- Slides: 18
Place of Dionysus in myth • Often presented in myth as a “new” god (but Linear B tablets show already worshiped 1600 -1400 BCE) • Not mentioned in Hesiod, Theogony • Often associated with myth of arrival from distant land (but acc. to one prominent variant born in Thebes, Greece: see HH to Dionysus 1 in Anthology pp. 168 -169 for variants: Dracanos, Icaros, Naxos, Nysa) • Parentage: Semele (daughter of Cadmus, ruler of Thebes) and Zeus but: • Important Orphic variant: son of Persephone and Zeus, dismembered and eaten by Titans, Titans destroyed by Zeus’ thunderbolt, humans created from Titans’ ashes (thus we contain Titanic, divine elements)
Themes associated with Dionysus in myth and cult/ritual • Arrival (Otto: “the coming god”) and epiphany, revelation (knowledge that frees, help in afterlife, mysteries) • Wild nature: burgeoning nature and plant growth (vine and ivy), untamed, wild animals (fawns, lions, panthers), sexuality, dismemberment of animal with hands (as opposed to knives), eating of flesh raw (ômophagia) • Wine as product of civilization and culture, positive and negative effects • Madness (mania), possession (enthousiasmos, lit. “having a god [theos] inside”) and intoxication both positive (healing, rejuvenating, freeing) and negative (destructive, illness) • Otherness: exotic and wild animals, exotic origins (Lydia, the East), altered states of consciousness, masks
Homeric Hymn to Dionysus • How does Dionyus initially appear in this hymn? • What god does the Steersman think Dionysus is? Is this a good guess? • What signs does Dionysus give of his divine nature? What connection might these signs or manifestations have to the nature of the god? • Do these manifestations add up to an epiphany (Gr. epiphaneia, revelation, appearance [of a god])
Homeric Hymn to Dionysus • Example of reception myth (myth about how a god and his worship was first received by humanity)? • Dionysus as beautiful young man (cf. early and later iconography – in 5 th. C BCE begins to be shown as bearded adult male) • Concealment of identity • Abduction and confinement by pirates • Ignoring of warning figure (here steersman– who incorrectly identifies him as Zeus, Apollo, or Poseidon) • Dionysos demonstrates divine nature: miracle of wine, vine, and ivy; terror of transformation into wild beasts lion and bear • Final epiphany: reveals himself as god Dionysus, son of Semele and Zeus, “Dionysos of the noisy rites” – what do these refer to? ) punishment of persecutors
Birth of Dionysus from thigh of Zeus. Aphrodite to left and Eilythuia (birth goddess) to right? Attic red figure volute krater, “Altamura” painter, c. 460.
R. Dionysus with kantharus (wine cup) and satyr. From Athenian red figure kylix by Makron, c. 490 -480 BCE.
L. Dionysus, pedimental sculpture of Olympian gods, Parthenon, Athens. mid 5 th c. BCE. R. Dionysus and Ariadne. C. 380 -360 BCE. Volute krater, Lucanian red figure. .
L. Mask of Dionysus on Athenian red figure krater, c. 520 BCE. R. Maenads worship mask of Dionysus on pillar, decorated with vine branches and sacrificial cakes. Athenian red figure kylix, 5 th c. BCE
Dionysus traveling by ship, vine on mast
Dionysus and the pirates. Which one might be Dionysus? Mosaic from Bardo, Tunis. 3 rd c. CE
Humans into dolphins. Note ivy at left, symbol of Dionysus. Vase painting C. 510 -500 BCE
Dionysus in Euripides’ Bacchae • How does this compare to the Homeric Hymn to Dionysus as reception myth? • What is Dionysus the god of, what is his portfolio in this work?
Dionysus and theatre • Tragedy and comedy performed in competitions annually in Athens at the festival of Great Dionysia • Sacrifices to Dionysus, priest of Dionysus in the audience • Tragedy as trag-oidia “goat-song” • Chorus made up of young males (initiation paradigm? ) • Wearing of masks (cf. representations of Dionysus as simply mask), change of identity
Seat of priest of Dionysus, theatre in Athens
Plot of Euripides, Bacchae, first performed 405 BCE • • Dionysus returns to native Thebes after being away in Asia. Aim is to bring benefits of his cult to Greece and gain recognition Delivers prologue as himself, god (epiphany to audience, not to characters) but during the play will be disguised as a mortal, stranger from Lydia leading band of Lydian women, followers of Dionysus Rejection by ruler of Thebes, Pentheus, grandson of Cadmus, daughter of Agave, cousin of Dionysus Punishment by Dionysus: drives Agave and sisters and women of Thebe to leave their homes and go to the mountain as maenads (Greek mainades, lit. “mad women”, women possessed by mania). Pentheus attempts to imprison Dionysus/stranger, escape and miracles Report of messenger of miracles by women on mountain: fountains of wine, milk, honey, suckling of fawns, snake-handling Offer of Dionysus/stranger to disguise Pentheus as maenad to spy on women Detection and dismemberment by Agave of her own son, realization and revelation
Maenad with snake headdress and animal skin holding thyrsos and young panther. Vase painting, c. 490 BCE
Dismemberment of Pentheus. Redfigure vase painting, 5 th c. BCE