Tricksters and Rebels
Sections & Primary Sources
Zeus and Semele
Dionysus was a son of Zeus and one of the twelve Olympians. According to the Greek mythological tradition, he was created by the sexual union of Zeus and the mortal woman Semele who was the daughter of Cadmus, king of Thebes. When Hera learned that Semele was pregnant with Zeus’ child, out of jealousy she disguised herself as Semele’s nurse and convinced her to make a demand of Zeus: she should make him promise to grant her any favour she might ask, and then she should ask him to appear to her as he did to his wife. Semele did so and Zeus complied. But when Zeus appeared to Semele in his true form, as the god of lightening and thunder, mortal Semele was not able to withstand his power and was burned up. As Semele was burning, Hermes rescued the unborn baby from her womb and sewed the child up in Zeus’ thigh. When he was ready to be born, Dionysus emerged from his father’s thigh.
Where the ancient god Dionysus came from, historically speaking, is hard to say. His name appears in a Mycenaean inscription from around 1200-1000 BCE. The myths about him also suggest that he came from east of mainland Greece, from Thrace, or from Asia minor (modern-day Turkey).
Dionysus, whose Roman name is Bacchus, was associated with wine, revelry, wildness, and ecstasy. His followers were called “Maenads” or “Bacchae”: women who, possessed by the god, had left their homes and domestic duties to dance wildly in the mountains and glens. They would strip off their clothes, unbind their hair, and kill wild animals with their bare hands.
“Homeric Hymn 1 To Dionysus” (trans. H. G. Evelyn White, adapted by L. Zhang and P. Rogak)
Greek hymn, 7th century BCE
 ((lacuna)) . . . For some say that pregnant bore you to the thunder-lover at Dracanum; and some, on windy Icarus; and some, in Naxos, O Heaven-born, Insewn; and others by the deep-flowing river Alpheus. And others yet, lord, say you were born in ; but all these people lie. The Father of men and gods [ ] gave birth to you far from men and secretly from white-armed . There is a certain , a tall mountain covered by a thick forest, far off in Phoenice, near the streams of Aegyptus. ((lacuna)) . . .
 [ speaking:] ” . . . and men will present her many offerings in her shrines. And as these things are three, so shall mortals ever sacrifice perfect to you at your feasts every three years.”
The Son of spoke and nodded with his dark brows. And the divine locks of the king flowed forward from his immortal head, and he made great shake. So spoke wise and confirmed it with a nod.
 Be favourable, O Insewn, Inspirer of frenzied women [ ]! We singers sing of you as we begin and as we end a verse, and none may call a holy song to mind if they forget you. And so, farewell, Dionysus, Insewn, with your mother whom men call Thyone.
Taken from: https://www.theoi.com/Text/HomericHymns1.html
“Homeric Hymn 26 To Dionysus” (trans. H. G. Evelyn-White, adapted by L. Zhang and P. Rogak)
Greek hymn, 7th century BCE
 I begin to sing of ivy-crowned Dionysus, the loud-crying god, splendid son of and glorious . The rich-haired received him in their bosoms from the lord his father and fostered and nurtured him carefully in the valleys of , where by the will of his father he grew up in a sweet-smelling cave, being regarded as one of the immortals. But after the goddesses had raised him, a god for whom hymns were often sung, he began to wander continually through the woody valleys, thickly wreathed with ivy and laurel. And the followed in his train with him as their leader; and the boundless forest was filled with their outcry. And so hail to you, Dionysus, god of abundant clusters [of grapes]! Grant that we may come again rejoicing to this season, and from that season onwards for many years.
Taken from: https://www.theoi.com/Text/HomericHymns3.html#26
Dionysus as Allegory
Fulgentius, Mythologies, Book 2 (trans. L. G. Whitbread, adapted by L. Zhang and P. Rogak)
Latin mythography, ca. 500 CE
[2.12] slept with , by whom Father was born; he roared as he came against her with his thunderbolt; and so the father, carrying off the boy, placed him in his own thigh and later gave him to Maro for nursing. There were four sisters named, including : , , , and . Let us investigate what this fable symbolizes. There are four stages of intoxication – that is, first, excess of wine; second, forgetting things; third, lust; fourth, madness – from which these four received the name of : the are so called for their raging (baccantes) with wine. First is , for inos, the Greek word we have for wine; second, for autenunoe, that is, ignorant of herself; third, , for somalion, which in Latin we call the released body, where she is said to have born Father , that is, intoxication born of lust; fourth, , who is comparable to insanity because in her violence she cut off her son’s head. Thus he is called Father because the rage of wine frees men’s minds; he is said to have conquered the people of India [of the Indus River Valley] because that race is certainly given to wine, in two respects: one, that the fierce heat of the sun makes them drinkers, the other that in that part of the world there is wine like that of Falernum or Meroë, in which there is such strength that even a confirmed drunkard will hardly drink a pint in a whole month; and so Lucan says: “Falernian, to which add Meroë, forcing its stubborn nature to ferment,” for it cannot be in any way weakened by water. For nursing Dionysus was handed over to Maro, a form of Mero, for by merum is sustained all intoxication. He is also said to ride on tigers, because all intoxication goes with savageness; and minds affected by wine are softened, from which he is also called Lyaeus, distinguished for softness. Dionysus is depicted as a youth, because drunkenness is never mature; and he is shown as naked, either because every wine-drinker becomes exposed to robbery or because the drunkard lays bare the secrets of his mind.
Taken from: https://www.theoi.com/Text/FulgentiusMythologies2.html#12
Dionysus in Action
Sections & Primary Sources
The Destruction of the House of Cadmus
When Dionysus was born, Hermes spirited the child away to live with his mortal aunt Ino (one of his mother’s sisters). Ino and her husband Athamas raised Dionysus as a girl to try to hide him from Hera’s jealous wrath, but Hera was not fooled, and caused Ino to go mad. Ino’s madness, along with Semele’s demise, and other events, signaled the destruction of the house of Cadmus, the tragic dynasty of Thebes.
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca, Book 3 (trans. J. G. Frazer, adapted by L. Zhang)
Greek mythography, 2nd century BCE
[content warning for the following source: graphic descriptions of death, suicide (3.4.3), ableist language]
[3.4.1] When died, buried her, and after being hospitably received by the Thracians he came to to inquire about . The god told him not to worry about , but to be guided by a cow, and to found a city wherever she should fall down for weariness. After receiving such an oracle he journeyed through Phocis; then falling in with a cow among the herds of Pelagon, he followed it behind. And after traversing Boeotia, it sank down where is now the city of . Wishing to sacrifice the cow to , he sent some of his companions to draw water from the spring of . But a dragon, which some said was the offspring of , guarded the spring and destroyed most of those that were sent. In his indignation killed the dragon, and by the advice of sowed its teeth. When they were sown there rose from the ground armed men whom they called . These slew each other, some in a chance brawl, and some in ignorance. But Pherecydes says that when saw armed men growing up out of the ground, he flung stones at them, and they, supposing that they were being pelted by each other, came to blows. However, five of them survived, Echion, Udaeus, Chthonius, Hyperenor, and Pelorus.
[3.4.2] But , to atone for the slaughter, served for an eternal year; and the year was then equivalent to eight years of our calendar.
After his servitude, procured for him the kingdom, and gave to him as wife, daughter of and . And all the gods left the sky, and feasting in the Cadmea celebrated the marriage with hymns. gave her a robe and the necklace wrought by , which some say was given to by , but Pherecydes says that it was given by , who had received it from . And to were born daughters, , , , , and a son, Polydorus. was married to , to , and to Echion.
[3.4.3] But loved and slept with her, unknown to . Now had agreed to do for her whatever she asked, and deceived by she asked him to come to her as he came when he was wooing . Unable to refuse, came to her bridal chamber in a chariot, with lightnings and thunderings, and launched a thunderbolt. But died of fright, and , snatching the sixth-month abortive child from the fire, sewed it into his own thigh. Upon the death of , the other daughters of spread a rumour that had slept with a mortal man, and had falsely accused , and that therefore she had been blasted by thunder. But, at the proper time, undid the stitches and gave birth to Dionysus, and entrusted him to . And he conveyed him to and , and persuaded them to raise him as a girl. But indignantly drove them mad, and hunted his elder son Learchus as a deer and killed him, and threw into a boiling cauldron, then carrying it with the dead child she jumped into the sea. And she herself is called , and the boy is called , such being the names they get from sailors; for they assist storm-tossed mariners. And the Isthmian games were instituted by in honour of . But escaped the wrath of by turning Dionysus into a goat kid, and took him and brought him to the who dwelt at in Asia, whom afterwards changed into stars and named them the .
[3.4.4] and had a son , who was raised by to be a hunter and then afterwards was mauled on by his own dogs. He perished in that way, according to Acusilaus, because was angry at him for wooing ; but according to the more general opinion, it was because he saw bathing. And they say that the goddess at once transformed him into a deer, and drove mad the fifty dogs in his pack, which killed him unknowingly. being gone, the dogs sought their master howling sadly, and in their search they came to the cave of , who made a statue of , which soothed their grief.
[The names of ‘s dogs from the ((lacuna)) . . . So now surrounding his fair body, as if it were that of a beast, the strong dogs tore it. Near Arcena first ((lacuna)) . . . after her a mighty brood, Lynceus and Balius goodly-footed, and Amarynthus. — And these he listed continuously by name. And then perished at the instigation of . For the first that drank their master’s black blood were Spartus and Omargus and Bores, the swift on the track. These first fed on and lapped his blood. And after them others rushed on him eagerly ((lacuna)) . . . to be a remedy for grievous pains to men.]
[3.5.1] Dionysus discovered the vine, and being driven mad by , he roamed about Egypt and Syria. At first he was received by , king of Egypt, but afterwards he arrived at Cybela in Phrygia. And there, after he had been healed by and learned the rites of initiation, he received from her the costume and hastened through Thrace against the Indians [of the Indus River Valley]. But , son of Dryas, was king of the Edonians, who live beside the river Strymon, and he was the first who insulted and expelled him. Dionysus took refuge in the sea with , daughter of , and the were taken prisoners together with the multitude of that attended him. But afterwards the were suddenly released, and Dionysus drove mad. And in his madness he struck his son Dryas dead with an axe, imagining that he was curbing a branch of a vine, and when he had cut off his son’s limbs, he recovered his senses. But the land remaining barren, the god declared through an oracle that it would bear fruit again if was put to death. On hearing that, the Edonians led him to Mount Pangaeum and bound him, and there by the will of Dionysus he died, destroyed by horses.
