyful Dionysus”
Gifts of Dionysus are for both joy and sorrw
Whoever drinks a lot goes a bit wild, and is bound with “incomprehensible chains” -- in
Hymns are a praise song for divinities
Encomia are praise songs for mortals
Typical features of a hymn are the list of epithets, origins of the god, how he got his honors (his
deeds for which he received various time (p.timai) - “honor” - and it is written heavily in the
second-person singular (Du-Stil)
Hymn 1, Fragment
Describes the birth of Dionysus, mentions various versions of the story and that this hymn offers
the “authoritative” version.Apparently he was born on Nysa (same mountain mentioned in
Lycurgus myth) which is far off in Phoenicia and close to Egypt Hymn 7
Dionysus is a beautiful youth (eromenos) and is always presented as a young androgynous man.
Dionysus is erotically attractive and that is important! Etruscan pirates kidnap him for the
purpose of selling him off as a love-slave. But they can’t chain him - he is the loosener of chains
One person realizes it is a bad idea to kidnap him, but the pirates do not listen to him. Dionysus
causes wine and vines to overtake the ship. Then a lion attacks the sailors, who leap from the
ship and are turned into dolphins
Dionysus as the God of Drama
There were 2 festivals in the year which featured dramatic contests
1) City Dionysia, a spring festival.Abig affair which lasted several days drawing people from
everywhere (including entries). Featured contests in Drama, comedy and dithyrambs (hymns
sung in honor of Dionysus) - each ofAthens 10 tribes made up a chorus of boys and a chorus
of men. They would participate in the dithyramb contest. There were 3 days for a tralegy (sp?)
which had 3 tragedies and on satyr play. Then 1 day of comedy where 5 plays were held. Plays
were written for this festival (a one-time thing)
The Satyr play woul deb the fourth performed in the tralegy. Satyr is not necessarily
comedic. The defining element is that they contain satyrs.
2) Lenaia, a smaller and more local festival for comedy
There were 3 major playwrights: Euripides, Sophocles andAeschylus. With the death of
Sophocles and Euripides the genre sort of died. Even a contemporary of them sensed that at the
time:Aristophanes, the comic playwright. This is featured in The Frogs: Dionysus goes down
into hades to bring up Euripides because tragedy is needed. He organizes a competition between
Aeschylus and Euripides and he ends up bringing the winner,Aeschylus, back instead
We have more than double the plays of Euripides than the other two. Interesting most of his “H”
plays survive, suggesting that a particular “encyclopedia” of his works was preserved (e.g.,
Euripides - Bacchae
This play shows what will happen should you resist Dionysus. It is set in Thebes and the Theban
genealogy is very important.
Kadmos + Harmonia have five children: Semele, Ino,Agave,Autonoi, Polydoros.
Semele’s son is Dionysus;Agave’s son is Penthes;Autonoi’s son isActaeon; Polydoros’son is
Labdacus, father of Laius (whose son is Oedipus)
The parallel betweenActaeon and Pentheus is that they are both torn apart (sparagmos)
Dionysus is represented as coming from the East. While being Greek he is also non-Greek. He
has a lot of exotic elements associate with him, which makes him suspicious
At the beginning, Dionysus is disguised as a priest of himself. This is significant because it is
self-reflexive: the god of drama enters the drama in disguise. It is an example of a play-within-a-
play and cross-dressing will play an important role in the play. The actor would have worn a
mask that represents him as Dionysus, so the audience would not have been fooled, but Pentheus would. This is an example of dramatic irony. Seeing and watching is a motif we visit again and
again in the play
Dionysus lures Pentheus into watching the maenads. He has him dress up as a woman (maenad)
to do so. Pentheus mirrors his audience because he is a spectator of the maenads too. The word
that is used to represent him as a spectator is theates. This will be his downfall; he comes to see
but instead he is seen
In Greek there is a saying “nothing to do with Dionysus” One theory is that even though he is the
god of Greek drama, in most all of play he does not appear. Here in the Bacchae he is present.
The plot is very self-reflexive and plays with motifs of viewing and watching and disguise.
The actor playingAgave would put the mask of pentheus on top of the thrysus. The play uses the
word prosopon for head, which is the technical term for the mask. So pentheus himself is turned
into a mask.
The play is filled with clashes: of gender and generation; religious skepticism and acceptance;
liberation and chains; mortal vs immortal; Greek vs Barbarian; inside vs outside; city vs
mountain. Dionysus is an outside that threatens to disrupt life.
The maenad behavior is opposite of how the city should run: they are anarchic and Pentheus
represents order. Thus, he also represents positive things. Dionysus has two different effects:
both positive and destructive.
