two different discussions about English 119 Myth and Literature

Based on reading in the Odyssey and our main text; discuss the character of Odysseus? How is he heroic, what are weaknesses (women), how does he use his ‘wit and wisdom’ to survive? And, lastly, why is he a likable character in your opinion?In the case of bad-boy Dionysius, how does his become associated with wine, revelry, and emotion-based unseemly behavior? How did he become associated with theater? In your response, you may also discuss his association with wine as an important product in the social and economic factor of Ancient Greece.


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Chapter 9
• Dionysus was the son of Zeus and a mortal, Semele
• He is more closely associated with mortals than the rest
of the Olympians
• The infant Dionysus is torn apart and then is
reconstituted, associating him with death
• Many of Dionysus’ myths feature mortals who suffer, go
mad, and are torn apart by his worshipers, echoing the
suffering of the god
9.1 Birth of Dionysus from Zeus’s thigh as Hermes watches. After Zeus inadvertently immolates Semele while
pregnant, Zeus removes Dionysus from her womb, stitches him in his thigh, and gives birth to the infant himself.
Detail from a red-figure lekythos. Alkimachos Painter, c. 470–460 BCE. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts,
USA / Catharine Page Perkins Fund / Bridgeman Images, BST1762525.
Classical Mythology in Context
Viticulture, Wine, and Fertility
• Dionysus was responsible for both
agricultural and human fertility
• His main festival at Athens was the
Anthesteria, which celebrated his gift
of wine to humanity, and linked wine
with human fertility
• The first day opened the city to both
the god and the dead, who were
believed to wander the city during the
• The second day of the festival
involved a drinking contest; talking 9.2 Dionysus (center) accompanied by satyrs and maenads.
Black-figure column krater. Painter of Munich, c. 520 BCE. The
was not allowed
John P. Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California. 75.AE.106.
Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.
Dionysus in Greece
Map 9.1 Dionysus in Greece
The Anthesteria
• The third day of the festival
was joyful
• A queen was married to
Dionysus in a sacred marriage
symbolizing the marriage
between the god and the city,
ensuring the reproduction of
the next generation
• Celebrations of Dionysus
represent his destabilizing
effect on communities
9.3 Satyr pushing a young woman on a swing on the last day of
the Anthesteria. Attic red-figure skyphos from Chiusi. Penelope
Painter, c. fifth century BCE. bpk, Berlin / Antikensammlung,
Staatliche Museen, Berlin, Germany / Eva-Maria Borgwaldt / Art
Resource, NY, ART189509.
The Symposium
• Symposia were gatherings of
elite men
• They were framed as
discussions, but fueled by
• Dionysus was accompanied
by satyrs, mythical hybrids
who engaged in humorous
and sexual activities and were
frequently drunk
• Symposia are frequently
depicted as leading to satyrlike behavior
9.4 Men dance and flirt at a symposium. Red-figure wine cup.
Briseis Painter, c. 480–470 BCE. The John P. Getty Museum, Los
Angeles, California. 86.AE.293. Digital image courtesy of the
Getty’s Open Content Program.
Theater and Masks
• Dionysus was the patron god of theater
• The Country Dionysia were local festivals in his
honor that consisted of a parade followed by
• The Dionysia included parading a large wooden
phallus through the city or town
• The City Dionysia was a more formal, grander
version held in the city of Athens which
commemorated the beginning of Dionysus’
9.5 The Theater of Dionysus at the
foot of the Acropolis in Athens,
Greece. Fifth century BCE. Album / Art
Resource, NY, alb1462719.
Theater and Masks
• In most communities,
Dionysus begins to be
worshiped only after he
punishes the community
with suffering
• Theater was an
emotional release in
ancient Greece, and so
Dionysus represents
freedom, similar to the
liberating experience of
9.6 Phallophoria. Attic black-figured kylix. Circa 550
Archeology Authority of Tuscany, Florence.
Courtesy of the
Mystery Cults
• Dionysus was worshiped in
mystery cults throughout the
• Unlike the mystery cult of
Demeter, Dionysus’s was
informal and scattered
• Women held prominent roles
in Dionysus’s cult
• There is little evidence of
initiation rites, except that they
were much more individualized
than most Greek religious
9.7 Villa of the Mysteries. Pompeii, Italy. First century BCE. Scala /
Art Resource, NY, ART70620.
The Orgia
• Dionysian religious practices
were called orgia
• His worshipers, the Bacchae,
danced and shouted in his
• Euripides’s Bacchae depicted
them tearing apart sacrificial
victims with their hands
• The Bacchae suggests that
Dionysus’s worship was joyful,
until it became violent
9.8 Pentheus with maenads. Red-figure Attic kylix. Dourisca, c. 480 BCE.
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas / Art Resource, NY, ART334333.