[3.5.2] Having traversed Thrace and the whole of India and set up pillars there, he came to , and forced the women to abandon their houses and rave in Bacchic frenzy on . But , whom bore to Echion, had succeeded in the kingdom, and he attempted to put a stop to these proceedings. And coming to to spy on the Maenads, he was torn limb from limb by his mother in a fit of madness; for she thought he was a wild beast. And having shown the Thebans that he was a god, Dionysus came to Argos, and there again, because they did not honour him, he drove the women mad, and they on the mountains devoured the flesh of the infants whom they carried at their breasts.
[3.5.3] And, wishing to be ferried across from Icaria to Naxos, he hired a pirate ship of Tyrrhenians. But when they had put him on board, they sailed past Naxos and made for Asia, intending to sell him. However, he turned the mast and oars into snakes, and filled the vessel with ivy and the sound of flutes. And the pirates went mad, and leaped into the sea, and were turned into dolphins. Thus men understood that he was a god and honoured him; and having brought up his mother from and named her , he ascended up with her to heaven.
[3.5.4] But and left and went to the Encheleans. As the Encheleans were being attacked by the Illyrians, the god declared by an oracle that they would get the better of the Illyrians if they had and as their leaders. They believed him, and made them their leaders against the Illyrians, and got the better of them. And reigned over the Illyrians, and a son Illyrius was born to him. But afterwards he was, along with , turned into a serpent and sent away by to the Elysian Fields.
Taken from: https://www.theoi.com/Text/Apollodorus3.html#4
Dionysus and the Tyrrhenian Pirates
“Homeric Hymn 7 To Dionysus” (trans. H. G. Evelyn-White, adapted by L. Zhang and K. Minniti)
Greek hymn, 7th century BCE
[content warning for the following source: ableist language]
 I will sing of Dionysus, the son of glorious . He appeared on a headland by the shore of the salty sea, looking like a young teenager: his long dark hair was flowing around him, and he wore a purple robe on his broad shoulders. Suddenly over the shimmering sea came Tyrrhenian pirates on a sturdy ship, led on by their own doom. When they saw him they signaled to one another and sprang out quickly to seize him, and brought him on board of their own ship triumphantly; for they thought he was the son of a God. They tried to bind him with crude ropes, but the bonds would not hold him, and the bindings fell down from his hands and feet, while he sat there with a smile in his dark eyes.
 Then the helmsman understood and cried out at once to his companions, and said ‘You fools! What God is this whom you have kidnapped and bound, as strong as he is? Not even this sturdy ship can carry him. Surely this is either or , bearer of the silver bow, or , for he does not look like a mortal man but like one of the gods who live on . Come, then, let us set him free on the dark shore at once: do not play hands on him, in case he grows angry and stirs up dangerous winds and heavy storms.’
 So he said. But the captain scolded him with taunting words. ‘Fool, mark the wind and help host the sail on the ship, and let us set forth in full sail. As for these men, we will see to him; I think he may be bound for Egypt, or Cyprus, or the , or further still. But in the end he will speak out and tell us about his friends, and all his wealth, and his brothers, now that fate has put him in our way.’
 When he had said this, he had the mast and sails hoisted on the ship, and wind filled the sails, and the crew hauled the sheets on either side. But soon strange things were seen among them. First of all, sweep, fragrant wine ran streaming throughout the whole black ship, emanating a wonderful smell, and all the sailors were amazed when they saw it. And suddenly a vine spread out both ways along the top of the sail with many clusters of grapes hanging down from it, and a dark ivy plant twined about the mast, blossoming with flowers and with reach berries growing on it; an all the full pins were covered with garlands. When the pirates saw all this, then at last they asked the helmsman to put the ship to land. But the god transformed into a dreadful lion there on the ship, and roared loudly; and he also showed his power by creating a shaggy bear who stood up in rage, while the lion was growling at the front of the ship. And so the sailors fled towards the stern and crowded confusedly around the right-minded helmsman, until suddenly the lion leaped upon the captain and mauled him. And when the pirates saw this, they all jumped overboard into the bright sea to escape a miserable fate, and were transformed into dolphins. But Dionysus had mercy on the helmsman and held him back from jumping, and made him happy by saying to him ‘take courage, good ((lacuna))…for you have found favor in my heart. I am Dionysus of the loud cry, born of the union of the daughter of , , and .
 Hail to you, child of radiant ! He who forgets you can in no way command a sweet song.
Taken from: https://www.theoi.com/Text/HomericHymns3.html#7
Dionysus and Cybele
Hera hated Dionysus and she drove him mad, causing him to run away and wander around the world until he came to Phrygia (in what is now central Turkey). Here he met Cybele, a Phrygian mother goddess whose worship had been accepted by the Greeks. Cybele cured him of his madness and Dionysus established his cult and rites of worship. Dionysus’ rites were similar to those of Cybele, and they involved drinking, wild dancing, playing the tambourine, and a feeling of ecstasy, or divine possession. (“Ecstasy” is from a Greek word, meaning “to stand outside oneself.”) Dionysus also gained a group of female followers, called Maenads (or Bacchae or Bacchants), who followed him around, singing, dancing, drinking, and playing the tambourine. Maenads (their name means “mad women”) are usually shown in a state of ecstasy.
Catullus, Poems 63, “Of Berecynthia and Attis” (trans. A.S. Kline, adapted by L. Zhang and P. Rogak)
Latin poem, 1st century BCE
[content warning for the following source: self harm, ableist language, trans- and intersex-phobic language]
As soon as , carried over the deep seas in a swift boat,
had reached the Phrygian woods, with rapid eager steps,
had returned to a dark corner of the goddess’s grove,
goaded by mad fury, and there, his wits wandering
had sliced off his testicles with a sharp stone,
and had seen his remaining members devoid of power,
and that country’s soil spotted with fresh blood,
he took up the drum lightly in his pale hands,
your drum, , yours, Great Mother, in your rite,
and striking the sounding bull’s-hide with delicate fingers,
chanted to his followers, as it quivered from his assault:
“, come, rise, to the high woods of , now,
come, now, wandering cattle of Dindymus’ Lady,
like exiles wandering here on an alien shore,
followers of my way, lead by me, my friends,
you suffered the swift seas and the wild waves
and sheared your sex from your bodies with great hatred:
gladden the Lady’s spirit with swift movements.
Banish dull delay from your minds: come, now, follow,
to Phrygian ’s house, the Phrygian goddess’s grove,
where the voice of the cymbal clashes, the drum echoes,
where the Phrygian flute-player plays on a curving reed,
where the ivy-crowned violently toss their heads,
where they act out the sacred rites with high-pitched howls,
where the goddess’s wandering retinue often hovers,
where we should hurry with our swift triple-step.’
As , the counterfeit woman, sings this to his friends,
the Bacchic choir suddenly cries with quivering tongues,
the drum echoes it gently, the hollow cymbals ring.
The swift choir comes to green on hurrying feet.
, leading, panting wildly, goading his scattered wits,
enters the dark grove accompanied by the drum,
like a wild heifer escaping the weight of the yoke:
The agile follow their swift-footed leader.
Then, since wearied, foodless, they reach ’s grove,
they’re seized by sleep from their excessive labours.
Dull tiredness overwhelms eyes giving way to languor:
mad frenzy vanishes in the calm of gentle breath.
But when the Sun from his golden face scanned the bright
heavens with radiant eye, the harsh earth, and wild sea,
and dispelled the shadows of night with his lively steeds,
then the , Pasithea, takes swift Sleep, flying
from the waking , to her beating heart.
So, rapidly, from sweet dream and free of madness,
recollected his actions in his thoughts,
and saw with a clear heart what and where he had been,
turning again with passionate mind to the sea.
There gazing at the wide waters with tearful eyes
he raised his voice and sadly bemoaned his homeland:
“Land that fathered me, land that mothered me,
I, who left you so sadly, have reached the groves of ,
like a slave fleeing his master, so am I among
snows, and the frozen lairs of wild creatures,
and should I in madness enter one of their dens
where would I think to find you buried in those places?
The keen eye itself desires to turn itself towards you,
while my thoughts are free of the wild creatures for a while.
Have I been brought from my distant home for this grove?
Shall I lose country, possessions, friends, kin?
Shall I lose forum, wrestling ring, stadium and gymnasium?
Sorrow on sorrow, again and again complaint in the heart.
What form have I not been, what have I not performed?
I a woman, I a young man, a youth, a boy,
I the flower of the athletes, the glory of the wrestling ring:
my doorway frequented, my threshold warm,
my house was garlanded with wreaths of flowers,
at the dawn separation from my bed.
Now am I brought here priest and slave of divine ?
I, to be : a part of myself: a sterile man?
I to worship on green in a place cloaked in frozen snow?
I to live my life beneath the high summits of Phrygia,
where deer haunt the woods, where the wild boar roams?
Now I grieve for what I did, now I repent.”
As the swift sounds leave his rosy lips
the fresh words reach the twin ears of the goddess,
as is loosing the lions from their yoke
and goading the left-hand beast: she spoke to it,
saying, “Go now, be fierce, so you make him mad, so he
is forced to return to the grove by the pain of his madness,
he who desires to escape my rule so freely.
Let your tail wound your back, let the lashes show,
make the whole place echo to your bellowing roar,
shake your red mane fiercely over your taut neck.”
So spoke in threat and loosened the leash.
The wild beast, urging itself to speed, roused in spirit,
tore away, roared, broke madly through the thickets.
and when it reached the wet margin of the white sands,
and saw delicate near to the ocean waves,
it charged. He fled maddened to the wild wood:
there to be ever enslaved, for the rest of his life.
Goddess, Great Goddess, , Lady of Dindymus,
Mistress, let all your anger be far from my house:
make others aroused, make other men raving mad.
Taken from: https://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Latin/Catullus.php#anchor_Toc531846788
Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2001 All Rights Reserved
Bacchus and Liber
Horace, Odes, Book 2 (trans. A. S. Kline, adapted by L. Zhang and P. Rogak)
Latin lyrical poem, 1st century BCE
[2:19 To Bacchus] I saw Bacchus on distant cliffs – believe me,
O history- he was teaching songs there,
and the were learning them, and all
the goat-footed with pointed ears.
Evoe! My mind fills with fresh fear, my heart
filled with Bacchus, is troubled, and violently
rejoices. Evoe! Spare me, ,
dreaded for your mighty , spare me.
It’s right to sing of the willful ,
the fountain of wine, and the rivers of milk,
to sing of the honey that’s welling,
and sliding down from the hollow tree-trunks:
It’s right to sing of your bride turned goddess, your
, crowned among stars: the palace
of , shattered in ruins,
and the ending of Thracian .