The Maenads enjoy the benefits of Dionysus but he is also quite cruel to them (Agave kills her
own son!) They don’t actually follow out of free-will, but he instills frenzy. Only Kadmos and
Teiresias make the rational decision to follow him.An old man is almost a woman because they
lack the strength of manhood
Only Satyr play we have in full.
Only piece we have that directly plays with homer - usually material is taken from the epic cycle
around the time of homer, that which is perceived as not as good. Most tragedies take their
material form cyclical texts and do not engage with Homer
Satyrs are looking for kidnapped Dionysus - sort of like the Greeks and Helen. In Homer,
Odysseus is curious about the land of the Cyclops. In the play it is because he needs supplies.
Him and Silenus strike a deal: wine for supplies. But the plan doesn’t really pan out. The
Cyclops return and Silenus says Odysseus was trying to steal from him (the cyclops).
In the play he blinds him more out of revenge for his lost men than to get away.
When Cyclops drinks the wine he becomes sociable, where before he was socially awkward.
Cyclops worships his stomach - Odysseus gets him drunk and fills him up with Dionysus,
leading to his undoing.
Not every household would have a space for a proper dining room
In a standard room kline were all along the edge of the walls with the krater in the middle. The
krater was the centre both literaly and metaphorically.
Water/wine ratio was very important because the aim was to drink in moderation All about balance and equal shares. The wine is not the one thing mixed at a symposium: people,
ideas, perfumes, etc, all create a good mixture and balance
Standard sizes included the seven-couch room and the eleven-couch room
Kline were about 1.8-1.9m x 8.9m
Two persons per couch
Some spaces were much larger, such as the long or broad rooms (dependent on where the
entrance was). In such cases the layout changed. There were often two hearths in this room,
leading to the hypothesis that there might have been smaller subgroups. Smaller groups would
feel more “sympotic" whereas larger groups might feel more public
The arrangement does not create a hierarchy; none of the seats are better or worse (this changes
in rome where there are triclinium and parties had a strict seating arrangement including places
for honor and places for “lesser” guests
Lapiths and Centaurs
Lapiths invite the centaurs to a wedding.
The centaurs get drunk and out of control, start to get violent and fling tables, chairs and vessels
in a fight
They want to rape and abduct the bride and all the other women
Metaphorical warning to drink in moderation; don’t get too drunk because things will suck
Van Wees - Princes at Dinner
The princes who dine belong to a wealth elite of princes - basileis - who are exempt from work
other than intermittent supervision of the slave and hire labour tending their livestock and landed
Weddings, funerals and religious festivals are celebrated with huge feasts
Often business is combined with pleasure - senior members meet t take collective decisions over
dinner and drinks
Important social event. Over dinner, individual relationships and group solidarity may be
established, consolidated, or broken
Status differences might be asserted and contested: host may seek to display superior wealth,
taste and generosity; guests may seek to differentiate amongst themselves in order of precedence;
whole group may seek to assert its superiority over those not invited
Homeric feasts contribute to the creation of personal networks, the formation of groups, and the
differentiation of social status. Homeric society knows few other intensive forms of association
beyond the household
The Dining Hall: Simplicity and Luxury
Took place in the long hall known as the megaron. In the supernatural world of the gods, or the
legendary phaiakians, such halls are made of bronze, silver and gold. But in Th. Eless fantastic
world of Homer the halls are of stone and timber.
Single entrance wth wooden doors and a porch provides access. Inside woods posits and rafters
support a steeply pitched, possibly thatched, roof. Set in the floor of packed earth is an open
hearth for light, heat and cooking. Rustic picture complete with animals wandering about. But it
is the most prestigious part in a rich man’s residence Warlike touch with weapons and armor on display. The diners themselves keep their sords beside
them throughout the feast and there is always a risk that these may be drawn. Generally though
the dinners seem peaceful and the weaponry may be on display to signal wealth as much as to
The megaron is where a man puts his wealth on show. In the richest houses the dining hall is
filled with precious artefacts, metals and cloth, as well as slaves, servants and pet dogs. Chairs,
rather than tables, are covered with cloth.And the chairs themselves are important: everywhere
else in the house everyone sits on low stools, but in the dining hall host and guest sit on high
chairs. These are called thronoi or klismoi and have backs, armrests and footstools.