• The violence may have been symbolic of the potential dangers of the free
emotions encouraged by Dionysus
Classical Mythology in Context
Initiations and Inversions
• Anthropologist J. W. Turner explored
theater, film, and festivals, attempting
to define how they challenged
ordinary social values
• He expanded van Gennep’s concept of
liminality from rites of passage to
include other rituals and performances
• He argued that performative genres
displayed society’s values
9.9 Eye cup used at symposia. Red-figure drinking cup.
Circa 515 BCE. Werner Forman / Art Resource, NY,
• Like initiation rites, they also encouraged audiences to question them
• Dionysian rituals included theatrical elements, which, when combined with wine, lead
Classical Mythology in Context
The Great Mother in Greece
• Euripides associates the ecstatic worship
of Cybele, the Great Mother, with the
worship of Dionysus
• Her companion in Greece was Attis, but
he has no counterpart in Phrygian
• The Romans dedicated a temple to the
Great Mother in the third century BCE
• She was associated with fertility
• The ecstatic worship that her priests were
known for was not popular among
9.10 The goddess Cybele rides a chariot pulled by lions and Attis leans on a
pine tree. Relief on a marble altar dedicated to Cybele and Attis. 295 CE. The
portions of the inscription visible in this image include the name of the
dedicator (L. Cornelius Scipio Oreitus), a priest (augur) who accomplished a
bull-killing (taurobolium) and dedicated this altar to Cybele and Attis.
Archaeological Museum, Ferrara, Italy. De Agostini Picture Library/A. Dagli
Orti/Bridgeman Images, DGA501455.
• They were tolerated because they were eunuchs, and therefore outside the norms of
Dionysus in the Mediterranean World
Map 9.2 Dionysus from Phrygia to Rome
Classical Mythology in Context
Dionysus as a God of the 1960s
• Modern artists have used Dionysus to
comment on and challenge the social order
• The themes of the Bacchae were
particularly suited to the radical social
transformation of the 60s
• Dionysus in ’69 was an adaptation of the
Bacchae which encouraged audience
participation by not dividing the audience
space from the performance space
• The play uses nudity, homosexuality, and
political commentary to question social
9.11 Birth of Dionysus. From The
published in Oscar Brockett’s History of the
Theatre.© Photograph by Max Waldman,
Archive USA / All Rights Reserved.
Dionysus as a God of the 1960s
• The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a movie adaptation of a stage play
• It used sexual idiom to question conformity and authority
• The development of audience participation rituals in the 1970s broke down
barriers between audience and performance
• The film emphasized sexual liberation and critiques American gender and
family roles
• In The Bacchae of Euripides: A Communion Rite, Wole Soyinka uses
similarities between ancient Greek and African religion to address questions
of political freedom and religious community
• At the end of Soyinka’s play, the performers drink the blood of the dead
Pentheus, which they are told is wine
• This communion unites all the performers as equals and abolishes political
? Who is Semele?
? Daughter of Harmonia, wife of Cadmus. She is a
goddess of earth and corn also known as Alcmene.
? Disguised Zeus, seduces Semele who then is slain by
lightening stolen from Zeus by Hera out of jealousy.
? The child Semele carries is recued by Zeus and sewn
into his thigh and after his birth he is named
? We can assume that these are links between the
ancient ritual patterns of Dionysus’ worship reflecting
Attic or Greek origins of Dionysius and the devotion to
the yearly festival in Athens in his honor.
? Dionysius, as the Master of Illusions, was seen as the
one who was indeed the spirit of the theatre itself.
Dionysius worship and symbolism
Male god who is the master of animals
God of vegetation and wild-life
See his name on major materials beginning in 1300 BCE
His home is often considered to be Thrace on the link
between civilized Greece and the ‘east’.
? Myths of future life and reincarnation
? Identified with Zagreus who was devoured by the Titans to
be born again amid the flames of Semele’s death; and it
was from this take, incorporated into the Orphic literature
that there emanated themes of future life and
? The worshiper who performed the rite was at one with
the god entheos, suggesting an idea of mystic
? Associated with the eating of raw flesh as late as
276BCE at the Dionysius cult at Miletus. Eating this
war, bleeding gobbets was an eating of the god
himself, the ‘noble bull,’ as he was called in an ancient
? So this early Dionysian ritual was a cathartic that took
man outside of himself and purged his irrational
impulses, or directed them into this special channel.