You direct the streams, and the barbarous sea,
and on distant summits, you drunkenly tie
the hair of the Bistonian women,
with harmless knots made of venomous snakes.
When the impious army of tried
to climb through the sky to ’s kingdom,
you hurled back Rhoetus, with the claws
and teeth of the terrifying lion.
Though you’re said to be more suited to dancing,
laughter, and games, and not equipped to suffer
the fighting, nevertheless you shared
the thick of battle as well as the peace.
saw you, unharmed, and adorned
with your golden horn, and, stroking you gently,
with his tail, as you departed, licked
your ankles and feet with his triple tongue.
Taken from: https://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Latin/HoraceOdesBkII.php#anchor_Toc39742793
Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2003 All Rights Reserved.
Euripides, Bacchae (trans. T. A. Buckley, adapted by P. Rogak)
Greek tragedy, ca. 405 BCE
[content warning for the following source: violence, gore (735-775, 1115-1150), ableist language, themes and motifs that deal with queer-oriented violence]
I, the son of , have come to this land of the Thebans—Dionysus, whom once , ‘ daughter, birthed, delivered by a lightning-bearing flame. And having taken a mortal form instead of a god’s,  I am here at the fountains of and the water of . And I see the tomb of my thunder-stricken mother here near the palace, and the remnants of her house, smouldering with the still living flame of ‘ fire, the everlasting insult of against my mother.  I praise , who has made this place hallowed, the shrine of his daughter; and I have covered it all around with the grapevines.
I have left the wealthy lands of the Lydians and Phrygians, the sun-parched plains of the Persians,  and the Bactrian walls, and have passed over the wintry land of the Medes, and blessed Arabia, and all of Asia which lies along the coast of the salt sea with its beautifully-towered cities full of and barbarians mingled together;  and I have come to this city first, having already set those other lands to dance and established my mysteries there, so that I might be a deity manifest among men. In this land of Hellas [Greece], I have first awoken to my cry, fitting a fawn-skin to my body and  taking a in my hand, a weapon of ivy. For my mother’s sisters, the ones who least should, claimed that I, Dionysus, was not the child of , but that had conceived a child from a mortal father and then ascribed the sin of her bed to ,  a trick of ‘, for which they boasted that killed her, because she had told a false tale about her marriage. Therefore I have goaded them from the house in frenzy, and they dwell in the mountains, out of their wits; and I have compelled them to wear the outfit of my mysteries.  And all the female offspring of , as many as are women, I have driven maddened from the house, and they, mingled with the daughters of , sit on roofless rocks beneath green pines. For this city must learn, even if it is unwilling,  that it is not initiated into my Bacchic rites, and that I plead the case of my mother, , in appearing manifest to mortals as a divinity whom she bore to .
Now has given his honour and power to , his daughter’s son,  who fights against the gods as far as I am concerned and drives me away from sacrifices, and in his prayers makes no mention of me, for which I will show him and all the Thebans that I was born a god. And when I have set matters here right, I will move on to another land,  to show my power. But if ever the city of should in anger seek to drive the down from the mountains with weapons, I, the general of the , will join in battle with them. For this I have changed my form to a mortal one and altered my shape into the appearance of a man.
 But, you women who have left Tmolus, the bulwark of Lydia, my sacred band, whom I have brought from among the barbarians as assistants and companions to me, take your drums, native instruments of the city of the Phrygians, the invention of mother and myself,  and walk around this palace of Pentheus and beat them, so that ‘ city may see. I myself will go to the folds of , where the are, to share in their dances.
From the land of Asia,  having left sacred Tmolus, I am swift to perform for my sweet labor and work without complaint, celebrating the god Bacchus. Who is in the way? Who is in the way? Who? Let him get out of the way indoors, and let everyone keep his mouth pure,  speaking favourable things. For I will celebrate Dionysus with hymns according to eternal custom.
Blessed is he who, being fortunate and knowing the rites of the gods, keeps his life pure and  has his soul initiated into the Bacchic revels, dancing in inspired frenzy over the mountains with holy purifications, and who, revering the mysteries of great mother ,  brandishing the , garlanded with ivy, serves Dionysus.
Go, , go, , escorting the god , child of a god,  from the Phrygian mountains to the broad streets of Hellas—,
Whom once, having great birth pains,  the thunder of descending upon her, his mother cast from her womb, dying by the stroke of a thunderbolt. Immediately , ‘ son,  received him in a chamber fit for birth, and having buried him in his thigh shut him up with golden clasps, hidden from .
And he brought forth, when the  had perfected him, the bull-horned god, and he crowned him with crowns of snakes, for which reason cloak their wild prey over their locks.
 O , nurse of , crown yourself with ivy, flourish, flourish with the verdant yew bearing sweet fruit, and crown yourself in honour of Bacchus with branches of oak  or pine. Adorn your garments of spotted fawn-skin with fleeces of white sheep, and play in holy games with insolent . At once all the earth will dance—  whoever leads the sacred band is —to the mountain, to the mountain, where the crowd of women waits, lured away from their weaving by Dionysus.
 O secret chamber of the , and you holy Cretan caves, parents to , where the with triple helmet invented for me in their caves this circle, covered with stretched hide; and in their excited revelry they paired it with the sweet-voiced breath of Phrygian pipes and handed it over to mother , resounding with the sweet songs of the ;  nearby, raving were fulfilling the rites of the mother goddess, and they joined it to the dances of the biennial [every 2 years] festivals, in which Dionysus rejoices.
 He is joyful in the mountains, whenever after the running dance he falls on the ground, wearing the sacred garment of fawn skin, hunting the blood of the slain goat, a raw-eaten delight, rushing to the  Phrygian, the Lydian mountains, and the leader of the dance is , evoe! The plain flows with milk, it flows with wine, it flows with the nectar of bees.  The Bacchic one, raising the flaming torch of pine on his , like the smoke of Syrian incense, darts about, arousing the wanderers with his racing and dancing, agitating them with his shouts,  tossing his luxurious hair in the wind. And among the cries his voice rings deep: “Go, , go, , with the luxury of Tmolus that flows with gold,  sing of Dionysus, beneath the heavy beat of drums, celebrating in delight the god of delight with Phrygian shouts and cries,  when the sweet-sounding sacred pipe sounds a sacred playful tune suited  to the wanderers, to the mountain, to the mountain!” And the , rejoicing like a foal with its grazing mother, moves her swift foot in a playful dance.
 Who is at the gates? Call from the house , son of , who leaving the city of Sidon built this towering city of the Thebans. Let someone go and announce that is looking for him. He knows why I have come and  what agreement I, an old man, have made with him, older still: to carry the , to wear fawn-skins, and to crown our heads with ivy branches.
Dearest friend, for inside the house I heard and recognized your wise voice, the voice of a wise man:  I have come prepared with this equipment of the god. For we must praise him, the child of my daughter, [Dionysus, who has appeared as a god to men] as much as is in our power. Where must I dance, where set my feet  and shake my grey head? Show me the way, , one old man leading another; for you are wise. And so I shall never tire, night or day, of striking the ground with the . Gladly I have forgotten that I am old.
Then you and I have the same feelings,  for I too feel young and will try to dance.
Then will we go to the mountain [ ] in a chariot?
But then the god would not have equal honour.
I, an old man, will lead you, an old man, like a pupil.
The god will lead us there without trouble.
 Are we the only ones in the city who will dance in Bacchus’ honour?
Yes, for we alone think rightly, the rest wrongly.
The delay is long; come, take hold of my hand.
Here, take hold, and join your hand with mine.
Because I was born mortal, I do not scorn the gods.
 We mortals have no cleverness in the eyes of the gods. Our ancestral traditions, and those which we have held throughout our lives, no argument will ever convince us to abandon, not even if some craftiness should be discovered by the depths of our wits. Will anyone say that I do not respect old age,  being about to dance with my head covered in ivy? No, for the god has made no distinction as to whether it is right for men young or old to dance, but wishes to have the same treatment from all and to be worshipped, setting no one apart.
 Since you do not see this light, , I will be your interpreter. , child of Echion, to whom I gave control of this land, is coming here to the house now in haste. How flustered he is! What new matter will he tell us?
 I happened to be at a distance from this land, when I heard of strange evils throughout this city, that the women have left our homes in contrived Bacchic rites, and rush about in the shadowy mountains, honouring with dances  this new deity Dionysus, whoever he is. I hear that mixing-bowls stand full in the midst of their assemblies, and that they each creep off different ways into secrecy to serve the beds of men, on the pretext that they are worshipping;  but they consider before Bacchus.
The ones I have caught, servants keep imprisoned in the public strongholds with their hands bound, and those that I have not caught yet I will hunt from the mountains, [I mean and , who bore me to Echion, and  , the mother of .] And having bound them in iron restraints, I will soon stop them from this wicked celebration. And they say that some stranger has come, a sorcerer, a conjurer from the Lydian land,  fragrant in hair with golden curls, having in his eyes the wine-dark graces of . He is with the young girls day and night, tempting them with joyful mysteries. If I catch him within this house,  I will stop him from making a noise with the and from shaking his hair, by cutting his head off.
That one claims that Dionysus is a god, claims that he was once stitched into the thigh of —Dionysus, who was burnt up with his mother by the flame of lightning,  because she had falsely claimed a marriage with . Is this not worthy of a terrible death by hanging, for a stranger to insult me with these insults, whoever he is?
But here is another wonder—I see the soothsayer in dappled fawn-skins  and my mother’s father—a great absurdity—raging about with a . I shrink, father, from seeing your old age without wisdom. Won’t you cast away the ivy? Grandfather, will you not free your hand of the ?  You persuaded him to this, . Do you wish, by introducing another new god to men, to examine birds and receive rewards for sacrifices? If your gray old age did not defend you, you would sit in chains in the midst of the ,  for introducing wicked rites. Because when women drink wine at a feast, none of their rites is healthy anymore.
Oh, what impiety! O stranger, do you not reverence the gods and who sowed the earth-born crop?  Do you, the child of Echion, bring shame to your race?
Whenever a wise man has a chance to speak, it is not difficult to speak well. You have a rapid tongue as though you were sensible, but there is no sense in your words.  A man powerful in his boldness, one capable of speaking well, becomes a bad citizen in his lack of sense. This new god, whom you ridicule, I am unable to express how great he will be throughout Hellas. For two things, young man,  are first among men: the goddess —she is the earth, but call her whatever name you wish; she nourishes mortals with dry food; but he who came afterwards, the offspring of , discovered something as good, the liquid drink of the grape, and introduced it  to mortals. It releases wretched mortals from grief, whenever they are filled with the stream of the vine, and gives them sleep, a means of forgetting their daily troubles, and there is no other cure for hardships. He is a god, and receives as many offerings as any of the gods,  so that by his power people may have good things.
