The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours

  Nagy, Gregory. 2013. The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013. Abridged edition 2019.

Hour 21: The hero’s agony in the Bacchae of Euripides

The meaning of agōn

21§1. The key word for this hour is agōn, plural agōnes. In the Core Vocabulary, I give three basic definitions: (1) ‘coming together’, (2) ‘competition’ or antagonism, and (3) ‘ordeal’ or agony. Here I follow up on an earlier formulation I gave in Hour 8b§4, which I now divide into three parts:

(1) The noun agōn is derived from the root ag- of the verb agō as it is used in the compound formation sun-agein, which means ‘bring together, assemble, gather’. Basically, an agōn is a ‘bringing together’ of people.
(2) The occasion of such a ‘bringing together’ is a ‘competition’. This meaning, ‘competition’, is still evident in the English borrowing of a compound formation involving the word agōn, that is, antagonism. Similarly, the basic meaning of Latin com-petere is ‘to come together’, and to come together is to compete. [1]
(3) The activity of ‘competition’ as expressed by the Greek word agōn was understood to be a ritual ‘ordeal’, just as the Greek word āthlos meant ‘ordeal’ as well as ‘contest’, that is, ‘competition’. The concept of ‘ordeal’ as embedded in the Greek word agōn is still evident in the English word borrowed from the Greek, agony.
21§2. As I noted in Hour 8b§5, both words āthlos and agōn can refer to the experience of competition in athletics, and both words can also refer to the most extreme form of competition imaginable, which is war. But there are other kinds of ritualized competition that also qualify as an agōn, though not as an āthlos. As I {572|573} noted in Hour 7 (e§2), agōn can refer to competition in the verbal arts, and I highlighted the example of the grand agōn or ‘competition’ in mousikē tekhnē, ‘the art of the Muses’, at the festival of the Great Panathenaia in Athens. And now in Hour 21, we will see that this word agōn can also refer to competition in the verbal art of tragedy, especially as it evolved at the festival of the City Dionysia in Athens. [2]
21§3. But there is more to it. As we will see, this word agōn is not only a word for tragedy as a ritual of competition: it is also the word used for expressing a primal experience in myth – an experience that aetiologizes tragedy as a coming together, a competition, and an ordeal.

The agōn of Pentheus

21§4. In the Bacchae of Euripides, produced in Athens some time after the author’s death (he died probably in Macedonia, in 407/406 BCE), we see the dramatization of a myth concerning such a primal experience. At its core, the story is this: the hero Pentheus, king of the venerable ancient Greek city of Thebes, is dismembered by the women of this city. As we will see, this dismemberment of Pentheus is the hero’s agōn.
21§5. In the myth of Pentheus, the women of Thebes who dismember the hero have become bakkhai or ‘Bacchants’, that is, female worshippers of the god Bakkhos or Bacchus. The other name of Bacchus is Dionysus. The god has come to Thebes from Asia Minor, accompanied by Asiatic Bacchants who are represented by the chorus of the tragedy. That is where we get the name of this tragedy, Bacchae, which is a latinized spelling of bakkhai, or ‘Bacchants’. Although the god seems alien to the people of Thebes, he is really their native son, since Dionysus was conceived in the city of Thebes when Zeus impregnated Semele, one of the daughters of Cadmus, who was the founder of Thebes. [3] The persona of Dionysus himself tells the essentials of the myth at the beginning of the Bacchae, lines 1-63.
21§6. The catastrophic behavior of the Thebans in not recognizing Dionysus as one of their own leads to their collective punishment, which comes to a head at the climactic moment when Pentheus suffers dismemberment at the hands of {573|574} the Theban Bacchants. This moment is narrated by a messenger at lines 1043-1147 of the drama. By the time Dionysus is recognized as oikeios or ‘native’ to Thebes at line 1250, it is too late. By contrast, the behavior of the Asiatic Bacchants who are the chorus is not at all catastrophic. Rather, they exhibit ritually correct behavior, since they not only represent Bacchants but also function as the chorus of the drama. And, as the chorus, these Asiatic Bacchants are an integral part of the ritual aspect of theater. The chorus must be ritually correct, since Dionysus is after all the god of theater. [4]
21§7. Tragically, the leader of the Theban Bacchants who tore the hero limb from limb was the mother of Pentheus himself, Agaue, who claimed as her prize the best portion of the dismembered body, the head (Bacchae 1168-1329). In terms of the myth, to repeat the point of my argument, this dismemberment of the hero Pentheus is his agōn.

The meaning of pathos

21§8. Before I can proceed with my argumentation about the agōn of Pentheus, I need to explain what I mean when I speak of the primal experience of any hero. Here I elaborate on my Introduction to Part III (§§6-7), where I dealt with the meaning of the word pathos as ‘experience’ or ‘emotion’ or ‘suffering’.

– The translation ‘experience’ for the noun pathos conveys its general meaning, since this noun is derived from the verb paskhein, which can be translated as ‘to experience’ – in the sense that the person who is the subject of the verb is experiencing an action that is being done to this subject. Such an experiencing is the essence of the passive function of any verb, to be contrasted with the active function, where the subject of the verb is doing something to the object of the verb. In the case of paskhein, ‘to experience’, this verb is active in form but passive in function, and, in this passive function, it is opposed to the active function of the verbs poieîn and drân, which both mean ‘to do’. In the medium of tragedy, there is a working opposition between the active function of drân, which indicates that someone is ‘doing’ something to someone, and the passive function of paskhein, which indicates that someone is ‘experiencing’ something that is being done to that someone.
– The translation ‘emotion’ conveys a secondary aspect of the general meaning {574|575} of pathos. This word pathos can refer to any given emotion, in the sense that an emotion is something that is experienced.
– The translation ‘suffering’ conveys the specialized meaning of pathos. Such specialization suits the medium of tragedy, since the primary kind of experience that happens to heroes in this medium is suffering.
21§9. Just as the verb paskhein indicates the ‘experiencing’ of something and functions as the antithesis of the poetic verb drân, which indicates the ‘doing’ of something to someone, so also the noun pathos, derived from paskhein, indicates an ‘experience’. And so this noun pathos is the antithesis of the noun drāma, derived from drân. But the meanings of pathos and drāma are complicated by the fact that the corresponding verbs from which they are derived, paskhein and drân, have specialized meanings. In the case of paskhein, as we have just seen, it can mean ‘suffering’ as well as ‘experiencing’. And, in the case of drân, as we saw earlier in the usage of Pausanias (9.40.2 in Hour 15§38; also 2.32.1 in Hour 20§18), it can mean ‘performing ritual’ as well as simply ‘doing’; further, as we saw in the usage of Sophocles (Oedipus at Colonus 1644 in Hour 18§49), the participial form drōmena of drân refers to ritual acts that are ‘done’ in mysteries connected with the cults of heroes.
21§10. Such specialized meanings of the nouns pathos and drāma are the basis for the compressed formulation I offered in the Introduction to Part III (§7), which I repeat here:

What is passive pathos or action experienced by the hero within the world of tragedy is active drāma, that is, sacrifice and the performance of ritual, from the standpoint of the outer world that frames this world of tragedy. Such an outer world is constituted by the audience of the theater, visualized as a community that becomes engaged in the drāma and that thereby participates in the inner world that is the pathos or ‘suffering’ of the hero. [5]

Staging the dismemberment of Pentheus

21§11. Now that I have explained what I mean when I speak of the primal experience of a hero, I am ready to take a closer look at the experience of Pentheus in {575|576} the Bacchae of Euripides. In the specific case of this hero, as I already noted, his experience of suffering takes the form of being dismembered by the women of Thebes. So, my question is this: how can we relate this primal experience of Pentheus to the three-way meaning of the word agōn as a coming together, a competition, and an ordeal? To formulate an answer, which will take the rest of this hour to shape, I begin by analyzing a passage in the Bacchae where the god Dionysus himself refers indirectly to the dismemberment of Pentheus. As we will see, this reference is expressed in terms of the hero’s agōn or ‘ordeal’ – and also in terms of the pathos or ‘suffering’ that awaits him.
21§12. The context of the passage we are about to read is this: the young king Pentheus has conceived an obsessive desire to spy on the women of Thebes, who have all become Bacchants and have headed off to the mountains, led by his own mother Agaue together with his aunts Ino and Autonoe. As the scene begins, Pentheus is offstage, still inside the palace, but he has already been costumed to look like a Bacchant. Intending to head for the mountains himself in order to join the Theban Bacchants there, Pentheus is ready to act as if he were really one of them, hoping to discover the truth about them. And the one who arranges the costuming for this intended piece of acting by Pentheus is the god of theater himself, Dionysus, who is acting as the god Dionysus. For reasons that will be explained shortly, I use the word acting here in two senses: the god here is both an actor and an agent of his own self. And Dionysus is most effective as both agent and actor, since Pentheus does not recognize him as the god that he is. Nor is Pentheus even meant to recognize Dionysus – for now. As we join the action, Dionysus is already on stage, and he calls out to Pentheus, who is still offstage and inside the palace, ordering the hero to come out and make his grand entrance:

Hour 21 Text A

|912 {Dionysus:} You there! Yes, I’m talking to you, to the one who is so eager to see the things that should not be seen |913 and who rushes to accomplish things that cannot be rushed. It is you I am talking to, Pentheus. |914 Come out from inside the palace. Let me have a good look at you |915 wearing the costume of a woman who is a maenad [mainas], a Bacchant [bakkhē], |916 ready to spy on your mother and her company. |917 The way you are shaped, you look just like one of the daughters of Cadmus. {576|577}
|918 {Pentheus:} What is this? I think I see two suns, |919 and not one seven-gated city [polisma] of Thebes but two. |920 And, as you are leading me, you look like a bull |921 and horns seem to have sprouted on your head. |922 Were you ever before a beast? You have certainly now become a bull.
|923 {Dionysus:} The god accompanies us, though formerly he was not of good intentions [eu-menēs]. |924 He has a truce with us, and now you see what you should be seeing.
|925 {Pentheus:} So, what do I appear [phainesthai] to be? Do I not have the dancing pose [stasis] of Ino |926 or of Agaue my mother?
|927 {Dionysus:} Looking at you I think I see them right now. |928 Oh, but watch out: this lock of hair [plokamos] here is out of place. It stands out, |929 not the way I had secured it, to be held down by the headband [mitra].
|930 {Pentheus:} While I was inside, I was shaking it [= the lock of hair] forward and backward, |931 and, in a Bacchic state of mind [bakkhiazōn], I displaced it, moving it out of place.
|932 {Dionysus:} Then I, whose concern it is to care [therapeuein] for you, will |933 arrange it [= the lock hair] all over again. Come on, hold your head straight.
|934 {Pentheus:} You see it [= the lock of hair]? There it is! You arrange [kosmeîn] it for me. I can see I am really depending on you.
|935 {Dionysus:} And your waistband has come loose. And those things are not in the right order, |936 I mean, the pleats of your robe [peplos], the way they extend down around your ankles.
|937 {Pentheus:} That’s the way I see it from my angle as well. At least, that is the way it is down around my right foot, |938 but, on this other side, the robe [peplos] does extend in a straight line down around the calf.
|939 {Dionysus:} I really do think you will consider me the foremost among those who are near and dear [philoi] to you |940 when, contrary to your expectations, you see that Bacchants [ bakkhai ] are moderate [= sōphrones].
|941 {Pentheus:} So, which one will it be? I mean, shall I hold the wand [thursos] with my right hand |942 or with this other one here? Which is the way I will look more like a Bacchant [ bakkhē ]? {577|578}
|943 {Dionysus:} You must hold it in your right hand and, at the same time, with your right foot |944 you must make an upward motion. I approve [aineîn] of the way you have shifted in your thinking [phrenes].
|945 {Pentheus:} Could I not carry on my shoulders the ridges of Mount Kithairon, |946 Bacchants and all?
|947 {Dionysus:} You could if you wanted to. Your earlier thoughts [phrenes] |948 were not sound, but now they are the way they should be.
|949 {Pentheus:} Shall we bring levers, or shall I use my hands for lifting, |950 throwing a shoulder or arm under the mountains as I raise them up?
|951 {Dionysus:} But you must not destroy the dwelling places of the Nymphs |952 and the places where Pan stays, playing on his pipe.
|953 {Pentheus:} You said it well. It is not by force that my victory over |954 the women should happen. I will hide my body under the shelter of the fir trees.
|955 {Dionysus:} You will hide yourself by hiding as you should be hidden, |956 coming as a crafty spy on the maenads [ mainades ].
|957 {Pentheus:} You know, I have this vision of them: there they are in the bushes, |958 like birds in their most beloved [phila] hiding places, held in the tight grip of making love.
|959 {Dionysus:} Yes, and are you not like a guardian who has been sent out to counter exactly this kind of thing? |960 Perhaps you will catch them, unless they beat you to it and you yourself get caught.
|961 {Pentheus:} Bring me there, let us go there, passing right through the middle of Thebes on our way. |962 I am the only one of those [Thebans] who dares to do this.
|963 {Dionysus:} You alone [monos] enter the struggle for the sake of this city [polis], you alone [monos]. |964 And so the ordeals [agōnes] that must happen are awaiting you. |965 Follow me. I am your guide, giving salvation [sōtērios]. |966 But then, on the way back, someone else will lead you down from up there. — {Pentheus:} Yes, it will be my mother.
|967 {Dionysus:} And you will be a distinctive sign [epi-sēmon] to all. {Pentheus:} — I am going with that objective in mind.
|968 {Dionysus:} You will return here being carried — {Pentheus:} You are talking about my desire for luxury [habrotēs] {578|579}
|969 {Dionysus:} — in the arms of your mother. {Pentheus:} So, you will make me revel in luxury [truphân].
|970 {Dionysus:} Yes indeed, in such luxury [truphē]. {Pentheus:} I am reaching for things I deserve.
|971 {Dionysus:} A man of terror [deinos] you are, a man of terror [deinos], and you are going after experiences [pathos plural] that are things of terror [deina]. |972 The result will be that you will find a glory [kleos] reaching all the way up to the sky. |973 Hold out your hands, Agaue, and you too, her sisters, |974 daughters of Cadmus. The young man is being led by me |975 to this great ordeal [agōn] here. And the one who will win the victory – that will be I myself. |976 Bromios [= Dionysus the Thunderer] and I myself will be the victors. What signals [sēmainein] it are other things that are yet to happen.
Euripides Bacchae 912-976 [6] {579|580}
21§13. I propose to analyze this passage by starting near the end of the text and then, later on, restarting at the beginning, working my way back down to the end. So, looking ahead to the end of the text, I will now focus on the word agōn at lines 964 and 975, after which I will focus on the word pathos at line 971.
21§14. In the case of agōn, this word is used twice by Dionysus – each time in a riddling way. The first time, at line 964, the god says to the hero: ‘The ordeals [agōnes] that must happen are awaiting you’. From the perspective of Pentheus, agōn here means the hero’s ‘ordeal’ in fighting a personal war against the Bacchants of Thebes. From the perspective of Dionysus, however, this same word means the hero’s ‘ordeal’ of dismemberment. As for the second time when Dionysus uses this word agōn, at line 975, the god is addressing the absent mother and aunts of Pentheus in the hero’s presence, saying to them: ‘the young man is being led by me |975 to this great ordeal [agōn] here’. From the perspective of Pentheus, agōn here means once again the hero’s ‘ordeal’ in fighting his personal war against the Bacchants. From the perspective of Dionysus, however, this same word means the hero’s ‘competition’ with the god. When Dionysus at lines 975-976 goes on to say about himself that he will win in this competition, Pentheus does not understand that the mysterious stranger who has costumed him is really his divine competitor or antagonist, Dionysus himself. Not suspecting that this stranger is his own divine antagonist, Pentheus does not understand that the winner is not on his side but on the other side.
21§15. In the case of pathos, this word too is used in a riddling way by Dionysus. At line 971, the god says to Pentheus: ‘A man of terror [deinos] you are, a man of terror [deinos], and you are going after experiences [pathos plural] that are things of terror [deina]’. From the perspective of Pentheus, he is actively pursuing pathē – which is the plural form of pathos – in the general sense of ‘experiences’ that are deina in the sense of ‘terrific’. We may compare the meaning of the English word terrific, derived from a Latin word that means ‘terrifying’. In English too as in Latin, this word once had the generally negative meaning of ‘terrifying’, but it eventually took on the specifically positive meaning of ‘terrific’. So also the ancient Greek adjective deinos once had the generally negative meaning of ‘terrifying’ but then eventually took on the specifically positive meaning of ‘terrific’. From the perspective of Pentheus, then, the mysterious stranger is telling him: ‘A terrific man you are, terrific, and you are going to face experiences or pathē that are terrific’. So, Pentheus can think that the stranger is saying to him: You and your future experiences are so terrific that I fear you. From the perspective of Dionysus, however, he is telling Pentheus: ‘A terrible {580|581}man you are, terrible, and you are going to face sufferings or pathē that are terrible’. So, Dionysus is in effect saying to Pentheus: You and your future experiences are so terrible that I pity you. For the god Dionysus, the idea of fear as conveyed by the word deinos needs to be seen in terms of the basic meaning of this word. That is why I translate deinos in Text A here as ‘of terror’ where it applies to Pentheus. In other words, ‘a man of terror’ may be either someone who actively makes others feel terror or who is passively made to feel terror himself. It all depends on how you look at the pathē that ‘await’ Pentheus. Pentheus may think that these pathē will be ‘experiences’ that are ‘terrific’ for him, in the positive sense of ‘terrific’. But these pathē will really be the ‘sufferings’ of Pentheus, who will be dismembered by the Bacchants of Thebes and who will in the end experience personally the holy terror of his own grisly death.
21§16. This death of Pentheus is evidently different from heroic death in war, but it still earns the hero a kleos or poetic ‘glory’ that will reach all the way up to the sky, as the words of the god Dionysus himself predict at line 972 of the Bacchae, quoted in Text A. This one part of the god’s prediction has no double meaning. Just as death in war leads to kleos, as we saw in the case of Achilles already at the very beginning of this book, so also death by dismemberment leads to the kleos of Pentheus as the victim of his own antagonism with a god. Earlier, in Hour 8b§5, we saw that the expression arēios agōn, ‘the agōn of Arēs’ (as used by Herodotus 9.33.3), refers to the ritualized experience of combat in war. Later on, in Hour 17 Text H, we saw the goddess Athena herself referring to ‘deeds of war, | ordeals [agōnes] that bring distinction’ (Aeschylus Eumenides 913-914). And now we see that the experience of war is not the only kind of agōn that can bring poetic kleos or ‘glory’.

