LLT 121 CLASSICAL MYTHOLOGY: Dionysus and the Bacchic Mysteries
Copyright  2001, Joseph J. Hughes
Last reviewed: 13 August 2001

I.   Myths of Dionysus
     A.	Young Dionysus
        1. son of Semele, daughter of Cadmus
           a. jealous Hera brings about Semele'sdeath
           b. Dionysus born from Zeus' thigh: "twice-born"
        2. Ino as foster-mother
        3. Dionysus raised by nymphs of Nysa
           a. learns cultivation of the vine)
           b. learns wine-making
     B.	Dionysus as young god on the make
        1. struck mad by Hera
           a. wanders throughout the East
           b. cured of his madness by Cybele
           c. adopts her rites in part as his own
        2. gains a following
	   a. Bacchae or Maenads are female followers
           b. satyrs and Sileni are male followers
        3. grants Midas his wish for returning Silenus
        4. marries Ariadne, Minos' daughter
     C.	Dionysus' return to Greece (The ANGERED GOD)
        1. King Lycurgus of Thrace (in northern Greece)
           a. drives off Dionysus
           b. Lycurgus blinded; driven mad; killed
        2. King Minyas of Boeotia (middle Greece)
           a. 3 daughters of the king resist Dionysus' rites
           b. daughters driven mad; eat a child; turned into bats
        3. Dionysus avenges Icarius
           a. shows Icarius how to make wine
           b. Icarius killed by villagers
           c. Dionysus inflicts the countryside with madness
           d. turns Icarius & family into constellations
        4. King Proteus of Argos (lower Greece)
           a. daughters of the king refuse the rites of Dionysus
           b. daughters inflicted with leprosy; driven mad; eat their children
           c. cured by Melampus, the seer
        5. Dionysus and the Pirates
II.  Dionysus vs. Pentheus: The Bacchae of Euripides
     A.	Trouble in Thebes
        1. Semele's sisters, Agave (Pentheus' mother), Ino and Autonoe slander Semele
        2. Dionysus drives the 3 sisters and other women of Thebes to Mt. Cithaeron
        3. Pentheus sends men to arrest the "wanton" Theban women
        4. Tiresias and Cadmus defend Dionysus
     B.	Pentheus's first meeting with Dionysus
        1. Dionysus willingly gives up
        2. jailed women have been miraculously freed
        3. Pentheus has Dionysus' hair cut off; attempts to imprison him
        4. Dionysus escapes and destroys the palace
        5. messenger reports mass partying on the mountain
        6. Pentheus will call out the troops
     C.	Pentheus's second meeting with Dionysus
        1. Dionysus arouses Pentheus's curiosity
        2. Pentheus as voyeur: must see what's happening on the mountain
        2. agrees to dress as a woman
        3. Pentheus hallucinates; feels inhumanly strong
     D.	The End of Pentheus
        1. Pentheus ripped to shreds by his mother & aunts
        2. Agave deluded; carries Pentheus' head back to Thebes
        3. Cadmus brings Agave to her senses
        4. Agave, Cadmus and Harmonia sent into exile

III. Dionysus: The God and His Religion
     A. Dionysus becomes an Olympian
         1. descends into Hades to bring Semele (Thyone) back to life
         2. both mother and son become immortals
     B.	explication/interpretation of Dionysus
        1. Eastern origins
           a. Dionysus' mother perhaps a Great Mother goddess
           b. Ariadne, "the Holy One," as a Great Mother
           c. thyrsus, the staff carried by Dionysus and initiates, perhaps Hittite in origin
        2. Dionysus as god of fertility of all (plants, animals, humans)
           a. associations with pine, ivy, fig
           b. associations with goat, bull, big cats
        3. male counterpart of Demeter
           a. the "juice" of life
           b. water, semen, sap, milk, blood, adrenaline
           c. liquid life force vs. dry Demeter
        4. death/destruction, but resurrection/life
           a. ekstasis = standing outside
           b. enthousiasmos = having god inside you
           c. sparagmos = tearing apart of humans/animals
           d. omophagia = eating of raw flesh
        5. irrationality, as opposed to Apollo's rationality
           a. a foreign god for the Greeks: came from the East
           b. emotional; earthy; primal
           c. becomes prototype for Christian devil
        6. common person's god: accessible to all
           a. association with theater
           b. theater may have religious origins; connected with Dionysus
           c. more likely a politically inspired new art form  

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