And do you laugh at him, because he was sewn up in ‘ thigh? I will teach you that this is true: when snatched him out of the lighting-flame, and led the child as a god to Olympus,  Hera wished to banish him from the sky, but , as a god, had a plan. He broke off a part of the air which surrounds the earth, the ether, and he gave this to as a pledge to calm her. <This protected the real> Dionysus from her hostility. But in time,  mortals say that he was nourished in the thigh of , changing the word, because a god he had served as a hostage for the goddess , and composing the story.
But this god is a prophet—for Bacchic revelry and madness have in them much prophetic skill.  For whenever the god enters a body in full force, he makes them able to foretell the future. He also possesses a share of ‘ nature. For terror sometimes shakes an army and disrupts its ranks before it even touches a spear;  and this too is a frenzy from Dionysus. You will see him also on the rocks of , bounding with torches through the highland of two peaks, leaping and shaking the Bacchic branch, mighty throughout Hellas. But believe me, ;  do not boast that sovereignty has power among men, nor, even if you think so, and your mind is diseased, believe that you are being at all wise. Receive the god into your land, pour libations to him, celebrate the Bacchic rites, and garland your head.
Dionysus will not compel women  to be consumed by the power of , because modesty is always in their nature. For she who is modest will not be corrupted in Bacchic revelry. Do you see? You rejoice whenever many people are at your gates,  and the city praises the name of . He too, I think, delights in being honoured. , whom you mock, and I will crown our heads with ivy and dance, a gray[-haired] yoke-team but still we must dance;  and I will not be persuaded by your words to fight against the god. For you are mad in a most grievous way, and you will not be cured by drugs, because it is not lack of medicine that makes you sick.
Old man, you do not shame with your words, and by honouring Dionysus, a great god, you are prudent.
 My child, has advised you well. Join with us, do not stray from the laws. For now you flit about and have thoughts without thinking. Even if, as you say, he is not a god, call him one; and tell a glorious falsehood,  so that might seem to have borne a god, and honour might come to all our race. You see the wretched fate of , who was torn apart in the meadows by the blood-thirsty hounds he had raised,  having boasted that he was superior in the hunt to . May you not suffer this. Come, let me crown your head with ivy; honour the god along with us.
Don’t lay a hand on me! Go off and hold your revels, but don’t wipe your foolishness off on me. I will seek the punishment of this  teacher of your folly. Let someone go quickly to the seat where he watches the flights of birds, upset and overturn it with levers, turning everything upside down;  and release his garlands to the winds and storms. In this way I will especially wound him. And some of you hunt throughout the city for this effeminate stranger, who introduces a new disease to women and pollutes our beds.  If you catch him, bring him here bound, so that he might suffer as punishment a death by stoning, having seen a bitter Bacchic revelry in .
O wretched man, how little you know what you are saying! You are mad now, and even before you were out of your wits.  Let us go, , and entreat the god, on behalf of him, though he is savage, and on behalf of the city, to do no ill. But follow me with the ivy-clad staff, and try to support my body, and I will try to support yours;  it would be shameful for two old men to fall down. But let that pass, for we must serve Bacchus, the son of . Beware lest bring trouble to your house, ; I do not speak in prophecy, but judging from the state of things; for a foolish man speaks foolishness.
 Holiness, queen of the gods, Holiness, who bears your golden wings along the earth, do you hear these words from ? Do you hear his unholy  insolence against , the child of , the first deity of the gods at the banquets where guests wear beautiful garlands? He holds this office, to join in dances,  to laugh with the flute, and to bring an end to cares, whenever the delight of the grape comes at the feasts of the gods, and in ivy-bearing banquets  the goblet sheds sleep over men.
Misfortune is the result of careless mouths and lawless foolishness; but the life of quiet  and wisdom remains unshaken and holds houses together. Though they live far off in the heavens, the gods see the deeds of mortals.  But cleverness is not wisdom, nor is thinking on things unfit for mortals. Life is short, and on this account the one who pursues great things does not achieve that which is present. In my opinion,  these are the ways of mad and ill-advised men.
Would that I could go to Cyprus, the island of , where the , who soothe  mortals’ hearts, live, and to Paphos, fertilized without rain by the streams of a foreign river flowing with a hundred mouths. Lead me there, , , god of joy who leads the ,  to Pieria, beautiful seat of the , the holy slope of . There are the , there is ; there it is  lawful for the to celebrate their rites.
The god, the son of , delights in banquets, and loves , giver of riches,  goddess who nourishes youths. To the lucky and to the unlucky, he gives an equal pleasure from wine that removes sadness. He hates the one who does not care about  leading a happy life by day and friendly night, or about to keeping their wise mind and intellect away from over-curious men.  What the common people think and adopt, that would I accept.
Enter a servant
, we are here, having caught this prey  for which you sent us, and we did not hunt him in vain. This beast was docile in our hands and did not run away, but yielded not unwillingly. He did not turn pale or change the wine-dark complexion of his cheek, but laughed and allowed us to bind him and lead him away.  He remained still, making my work easy, and I in shame said: “Stranger, I do not lead you away willingly, but by order of , who sent me.”
And the whom you shut up, whom you carried off and bound in the chains of the public prison,  are set loose and gone, and are frolicking in the meadows, invoking as their god. Of their own accord, the chains were released from their feet and keys opened the doors without human hands. This man has come to  full of many wonders. You must take care of the rest.
Release his hands, for now that he is caught he is not fast enough to escape me. [(To Dionysus)] But your body is not unattractive, stranger, for women’s purposes, for which reason you have come to .  For your hair is long (but not because of neglect), scattered over your cheeks, full of desire; and you have a white skin from careful preparation, hunting after by your beauty not exposed to strokes of the sun, but beneath the shade.  First then tell me who your family is.
I can tell you this easily, without boasting. I suppose you are familiar with flowery Tmolus.
I know of it; it surrounds the city of Sardis.
I am from there, and Lydia is my homeland.
 Why do you bring these rites to Hellas?
Dionysus, the child of , sent me.
Is there a who breeds new gods there?
No, but the one who married here.
Did he compel you in darkness, or did you see him?
 Seeing me just as I saw him, he gave me sacred rites.
What appearance do your rites have?
They cannot be told to mortals uninitiated in Bacchic revelry.
And do they have any profit to those who sacrifice?
It is not lawful for you to hear, but they are worth knowing.
 You have set this up well, so that I want to hear.
The rites are hostile to whoever practices impiety.
Are you saying that you saw clearly what the god was like?
He was as he chose; I did not order this.
Again you diverted my question well, speaking only nonsense.
 One will seem to be foolish if he speaks wisely to an ignorant man.
Did you come here first, bringing the god?
All the barbarians celebrate these rites.
Yes, for they are far more foolish than .
In this at any rate they are wiser; but their laws are different.
 Do you perform the rites by night or by day?
Mostly by night; darkness conveys awe.
This is treacherous towards women, and unsound.
Even during the day someone may do something shameful.
You must pay the penalty for your evil inventions.
 And you for your ignorance and impiety toward the god.
How bold the Bacchant is, and not bad at speaking!
Tell me what I must suffer; what harm will you do to me?
First I will cut off your delicate hair.
My hair is sacred. I am growing it for the god.
 Next give me this from your hands.
Take it from me yourself. I bear it as the symbol of Dionysus.
We will guard your body within, in prison.
The god himself will release me, whenever I want.
Yes, when you call him, standing among the .
 Even now he sees my sufferings from close by.
Where is he? He is not visible to my eyes.
Near me; but you, being impious, do not see him.
(To attendants) Seize him; he insults me and !
I warn you not to bind me, since I am sane and you are not.
 And I, stronger than you, bid them to bind you.
You do not know why you live, or what you are doing, or who you are.
I am , son of Echion and .
You are well-suited to be miserable in your name.
Go. (To attendants) Shut him up near the horse  stable, so that he may see only darkness. (To Dionysus) Dance there; and as for these women whom you have led here as accomplices to your crimes, we will either sell them or, to stop their hands from making this noise and from beating of [drum]skins, I will keep them as slaves at the loom.
 I will go, for I need not suffer that which is not necessary. But Dionysus, who you claim does not exist, will pursue you for these insults. For in injuring us, you put him in bonds.
. . . Daughter of ,  venerable , happy virgin, you once received the child of in your streams, when his father snatched him up from the immortal fire and saved him in his thigh,  crying out: “Go, , enter this my male womb. I will make you illustrious, Bacchus, in , so that they will call you by this name.”  But you, blessed , reject me with my garland-bearing company about you. Why do you refuse me, why do you flee me? I swear by the cluster-bearing  delight of Dionysus’ vine that you will have a care for .
What rage, what rage does the earth-born race show, and ,  once descended from a serpent—, whom earth-born Echion bore, a fierce monster, not a mortal man, but like a bloody giant, hostile to the gods.  He will soon bind me, the hand-maid of , in chains, and he already holds my fellow-reveler within the house, hidden in a dark prison.  Do you see this, O Dionysus, son of , your priests in the dangers of restraint? Come, lord, down from , brandishing your golden ,  and restrain the insolence of the blood-thirsty man.
Where on , which nourishes wild beasts, or on the heights of Corycus, do you lead with your the bands of revelers?  Perhaps in the deep-wooded lairs of , where once playing the lyre drew together trees by his songs, drew together the beasts of the fields.  Blessed Pieria, the Joyful one [Dionysus] reveres you and will come to lead the dance in revelry; having crossed the swiftly flowing he will bring the  whirling , leaving Lydias, giver of wealth to mortals, the father who they say fertilizes the land of beautiful horses with  fairest streams.
(Within) Io! Hear my voice, hear it, Io , Io !
Who is here, who? From what quarter did the voice of the Joyful one summon me?
 Io! Io! I say again; it is I, the child of and .
Io! Io! Master, master! Come now to our company, .
 Shake the world’s plain, lady Earthquake!
Oh! Oh! Soon the palace of will be shaken in ruin.
[Each of the lines marked by a “—” is delivered by a different member of the Chorus.]
—Dionysus is in the halls.  Revere him.
—We revere him!
—Did you see these stone lintels on the pillars falling apart? cries out in victory indoors.
Light the fiery lamp of lightning!  Burn, burn ‘ home!
Oh! Oh! Do you not see the fire, do you not perceive, about the sacred tomb of , the flame that ‘ thunderbolt left?  Cast on the ground your trembling bodies, , cast them down, for our lord, ‘ son, is coming against this palace, turning everything upside down.