The staging of Dionysus

21§17. As we can see from the exchange between Pentheus and Dionysus in Text A, the hero fails to understand that the mysterious character who has costumed him as a Bacchant is the god Dionysus. The hero is deluded into thinking that the god on stage is merely a male worshipper of the god. As I pointed out already, the word for such a male worshipper is bakkhos. And, since this word is also the other name of Dionysus, which as I also pointed out is Bakkhos or Bacchus, the god on stage has staged himself to possess a double identity. He is both the god and the worshipper of the god. But this double identity is double only for those who do not understand that the worshipper or bakkhos who re-enacts Bakkhos or Dionysus becomes one with the god during the act of worship. I {581|582} have already analyzed in Hour 5 such a pattern of merged identities, where the participant in a ritual becomes one with the god who is worshipped in the ritual. Clearly, Pentheus does not understand such oneness, and that is why he sees double when he comes on stage, at lines 918-919 of Text A. The diplopia experienced by the hero indicates that he has not been initiated into the mysteries of the rituals that celebrate the god Dionysus.
21§18. Dionysus is a double signifier. He has the power to stage himself and his other self simultaneously. He has that power because he is not only a god on the stage: he is the god of the stage. As I have already noted, Dionysus is the god of theater. So, unlike other characters who are re-enacted by actors wearing masks over their faces, the character of Dionysus can in principle be re-enacted by Dionysus himself. In other words, Dionysus can act Dionysus. And that is because there is no face under the mask of Dionysus: the god’s mask is his face.

The subjectivity of Dionysus

21§19. To elaborate on what I just said, that the mask of Dionysus is his face, I need to consider the idea of subjectivity and how it applies to Dionysus as a god. I start with three basic observations: [7]

– In the usage of everyday people, subjectivity is simply the opposite of objectivity.
– In the usage of philosophers, subjectivity is a key word for debating questions about the nature of the human self and about the ways in which that self operates in the context of historical contingencies. Even in this kind of usage, the word subjectivity is normally treated as the opposite of objectivity.
– In the usage of linguists, subjectivity can be analyzed grammatically in terms of person. When I say person here, I mean the first, second, and third persons of personal pronouns and verbs. The classic study of grammatical persons is by Émile Benveniste, and it is his approach that will shape the argumentation that follows. [8]
21§20. As Benveniste shows, the grammatical first person singular or the ‘I’ is the basis of subjectivity in its distinctness from the second person or the ‘you’ {582|583} with whom the ‘I’ engages in what can best be described as a dialogue. Further, the ‘I and you’ dialogue of the first and the second persons is subjective in its distinctness from the third person, which can be a ‘he’ or a ‘she’ or an ‘it’ or a ‘they’ as well as a zero person who is neither a first nor a second person, as when we use the pronoun ‘it’ in making a statement like ‘it is raining’.
21§21. To what extent, though, is the third person objective? In terms of linguistics, we can say that even the objectivity of the third person depends on the subjectivity of the first and the second persons. When I speak with you and I say ‘he’ or she’ or ‘it’ or ‘they’, the identity that is marked by these pronouns in the third person depends on whom or what we mean when we use these third-person pronouns ‘he’ or she’ or ‘it’ or ‘they’. In our dialogue, we may also use nouns for identifying the various persons that mark what we are speaking about. For example, ‘he’ may be the king of Thebes and ‘she’ may be his mother, while ‘it’ may be the sun that shines and ‘they’ may be the mother and the aunts of the king. But the objectivity of these identifications of personal pronouns in the third person with corresponding nouns still depends on the subjectivity of the dialogue between the first and the second persons.
21§22. In the use of personal pronouns, we can say that all three persons are subjective, in that the making of references by way of all three persons can shift, depending on the subjectivity of the speaker who owns the personal pronoun ‘I’ at the moment of speaking. When I say ‘I’ or ‘you’ to you, the ‘I’ is I and the ‘you’ is you, but when you say ‘I’ or ‘you’ to me, then the ‘I’ is you and the ‘you’ is I, and these usages of ‘I’ and ‘you’ will shift depending on who is speaking to whom. Likewise in the third person, ‘he’ and ‘she’ and ‘it’ and ‘they’ will shift identities depending on who is speaking about whom or what. [9] There can even be shifts in inclusiveness and exclusiveness in what we say in an ‘I and you’ dialogue. For example, when I say ‘we’ in English I can include you if I mean ‘I and you’ or exclude you if I mean ‘I and he’ or ‘I and she’ or ‘I and they’.
21§23. What makes it possible to study the subjective uses of shifting personal pronouns objectively is the fact that every occasion of speech where a speaker uses the pronoun ‘I’ is a historical contingency that is located in the context of the time and the place when the speaker spoke. When I or you study such a historical contingency, our own speaking about it may be ultimately subjective, but we can be objective about the contingency to the extent that we can keep ourselves aware of our own historical contingencies.
21§24. Just as subjectivity can be analyzed in terms of the person in grammar, {583|584} it can also be analyzed in terms of the persona in theater. When I say persona, I mean not only a dramatic character like, say, the young hero Pentheus who is king of Thebes in the Bacchae composed by Euripides. I mean also the mask worn by the actor who represented Pentheus at the premiere of the drama in the late fifth century – as also the corresponding masks worn by countless later actors who represented Pentheus in countless ‘re-runs’ of the drama in later times. In Latin the noun persona actually means ‘theatrical mask’. And in Greek, the noun prosōpon (πρόσωπον) likewise means ‘theatrical mask’. More than that, Greek prosōpon refers not only to the persona in theater but also to the person in grammar, whether it be the first or the second or the third person. And the Greek theatrical mask, as indicated by the word prosōpon, is a subjective agent, an ‘I’ who is looking for a dialogue with a ‘you’.
21§25. The subjectivity of the prosōpon as a mask used in theater is evident in the components of the word, which are pros-, ‘toward’, and ōp-, ‘look’. These components derive from the syntax of expressing the mutuality of looking straight into the eyes of another person who is looking straight back at you. But the mutuality of this act of looking at each other is uneven in the ritualized setting of ancient Greek theater. That is because the ultimate model for this mutuality of looking at each other in theater is the god of ancient Greek theater himself, Dionysus, who is seen as the ultimate subjective agent. As the god of theātron, which means literally ‘the instrument for looking’ (this noun combines the root of the verb theâsthai, which means ‘look’, with the suffix of instrumentality, -tron), Dionysus is the god of the instrumentality of looking, and the actual instrument for looking is the prosōpon or ‘mask’.
21§26. In the interaction of ancient Greek myth and ritual, the god in the myth is the model for the ritual in which his human worshippers engage – and that is how Dionysus becomes the role model for the ritualized use of masks in Greek theater. The god shows the way how. As the role model, he is the absolute model for all the roles, all the personae, all the persons of ancient Greek theater. And he is also the absolute model for every pathos or ‘emotion’ experienced by every person. As we have seen, all emotions can be enacted through the mīmēsis or ‘re-enactment’ achieved by way of theater (Hour 8e§3). So, the god shows the way, and he can do so by wearing a mask himself.
21§27. By wearing a mask, Dionysus becomes the ultimate agent of subjectivity, the ultimate model for all other agents of subjectivity. That is why Dionysus can be represented in the ancient Greek visual arts as wearing a mask that must be recognized as the ultimate mask, the mask that ends all masks, which is the face of the god himself. {584|585}
21§28. I cite as an example a terracotta representation of the god Dionysus wearing a mask; it was found in Myrina (Turkey) and is dated to the second or first century BCE. [10]

For the online version, I show here the line drawing by Valerie Woelfel.

What we see is the god Dionysus wearing a mask, or, better, wearing a face that is his mask, and this mask is the ultimate mask because it shows the looks of his own face. That is the point of such a representation of the god of masks, who is the god of theater.

21§29. I see here a fusion of emotions: there is fear, and there is also sorrow (or pity) and anger and hate and love and happiness. Dionysus fuses all emotions into one single primal emotion. What happens, then, when ‘you’ look at such a mask? In other words, what happens when the ‘I’ who is looking for a dialogue with you is the ultimate agent of subjectivity, even the god of subjectivity? My answer is that ‘you’ experience the emotion of primal fear, because ‘you’ are looking at the god of absolute subjectivity, looking him in the face, looking back at him while he is looking at ‘you’. [11]

Staging the Bacchants

21§30. We saw in §17 that Pentheus experiences diplopia in viewing Dionysus. The hero, seeing double, cannot understand that the god is one with those who participate in the god’s rituals, and so Pentheus mistakenly views Dionysus merely as a male worshipper of Dionysus, not as Dionysus himself. From this mistaken point of view, Pentheus sees the male worshipper negatively. Likewise, Pentheus sees negatively the female worshippers of Dionysus, the Bacchants of Thebes. Again he shows a mistaken point of view, since he cannot understand that the Bacchants of Thebes are staged by the god Dionysus himself.
21§31. I need to elaborate by making two points. The first point is that the Bacchants of Thebes are women who have lost control of themselves. But that does not mean that they are “out of control” – to use a modern expression. They are still under control, but the controller is now the god. So, the women of Thebes are now mainades or ‘maenads’, and that is what the god calls them at line 956 of the Bacchae, as we saw in Text A. This word means that the minds of these women are possessed by the god. We saw this meaning already in Iliad XXII 460, quoted in Hour 3 Text C, where Andromache is described as mainadi {585|586} īsē, ‘same as a maenad’ or ‘just like a maenad’, when she faces the terrifying vision of her husband’s corpse being dragged by Achilles. As I noted in Hour 3§20, the context of this expression indicates that Andromache has lost control of herself. So, to recap my first point, a mainas or ‘maenad’ loses control of her own mind because she is possessed by the mind of Dionysus. But my second point is that the possession of a woman’s mind by Dionysus is not necessarily a negative thing. In the case of Andromache, for example, her experience of a maenadic seizure in Iliad XXII leads to her performance of a lament for Hector at lines 477-514, introduced at line 476. From my analysis in Hour 3§§20-21, it is evident that the performance of this lament by Andromache is pictured as a genuine ritual and, as such, it is viewed as a positive experience. But I must add that this experience is positive only because it is ritualized. Without the ritualization, the disheveled appearance of Andromache could turn negative:

Only the ritual of lament protects her modesty. Without such ritual protection, this modesty would be destroyed. But the cover of ritual allows her to appear in public with her hair completely undone. [12]
21§32. So, the possession of a woman’s mind by Dionysus is a positive experience when the woman possessed is performing a ritual. And that is also what we see when we consider the chorus of Asiatic Bacchants in the Bacchae of Euripides. By singing and dancing, the chorus is performing the ritual of Dionysus, god of State Theater. As participants in the ritual of drama, the members of the chorus are undergoing a positive experience as they re-enact the myth of Dionysus by singing and dancing the myth.
21§33. So, Dionysus is saying a fundamental truth when he tells Pentheus at lines 939-940 of the Bacchae, as quoted in Text A: ‘I really do think you will consider me the foremost among those who are near and dear [philoi] to you | when, contrary to your expectations, you see that Bacchants [bakkhai] are moderate [= sōphrones]’. What Dionysus means is that his own true worshippers, who are the chorus representing the Bacchants from Asia Minor, are in a mental state of equilibrium or balance when they participate in the rituals of Dionysiac theater by performing the myth that motivates these rituals. As a chorus, they perform the myth by singing and dancing it. By contrast, the mental state exhibited by the Bacchants of Thebes when they dismember Pentheus shows a {586|587} violent departure from moderation, which can happen because they are participating not in the rituals of Dionysus but in the primal myth that motivates these rituals. And this myth is a catastrophic experience for the women of Thebes as Bacchants – as also for the hero Pentheus whom these Bacchants dismember. The formulation that I developed in Hour 20§43 in the case of the hero Hippolytus applies here again in the case of the hero Pentheus and the Bacchants of Thebes: equilibrium in ritual is matched by disequilibrium in myth, and this disequilibrium leads to catastrophe.
21§34. The disequilibrium of Pentheus and the Bacchants of Thebes is most clearly dramatized in Text A, where Pentheus is given the opportunity of being initiated as a member of a chorus of Bacchants. Dionysus has costumed Pentheus as a Bacchant, and the hero is being taught by the god how to perform in a chorus of Bacchants. But this would-be chorus is not the chorus of the Bacchae. It is not the chorus of Asiatic women who have followed Dionysus to Thebes – and who are the ritually correct chorus of the drama. Rather, this would-be chorus consists of all the women of Thebes. They have left the urban civilization of Thebes and have relocated themselves in the wilderness of the mountains, where Dionysus has trained them to perform as a chorus. Already at the beginning of the drama, at lines 32-38, the god himself announces his intention to relocate the women of Thebes to the mountains, saying that he will train them there to become his chorus. But the trouble is, the choral training of the Theban women – and of Pentheus – happens in myth, and they all fail to become integral members of a true chorus, which is a ritually correct chorus. So, instead of integration, there is disintegration – and dismemberment. After all, the thinking of the Thebans was polluted from the start, since they failed to receive Dionysus as one of their own.
21§35. So, if characters in myth fail to become true worshippers of Dionysus in his role as Bakkhos, then they cannot become bakkhoi or embodiments of the god in ritual. The words of Socrates as quoted by Plato apply here:

Hour 21 Text B

As those who are involved in the mysteries [teletai] say, “Many are the carriers of the Bacchic wand [narthēx], |69d but few are the bakkhoi [= the true worshippers of Bacchus].”
Plato Phaedo 69c-d [13] {587|588}

As we will see, the Bacchic wand used in rituals sacred to Dionysus is ordinarily called a thursos or ‘thyrsus’, which is a fennel stalk or narthēx that is stuffed with ivy.

21§36. Comparable is the aphorism of Jesus in the New Testament:

Hour 21 Text C

“Many are called but few are chosen.”
Matthew 22:14 [14]
21§37. Keeping in mind the catastrophic failure of Pentheus and the Theban women in their choral experience, let us take a second look at what Dionysus is saying to Pentheus at lines 939-940 of the Bacchae, as I quoted it from Text A: ‘I really do think you will consider me the foremost among those who are near and dear [philoi] to you | when, contrary to your expectations, you see that Bacchants [bakkhai] are moderate [= sōphrones]’. The god here is giving a primal lesson about his own divine essence. Dionysus is in effect saying to Pentheus: you would know that the Bacchants are moderate and balanced if you were a true member of my chorus, and then I would be near and dear to you. But the trouble with Pentheus is that he does not truly become a member of a Dionysiac chorus, and so the god cannot be near and dear to him. Pentheus only pretends to be a true member, asking whether his ‘appearance’, signaled by the epiphanic word phainesthai at line 925, is successful. If his ‘appearance’ really were successful, then there could be a real ‘epiphany’, and Pentheus could even become the god himself at the climax of the ritual. We saw this word phainesthai used in such a way in Song 31 of Sappho, as I explained in Hour 5§38. In other words, Pentheus as a true worshipper of Dionysus or Bacchus could ‘appear’ as the god Bacchus. Then he would not just ‘appear’ to be the god: he would instead, to repeat, ‘appear’ as the god in a true epiphany.

Staging Pentheus

21§38. From what we have seen so far, the Bacchae of Euripides is dramatizing a missed opportunity of major proportions – or, I may say, of heroic proportions. At line 915, the god Dionysus says that he himself has prepared the hero Pentheus to be costumed as someone who is a mainas or ‘maenad’. Such a someone {588|589} is further described here in the god’s own words as a bakkhē or ‘Bacchant’. But the opportunity for Pentheus is an illusion. The hero cannot really become a mainas or ‘maenad’, that is, a bakkhē or ‘Bacchant’. To put it another way, Pentheus cannot really participate in Dionysiac ritual. And that is because he is not really a part of a ritual: rather, he has a major part in the Dionysiac myth that motivates the Dionysiac ritual. That is what I mean when I speak of the staging of Pentheus.
21§39. As someone whose mind is possessed negatively by the god in myth, Pentheus will behave catastrophically, while someone whose mind is possessed positively by the god in the ritual of drama will behave moderately, with decorum. The collective mind of the chorus in the drama of the Bacchae experiences such a positive possession. For this chorus, engaged as it is in the ritual of choral performance, the costuming will not come apart and the hairdo will not come undone. The arrangement of kosmos or ‘order’ will be maintained.
21§40. What I just said about kosmos can be illustrated negatively by considering what happens to Pentheus and the women of Thebes. First we consider Pentheus. By contrast with the chorus of the Bacchae, everything keeps coming apart and coming undone for him. At line 934, Pentheus actually asks the god to maintain the kosmos or ‘order’ that is needed for participating in a chorus: the verb used in this line is kosmeîn, derived from the noun kosmos, in the sense of ‘arranging’ the hairdo that keeps coming undone for Pentheus. As the hero keeps on shaking his unruly locks of hair at lines 930-931, he is ‘in a Bacchic state of mind’, bakkhiazōn (931). At a later point, we will consider the women of Thebes as described in a messenger’s speech at lines 693-713, which I will be quoting. As we will see, these Bacchants of myth seem at first to be in a calm state of mind: reposing ‘in a moderate way’, sōphronōs (686). But then, once they are roused up, they will shift from an appearance of ‘proper arrangement’ or eukosmiā (693) to a mental state that shows their full Bacchic frenzy. And the first sign of this frenzy, as we will also see, is that they let their hair down to their shoulders, reveling in their sacred dishevelment (695). [15] Bacchic possession in myth is like that: the action is disorderly and wild. By contrast, Bacchic possession in the ritual of singing and dancing by the chorus is orderly and moderated.
21§41. Just as the hairdo of Pentheus becomes disorderly, so too does his costuming. He says he depends on Dionysus to rearrange properly the waistband {589|590} of his choral costume, which has come loose (935), as well as the pleats of his robe, which have lost their alignment (936-938).
21§42. The wording of Text A shows that Pentheus does not even know how to hold the thursos or ‘thyrsus’, that is, the Bacchic wand, which as we have seen is a fennel stalk or narthēx that is stuffed with ivy. He hesitates whether to wield this ritual object with his right or his left hand – as he tries to coordinate his gestures with the movement of his feet in choral dance (941-944).
21§43. The trouble is, Pentheus wants to look like a bakkhē or ‘Bacchant’, and he himself says so at lines 941-942, but he does not want to become a Bacchant. Or, to put it more precisely, Pentheus never says that he wants to become a Bacchant in ritual. He only wants to look like a Bacchant in the myth. So, he persists in his frenzied quest to defeat the Bacchants of Thebes, as he declares at line 945, and this unrelenting hostility is expressed in a delusional language of cosmic grandeur: I will lift with my own hands the mountains that harbor the Bacchants (949-950). In his deluded imagination, Pentheus thinks that he will defeat the women of Thebes and that he will celebrate his victory by allowing the defeated Bacchants to carry him back to the city as their champion – while his mother is cradling his head in her arms (966-970).
21§44. The outcome of all this delusional thinking is catastrophic. Once the mind of Pentheus is possessed negatively by the god in Dionysiac myth, the hero will be led to experience the catastrophe of dismemberment. By contrast, every time the mind of the chorus is possessed by Dionysus in Dionysiac ritual, it will be a positive possession, and each member of the chorus will experience the emotional equilibrium of membership. Such is the ritual experience of the chorus in Athenian State Theater. And such is the theology of Dionysus as the god of Athenian State Theater.
21§45. I have come to the end of my lengthy analysis of Text A. I had started by focusing on the word agōn at lines 964 and 975, and then on the word pathos at line 971. And, now that I have finished my close reading of the whole text, I can conclude that the agōn of Pentheus is in fact his ‘ordeal’ in undergoing the pathos or ‘experience’ of dismemberment, which is a larger-than-life ‘suffering’ or Passion that fits the larger-than-life dimensions of the hero in the drāma or ritual action of tragedy. This Passion of Pentheus is worthy of much lamentation, and it earns him the name Pentheus, which means ‘the man of sorrow’, derived from the noun penthos. [16] As we saw in Hour 3§1, penthos is a formal ex- {590|591} pression of sorrow or grief by way of performing songs of lament. Most fittingly, this word penthos is intoned at line 1244 of the Bacchae by the grieving Cadmus, aged founder of Thebes, as he speaks of the collective grief experienced by the Thebans over the catastrophic death of his grandson and their king, Pentheus.

