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Lecture 6 Dionysos & The Bacchae
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Lecture 6 Dionysos & The Bacchae

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More about Mystery Religions as seen by Euripides in 406 BC

More about Mystery Religions as seen by Euripides in 406 BC

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  • 1. Who was Dionysos? Lecture 6: Euripides & the Bacchae
  • 2. Euripides • Died 406 BC, time of Mysteries in Athens • In Macedonia, isolated in mountain country • Left Bacchae, performed in Athens in 406 BC • Tragic poets: Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides • Most of his plays present gods as cruel and capricious • The Bacchae seems to praise piety
  • 3. “Bacchae” means? • Followers of Bacchus? • Dancers of Dionysos? • Maenads? Wild women? • Mountain dancers? • Inebriated revellers? • Animalistic party people? • Crazy cannibals? • Baxchoi? Baxchai? Bassarids?
  • 4. “Bacchae” means? • Dionysos (dios, dzeus, zeus, god of Mt. Nysos) • Bacchus, Liber (Latin Roman name) • Iacchos • Bakxos, Bakchoi, Bakchai • Βάκχαι / Bakchai – bakkheia (frenzy) • The Bacchantes • Bakxeuein - to "bachate") • Baccanalia • thiasus (followers): maenads and satyrs
  • 5. Cult of Dionysos A mystery cult that went from a companion to Demeter & Persepone (agriculture) to become a god accepted as “foreign invader god” who later belonged to the established pantheon of Greek Olympic gods. “Pan-theon” = all the gods (collection)
  • 6. The Outsider Divinity Greek ethics emphasized moderation, balance in all things (meden agan = “never too much”), Aristotle’s “golden mean” The “sophron” (sophia) implied control of situation Dionysos brought ecstasy, drunkenness, wild dancing, excessive behavior Euripides’s Bacchae treats this contradiction
  • 7. Young virgin (kore) is visited by god. God is reveal himself to her in full splendor. The girl lover is dazzled by lightning, overwhelmed, killed. The attraction of mortal–immortal was lethal ecstasy. A divine child results and is raised as adult by father god. The son of god is Dionysos who puts on the shape of a mortal to visit cities and engage humans in ecstasy and divine wildness. He is rejected by his cousin Pentheus, current king of Thebes and other son of Semele. Old king Cadmus and prophet Tiresias welcome the divinity and join the dancing. Pentheus declares Dionysos a criminal against the order of the city.
  • 8. Priestess of Bacchus
  • 9. E.R. Dodds’s edition of The Bacchae • Landmark of 1960s classical scholarship • Spirit of the 1960s • Dodds’s book “The Greeks and the Irrational” • Dodds’s commenary on The Bacchae • Overturned many assumptions about Greeks • Revived ideas from classical scholar of a previous era, Friedrich Nietzsche (who was the author of The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music)
  • 10. E.R. Dodds’s edition of The Bacchae See the commentary by Dodds scanned with highlighted sections about Dionysos cult….
  • 11. E.R. Dodds’s on Dionysos • juice of life, sap, blood, vine, wine, fir-tree • not "god of cups" (Romans, Keats) • dangerous • bull-shaped, lion, snake, lion-head • mountain dancing (orgia) • snake-handling (Sabezius)
  • 12. Opera based on The Bacchae • The Bassarids • Composer Heinz Werner Henze • Libretto by W.H. Auden • Closely based on Euripides • But Christian emphasis on the cruelty of Dionysos