Barbarian women, have you fallen on the ground  so stricken with fear? You have, so it seems, felt Bacchus shaking the house of . But get up and take courage, and stop trembling.
Oh greatest light for us in our joyful revelry, how happy I am to see you—I who was alone and desolate before.
 Did you despair when I was sent to fall into ‘ dark dungeon?
How not? Who would be my guardian, if something bad were to happened to you? But how were you freed, having met with an impious man?
By I saved myself easily, without trouble.
 Didn’t he tie your hands in binding knots?
In this too I made a fool of him: he thought he was binding me, but he did not touch or handle me, only believed he did because of hopeful delusion. He found a bull by the stable where he took and shut me up, and threw shackles around its knees and hooves,  breathing out fury, dripping sweat from his body, gnashing his teeth in his lips. But I, being near, sitting quietly, looked on. Meanwhile, Bacchus came and shook the house and started a flame on his mother’s tomb. When saw this, thinking that the house was burning,  he ran here and there, calling to the slaves to bring water, and every servant was at work, working to no effect.
Then he gave up this work, because I had escaped, and snatching a dark sword rushed into the house. Then , so it seems to me—I speak my opinion—  created a phantom in the courtyard. rushed at it headlong, stabbing at the shining air, as though slaughtering me. Besides this, Bacchus inflicted other damage on him: he knocked his house to the ground, and everything was shattered into pieces, because he saw my bitter chains. From fatigue,  dropping his sword, he [pb_glossary id="914"]Pentheus[/pb_glossary] is exhausted. For he, a man, dared to join battle with a god. Now I have quietly left the house and come to you, with no thought of .
But I think—at any rate I hear the tramping of feet inside—he will soon come to the front of the house. What will he say after this?  I shall easily tolerate him, even if he comes boasting greatly. For it is the job of a wise man to practice restrained good temper.
I have suffered terrible things; the stranger, who was recently constrained in bonds, has escaped me. Ah!  Here is the man. What is this? How do you appear in front of my house, having come out?
Stop, and put a stop to your anger.
How have you escaped your chains and come outside?
Did I not say—or did you not hear—that someone would free me?
 Who? You are always introducing strange explanations.
He who produces the rich-clustering vine for mortals.
<I do not respect this lawless god>
You reproach Dionysus for what is his glory.
I order you to close up all the towers around.
Why? Do gods not pass over walls too?
 You are wise, wise at least in all save what you should be wise in.
I was born wise in all that I should be.
Enter a messenger
Listen first to the words of this man, who has come from the mountain to bring you some message. I will await you, I will not try to escape.
 Pentheus, ruler of this land of , I have come from , where the bright flakes of white snow never melt.
What important news do you come to bring?
Having seen the holy , who  goaded to madness have run from this land with their lovely feet, I have come to tell you and the city, lord, that they are doing terrible things, beyond marvel. I wish to hear whether I should tell you in free speech the situation there or whether I should repress my report,  for I fear, lord, the quickness of your mood, your keen temper and your too imperious disposition.
Speak, as you will have immunity from me in any case. For it is not right to be angry with the just. The more you tell me terrible things about the Bacchae,  the more I will punish this one here who taught the women these tricks.
The herds of grazing cattle were just climbing up the hill, at the time when the sun sends forth its rays, warming the earth.  I saw three companies of dancing women, one of which led, the second your mother , and the third . All were asleep, their bodies relaxed, some resting their backs against pine foliage,  others laying their heads at random on the oak leaves, modestly, not as you say drunk with the goblet and the sound of the flute, hunting out through the woods in solitude.
Your mother raised a cry,  standing up in the midst of the , to wake their bodies from sleep, when she heard the lowing of the horned cattle. And they, casting off refreshing sleep from their eyes, sprang upright, a marvel of orderliness to behold, old, young, and still unmarried virgins.  First they let their hair loose over their shoulders, and secured their fawn-skins, as many of them as had released the fastenings of their knots, tying the dappled hides with serpents licking their jaws. And some, holding in their arms a gazelle or wild  wolf-pup, gave them white milk, as many as had abandoned their new-born infants and had their breasts still swollen. They put on garlands of ivy, and oak, and flowering yew. One took her and struck it against a rock,  from which a dewy stream of water sprang forth. Another let her strike the ground, and there the god sent forth a fountain of wine. All who desired the white drink scratched the earth with the tips of their fingers and obtained streams of milk;  and a sweet flow of honey dripped from their ivy ; so that, had you been present and seen this, you would have approached with prayers the god whom you now blame.
We herdsmen and shepherds gathered in order to  debate with one another concerning what strange and amazing things they were doing. Someone, a wanderer about the city and practiced in speaking, said to us all: “You who inhabit the holy plains of the mountains, do you wish to hunt  ‘ mother out from the Bacchic revelry and do the king a favor?” We thought he spoke well, and lay down in ambush, hiding ourselves in the foliage of bushes. They, at the appointed hour, began to wave the in their revelries,  calling on Iacchus, the son of , , with a united voice. The whole mountain reveled along with them and the beasts, and nothing was unmoved by their running.
happened to be leaping near me, and I sprang forth, wanting to snatch her,  abandoning the ambush where I had hidden myself. But she cried out: “O my fleet hounds, we are hunted by these men; but follow me! follow armed with your in your hands!”
We fled and escaped  from being torn apart by the , but they, with unarmed hands, sprang on the heifers grazing on the grass. And you might see one rending asunder a fatted lowing calf, while others tore apart cows.  You might see ribs or cloven hooves tossed here and there; caught in the trees they dripped, dabbled in gore. Bulls who before were fierce, and showed their fury with their horns, stumbled to the ground,  dragged down by countless young hands. The garment of flesh was torn apart faster than you could blink your royal eyes. And like birds raised in their course, they proceeded along the level plains, which by the streams of the  produce the bountiful Theban crop. And falling like soldiers upon Hysiae and Erythrae, towns situated below the rock of , they turned everything upside down. They were snatching children from their homes;  and whatever they put on their shoulders, whether bronze or iron, was not held on by bonds, but it did it fall to the ground. They carried fire on their locks, but it did not burn them. Some people in a rage took up arms, being plundered by the , and the sight of this was terrible to behold, lord. For their pointed spears drew no blood, but the women, hurling the from their hands, kept wounding them and turned them to flight—women did this to men, not without the help of some god.  And they returned where they had come from, to the very fountains which the god had sent forth for them, and washed off the blood, and snakes cleaned the drops from the women’s cheeks with their tongues.
Receive this god then, whoever he is,  into this city, master. For he is great in other respects, and they say this too of him, as I hear, that he gives to mortals the vine that puts an end to grief. Without wine there is no longer or any other pleasant thing for men.
 I fear to speak freely to the king, but I will speak nevertheless: Dionysus is inferior to none of the gods.
Already like fire does this insolence of the blaze up, a great reproach for the .  But we must not hesitate. Go to the Electran gates, bid all the shield-bearers and riders of swift-footed horses to assemble, as well as all who brandish the light shield and pluck bowstrings with their hands, so that we can make an assault against  the . For it is indeed too much if we suffer what we are suffering at the hands of women.
, though you hear my words, you obey not at all. Though I suffer ill at your hands, still I say that it is not right for you to raise arms against a god,  but to remain calm. will not allow you to remove the from the joyful mountains.
Do not give me orders, but be content in your escape from prison. Or shall I bring punishment upon you again?
I would sacrifice to the god rather  than kick against his spurs in anger, a mortal against a god.
I will sacrifice, making a great slaughter of the women, as they deserve, in the glens of .
You will all flee. And it will be a source of shame that you turn your bronze shields away from the of the .
 This stranger with whom I am engaged in a debate is impossible, and he will not be quiet, whether he is suffering or acting freely.
My friend, there is still the opportunity to arrange these things well.
Doing what? Being a slave to my slaves?
Without weapons I will bring the women here.
 Alas! You are contriving this as a trick against me.
What sort, if I wish to save you by my contrivances?
You have devised this together, so that you may have your revelry forever.
I certainly did—that is so—with the god.
(To a servant) Bring me my armor. (To Dionysus) And you, stop speaking.
 Ah! Do you wish to see them sitting together in the mountains?
Certainly. I’d give an enormous amount of gold for that.
Why do you desire this so badly?
I would be sorry to see them in their drunkenness.
 But would you see gladly what is upsetting to you?
To be sure, sitting quietly under the pines.
But they will track you down, even if you go in secret.
You are right: I will go openly.
Shall I guide you? Will you attempt the journey?
 Lead me as quickly as possible. I grudge you the time.
Put linen clothes on your body, then.
What is this? Shall I then, instead of a man, look like the women?
Because they will kill you if you are seen there as a man.
Again you speak correctly: how wise you have been all along!
 Dionysus taught me these things fully.
How can I follow your advice well?
I will go inside and dress you.
In what clothing? Female? But shame holds me back.
Are you no longer eager to view the ?
 What clothing do you want me to put on my body?
I will put long hair on your head.
What is the second part of my outfit?
A robe down to your feet. And you will wear a headband.
And what else will you add to this for me?
 A in your hand, and a dappled fawn-skin.
I could not put on a woman’s dress.
But you will shed blood if you fight the .
True. We must go first and spy.
This is at any rate wiser than hunting trouble with trouble.
 And how will I go through the city without being seen by the Thebans?
We will go on deserted roads. I will lead you.
Anything is better than to be mocked by the . We two will go into the house . . . and I will think about what seems like the best plan.
It will be so; in any case I am ready.
 I will go in. For either I will go bearing arms, or I will obey your counsels.
Women, the man is caught in our net. He will go to the , where he will pay the penalty with his death. Dionysus, now it is your job; for you are not far off.  Let us punish him. First drive him out of his wits, send upon him a dizzying madness, since if he is of sound mind he will not consent to wear women’s clothing, but driven out of his senses he will put it on. I want him to be a source of laughter to the Thebans, led through the city in  women’s guise after making such terrible threats in the past. But now I will go to fit on the dress he will wear to the house of , slaughtered by his mother’s hands. He will recognize the son of ,  Dionysus, who is in fact a god, the most terrible and yet most mild to men.
Shall I move my white foot in the night-long dance, aroused to a frenzy,  throwing my head to the dewy air, like a fawn playing in the green pleasures of the meadow, when it has escaped a fearful chase beyond the watchers  over the well-woven nets [hunters], and the hunter sets his dogs on their tail with his call, while she [the fawn], with great exertion and a storm-swift running, rushes along the plain by the river, rejoicing  in the solitude apart from men and in the thickets of the shady-foliaged woods.
What is wisdom? Or what greater honour do the gods give to mortals than to hold one’s hand  in strength over the head of enemies? What is good is always precious.
