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Stockton State College Pomona, NJ 08240

Among the cults of classical antiquity, the worship of the Greek god Dionysus is one of the most intriguing, ranging in form from rural agricultural festivals in Greece and Asia Minor to complex mystery rites established throughout the Roman Empire.' While various aspects of Dionysiac religion have received detailed scholarly treatment,2existing studies have paid surprisingly little attention to the extent to which women appear to predominate in the cult as it may be reconstructed from the available sources. The frequent references to the involvement of women in the mythographers and historiographershave usually been explained away in modern scholarship by unsubstantiated appeals to the "emotional" needs of women, and by the association with fertility themes and fertility magic which are considered more appropriate to
'The best cataloguing of Dionysiac references is still that of L. Farnell, The Cults of the Greek States (1908; reprinted ed., Chicago: Aegean, 1971) 5. 281-301. References to Dionysus and his worship occur as early as Homer, Hesiod and the Homeric Hymns, while his rites are described by writers well into the imperial Roman period. Among the major literary sources for the cults of Dionysus are Euripides' drama Bacchae, selections from the writings of Plutarch, Diodorus Siculus, Pausanius, Apollodorus, the Roman historian Livy and Nonnus, whose rambling Dionysiaca occupies three full volumes of the LCL series. There are extant significant inscriptions for the cults of Dionysus, as well as a rich iconography (H. Philippart, "Iconographie des Bacchantes d'Euripide," Revue Beige de Philologie et d'Histoire 9 [1930] 5-72). Representations of Dionysus and his worship range from the almost ubiquitous red-figureAttic vase paintings, to sarcophagi bas-reliefs (Olsen Erling, Dionysiac Sarcophagi in Baltimore [New York: New York University, 1942]) to Roman wall paintings. The total range of evidence for the multiform worship of Dionysus in its evolution from ancient Greece to imperial Rome is considerable and can only be alluded to in a paper of such relatively narrow focus as this. 2For general studies of Dionysus, see W. F. Otto, Dionysus, Myth and Cult (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University, 1965); Philip Slater, The Glory of Hera: Greek Mythology and the Greek Family (Boston: Beacon, 1968); Henri Jeanmaire, Dionysos, Histoire du Culte de Bacchus (Paris: Payot, 1951); M. P. Nilsson, The Dionysiac Mysteries of the Hellenistic and Roman Age (Lund: Gleerup, 1957); M. P. Nilsson, Geschichte der Griechischen Religion (Munich: Beck, 1941-50); Ludwig Deubner, Attische Feste (Berlin: Keller, 1932);on the Attic Dionysiac festivals: Farnell, Cults, 5; and C. Kerenyi, Dionysos: Archetypal Image of Indestructable Life (Bollingen 65. 2; Princeton: Princeton University, 1976). See also the pertinent chapters on Dionysus in W. K. C. Guthrie, The Greeks and Their Gods (1950; reprint ed., Boston: Beacon, 1962); H. J. Rose, Religion in Greece and Rome (New York: Harper & Row, 1959), as well as encyclopedic articles in the Oxford Classical Dictionary (2d ed.; Oxford: Oxford University, 1970) and other classical encyclopedias.