? There are references to snake handling which is shown
on vases recorded in the 4th century Macedonia,
mentioned in the Gospel of Mark which still form
parts of the ecstatic rattlesnake cult of the Holiness
Church in Kentucky.
? The Greeks, choosing to turn ecstatic tendencies into
institutional channels, officially recognized them at
the wine-religion cults at Delphi, Corinth, Sparta and
Athens. Thus in the more civilized areas at least,
cannibalism and ritual murder, had probably come to
and end before the fifth century began- BUT coming
to life when during the Persian wars 489-479BCE)
when at Athens itself Themistocles sacrificed three
Persian youths to Dionysius Omestes (flesh eater).
? The myth of Dionysius sums up the whole theme of
emotionalism as a factor in social as well as individual
life: “those things utterly non-human and non-moral’
in the words of Gilbert Murray “which brings man bliss
or tear his life to shreds without a break in their own
? Dionysius is the spirit of the unthinking physical
enjoyment, of the instinctive group personality, of
anti-intellectual energy.
? In Dionysius, are mingled joy and horror, insight and
madness, innocent gaiety and dark cruelty?
? Faced with the imperative – ignore at our peril the
demand of the human spirit for a Dionysian
experience and pay the price.
Curse of Thebes
? Dionysius returns to Thebes to punish those who had not supported
his divine birth. His mother’s sisters.
Once he has secured worship in Thebes and greater Greece he becomes
part of the Olympian pantheon.
As wine becomes part of the greater trade network of Attica,
celebrations such as the Dionysia in Greece are commonplace by 500
The house of Cadmus was also plagued by the tragedy of the curse
placed upon it by Pelops (remember Laius raped his daughter).
Oedipus is the son of Laius and Jocasta and tragedy of the highest
order follows.
The Odyssey
Kansas City Academy 9/23/2015
Dr. Cynthia Jones
Born to Sail
To reach Ithaca Odysseus must travel by sea.
At every turn it has been his ally and his foil.
The cry of the unknown and the adventure are key elements in his journey.
OCEAN is a deity in and of itself. Even mighty Achilles must fact OCEAN in the
Thus, our hero must again take to the sea to enter the Underworld.
Every great hero is destined to journey there.
Odysseus purpose is to speak with Tiresias and learn his fate. Only certain of the
Dead can offer this knowledge. You will find it in the Aeneid as well when
Aeneas seeks his father’s shade and learns of his fate.
Bronze Age Greece and the Aegean
Themes we explore in The Odyssey
Women in Myth and Literature
Telemachus: Lone Hero among the suitors
What was life like for them in Bronze Age Greece?
Women in the Odyssey
Perfect Wife: Penelope: wife of Odysseus – keeper of the
home and hearth
Perfect Maiden Nausikka: princess of Phaeacia – civilizing
Opposite of Penelope and Nausikka
Circe: goddess, seductress, magician
Calypso: goddess, seductress
Represent, lonely, unmarried, sexually rapacious women
Women in Homer – Epic Lives – ‘Geras’
Wars fought for WOMEN?
Geras – plooty or ‘stuff’ as rewards for war lords
measurement of their prowess and status
Helen – the treasure of Greece and wife Menelaus Sparta
Briseis – treasure of Achilles (awarded to him by his men for
sacking an ally of Troy).
Chrysies – symbolic treasure of Agamemnon (Priestess of
Documentary Evidence: Women’s
“We run households and protect that which is carried
across the sea. We women play the most important part,
because women are oracles, and at the holy site of Delphi
and Sacred Oaks of Thebes we reveal the prophecy of
Apollo and Zeus. As for the sacred rituals for the Fates and
the Nameless goddesses [furies] all these would not be
holy if performed by men, but prosper in a woman’s hands.
In this way women have a rightful share in the service of
the gods and the polis”
Written by Melanippe, a female colonist sent out to found
a new Greek colony from Athens in 506 BCE
Dante Gabriel Rossetti Helen of
Troy (1863)
Images of Women in Domestic Work:
Weaving and Collecting Water
Max Klinger Penelope brooding over her loom (1895)
450 BCE Telemachus and Penelope
Cup Side B – British Museum
Vase 500 BCE
Homeric Men and Seduction
Homeric Men vs. Seductress: Homeric Greek men consider women valuable but only to
satisfy their physical needs. Zeus eventually sends Hermes as a messenger to command
Calypso to allow Odysseus to return home. Calypso complains that the gods are
allowed to take mortal lovers while someone always interferes with the affairs of the
goddesses. Calypso complains about this double standard but eventually meets Zeus’
request. This is an excellent example of the male biased Homeric Greek society
JW Waterhouse 1891 “Circe
Offer the Cup”
450 BCE , “Odysseus and
Calypso” Louvre
Excess: His the stay with Calypso on her island lasts 7 years. When Odysseus tells the story
of he changes the story slightly to give the perception that he was held prisoner and
lamented the entire time he was there. However, Homer gives us some insight when he
says; “the nymph was no longer pleasing to him,” (Book V, Line 153) which implies that at
some point Odysseus did enjoy himself with the goddess on the island. Calypso offered
him immortality and a life of ease.