A divine prototype for the Passion of Pentheus

21§46. The Passion of Pentheus, pictured as a dismemberment, is a form of death that is shaped by his heroic antagonism with the god Dionysus, who is traditionally worshipped in rituals of animal sacrifice that feature the ideas of sparagmos or ‘dismemberment’ and even ōmophagiā or ‘eating of raw flesh’. [17] Both these specific ideas are correlated with the general idea of disintegration followed by reintegration, in the sense that the body of an animal victim is dismembered and then eaten by the body politic: this way, the body politic can be reintegrated as a community through the communion of dividing and consuming the body of the victim. [18] As I will now argue, the general idea of disintegration followed by reintegration can be viewed as a Dionysiac model or prototype for the Passion of Pentheus.
21§47. I start by highlighting the existence of myths that tell how the god Dionysus himself was dismembered by the Titans, only to be reassembled later by divine intervention (for example, in Cornutus On the nature of the gods p. 62 lines 10-11 ed. Lang 1881, the divinity that reassembles Dionysus is Rhea, mother of Zeus).
21§48. There are references to such myths in the Bacchae of Euripides. I focus here on a choral song that links such myths with Dionysiac ritual themes of dismemberment and eating raw flesh: [19]

Hour 21 Text D

|135 Sweet [hēdus] he is in the mountains, when, |136 after running in the sacred band [thiasos] |137-138 he drops to the ground, wearing the sacred [hieron] garment of fawn-skin, hunting |139 the blood of the goat killed, tracking the beauty and the pleasure [kharis] of raw flesh de- {591|592} voured, |140 rushing to the Phrygian, the Lydian mountains, |141 and the chorus leader [ex-arkhos] is Bromios [= Dionysus the Thunderer]. Cry “Euhoi!” |142 The plain flows with milk, it flows with wine, |143 it flows with the nectar of bees. |144 Like the smoke of Syrian incense, |145 the Bacchic one [Bakkheus], raising high |146 the fiery flame from the pine torch, |147 bursts forth from the stalk [narthēx], |148 arousing the stragglers with his running and with his dance-steps [khoroi], |149 agitating them with his cries [iakkhai], |150 tossing his luxuriant [trupheros] locks into the upper air. |151 And amidst cries of “Euhoi!” his voice thunders words like this: |152 “Come on [and join the chorus], Bacchants [bakkhai], |153 come on [and join it], Bacchants, |154 surrounded by the luxuriant beauty of Mount Tmolos, watered by streams flowing with gold. |155 You all must sing and dance [melpein] Dionysus, |156 in tune with the thundering beat of kettle-drums, |157-158 glorifying with cries of ‘Euhoi!’ the god of the cry ‘Euhoi!’ |159 with Phrygian shouts and clamor, |160 when with its sweet song the pipe, |161-163 sacred [hieros] it is, thunders its pulsating sacred [hiera] tunes |164 for those who wander off to the mountain, to the mountain!” |165 And she, taking sweet pleasure [hēdesthai], |166-169 like a foal next to its grazing mother, rouses her swift-stepping legs to take one leap after the next, she the Bacchant [bakkhē].
Euripides Bacchae 135-169 [20]
21§49. At first the communal thinking of the chorus here centers on a male ex-arkhos or ‘leader’ of a primordial chorus (141). He is ‘in the mountains’, and he is ‘sweet’, hēdus (135). Later the thinking shifts to a female member of this chorus. She is a Bacchant who is ‘taking sweet pleasure’, hēdesthai (165). Why is the male leader of the chorus ‘sweet’, and why does the female member ‘take sweet pleasure’? I argue it is because he is ‘sweet’ to the taste, ‘sweet’ to devour. {592|593} The communal thinking of this chorus centers on the communion of devouring raw flesh. The thought comes alive when the male leader drops to the ground (137-138). He has fallen into a trance, or even into a state of rapture. He is possessed by the god, and now he has become Bromios, Dionysus the ‘Thunderer’ (141). The moment of kharis has arrived, and I translate this eucharistic word as ‘beauty and pleasure’ (139). [21] It is the kharis of ‘raw flesh devoured’ (139). But is it really Dionysus who will be dismembered and devoured? Or is it a goat? The full wording of the text here points to the goat, since the male leader of the chorus was ‘hunting | the blood of the goat killed, tracking the beauty and the pleasure [kharis] of raw flesh devoured’ (138-139). He had in his thoughts the blood of a goat at the very moment when he dropped to the ground in an altered mental state. So, the thought of raw flesh devoured is transferred from Dionysus as the object of desire. Now the new object of desire is the blood of a sacrificial goat that is slaughtered. Relevant is the meaning of the word tragōidiā or ‘tragedy’, derived from the more basic word tragōidoi or ‘performers of tragedy’, who are ‘goat singers’ in the sense of performers of choral song and dance who compete to win the prize of a sacrificial goat. [22]
21§50. The prototypical chorus that is pictured here is literally singing and dancing Dionysus, and such a choral performance is signaled by the word melpein (155). As we saw in Hour 5§33, this word refers to both the singing and the dancing performed by a chorus. But the god is not only the object of this singing and dancing. He is also the subject. In other words, he is also the power that activates the choral performance. To say it grammatically, Dionysus behaves like the subject of the active verbs that express the activation of choral performance. Another aspect of the active involvement of the god Dionysus in the choral performance is the interjection iteite at lines 152-153, which I have translated as ‘come on [and join the chorus], Bacchants [bakkhai], | come on [and join it]’. [23] As a divine activator, Dionysus literally ignites the singing and the dancing as he leaps out, in an elemental burst of flame, from inside the fennel stalk or narthēx of the sacred wand used for Bacchic worship. [24] The picturing of such a flaming emergence from inside a stalk or a reed is a traditional idea that can be traced back, I argue, to Indo-European mythology, since there {593|594} is a corresponding idea attested in Indo-Iranian traditions and assimilated into Armenian heroic narratives (by way of Iranian models). I have in mind here a song preserved in the History of the Armenians by Moses of Khoren (1.31): this song pictures the cosmic moment when the dragon-slayer Vahagn is born from a reed that is said to be in labor as it expels first a burst of smoke, then a burst of flame, and then, out of the flame, a youth with his hair on fire and with eyes that are two suns. [25]
21§51. In sum, the chorus that is pictured in Text D as quoted from the Bacchae of Euripides does not belong to the here and now of Dionysiac ritual in the choral performances of Athenian State Theater. Rather, this chorus of Text D is rooted in the primordial past of Dionysiac myth. The choral action in the myth is disorderly and wild. By contrast the choral action that re-enacts the myth in the ritualized drama of Athenian State Theater is orderly and moderated. As a most striking point of contrast, the wild disorder of the chorus in the myth is signaled by the sacred dishevelment of the male chorus leader as he tosses the unruly locks of his loose hair to the winds stirred up by the dance fever of his own mad rush toward the mountains up ahead. In the end, that chorus leader is the god Dionysus.
21§52. I use the expression ‘in the end’ here because it suits the wording spoken by Dionysus himself when he goes offstage to outfit Pentheus with the costume that will kill the hero:

Hour 21 Text E

|857 I am going now. The costume [kosmos] that he will take with him to the house of Hādēs |858 when he goes off to that place, slaughtered by the two hands of his own mother |859 – that costume will I attach to Pentheus. And he will come to know the son of Zeus, |860 Dionysus, the one who is by his own nature a god in the end [telos], |861 the one who is most terrifying [deinos], but, for humans, also most gentle [ēpios].
Euripides Bacchae 857-861 [26] {594|595}
21§53. Dionysus speaks of himself in the third person here as he foretells his divine intervention. Similarly in Hour 20§13, we have seen Aphrodite speaking of herself in the third person in another case of divine intervention. As for the wording of Dionysus in the text I just quoted, the use of the third person at line 860 highlights the mystical meaning of telos: as the one ‘who is by his own nature a god in the end [telos]’, the god indicates not only the ‘end’ or ‘fulfillment’ of the myth of Pentheus but also the ultimate lesson of ‘initiation’ into the mysteries of Dionysus. [27] We have already seen such mystical uses of the word telos in Hour 20.