Divine strength is woken with difficulty, but is nonetheless certain. It chastises those mortals  who honour folly and those who in their insanity do not praise the gods. The gods cunningly conceal the long pace of time and  hunt the impious. For it is not right to determine or plan anything beyond the laws. For it is a light expense to hold that whatever is divine has power,  and that which has been law for a long time is eternal and has its origin in nature.
What is wisdom? Or what greater honour do the gods give to mortals than to hold one’s hand  in strength over the head of enemies? What is good is always precious.
Happy is he who has fled a storm on the sea, and reached harbor. Happy too is he who has overcome his hardships.  One surpasses another in different ways, in wealth or power. There are countless hopes to countless men, and some result in wealth to mortals, while others fail.  But I call him blessed whose life is happy day to day.
You who are eager to see what you should not and hasty in pursuit of what should not to be pursued—I mean you, Pentheus, come forth before the house, be seen by me,  wearing the clothing of a woman, of an inspired , a spy upon your mother and her company.
In appearance you are like one of ‘ daughters.
Oh look! I think I see two suns, and twin , the seven-gated city.  And you seem to lead me, being like a bull and horns seem to grow on your head. But were you ever before a beast? For you have certainly now become a bull.
The god accompanies us, now at peace with us, even though before he did not favour us. Now you see what you should see.
 How do I look? Don’t I have the posture of , or of my mother ?
Looking at you I think I see them. But this lock of your hair has come out of place, not the way I arranged it under your headband.
 I displaced it indoors, shaking my head forwards and backwards and practicing my Bacchic revelry.
But I, who should wait on you, will re-arrange it. Hold up your head.
Here, you arrange it; for I depend on you, indeed.
 Your girdle has come loose, and the pleats of your gown do not extend regularly down around your ankles.
At least on my right leg, I believe they don’t. But on this side the robe sits well around the back of my leg.
You will surely consider me the best of your friends,  when contrary to your expectation you see the acting modestly.
But will I be more like a maenad if I hold the in my right hand, or in my left?
You must hold it in your right hand and raise your right foot in unison with it. I praise you for having changed your mind.
 Could I carry on my shoulders the glens of , and all?
You could if you were willing. The state of mind you had before was unsound, but now you think as you should.
Shall we bring levers? Or shall I pick them up with my hands,  putting a shoulder or arm under the mountain-tops?
But don’t destroy the seats of the and the places where plays his pipes.
Well said. The women are not to be taken by force; I will hide in the pines.
 You will hide yourself as you should be hidden, coming as a crafty spy on the .
Oh, yes! I imagine that, like birds, they are in the bushes, held in the sweetest grips of love.
You have been sent as a guard against this very event.  Perhaps you will catch them, if they don’t catch you first.
Bring me through the middle of the Theban land. I am the only man of them who dares to perform this deed.
You alone bear the burden for this city, you alone. Therefore the labors which are proper await you.  Follow me. I am your saving guide: another will lead you down from there.
Yes, my mother.
And you will be remarkable to all.
I am going for this reason.
You will return here being carried—
You talk of a fine reward for me.
–In the arms of your mother.
You will force me to luxury.
 Yes indeed, such luxury!
I will get what I deserve.
You are terrible, terrible, and you go to terrible sufferings, so that you will become famous even in heaven. Reach out your hands, , and you too, her sisters, daughters of . I lead this young man  to a great contest, and and I will be the victors. The rest, you learn about as it happens.
Go to the mountain, go, fleet hounds of Madness, where the daughters of hold their company, and drive them raving  against the mad spy on the , the one dressed in women’s attire. His mother will be the first to see him from a smooth rock or crag, as he lies in ambush, and she will cry out to the :  “Who is this seeker of the mountain-going Kadmeans who has come to the mountain, to the mountain, ? Who gave birth to him? Because he was not born from a woman’s blood, but is the offspring of some lioness  or of Libyan
Let manifest justice go forth, let it go with sword in hand, slaying through the throat  this godless, lawless, unjust, earth-born offspring of Echion.
Whoever with wicked mind and unjust rage with regard to your rites, Bacchus, and with regard to those of your mother, comes with raving heart  and mad disposition violently to overcome by force what is invincible: death is the punishment for his purposes, accepting no excuses when the affairs of the gods are concerned. To act like a mortal is a life that is free from pain.  I do not envy wisdom, but rejoice in hunting it. But other things are great and manifest. Oh, for life to flow towards the good, to be pure and pious day and night, and to honour the gods,  banishing customs that are outside of justice.
Let manifest justice go forth, let it go with sword in hand, slaying through the throat  this godless, lawless, unjust, earth-born offspring of Echion.
Appear as a bull or many-headed serpent or raging lion to see.  Go, Bacchus, with smiling face, and throw a deadly noose around the hunter of the as he falls beneath the flock of .
Oh house once fortunate in Hellas,  house of the Sidonian old man who once sowed in the ground the earth-born harvest of the serpent Ophis, how I groan for you, though I am a slave, but still [the masters’ affairs are a concern to good servants].
What is it? Do you bring some news from the ?
 Pentheus, the child of Echion, is dead.
(Sung) Lord Bacchus, truly you appear to be a great god.
What do you mean? Why have you said this? Do you rejoice at the misfortunes of my master, woman?
(Sung) I, a foreign woman, rejoice with foreign songs;  for no longer do I cower in fear of chains.
Do you think is so lacking in men?
(Sung) Dionysus, Dionysus, not , holds my allegiance.
You may be forgiven, but still it is not good  to rejoice at troubles once they have actually taken place, women.
(Sung) Tell me, speak, what kind of a death did he die, the unjust man who did unjust things?
When we left the dwellings of the Theban land and crossed the streams of ,  we began to ascend the heights of , and I—for I was following my master—and the stranger who was our guide to the sight. First we sat in a grassy vale,  keeping our feet and voices quiet, so that we might see them without being seen. There was a little valley surrounded by cliffs, irrigated with streams, shaded by pine trees, where the were sitting, their hands busy with delightful labors. Some of them were embellishing again  their damaged thyrsus, making it leafy with ivy, while some, like colts freed from the painted yoke, were singing a Bacchic melody to one another. And the unhappy said, not seeing the crowd of women: “Stranger,  from where we are standing I cannot see these false . But on the hill, if I climb a tall pine, I might view properly the shameful acts of the .”
And then I saw the stranger perform a marvelous deed. For seizing hold of the high top-most branch of the pine tree,  he pulled it down, pulled it, pulled it to the dark earth. It was bent just as a bow or a curved wheel, when it is marked out by a compass, describes a circular course: in this way the stranger pulled the mountain bough with his hands and bent it to the earth, doing a deed no mortal could.  He sat down on the pine branch, and let it go upright through his hands steadily, taking care not to shake him [ ] off. The pine stood firmly upright into the sky, with my master seated on its back.  He was spotted by the more easily than he saw them, because sitting on high he was all but apparent, and the stranger was no longer anywhere to be seen, when a voice, Dionysus as I guess, cried out from the air: “Young women,  I bring the one who has made you and me and my rites a laughing-stock. Now punish him!” And as he said this a light of holy fire was placed between heaven and earth.
The air became quiet and the woody glen  kept its leaves silent, and you would not have heard the sounds of animals. But they, not having heard the sound clearly, stood upright and looked all around. He repeated his order, and when the daughters of recognized the clear command of Bacchus,  they rushed forth, swift as a dove, running with eager speed of feet, his mother , and her sisters, and all the . They leapt through the river valley and mountain cliffs, frantic with the inspiration of the god.  When they saw my master sitting in the pine, first they climbed a rock towering opposite the tree and began to violently throw boulders at him. Some threw pine branches and other women hurled their thyrsoi through the air  at , a sad target indeed. But they did not reach him, for the wretched man, caught with no way out, sat at a height too great for their eagerness. Finally, like lightning they smashed oak branches and began to tear up the roots of the tree with ironless levers.  When they did not succeed in their toils, said: “Come, standing round in a circle, each seize a branch, , so that we may catch the beast who has climbed aloft, and so that he does not make public the secret dances of the god.” They applied countless hands  to the pine and dragged it up from the earth. fell crashing to the ground from his lofty seat, wailing greatly: for he knew he was in terrible trouble.
His mother, as priestess, began the slaughter,  and fell upon him. He threw the headband from his head so that the wretched might recognize and not kill him. Touching her cheek, he said: “It is I, mother, your son, , whom you bore in the house of Echion.  Pity me, mother, and do not kill me, your child, for my sins.”
But she, foaming at the mouth and twisting her eyes all about, not thinking as she ought, was possessed by Bacchus, and he did not persuade her.  Seizing his left arm at the elbow and propping her foot against the unfortunate man’s side, she tore out his shoulder, not by her own strength, but the god gave facility to her hands. began to work on the other side,  tearing his flesh, while and the whole crowd of the pressed on. All were making noise together, he [pb_glossary id="914"]Pentheus[/pb_glossary] groaning as much as he had the life for, while they shouted in victory. One of them bore his arm, another a foot, boot and all. His ribs were stripped bare  from their tearings. The whole band, hands bloodied, were playing a game of catch with ‘ flesh.
His body lies in different places, part under the rugged rocks, part in the deep foliage of the woods, not easy to be sought. His miserable head,  which his mother happened to take in her hands, she fixed on the end of a and carries through the midst of like that of a savage lion, leaving her sisters among the ‘ dances. She is coming inside these walls, preening herself  on the ill-fated prey, calling Bacchus her fellow hunter, her accomplice in the chase, the glorious victor—in whose service she wins a triumph of tears.
And as for me, I will depart out of the way of this calamity before reaches the house.  Soundness of mind and reverence for the affairs of the gods is best; and this, I think, is the wisest possession for those mortals who adopt it.
Let us honour Bacchus with the dance, let us raise a shout for what has befallen  , descendant of the serpent, who assumed female attire and the wand, the beautiful —certain death—and a bull was the leader of his calamity.  Kadmean , you have accomplished a glorious victory, but one that brings woe and tears. It is a noble contest to cover one’s dripping hands with the blood of one’s own son.
 But, for I see ‘ mother coming home, her eyes contorted, receive the revel of the god of joy!
Why do you address me?
I am bringing home from the mountain a  freshly cut tendril to the house, blessed prey.
I see it and will accept you as a fellow reveler.
I caught this young wild lion cub without snares,  as you can see.
From what desert?
Who struck him?
The honour is mine first.  I am called blessed in the revels.
His other offspring took hold of this beast after me, after me. This is a lucky catch!
< * >
Share in the feast then.
What? I share in the feast, wretched woman?
 The bull is young; his cheek is just growing downy under his soft-haired crest.