Calypso and Penelope (one in the same)?? She compares herself to Odysseus’ wife
Penelope saying, “I think I can claim that I am not her inferior either in build or stature,
since it is not likely that mortal women can challenge the goddesses for build and
beauty.”(Book V, Line 211) When Odysseus still longs to return home, Calypso forces him
to stay on the island. This is against the ideals of Homeric Greek women
Calypso displays a dominant and manipulative side, which is another threat against
male dominance. Calypso’s ability to impede Odysseus’ voyage for seven years, signifies
the belief that powerful women can create danger. In this situation, Homer tells us, if a
woman does not accept her place as an impuissant being, she is likely to slow down or
prevent a man from reaching his goals.
Odyssey Book 11-12
Zeus must honor Helios and sends another storm, which
destroys the ship and sends the entire crew to its death
beneath the waves. As had been predicted, only
Odysseus survives, and he just barely. The storm sweeps
him all the way back to Charybdis, which he narrowly
escapes for the second time. Afloat on the broken timbers
of his ship, he eventually reaches Ogygia, Calypso’s island.
Odysseus here breaks from his story, stating to the
Phaeacians that he sees no reason to bore them further
Female Monsters Book XII Treacherous
The myth has Charybdis lying on one side of a narrow
channel of water. On the other side of the strait was Scylla,
another sea-monster. The two sides of the strait are within
an arrow’s range of each other, so close that sailors
attempting to avoid Charybdis will pass too close to Scylla
and vice versa. The phrase between Scylla and Charybdis
has come to mean being in a state where one is between
two dangers and moving away from one will cause you to
be in danger of the other. Between Scylla and Charybdis is
the origin of the phrase “between the rock and the
whirlpool” (the rock upon which Scylla dwelt and the
whirlpool of Charybdis) and may be the genesis of the
phrase “between a rock and a hard place”
Book XII Treacherous Journey
The myth has Charybdis lying on one side of a narrow
channel of water. On the other side of the strait was Scylla,
another sea-monster. The two sides of the strait are within
an arrow’s range of each other, so close that sailors
attempting to avoid Charybdis will pass too close to Scylla
and vice versa. The phrase between Scylla and Charybdis
has come to mean being in a state where one is between
two dangers and moving away from one will cause you to
be in danger of the other. Between Scylla and Charybdis is
the origin of the phrase “between the rock and the
whirlpool” (the rock upon which Scylla dwelt and the
whirlpool of Charybdis) and may be the genesis of the
phrase “between a rock and a hard place”
Between ‘A Rock and a Hard Place’
Satellite image of the straits
Of Messenia
Monsters in Art
Scylla – Minoan Museum Crete
Sirens –
Scylla – Louvre
Waterhouse Sirens
Jean Charles Cazin (18411901) Odysseus Weeps
When he finds himself
alone on the beach in
Valentin Serov Odysseus and
Nausicaa (1910)
Following Nausicaa to the
Two Sides of Women
Daily Life in Ancient
Nature of ‘Otherness’
What is woman? “The specific virtues of women with
respect to their body are beauty and height, and with
respect to their soul prudence {sophrosyne] and love
of labor [philegia] without servility Rhet. 1361a
On one hand valuations of good and bad in respect to women and
the behavior expected of them is determined by the male ethic.
Within their own communities, women are regarded with great
respect by men. In Homer, women are not reviled or treated
contemptuously, and also appear to have more social freedom than
those of later periods. Women go freely about the countryside and
participate in festive and religious events. And although they have no
political voice, women are nevertheless part of pubic opinion. In the
house of the wanax or paramount chief, his wife is held in high
esteem, and may even partake of her husband’s authority. The
qualities of a good woman in Homer are narrowly circumscribed by
their domestic assignment as housewife and mother. They are
honored for their beauty, skill and diligence in weaving, household
management, and good practical sense. They are expected to be
modest in public and in the company of men, and above all chaste.
and Penelope
…my mother is like that, perverse
for all her cleverness: she’d
entertain some riff-raff, and turn
out a solid man…
Telemachus Book II
As you have read in Book II the suitors
desired to force Penelope …
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