Tracking down the origins of tragedy

21§54. I bring this hour to an end by considering an aetiological myth that we find embedded in the Bacchae of Euripides. This myth is about the origins of tragedy as a ritual, viewed in terms of the agōn or ‘ordeal’ to be experienced by Pentheus in myth. The telling of the myth takes place before the primal experience actually happens. A herdsman has seen the behavior of the Theban women who had taken to the mountains, and he becomes a messenger who now tells his eyewitness story to Pentheus:

Hour 21 Text F

|677 I was just driving the herd up the slope, |678 a herd of cattle, driving them uphill from further downhill, at the time when the sun |679 sends forth its rays, warming the earth. |680 And I see three companies [thiasoi] of women’s choruses [khoroi], |681 one of which Autonoe was leading, the second, |682 your mother Agaue, and the third chorus [khoros], Ino. |683 All were sleeping, their bodies relaxed, |684 some resting their backs on the leaves of fir trees, |685 while others were laying their heads on oak leaves strewn on the ground, |686 lying here and there in a moderate way [sōphronōs] and not, as you say, |687 filled with wine in a scene of wine-cups and tunes played on the pipe, |688 and not at all hunting to find Kypris [= Aphrodite] while roaming through the woods on their own. |689 Then your mother raised the cry of ololu as she was |690 standing in the midst of the Bacchants. She was signaling them to rouse {595|596} their bodies and awaken from sleep |691 as soon as she heard the lowing of the horned cattle. |692 So, they threw potent sleep from their eyes |693 and sprang upright – a marvel [thauma] of proper arrangement [eukosmiā] to behold |694 – young, old, and still unmarried virgins. |695 First they let their hair loose over their shoulders, |696 and then they re-arranged their fawn-skins, which already had |697 the fastenings of their knots come loose. |698 So, they girded these spotted hides with serpents that licked their cheeks, |699 and some women were cradling in their arms a gazelle – or the cubs of wolves – |700 and, holding these wild things, they gave them white milk |701 – I mean, those women who had recently given birth and had their breasts still swollen, |702 having left behind at home their own babies. And they placed on their heads ivy |703 as garlands, and oak, and flowering yew. |704 One took her wand [thursos] and struck it against a rock, |705 and out of it a dewy stream of water sprang forth. |706 Another let her wand [narthēx] strike the ground of the earth, |707 and there the god sent forth a stream of wine. |708 All who had a desire [pothos] for the white drink |709 patted the earth with the tips of their fingers |710 and obtained jets of milk. And from the wands stuffed with ivy, |711 from those wands [thursoi] sweet streams of honey were dripping. |712 So, if you [= Pentheus] had been present, then the god whom you now blame – |713 you would have approached him with prayers, yes, if you had seen these things. |714 And we herdsmen and shepherds came together [sun-ēlthomen] |715 so that we could give each other a competition [eris] of words that we had in common, |716 concerning what kinds of terrifying things they do [drân], yes, terrifying and worthy of wonder [thauma].
Euripides Bacchae 677-716 [28] {596|597}
21§55. As I noted earlier, these Bacchants of myth seem at first to be in a calm state of mind – but that is only because they are now in a state of repose. When they are in such a state, they are behaving ‘in a moderate way’, sōphronōs (686). But then, once they are roused up, they will shift from an appearance of ‘proper arrangement’ or eukosmiā (693) to a mental state that shows their full Bacchic frenzy. The herdsman who is telling his eyewitness story to Pentheus the king is trying here to attenuate what he reports about the Theban Bacchants, since his own experience with them has already made him fear the god Dionysus even more than he fears the king, but the story nevertheless develops its own momentum, contradicting the herdsman’s claims about the ‘moderation’ and the ‘proper arrangement’ of the prototypical choruses of Theban women. The decisive moment that leads to the frenzy of these women is clearly highlighted in the herdsman’s story.
21§56. This moment arrives when Agaue, the mother of Pentheus, hears the lowing of the cattle that are being driven up the mountain by the herdsman, and now she calls out to her fellow Bacchants, alerting them (689-691). Once the Theban Bacchants are alerted, the stage is set for these frenzied women to dismember the herded cattle and to devour them raw – in a scene described in a later part of the herdsman’s story, not quoted here (735-747). But the dismemberment and the eating of raw flesh cannot happen until the god Dionysus himself makes it all possible. As we can see from yet another part of the herdsman’s story, likewise not quoted here (717-721), Dionysus succeeds in inducing all the herdsmen to attack the Theban Bacchants. The god succeeds because, as the wording of the story reveals, he has not been recognized by the herdsmen, who are deluded into thinking that Dionysus is merely ‘a wanderer who is clever with words’ (717). So, in another passage that is not quoted here (721-733), the deluded herdsmen are induced to attack the Theban Bacchants, and they are defeated. More than that, these herdsmen barely escape with their lives, almost suffering the fate of sparagmos or ‘dismemberment’ (734). And that is when the Theban Bacchants finally turn their attention to the cattle that are being herded uphill by the herdsmen, among whom is the teller of the story. The frenzied women now dismember all these cattle, tearing them apart with their own {597|598} hands, limb from limb (735-747). Then the orgy of dismemberment spreads beyond the immediate vicinity of Thebes (748-758), and all the menfolk of the entire region take up arms against the Bacchants – only to be soundly defeated by them (758-768).
21§57. The delusion of the herdsmen, who were induced by Dionysus to attack the Theban Bacchants, sets the stage for the delusion of Pentheus himself. We have already seen in Text A how Dionysus induces the young king to attack the Theban Bacchants. And it is in this context that I can now focus on the aetiological myth that we find embedded in Text F. So, I now highlight the key wording of the herdsman’s story, at lines 714-716 of Text F, where the storyteller says: ‘we herdsmen and shepherds came together [sun-ēlthomen] | so that we could give each other a competition [eris] of words that we had in common, | concerning what kinds of terrifying things they do [drân], yes, terrifying and worthy of wonder [thauma]’. Here at last we see the three meanings of agōn, as I outlined them at the beginning of this hour:

(1) the coming together of the herdsmen and
(2) their competition with each other by way of
(3) their re-enacting, in words they have in common, the experiences they also have in common, which are the terrifying things that the Bacchants do (drân) – and which will lead ultimately to the ordeal of Pentheus, that is, the supreme agony of his dismemberment.
21§58. So, we see here the three meanings of the word agōn as I had defined them in §1 of this hour. And these three meanings add up to an aetiological myth that tells the origin of tragedy as a primal moment initiated by the god Dionysus. People come together for a competition in words about terrifying experiences. They come together at a festival featuring competitions in the verbal art of choral singing and dancing, and, ultimately, the song is all about the larger-than-life agony of a hero. Dionysus makes it all happen.

Hope for a reassembly of the body after its dismemberment

21§59. While Pentheus is being costumed offstage by Dionysus for the hero’s impending ordeal in the mountains, where he will be torn limb from limb by the Bacchants of myth, there is a choral song being sung and danced by the Bacchants of the ritual that is the drama of the Bacchae. The words of this choral {598|599} song, lines 862-912, celebrate the impending liberation of the devotees of Dionysus from the persecution of Pentheus, and these words can be seen as self-references to the exuberant but at the same time measured choral behavior of the Bacchants who are represented as singing and dancing this choral song. As I will argue, this celebration is relevant to the dismemberment of Pentheus as king of Thebes, and it holds out hope for the ultimate reassembly of his kingly body – or, better, of the body politic that is Thebes.
21§60. Here is how the choral song of celebration begins:

Hour 21 Text G

|862 Shall I ever, in choruses that last all night long, |863 set in motion my gleaming white |864 foot in a Bacchic revel as I thrust my throat |865 toward the upper air wet with dew, yes, thrusting it forward |866 – just like a fawn playfully |867 skipping around in the green delights of a meadow |868 after she has escaped from the terrifying |869 hunt. Now she is out of reach, |870 having leapt beyond their hunting nets, |871 even while the hunter keeps shouting |872 his hunting cry to his hounds, urging them to run faster and faster. |873 But the fawn, like a gust of wind with the vigor of her swift running, is now bounding past the meadow |874 that has the river next to it, and she can take sweet delight |875 in the absence of mortal men |876 amidst the tender shoots growing in the forest with its shady leaves.
Euripides Bacchae 862-876 [29]
21§61. This choral song, expressing the beauty and the pleasure of Dionysiac liberation, is marked by a most striking refrain:

Hour 21 Text H

Whatever is beautiful [kalon] is near and dear [philon] forever.
Euripides Bacchae 881 and 901 [30] {599|600}
21§62. This refrain, which equates the beauty of the song with the pleasure of nearness and dearness, is an echo of a song sung at a most auspicious occasion. We know it from the poetry of Theognis: [31]

Hour 21 Text I

|15 Muses and Graces [Kharites], daughters of Zeus! You were the ones who once came |16 to the wedding of Cadmus, and you sang this beautiful set of words [epos]: |17 “Whatever is beautiful [kalon] is near and dear [philon], and whatever is not beautiful [kalon] is not near and dear [philon].” |18 That is the set of words [epos] that came through their immortal mouths.
Theognis 15-18 [32]
21§63. In another project, I studied closely the myriad implications of this most compressed passage. [33] Here I focus on its relevance to the refrain of the Bacchae, which as we have seen equates the beauty of song with the pleasure of nearness and dearness. The wedding of Cadmus is most relevant to such an equation, since he is the founder of the city of Thebes, and his wedding marks the actual moment of this city’s foundation. So, the nearness and the dearness expressed by the beauty of the song is also an expression of the institutional and emotional bonds that integrate society, thus creating the body politic. Performing along with the Muses at the wedding of Cadmus are the Kharites or ‘Graces’, who are the embodiment of kharis, which expresses the beauty and the pleasure of the ties that bind men and women together, thus integrating the body politic. [34] And we know from the poetry of Hesiod (Theogony 937, 975) that the name of the bride of Cadmus is Harmoniā, which is a word that expresses the idea of integration for both song and society. The word is borrowed into English as harmony, which expresses the same idea – even if the modern musical concept of harmony is different from the ancient concept of harmoniā as the tuning or accordatura of a seven-stringed lyre (as we saw in Hour 20§53). [35]
21§64. So, there is an irony in the echoing of this song of beauty and social {600|601} integration in the refrain of the Bacchae, which marks the ultimate disintegration of the king Pentheus, the grandson of Cadmus the founder of Thebes. But there is also an implied hope expressed in this echoing, since the integration of the body politic can be seen as a correlate of the disintegration suffered by the body of the king. I say this because, as we have already seen in earlier hours, the generic king can be pictured as the body politic (6§13 and §47; 9§6; 10§13; 19§20). Plutarch in his Life of Romulus (27.6) reports a myth about Romulus that I find most relevant: according to the myth, this prototypical king of Rome is killed and dismembered by the members of the prototypical senate, each one of whom takes home with him a portion of the body. My reading of this myth is that it aetiologizes the recurrent convenings of the Roman senate: every time the senate comes together to represent the body politic in the political present, it reintegrates the body of the prototypical king whom the prototypical senators had dismembered in the mythical past. So, there may be hope for Pentheus as well: every time a chorus sings and dances the refrain ‘whatever is beautiful is near and dear’, the body of the primordial king may once again get to be reassembled as the body politic. {601|602}