Yes, his hair looks like a wild beast’s.
Bacchus, a wise huntsman,  wisely set the against this beast.
Our lord is a hunter.
Do you praise me?
I praise you.
Soon the Kadmeans—
 And your son , too—
Will praise his mother who has caught this lion-like prey.
And extraordinarily caught.
Are you proud?
I am delighted, for I have performed great—yes, great—and notable deeds on this hunt.
 Now show the citizens, wretched woman, the booty which you have brought in victory.
You who dwell in this fair-towered city of the Theban land, come to see this prey which we the daughters of hunted down,  not with thonged Thessalian javelins, or with nets, but with the fingers of our white arms. And then should huntsmen boast and use in vain the work of spear-makers? But we caught and  tore apart the limbs of this beast with our very own hands. Where is my old father? Let him approach. And where is my son ? Let him take a ladder and raise its steps against the house so that he can fasten to the triglyphs this  lion’s head which I have captured and brought here.
Enter and his servants, carrying the remains of ‘ body
Follow me, carrying the miserable burden of , follow me, slaves, before the house. Exhausted from countless searches, I am bringing his body, for I discovered it in the folds of ,  torn apart; I picked up nothing in the same place, and it was lying in the woods where discovery was difficult. For someone told me of my daughters’ bold deeds, when I had already come within the walls of the city on my return from the with old .  I turned back to the mountain and now bring here my child who was killed by the . For I saw , who once bore to , and with her, still mad in the thicket, wretched creatures.  But someone told me that was coming here with Bacchic foot, and this was correct, for I see her—no happy sight!
Father, you may make a great boast, that you have born daughters the best by far of all  mortals. I mean all of us, but myself especially, who have left my shuttle at the loom and gone on to greater things, to catch wild animals with my two hands. And having taken him, I carry these spoils of honour in my arms, as you see,  so that they may hang from your house. You, father, receive them in your hands. Taking pride in my catch, call your friends to a feast. For you are blessed, blessed, now that we have performed these deeds.
O grief beyond measuring, one which I cannot stand to see,  that you have performed murder with miserable hands. Having killed a fine sacrificial victim to the gods, you invite and me to a banquet. Alas, first for your troubles, then for my own. How justly, yet too severely,  lord the god has destroyed us, though he is a member of our own family.
How morose and sullen in its countenance is man’s old age! I hope that my son is a good hunter, taking after his mother’s ways, when he goes after wild beasts  together with the young men of . But all he can do is fight with the gods. You must admonish him, father. Who will call him here to my sight, so that he may see how lucky I am?
Alas, alas! When you realize what you have done  you will suffer a terrible pain. But if you remain forever in the state you are in now, though hardly fortunate, you will not realize that you are unfortunate.
But what of these matters is not right, or what is painful?
First cast your eye up to this sky.
 All right; why do you tell me to look at it?
Is it still the same, or does it appear to have changed?
It is brighter than before and more translucent.
Is your soul still quivering?
I don’t understand your words. I have become somehow  sobered, changing from my former state of mind.
Can you hear and respond clearly?
Yes, for I forget what we said before, father.
To whose house did you come in marriage?
You gave me, as they say, to Echion, the sown man.
 What son did you bear to your husband in the house?
, from my union with his father.
Whose head do you hold in your hands?
A lion’s, as they who hunted him down said.
Examine it correctly then; it takes but little effort to see.
 Ah! What do I see? What is this that I carry in my hands?
Look at it and learn more clearly.
I see the greatest grief, wretched that I am.
Does it seem to you to be like a lion?
No, but I, wretched, hold the head of .
 Yes, much lamented before you recognized him.
Who killed him? How did he come into my hands?
Miserable truth, how inopportunely you arrive!
Tell me. My heart leaps at what is to come.
You and your sisters killed him.
 Where did he die? Was it here at home, or in what place?
Where formerly dogs divided among themselves.
And why did this ill-fated man go to ?
He went to mock the god and your revelry.
But in what way did we go there?
 You were mad, and the whole city was frantic with Bacchus.
Dionysus destroyed us—now I understand.
Being insulted with insolence, for you did not consider him a god.
And where is the body of my dearest child, father?
I have found it with difficulty and brought it back.
 Are its joints laid properly together?
< * >
What part did have in my folly?
He, like you, did not revere the god. The god therefore joined you all in one punishment, both you and this one here, and so destroyed the house and me,  , who is bereft of my male children and sees this offspring of your womb, wretched woman, most miserably and shamefully killed. He was the hope of our line. You, child [ ], who supported the house, son of my daughter, were  an object of fear to the city. Seeing you, no one wished to insult the old man, for you would have given a worthy punishment. But now I, great , who sowed and reaped  a most glorious crop, the Theban people, will be banished from the house without honour. Dearest of men [ ]—for though you are dead I still count you among my dearest, child—no longer will you embrace me, calling me grandfather, touching my chin with your hand, child, and  saying: “Who wrongs you, old man, who dishonours you? Who vexes and troubles your heart? Tell me, father, so that I can punish the one who does you wrong.” But now I am miserable, while you are wretched, your mother is pitiful, and wretched too are your relatives.  If anyone scorns the gods, let him look to the death of this man and acknowledge them.
I grieve for you, . Your daughter’s child has a punishment deserved indeed, but grievous to you.
Father, for you see how much my situation has changed .
 (To )((lacuna)) . . .changing your form, you will become a dragon, and your wife, , ‘ daughter, whom you (though mortal) held in marriage, will be turned into a beast, and will receive in exchange the form of a serpent. And as the oracle of says, you will drive, along with your wife, a chariot of heifers, ruling over barbarians.  You will sack many cities with a force of countless numbers. And when they plunder the oracle of , they will have a miserable return, but will protect you and and will settle your life in the land of the blessed.
 That is what I, Dionysus, born not from a mortal father, but from , say. And if you had known how to be wise when you did not wish to be, you would have acquired ‘ son as an ally, and would now be happy.
Dionysus, we beseech you, we have acted unjustly.
 You have learned it too late; you did not know it when you should have.
Now we know, but you go too far against us.
Yes, for I, a god by birth, was insulted by you.
Gods should not resemble mortals in their anger.
My father approved this long ago.
 Alas! A miserable exile has been decreed for us, old man.
Why then do you delay what must necessarily be?
Child, what a terrible disaster we have all come to—unhappy you, your sisters, and unhappy me. I shall reach a foreign land  as an aged immigrant. Still it is foretold that I shall bring into Hellas a motley barbarian army. Leading their spears, I, having the fierce nature of a serpent, will bring my wife , daughter of , to the altars and tombs of Hellas.  I will not rest from my troubles in my misery, and I will not sail over the downward flowing and be at peace.
O father, I will go into exile and miss you.
Why do you embrace me with your hands, child,  like a swan for its exhausted gray-haired parent?
For where can I turn, banished from my homeland?
I do not know, child; your father is a poor ally.
Farewell, house, farewell, city of my forefathers. In misfortune I leave you,  a fugitive from my chamber.
Go now, child, to the land of . . .
I grieve for you, father.
And I for you, child, and I weep for your sisters.
Terribly indeed has  lord Dionysus brought this misery to your home.
Yes, for I suffered terrible things at your hands, with my name not honoured in .
Farewell, my father.
Farewell, unhappy  daughter; and yet you cannot easily fare well.
Lead me, escorts, where I may take my pitiful sisters as companions to my exile. May I go where accursed may not see me,  and where I cannot see with my eyes, and where no memorial of a has been dedicated; let these be the responsibility of other .
Many are the forms of divine things, and the gods bring to pass many things unexpectedly;  what is expected has not been accomplished, but the god has found out a means for doing things unthought of. So too has this event turned out.
Taken from: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0092
Art and Symbolism
Dionysus is one of the deities whose representation in art changed the most throughout antiquity. In his earliest appearances on vases, Dionysus is usually portrayed as a mature, bearded man holding a wineskin or other drinking implements.
This way of representing the god never really went out of style; however, later in time another iconography emerged, in which the god appeared as a beardless youth.
Dionysus’ most common attributes in art are all related to the world of symposia and wine-making: drinking cups and horns, vines, and grapes.
The god is usually represented wearing a crown of ivy leaves and holding a staff called a thyrsus that was covered with ivy vines surmounted by a pinecone. Dionysus was also often portrayed as riding a leopard (or a panther), or on a chariot dragged by a couple of them or other wild felines.
A particular category of Athenian drinking vessels called ‘eye-cups’ featured the god’s head shown from the front, bearded and crowned with ivy vines, between two eyes.
Dionysus is one of the few gods to be occasionally portrayed as a child. One of the most common scenes involving him is that of his “birth” from Zeus’ thigh, but he could also be shown as a child being held by either Hermes or old Silenus.
Another common theme for Dionysus in art is his attempted kidnapping by Tyrrhenian pirates. This attempt always fails, and the god turns his would-be kidnappers into dolphins.
When not represented in the company of other deities, the god’s usual companions in art are satyrs and syleni (goat-men hybrids), Maenads, as well as his wife, the Cretan princess Ariadne.
Bacchus in Art
The representation of Bacchus was not radically different from that of his Greek counterpart Dionysus.
The god kept being portrayed as a young man crowned with ivy vines or grape leaves, often holding a thyrsus or drinking vessels, accompanied by maenads and satyrs, and sometimes riding a leopard.