women than to men.3 It is my contention that the high visibility of women in the cult of Dionysus, particularly in its Greek (rather than Roman) forms,4 must be understood as the product of much more complicated processes and circumstances than any inherent female characteristics, psychological or biological. Further, a study of the attractions of women to the cult of Dionysus yields significant analytical tools for the study of the religious beliefs and participation of women in other cultures and historical periods as well. As is the case with many cults from the ancient world, what we know about the worship of Dionysus must be reconstructed from a multitude of sources whose reliability is uneven, yielding a composite image which is at best an approximation. The particular rites observed, the exact
3E.g., E. R. Dodds, "Introduction" in his edition of the Bacchae (Oxford: Oxford University, 1959) xxvi; L. Farnell, "Sociological Hypotheses Concerning the Position of Women in Ancient Religion," ARW 7 (1904) 81; M. P. Nilsson, Greek Folk Religion (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1972; first published as Greek Popular Religion [New York: Columbia University, 1940]) 25; M. P. Nilsson, History of Greek Religion (Oxford: Oxford University, 1925; reprint ed., New York: Norton, 1964) 206. Similarly, scholars who do perceive some of the mechanics involved invariably stop with a relatively pat explanation: Guthrie writes that, "In Greece, it was the women, with their normally confined and straitened lives to whom the temptation of release made the strongest appeal" (Greeks, 148). He correctly suspects that much of the appeal to Greek women was rooted in the strictures of their lives, but he seems to feel that mere ecstatic release was sufficient to attract them, without examining what if anything need be attributed to the specific Dionysiac symbols and rituals. 41n another version of this paper, delivered at the SBL Annual Meeting, St. Louis, October 1976, I briefly explored the roles of women in the Roman Bacchanalia, as reported by the historian Livy, in his Annals 39. 8-19 (R. Kraemer,"Women in the Cult of Dionysus: The Bacchanalia of Livy and Their Antecedents"). There I suggested that despite significant differences between the Bacchanalia, as reported by Livy, and the evidence for the Greek orgia (as well as between the status of Greek women in classical Athens and Roman women in the republic), certain common elements of the various forms of the god's worship emerge in clear relief. These include the extensive participation of women; the predominance of young men; an emphasis on sexuality and aggression; severe official resistance to the cult and the attribution of the cult's entrance into the area to a foreigner. These common elements may well reflect similar functions of the cult for its participants,while the difference between the Greekand Roman Dionysia suggest avenues of further research. If the various manifestations of such worship are viewed as a continuum, it should become possible to have a better understanding of their similarities, of the historical relationships between them and of the process which instituted the differences observable between them. How did a cult which was almost exclusively restricted to women, with male participation severely circumscribed, become one which, while maintaining its high degree of female initiates, permits the fuller participation of men, even possibly to the point of excluding women from certain Bacchic associations? A detailed comparison of the Roman Bacchanalia, with the Greek evidence, should prove instructive; it should also prove instructive to consider what effects changes in social structures;and, in particular,changes in the relative position of women in the society may have contributed to the changing forms of the Bacchic cults.



geographic locations in which they were practiced, the specific mythology and interpretations which accompanied them, their extent and influence in various periods, all must be reconstructed from sources whose intention is often anything but to facilitate historical research. Yet with the proper caveats, the prospects are not all that bleak, and much informative and provocative data can be extracted. The worship of Dionysus, god of the vine and of life-giving liquids, appears to go back at least to the seventh century in Greece,5and early on is associated with rural agriculturalfestivals in the early spring.6The representation of Dionysus in myth and in art depicts alternatively a young child, a smooth-faced androgynous young man with beautiful curls and fair skin, and a bearded mature figure. In addition to the wellknown symbols of the grape cluster and the ivy vine, Dionysus is often associated with phallic representations, including a procession called thephallophoria, in which villagers paraded through the streets carrying phallic shaped images, or pulled phallic representations on carts.7 Dionysiac festivals share the temporary license of drunkenness and sexual expression which characterizes agricultural festivals in other cultures as well (compare the activities at the harvest festival in the book of Ruth). Virtually from his appearance as a divinity, Dionysus is associated with various fertility motifs and was one of a number of Greek deities called upon to insure the fruitfulness of fields, flocks and human beings. As far as we can tell, these rural Dionysia were in no way restricted to one sex or the other but involved the participation of the entire community in invoking the protection of the gods and in offering thanksgiving for abundance. Relatively early,8 the worship of Dionysus is also associated with other rites, apparently of a more restricted nature, for which the best description comes from a play by Euripides, written at the turn of the fourth century B.C.E.9 The Bacchae, whose title means "female
5The "Origins" of the worship of Dionysus are more difficult to reconstruct. Some scholars have noted that Dionysus is not part of the Homeric pantheon, although he is clearly known in Homer as divine. The general consensus is that the agriculturalworship is fairly old. The myth recounted by Euripides associated the founding of the rites with the dynasty of Cadmus, who is supposed to have founded Thebes in the distant past. Of course, this indicates little about the actual age of the worship but does reveal the Greek conception of the worship as ancient history already in the fifth century. 6Farnell, Cults; Deubner, Attische Feste. 7Nilsson, Dionysiac Mysteries, 33. 8The exact date is the subject of dispute. 9The best edition is that of E. R. Dodds. Among the many translations, those of P. Vellacott, The Bacchae and Other Plays (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1954); W. Arrowsmith, The Bacchae, in Greek Tragedies (ed. David Grene and Richmond Lattimore; Chicago: University of Chicago, 1960) 3; and G. S. Kirk, The Bacchae (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1970) are recommended.