[ back ] 1. PH 136-137 = 5§2.
[ back ] 2. For an introduction to tragedy as it evolved in the historical context of the festival of the City Dionysia in Athens, I cite my detailed analysis in PH 384-391 = 13§§6-20.
[ back ] 3. On this essential characteristic of the god Dionysus in myth, that he is a native son who is not recognized by his own people because of his alien appearances, I offer an overall formulation in PH 296-297 = 10§27.
[ back ] 4. PH 397 = 13§36. For Dionysus in Greek tragedy, see in general Bierl 1991.
[ back ] 5. A more detailed argumentation is offered in PH 387-388 = 13§13.
[ back ] 6. |912 {Δι.} σὲ τὸν πρόθυμον ὄνθ’ ἃ μὴ χρεὼν ὁρᾶν |913 σπεύδοντά τ’ ἀσπούδαστα, Πενθέα λέγω, |914 ἔξιθι πάροιθε δωμάτων, ὄφθητί μοι, |915 σκευὴν γυναικὸς μαινάδος βάκχης ἔχων, |916 μητρός τε τῆς σῆς καὶ λόχου κατάσκοπος· |917 πρέπεις δὲ Κάδμου θυγατέρων μορφὴν μιᾷ. |918 {Πε.} καὶ μὴν ὁρᾶν μοι δύο μὲν ἡλίους δοκῶ, |919 δισσὰς δὲ Θήβας καὶ πόλισμ’ ἑπτάστομον· |920 καὶ ταῦρος ἡμῖν πρόσθεν ἡγεῖσθαι δοκεῖς |921 καὶ σῷ κέρατα κρατὶ προσπεφυκέναι. |922 ἀλλ’ ἦ ποτ’ ἦσθα θήρ; τεταύρωσαι γὰρ οὖν. |923 {Δι.} ὁ θεὸς ὁμαρτεῖ, πρόσθεν ὢν οὐκ εὐμενής, |924 ἔνσπονδος ἡμῖν· νῦν δ’ ὁρᾷς ἃ χρή σ’ ὁρᾶν. |925 {Πε.} τί φαίνομαι δῆτ’; οὐχὶ τὴν Ἰνοῦς στάσιν |926 ἢ τὴν Ἀγαυῆς ἑστάναι, μητρός γ’ ἐμῆς; |927 {Δι.} αὐτὰς ἐκείνας εἰσορᾶν δοκῶ σ’ ὁρῶν. |928 ἀλλ’ ἐξ ἕδρας σοι πλόκαμος ἐξέστηχ’ ὅδε, |929 οὐχ ὡς ἐγώ νιν ὑπὸ μίτρᾳ καθήρμοσα. |930 {Πε.} ἔνδον προσείων αὐτὸν ἀνασείων τ’ ἐγὼ |931 καὶ βακχιάζων ἐξ ἕδρας μεθώρμισα. |932 {Δι.} ἀλλ’ αὐτὸν ἡμεῖς, οἷς σε θεραπεύειν μέλει, |933 πάλιν καταστελοῦμεν· ἀλλ’ ὄρθου κάρα. |934 {Πε.} ἰδού, σὺ κόσμει· σοὶ γὰρ ἀνακείμεσθα δή. |935 {Δι.} ζῶναί τέ σοι χαλῶσι κοὐχ ἑξῆς πέπλων |936 στολίδες ὑπὸ σφυροῖσι τείνουσιν σέθεν. |937 {Πε.} κἀμοὶ δοκοῦσι παρά γε δεξιὸν πόδα· |938 τἀνθένδε δ’ ὀρθῶς παρὰ τένοντ’ ἔχει πέπλος. |939 {Δι.} ἦ πού με τῶν σῶν πρῶτον ἡγήσῃ φίλων, |940 ὅταν παρὰ λόγον σώφρονας βάκχας ἴδῃς. |941 {Πε.} πότερα δὲ θύρσον δεξιᾷ λαβὼν χερὶ |942 ἢ τῇδε βάκχῃ μᾶλλον εἰκασθήσομαι; |943 {Δι.} ἐν δεξιᾷ χρὴ χἄμα δεξιῷ ποδὶ |944 αἴρειν νιν· αἰνῶ δ’ ὅτι μεθέστηκας φρενῶν. |945 {Πε.} ἆρ’ ἂν δυναίμην τὰς Κιθαιρῶνος πτυχὰς |946 αὐταῖσι βάκχαις τοῖς ἐμοῖς ὤμοις φέρειν; |947 {Δι.} δύναι’ ἄν, εἰ βούλοιο· τὰς δὲ πρὶν φρένας |948 οὐκ εἶχες ὑγιεῖς, νῦν δ’ ἔχεις οἵας σε δεῖ. |949 {Πε.} μοχλοὺς φέρωμεν ἢ χεροῖν ἀνασπάσω |950 κορυφαῖς ὑποβαλὼν ὦμον ἢ βραχίονα; |951 {Δι.} μὴ σύ γε τὰ Νυμφῶν διολέσηις ἱδρύματα |952 καὶ Πανὸς ἕδρας ἔνθ’ ἔχει συρίγματα. |953 {Πε.} καλῶς ἔλεξας· οὐ σθένει νικητέον |954 γυναῖκας· ἐλάταισι δ’ ἐμὸν κρύψω δέμας. |955 {Δι.} κρύψῃ σὺ κρύψιν ἥν σε κρυφθῆναι χρεών, |956 ἐλθόντα δόλιον μαινάδων κατάσκοπον. |957 {Πε.} καὶ μὴν δοκῶ σφας ἐν λόχμαις ὄρνιθας ὣς |958 λέκτρων ἔχεσθαι φιλτάτοις ἐν ἕρκεσιν. |959 {Δι.} οὔκουν ἐπ’ αὐτὸ τοῦτ’ ἀποστέλλῃ φύλαξ; |960 λήψῃ δ’ ἴσως σφας, ἢν σὺ μὴ ληφθῇς πάρος. |961 {Πε.} κόμιζε διὰ μέσης με Θηβαίας χθονός· |962 μόνος γὰρ αὐτῶν εἰμ’ ἀνὴρ τολμῶν τόδε. |963 {Δι.} μόνος σὺ πόλεως τῆσδ’ ὑπερκάμνεις, μόνος· |964 τοιγάρ σ’ ἀγῶνες ἀναμένουσιν οὓς ἐχρῆν. |965 ἕπου δέ· πομπὸς εἶμ’ ἐγὼ σωτήριος, |966 κεῖθεν δ’ ἀπάξει σ’ ἄλλος {Πε.} ἡ τεκοῦσά γε. |967 {Δι.} ἐπίσημον ὄντα πᾶσιν. {Πε.} ἐπὶ τόδ’ ἔρχομαι. |968 {Δι.} φερόμενος ἥξεις {Πε.} ἁβρότητ’ ἐμὴν λέγεις. |969 {Δι.} ἐν χερσὶ μητρός. {Πε.} καὶ τρυφᾶν μ’ ἀναγκάσεις. |970 {Δι.} τρυφάς γε τοιάσδ’. {Πε.} ἀξίων μὲν ἅπτομαι. |971 {Δι.} δεινὸς σὺ δεινὸς κἀπὶ δείν’ ἔρχῃ πάθη, |972 ὥστ’ οὐρανῷ στηρίζον εὑρήσεις κλέος. |973 ἔκτειν’, Ἀγαυή, χεῖρας αἵ θ’ ὁμόσποροι |974 Κάδμου θυγατέρες· τὸν νεανίαν ἄγω |975 τόνδ’ εἰς ἀγῶνα μέγαν, ὁ νικήσων δ’ ἐγὼ |976 καὶ Βρόμιος ἔσται. τἄλλα δ’ αὐτὸ σημανεῖ.
[ back ] 7. What follows here in §§19-29 is derived from an essay, Nagy 2010e:34-39.
[ back ] 8. Benveniste 1958.
[ back ] 9. On the linguistic concept of the shifter, I refer to the pioneering work of Jakobson 1957.
[ back ] 10. Terracotta. 2nd-1st centuries BCE. Paris. Musée du Louvre. Department of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities (Myr. 347).
[ back ] 11. I added at this point in my essay (Nagy 2010e:39) “This kind of primal fear is an emotion that transcends all other human emotions.” My views have shifted, and I now back away from that statement.
[ back ] 12. Nagy 2007c:256.
[ back ] 13. εἰσὶν γὰρ δή, ὥς φασιν οἱ περὶ τὰς τελετάς, “ναρθηκοφόροι μὲν πολλοί, βάκχοι δέ τε παῦροι.”
[ back ] 14. πολλοὶ γάρ εἰσιν κλητοὶ ὀλίγοι δὲ ἐκλεκτοί.
[ back ] 15. Nagy 2007c:255; see also Seaford 1996:206.
[ back ] 16. PH 387 = 13§12.
[ back ] 17. On these ritual terms sparagmos or ‘dismemberment’ and ōmophagiā or ‘eating of raw flesh’, see Henrichs 1978 and 1981.
[ back ] 18. Henrichs 1978:148.
[ back ] 19. There are many controversies surrounding this choral song in Bacchae 135-169; for a balanced analysis, I recommend Seaford 1996:165-166.