Media Attributions and Footnotes
- Exekias Dionysos Staatliche Antikensammlungen 2044 © Matthias Kabel is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
- Neck-Amphora 1836,0224.48 © The British Museum is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
- Chalice krater fragment with Dionysos feasting, attributed to the circle of the Talos Painter, c. 400 BC, H 5708 is licensed under a Public Domain license
- Banquet Apollo Dionysos Hermes MAN © Marie-Lan Nguyen is licensed under a CC BY (Attribution) license
- Dionysus from the East Pediment of the Parthenon © Shadowgate is licensed under a CC BY (Attribution) license
- Dionysos thiasos Louvre MNE938 © Marie-Lan Nguyen is licensed under a CC BY (Attribution) license
- Mosaic: Epiphany of Dionysus is licensed under a Public Domain license
- Dionysos Panther Louvre K240 © Marie-Lan Nguyen is licensed under a Public Domain license
- Pella Mosaïque 2 © SunriseHomeland is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
- Terracotta Column-Krater © the Metropolitan Museum is licensed under a Public Domain license
- Chalkidian black-figure eye kylix with mask of Dionysus, circa 520-510 BC © Carole Raddato is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
- Hermes and the infant Dionysus by Praxiteles © Dwaisman is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
- Papposilenus Dionysophoros Louvre CA463 © Marie-Lan Nguyen is licensed under a Public Domain license
- The Birth of Dionysus (Tracing) © Luoyao Zhang is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
- Etruscan Hydria with black figures attributed to the Micali Painter © Carole Raddato is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
- Amphora 1843,1103.35 © The British Museum is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
- Amphora 1836,0224.38 © The British Museum is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
- Dioniso seduto, officina neoattica, I sec dc, 6728 © Sailko is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
- Dionysos House of the Centenary is licensed under a Public Domain license
- Triumph of Bacchus is licensed under a Public Domain license
- Mosaic in Musée gallo-romain de Fourvière © Ruthven is licensed under a Public Domain license
- Indicates a gap or missing segment in the text. ↵
- The exclamation "evoe" is associated with ecstatic worship of Dionysus, and with being in a Bacchic frenzy. ↵
- Refers to a myth in which Cadmus plants the teeth of a dragon in the ground. Five grown men (including Echion), called spartoi, are born from the earth where he sowed the teeth. ↵
- Because part of the story is missing, the details are unclear. Most translations agree that Zeus made a model of Dionysus to give over to Hera so that the real one would be unharmed. Bohn suggests that the "thigh" story emerged because of the similarity between the Greek words for "thigh" and "hostage". ↵
- The "land of beautiful horses" likely refers to Cappadocia, a region in what is now eastern Turkey. Dionysus has travelled west from Cappadocia and Lydia (around the north coast of the Aegean) and down to Thebes. ↵
- The name Iacchus usually refers to a minor god worshipped by cults of Demeter, but (as in this case) is sometimes used as a synonym for Bacchus because of the similarity of the names. ↵
Called Semele (when mortal) or Thyone (after apotheosis).
A princess of Thebes, daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia, and mother of Dionysus. Born a mortal, but made a goddess after her death.
Featured in chapter 15.
Roman: Jupiter or Jove
God of the sky, ruler of the Olympian gods.
See chapter 5.
A city in Boeotia. Associated with Dionysus, the house of Cadmus, the Seven Against Thebes, and the myth of Oedipus.
See chapter 37.
Goddess of marriage, wife of Zeus.
See chapter 6.
A mountain or mountainous region associated with the worship of Dionysus. Nysa is located in different locations according to different authors, but is always outside of Greece (often in Africa).
Featured in chapter 15.
A sacrifice of a hundred animals.
Roman: Saturn or Saturnus
Titan father of many of the gods, including Zeus and Hera. Son of Gaia and Uranus.
Featured in chapter 1.
A mountain in Greece, and the mythical home of the gods on this mountain.
Women worshippers of Dionysus, known for acting wildly and in a frenzy.
Featured in chapter 15.
Minor nature deities.
A Roman god of wine, fertility, and freedom, often conflated or equated with Bacchus.
Featured in chapter 15.
Called Ino (mortal) or Leucothea (after apotheosis).
Daughter of Cadmus, sister of Semele, and mother of Melicertes/Palaemon. Known for being a maenad and a nurse of Dionysus. Upon her death, she was transformed into a sea goddess and worshipped as "Leucothea".
Featured in chapter 15 and chapter 18.
A maenad, daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia, and mother of Actaeon. Known for being a nurse of Dionysus.
Featured chapter 15.
A leader of the maenads. Daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia, and mother of Pentheus. Known for being a nurse of Dionysus, and for killing her son.
Featured in chapter 15.
A Phoenician queen, mother of Cadmus and Europa, and wife of either Agenor or Phoenix.
Appears in chapter 22.
Founder and first king of Thebes, husband of Harmonia, and father of Ino, Semele, Agave, and Autonoe.
Featured in chapter 15 and chapter 37.
Called Delphi or Pytho.
A pan-hellenic sanctuary sacred to Apollo as the location of the Delphic Oracle.
See chapter 43. Also featured in chapter 12.
A Phoenician princess, the first queen of Crete, and mother of Minos. Known for being abducted by Zeus in the form of a bull and taken to Crete.
Featured in chapter 22.
Goddess of warfare, wisdom, and craft.
See chapter 9.
God of war.
See chapter 10.
Soldiers grown from dragon teeth planted in the soil. Known for being one of Jason's challenges on his quest for the Golden Fleece, and for appearing in the foundation myth of Thebes.
Featured in chapter 18 and chapter 37.
Personification of harmony. Wife of Cadmus, and mother of Semele, Ino, Autonoe, and Agave.
Featured in chapter 15.
Goddess of love and passion.
See chapter 4.
God of fire, smiths, and craftspeople.
See chapter 8.
A king of Boeotia. Son of Aeolus, husband of Nephele, Ino, and Themisto, and father of Phrixus and Melicertes. Known for being cursed by Hera as punishment for helping raise Dionysus.
Featured in chapter 15 and chapter 18.
A god of many minor pastoral crafts. Husband of Autonoe and father of Actaeon.
God of travelers and trickery.
See chapter 16.
Called Melicertes (before apotheosis) or Palaemon (after apotheosis)
A son of Athamas and Ino. Known for becoming a god after being thrown into the sea by his mother.
Appears in chapter 15 and chapter 18.
Founder of Ephyre (later Corinth) and son of Aeolus of Thessaly. Known for attempting to cheat death (twice), and for being punished in the underworld to push a boulder up a hill forever. In some traditions, father of Odysseus.
Appears in chapter 41.
A group of nymphs of rain thought to have lived in Nysa. Daughters of Atlas. Known for helping raise Dionysus, and for being immortalized by Zeus as a constellation as a reward.
A hero from Thebes and daughter of Autonoe. Known for being killed by his hunting dogs as punishment from Artemis.
Featured in chapter 13.
A wise centaur, known for training many famous heroes including Jason, Achilles, Theseus, and Perseus.
Appears in chapter 17 and chapter 26.
A mountain sacred to Dionysus. Known for being the site of the deaths of Pentheus and Actaeon.
Featured in chapter 15. Also appears in chapter 13.
Maiden goddess of wilderness and the hunt, and twin sister of Apollo.
See chapter 13.
A king of Egypt, known for hosting Helen and Paris in Memphis (in some accounts).
Featured in chapter 26.
Greek: Rhea or Cybele
Roman: Magna Mater, Cybele, or Ops
Nature goddesses of various origins who were often equated or conflated. Generally refers to the Titan wife and sister of Cronus, and mother of many of the gods including Zeus and Hera. Her worship often included loud music and wild processions, and she was often associated with Mount Ida.
Featured in chapter 15 (as Cybele). Also appears in chapter 1 (as Rhea).
A king of Thrace. Known for attempting to ban the worship of Dionysus and being forced to kill his son Dryas as a result.
Appears in chapter 15.
A nereid, daughter of Nereus, and mother of Achilles. Known for raising Hephaestus.
Featured in chapter 8.
Called Nereus or "The Old Man of the Sea."
A sea god with shapeshifting and prophetic powers. Father of the Nereids and son of Gaia.
Half-goat, half-human minor woodland deities associated with lust and revelry.
A king of Thebes and son of Agave. Known for being killed by his mother as punishment for refusing to worship Dionysus.
Featured in chapter 15.
God of the underworld. Hades may also refer to the underworld itself, the kingdom of Hades.
See chapter 42.
God of medicine, archery, oracles, and the sun.
See chapter 12.
God of the sea.
See chapter 7.
A mythical people who lived in the north, often associated with Apollo.
Appear in chapter 21.
Consort of Cybele and one of the Galli. In some traditions a mortal, in others a Phrygian plant god. Known for being forced by Cybele to castrate himself.
Featured in chapter 15.
A group of eunuch priests of Cybele and Attis.
Featured in chapter 15.
The name for 2 sacred mountains: Ida in Crete, and Ida in Anatolia. Mount Ida in Crete is sacred to Zeus as his birthplace, while Ida in Anatolia is sacred to Cybele. The two are sometimes conflated.
Called Charites or Graces.
3 goddesses of beauty, charm, and grace.
A staff adorned with vines and plants, carried by Dionysus and his worshippers.
Featured in chapter 15.
A princess of Crete, daughter of Pasiphae and Minos, and wife of Dionysus. Known for helping Theseus defeat the Minotaur.
Featured in chapter 22.
Giant humanoids, often with snake-like limbs and features. Offspring of Gaia, born where the blood of Uranus landed on the earth. Known for their role in the Gigantomachy.
Featured in chapter 1.
The three-headed dog guardian of the underworld, and a son of Echidna. Known for being captured by Heracles in his 12 Labours.
Featured in chapter 17.
A queen of Thebes and wife of Lycus, or a spring near Thebes where Dirce became a nymph after her death. Known for helping raise Heracles and Dionysus.
Featured in chapter 37. Also appears in chapter 15 and chapter 17.
A river near Thebes, or the personification of this river.
A term to describe all the Greeks and people of Greek origin, notably the Greek armies in Homer's Iliad.
Epithet for Dionysus (see chapter 15), meaning "loud" or "roaring."
Called Moirai or Fates.
3 goddesses who appear as old women and control the destinies of living things.
Called Curetes or Corybantes.
Worshippers of the goddess Cybele, known for playing loud music and associated with Mount Ida.
Appear in chapter 15.
A Phoenician king, son of Poseidon, and father of Cadmus and Europa (in some traditions).
Appears in chapter 22.
A seer and priest of Apollo from Thebes, and son of Chariclo. Lives for many generations, and known for his roles in many myths.
Featured in chapter 15. Also appears in chapter 9, chapter 17, chapter 30, and chapter 41.
Goddess of agriculture.
See chapter 10.
Epithet for Apollo (see chapter 12), meaning "bright one."
A group of love deities associated with Aphrodite.
Appear in chapter 4.
9 deities of art, music, poetry, and creativity.
Personification of (sexual) desire, and one of the Erotes.
Personification of peace and one of the Horae.
A large river in Greece, or the god personifying this river. Known for fighting Heracles for the marriage of Deianira.
Featured in chapter 17.
A song sung in honour of Dionysus, or an epithet for Dionysus (see chapter 15).
A hero and Argonaut, and brother of Linus. Known for his ability to charm all with his lyre music, and for his attempt to rescue his lover Eurydice from the Underworld.
Featured in chapter 41. Appears in chapter 18 and chapter 19.
A river in Macedonia, or the personification of this river.
May refer to four different rivers of the same name, or to their personifications as a river god.
God of shepherds, the wild, and wild music.
Three women with snakes for hair, named Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa. The singular ("Gorgon" or "Gorgo") may also be used as a proper noun referring to Medusa alone.
Featured in chapter 20 and chapter 21.
One of the five rivers of the underworld, or the personification of this river.
Appears in chapter 41.