Homer’s attention to specific details probably show that in his experience, the dining hall
contained a concentration of riches designed to make guests stand in ‘awe’of the wealth of their
Women, Food and Feasting
Moses Finley bluntly stated that”women had no place at the feast”. With her husband missing,
presumed dead, and being courted by more than a hundred men who eat her wealth Penelope
keeps to her quarters rather then preside as hostess. When she does appear she is veiled and
accompanied by two maids. The outcome of these rare events is that he son, Telemachus, orders
her to go to her quarters and do womanly things. He adds that the proceedings of the feast are the
concern of men.
This may seem to suggest sexual segregation, but by contrast two Homeric women, Helen and
Arete, are conspicuously present at the feast of their husbands. There is no reason to assume their
behavior out of the ordinary. In fact it seems Penelope’s absence is due to special circumstances:
Her husband is away, an she faces hordes of uninvited and aggressive guests. Had it been
the rule that women do not join men at their feasts, not even when they husbands are present and
guests are friends, Penelope’s trespasses into the Megaron would have been regarded as bold and
out of character as the “model wife”. Her presence is better understood if women had every right
to be at feasts, and that her choice to forgo the feast confirms her modesty and good sense in
dealing with an awkward situation.Additionally, in the phaiakans request that Odysseus talk
about them to “some other hero” they say “when you dine in your home beside your wife”
What applies to wives does not necessarily apply to daughters.
Arete’s daughter, Nausikaa, knows that her parents are dining in the megaron with guests but
instead of joining she goes to her room to sup.Assumption is that unmarrued women are not
allowed to dine with men.Additionally she says goodbye before the feast because Homer is
bound by social convention: he cannot imagine a kore taking part in a feast, so she must say her
goodbyes before the meal. Nausikaa also states that a woman who mingles with men “before she
is plainly married” is subject to be the butt of criticism.
As for the wives of guests, the closest they come to being involved is that they are said to have
“sent along” bread for their husbands who dine out. Clearly they are not invited and stay at
home. The place for women at the feast is reserved for the mistress of the house, an perhaps her
Those women at feasts of not play a full part. They are excluded from the preparation of meat - a
male tats. While the host and guests slaughter animals the women stand by and “shriek”. Jointing, roasting and distribution of meat and innards os again the work of men, although there
is no shortage of maidservants involve din preparations.
Homer does his best to preserve this division of labour. In the case of Circe and Calypso who
live apart from men, Homer and hardly make his hero go without meat but he also refuses to
make immortal women engage in the preparation of meat. He solves this by glossing over the
problem and keeping the feast vague: “every kind of food, such things as mortal men eat and
drink”. Later he asserts that Odysseus and his men spend their time on the islands “eating meat”.
The strict division leads to the suspicious that women were not allowed to eat meat either. Meat
is conspicuously missing from passages mentioning women eating.
Homeric scenes of feasting leave the impression that women do not eat or drink at all but merely
sit beside their husbands and sons occasionally joining in conversation but otherwise engrossed
in woolwork. The exception of this are the goddesses, who have their ambrosia and nectar int he
company of the gods. Presumably they eat apart, and this is positively evidenced by Helen’s
belated appearance at her daughters wedding celebrations, leading the conclusion that women
could be expected to join only after having dined in their own quarters
Role of women at feasts restricted to making conversation, but even this is restricted. Penelope
rebukes her suitors for their maltreatment of a beggar, and Telemachus backs her up. But in
another instance she is told off by her son when she speaks out at the feast. This is when she tells
the bard to change his song because it upsets her. Penelope enjoys considerable freedom of
action, but apparently the line is drawn at her actually dominating the proceedings by going
against the wishes of her son and guests. Her skirmishes with her son represent Telemachus first
attempts to assert himself as master of the house
Arete is influential through her husband, who shows his respect of her by giving great weight to
her opinion when he takes decisions. But she does not speak freely at feasts - when Odysseus
puts to her his request for hospitality she is silent, and this might be because a woman, regardless
of her influence, would not be able to make an independent decision on such a consequential
matter. The following day when she does speak she says that Odysseus should receive rich gifts,
for whichAlkinoos rebukes her. It is out of respect he does not send her to her room for speaking
out of turn
The lady of the house may initiate conversations with guests but her freedom is determined by
husband and adult sons. But a private meal would likely be taken altogether. However the closest
we get to this is on Olympus. Homer’s realistic portrayal of kinship between the gods could
mean that their dinners correspond to those of mortals. The marginalization of women may be
exclusive to feasting.