[ back ] 20. |135 ἡδὺς ἐν ὄρεσσιν ὅταν |136 ἐκ θιάσων δρομαίων |137 πέσῃ πεδόσε, νεβρίδος ἔχων |138 ἱερὸν ἐνδυτόν, ἀγρεύων |139 αἷμα τραγοκτόνον, ὠμοφάγον χάριν, |140 ἱέμενος εἰς ὄρεα Φρύγια Λύδι’ |141 ὁ δ’ ἔξαρχος Βρόμιος· εὖοἷ. |142 ῥεῖ δὲ γάλακτι πέδον, ῥεῖ δ’ οἴνῳ, |143 ῥεῖ δὲ μελισσᾶν νέκταρι. |144 Συρίας δ’ ὡς λιβάνου κα|145πνὸς ὁ Βακχεὺς ἀνέχων |146 πυρσώδη φλόγα πεύκας |147 ἐκ νάρθηκος ἀίσσει |148 δρόμῳ καὶ χοροῖσιν ἐρεθίζων πλανάτας |149 ἰαχαῖς τ’ ἀναπάλλων |150 τρυφερὸν πλόκαμον εἰς αἰθέρα ῥίπτων. |151 ἅμα δ’ ἐπ’ εὐάσμασιν ἐπιβρέμει τοιάδ’· |152 ὦ ἴτε βάκχαι, |153 ὦ ἴτε βάκχαι, |154 Τμώλου χρυσορόου χλιδᾷ, |155 μέλπετε τὸν Διόνυσον |156 βαρυβρόμων ὑπὸ τυμπάνων, |157-158 εὔια τὸν εὔιον ἀγαλλόμεναι θεὸν |159 ἐν Φρυγίαισι βοαῖς ἐνοπαῖσί τε, |160 λωτὸς ὅταν εὐκέλαδος |161-163 ἱερὸς ἱερὰ παίγματα βρέμῃ σύνοχα |164 φοιτάσιν εἰς ὄρος εἰς ὄρος· ἡδομέ|165να δ’ ἄρα πῶλος ὅπως ἅμα ματέρι |166-169 φορβάδι κῶλον ἄγει ταχύπουν σκιρτήμασι βάκχα.
[ back ] 21. On kharis as a word that conveys both beauty and pleasure, see HC 203-204 = 2§33.
[ back ] 22. PH 389-390 = 13§18, following Burkert 1966.
[ back ] 23. Comparable is the interjection itō as an impersonal way of saying ‘come on, let’s go’ in choral performance: I offer some preliminary remarks in PP 41n7.
[ back ] 24. In my translation of lines 144-145 of the Bacchae, I follow the reading καπνός (in the nominative case) as transmitted in the medieval manuscripts.
[ back ] 25. More on this song in Dumézil 1970:127-129. Watkins 1995:167 suggests some modifications for Dumézil’s translation of the Armenian text, but those suggestions are not relevant to the meaning of the text as I paraphrase it here.
[ back ] 26. |857 ἀλλ’ εἶμι κόσμον ὅνπερ εἰς Ἅιδου λαβὼν |858 ἄπεισι μητρὸς ἐκ χεροῖν κατασφαγεὶς |859 Πενθεῖ προσάψων· γνώσεται δὲ τὸν Διὸς |860 Διόνυσον, ὃς πέφυκεν ἐν τέλει θεὸς |861 δεινότατος, ἀνθρώποισι δ’ ἠπιώτατος.
[ back ] 27. Resisting the attempts of some editors to emend the wording at line 860, I retain the reading found in the manuscript tradition of the Bacchae.
[ back ] 28. |677 ἀγελαῖα μὲν βοσκήματ’ ἄρτι πρὸς λέπας |678 μόσχων ὑπεξήκριζον, ἡνίχ’ ἥλιος |679 ἀκτῖνας ἐξίησι θερμαίνων χθόνα. |680 ὁρῶ δὲ θιάσους τρεῖς γυναικείων χορῶν, |681 ὧν ἦρχ’ ἑνὸς μὲν Αὐτονόη, τοῦ δευτέρου |682 μήτηρ Ἀγαυὴ σή, τρίτου δ’ Ἰνὼ χοροῦ. |683 ηὗδον δὲ πᾶσαι σώμασιν παρειμέναι, |684 αἱ μὲν πρὸς ἐλάτης νῶτ’ ἐρείσασαι φόβην, |685 αἱ δ’ ἐν δρυὸς φύλλοισι πρὸς πέδῳ κάρα |686 εἰκῇ βαλοῦσαι σωφρόνως, οὐχ ὡς σὺ φῂς |687 ᾠνωμένας κρατῆρι καὶ λωτοῦ ψόφῳ |688 θηρᾶν καθ’ ὕλην Κύπριν ἠρημωμένας. |689 ἡ σὴ δὲ μήτηρ ὠλόλυξεν ἐν μέσαις |690 σταθεῖσα βάκχαις ἐξ ὕπνου κινεῖν δέμας, |691 μυκήμαθ’ ὡς ἤκουσε κεροφόρων βοῶν. |692 αἱ δ’ ἀποβαλοῦσαι θαλερὸν ὀμμάτων ὕπνον |693 ἀνῇξαν ὀρθαί, θαῦμ’ ἰδεῖν εὐκοσμίας, |694 νέαι παλαιαὶ παρθένοι τ’ ἔτ’ ἄζυγες. |695 καὶ πρῶτα μὲν καθεῖσαν εἰς ὤμους κόμας |696 νεβρίδας τ’ ἀνεστείλανθ’ ὅσαισιν ἁμμάτων |697 σύνδεσμ’ ἐλέλυτο, καὶ καταστίκτους δορὰς |698 ὄφεσι κατεζώσαντο λιχμῶσιν γένυν. |699 αἱ δ’ ἀγκάλαισι δορκάδ’ ἢ σκύμνους λύκων |700 ἀγρίους ἔχουσαι λευκὸν ἐδίδοσαν γάλα, |701 ὅσαις νεοτόκοις μαστὸς ἦν σπαργῶν ἔτι |702 βρέφη λιπούσαις· ἐπὶ δ’ ἔθεντο κισσίνους |703 στεφάνους δρυός τε μίλακός τ’ ἀνθεσφόρου. |704 θύρσον δέ τις λαβοῦσ’ ἔπαισεν ἐς πέτραν, |705 ὅθεν δροσώδης ὕδατος ἐκπηδᾷ νοτίς· |706 ἄλλη δὲ νάρθηκ’ ἐς πέδον καθῆκε γῆς |707 καὶ τῇδε κρήνην ἐξανῆκ’ οἴνου θεός· |708 ὅσαις δὲ λευκοῦ πώματος πόθος παρῆν, |709 ἄκροισι δακτύλοισι διαμῶσαι χθόνα |710 γάλακτος ἑσμοὺς εἶχον· ἐκ δὲ κισσίνων |711 θύρσων γλυκεῖαι μέλιτος ἔσταζον ῥοαί. |712 ὥστ’, εἰ παρῆσθα, τὸν θεὸν τὸν νῦν ψέγεις |713 εὐχαῖσιν ἂν μετῆλθες εἰσιδὼν τάδε. |714 ξυνήλθομεν δὲ βουκόλοι καὶ ποιμένες |715 κοινῶν λόγων δώσοντες ἀλλήλοις ἔριν |716 ὡς δεινὰ δρῶσι θαυμάτων τ’ ἐπάξια.
[ back ] 29. |862 ἆρ’ ἐν παννυχίοις χοροῖς |863 θήσω ποτὲ λευκὸν |864 πόδ’ ἀναβακχεύουσα, δέραν |865 αἰθέρ’ ἐς δροσερὸν ῥίπτουσ’, |866 ὡς νεβρὸς χλοεραῖς ἐμπαί|867ζουσα λείμακος ἡδοναῖς, |868 ἁνίκ’ ἂν φοβερὰν φύγῃ |869 θήραν ἔξω φυλακᾶς |870 εὐπλέκτων ὑπὲρ ἀρκύων, |871 θωύσσων δὲ κυναγέτας |872 συντείνῃ δράμημα κυνῶν, |873 μόχθοις δ’ ὠκυδρόμοις ἀελλὰς θρῴσκῃ πεδίον |874 παραποτάμιον, ἡδομένα |875 βροτῶν ἐρημίαις σκιαρο |876 κόμοιό τ’ ἔρνεσιν ὕλας;
[ back ] 30. ὅτι καλὸν φίλον αἰεί.
[ back ] 31. Nagy 1982.
[ back ] 32. |15 Μοῦσαι καὶ Χάριτες, κοῦραι Διός, αἵ ποτε Κάδμου |16 ἐς γάμον ἐλθοῦσαι καλὸν ἀείσατ’ ἔπος, |17 “ὅττι καλόν, φίλον ἐστί· τὸ δ’ οὐ καλὸν οὐ φίλον ἐστί.” |18 τοῦτ’ ἔπος ἀθανάτων ἦλθε διὰ στομάτων.
[ back ] 33. Nagy 1985:27-28 = §§6-7.
[ back ] 34. On kharis as a word that conveys both beauty and pleasure, see HC 203-204 = 2§33.
[ back ] 35. On other metaphors expressing the idea of the body politic in myths about the “harmonious” foundation of Thebes, see PH 145 = 5§16n45.