Likely Homer is simply presenting an ideal circumstance rather than reality
The Best Circles: Social Status and the Feasting Circuit
Homeric heroes celebrate lavish weddings and funerals. Weddings are attended by the upper
echelon, while funerals are attended by “the people” of the community. But it is likely that
outsiders are present. They certainly take part in the games which are a regular feature of
Feasting is to show off wealth and demonstrate generosity to the many and ‘important’kinsmen,
friends, acquaintances. But there is another type of feast which involves no generosity and is open to select company -
“wine of the elders” (gerousion oinon) or “royal banquet”. Held by king when he wishes to
discuss matters of public interest with the elders (gerontes), the senior members of aristocratic
families.Although the king provides the venue the cost is at the expense of the public.Aregular
place at royal banquet is regarded as a high honor which one must repay with feats of valour on
the battlefield.Although it seems vaguely feudal, the obligation to fight is apparently owed not to
the king who hosts, but to the community which pays for these feasts. The king himself owes the
community his serves in exchange for its contributions.
Athird type of feast is the private dinner party, the most common. There are two interpretations:
1) informal, private Homeric feasts serve to create hierarchical relationships between host and
Example of the viking chief who would entertain a large, permanent retinue of followers
year round at his own expense. The relationship created was hierarchical with guests being
wholly dependent on their host and in return for their keep they place their services as fighters at
2) Serves to create ties of friendship and solidarity amongst equals
Example of mafioso who meat regularly for “slap-up” meals. Not intended for
hierarchical relationships or to place guests under the obligation to host, but rather they confirm
and strengthen the egalitarian “kinship, social or philosophic ties” that already exist between
In homeric society followers are recruited from the upper class so presumable they have their
own independent livelihoods, unlike the followers of a viking chief. Bands of personal followers
- “companions” (hetairoi) or “retainers” (therapontes) - accompanying the heroes to war are
recruited via a variety of ways other than through generosity in feasting
Familial obligation, but not personally indebted.
As a favor and not forgoing your own leadership
Volunteers who enjoy the leader’s hospitality from the moment they sign up but no earlier
Some are wholly dependent on leaders generosity
Eilapine - a type of feast held at the expense of the host (leaving guests indebted for the moment
- can get out of this by hosting a feast in return rather than owing services). Highest ranking men
in a community are engaged in a cycle of feasting. Thus the suitors who exploit Odysseus
disappearance by feasting at his expense are rebuked for not taking turns.
Eranos - a type of feast to which the guests bring their own contributions.
Since diners share cost of feasting no hierarchical ties are created and no obligation to serve.
In the event of death, the men may refuse the feaster’s son, even if of higher standing. Thus
equality, not dependence is the homeric norm
Close-kinsmen excepted, attendance is by invitation only, the the host does not have to invite
everyone. May be many feasting circles which overlap.Aman, however high his rank, could not
normally expect to be invited to all, or even most of his peers’dinner parties. Circles of dining
companions are neither closed associations nor mutually exclusive in membership.
Since the status of basileus is hereditary in the world of heroes, a young princr would normally
also inherit a niche int he feasting circuit. Boys are taken along to dinner parties from a very
early age. But birth does not guarantee a place at the feast. One imagines that most would escape the fate of alienation by the support of relatives and loyal friends, but there is no mistaking the
tendency to exclude men, even of high birth, who have lost pore, property or face.
Intensity of status rivalry in Homeric society
Conceivable that men of low birth who gained influence, wealth and stature through success in
raiding or trade might be admitted into circles. Beggars might also be granted entry but of course
not on equal terms with the princes. If a host takes pity on a beggar, he will be allowed to beg the
guests for scraps of food and to eat sitting on the threshold of the dining hall. The fact that he has
neither chair, nor table, nor a proper shari in the meal, highlights his inferiority. He can also
become the butt of jokes and be forced into humiliating situations.Although rude treatment of
beggars is not approved of, it is apparently common enough.
Admittance might be motived by philanthropic desire but the marginalization might also stem
form a desire on the part of the host (who might be a social climber) to remind themselves of
how wide a gap separates them from common people
Gusfield - Passage to Play
Modern organizational society has division of time into periods of different quality and function
Many societies have distinguished periods of play from other activity. The conception of leisure
as a definite and bounded part of time s a feature of the industrial and post-industrial world. This
distinction must be viewed as a development of industrialized society and its normal definition
and division of time.
As a characteristic of modern life, leisure must be seen in its contrast to the demands of work.
Leisure has its meaning in modern life in the contrast to work - to the controlled, disciplined,
orderly, hierarchical nature of organizational tasks. The world of work requires and demands
from us behavior that stands often in opposition to freetime playfulness. To mix domains
becomes a danger to the serious size and an opposition to the playful
Symbolism of Food and Drink
Culture as Language
Conventional in anthropology to think of drinking as a ritual act. From this, and other
perspectives, alcohol has been analyzed for its tension-reducing properties or its unify