worshippers of the god Bacchus (Dionysus)," dramatizes the legend of the introduction of the worship of Dionysus to Thebes, a city in northern Greece. According to the play, which appears to combine elements of fixed myths with Euripides' own observations of contemporaneous practices,'0 Dionysus was the product of a liason between Zeus, the head of the Greek pantheon, and a mortal woman, Semele, daughter of Cadmus, the king of Thebes. While Semele was pregnant with Dionysus, she was killed by one of Zeus' lightning bolts, the apparent victim of a jealous plot devised by Hera, the wife of Zeus. The unborn Dionysus was snatched from his mother's womb and, upon his maturity, he spread the cult of his worship through Asia Minor and the Orient. A Theban therefore by blood and birth, in Euripides' Bacchae Dionysus nevertheless comes to Thebes from the east to introduce his rites to all of Greece. In the opening lines of the play, the god explains that he has chosen Thebes as the first Greek city in which to inaugurate his rites so that he may exonerate his mother's honor and punish her family for refusing to believe the paternity of her child. Semele's sisters, we are told, doubted that Zeus had fathered their sister's child and instead spread the rumor that Semele, having been impregnated by a mere mortal, was prompted by her father to ascribe the loss of her virginity to Zeus. This lie, they asserted, resulted in her death by Zeus' thunderbolt. Variations of this myth are spread throughout the ancient literature on Dionysus.1 Dionysus' revenge on his mother's sisters is enacted in very specific form-a divinely-induced madness, which causes the women to engage in various unusual activities, which are related in the play.
Suddenly I saw three companies of dancing women, one led by Autonoe, the second captained by your mother Agave, while Ino led the third. There they lay in the deep sleep of exhaustion, some resting on boughs of fir, others sleeping where they fell, here and there among the oak leaves-but all modestly and soberly, not, as you think, drunk with wine, nor wandering, led astray by the music of the flute, to hunt their Aphrodite through the woods. But your mother heard the lowing of our horned herds, and springing to her feet, gave a great cry to waken them from sleep. And they too, rubbing the bloom of soft sleep from their eyes, rose up lightly and straight-a lovely sight to see: all as one, the old women and the young and unmarriedgirls. First they let their hair fall loose, down over their shoulders, and those whose straps had slipped fastened their skins of fawn with writhing snakes that licked their cheeks. Breasts swollen with milk, new mothers who had left their babies behind at home nestled gazelles and young wolves in their arms, suckling them. Then they crowned their hair with leaves, ivy and oak and flowering bryony. One woman struck her thyrsus against a rock and a 'OA.-J. Festugiere, "Les Mysteres de Dionysos," Etudes de Religion Grecque et Hellenistique, (Paris: Vrin, 1972) 12; Dodds, "Introduction to Bacchae," xxv. IApollodorus Bibliotheca 2. 23-26; Diodorus Siculus 3. 62-74; 4. 2-4.



fountain of cool water came bubbling up. Another drove her fennel in the ground, and where it struck the earth, at the touch of god, a spring of wine poured out. Those who wanted milk scratched at the soil with bare fingers and the white milk came welling up. Pure honey spurted, streaming, from their wands.12 Then at a signal all the Bacchae whirled their wands for the revels to begin. With one voice they cried aloud: "O Iacchus! Son of Zeus!""O Bromius!"they cried until the beasts and all the mountain seemed wild with divinity. And when they ran, everything ran with them. It happened, however, that Agave ran near the ambush where I lay concealed. Leaping up, I tried to seize her, but she gave a cry: "Hounds who run with me, men are hunting us down! Follow, follow me! Use your wands for weapons." At this we fled and barely missed being torn to pieces by the women. Unarmed, they swooped down upon the herds of cattle grazing there on the green of the meadow. And then you could have seen a single woman with bare hands tear a fat calf, still bellowing with fright, in two, while others clawed the heifers to pieces. There were ribs and cloven hooves scattered everywhere, and scraps smeared with blood hung from the fir trees. And bulls, their raging fury gathered in their horns, lowered their heads to charge, then fell, stumbling to the earth, pulled down by hordes of women and stripped of flesh and skin more quickly, sire, than you could blink your royal eyes. Then, carried up by their own speed, they flew like birds across the spreading fields along Asopus' stream where most of all the ground is good for harvesting. Like invaders they swooped on Hysiae and on Erythraein the foothills of Cithaeron. Everything in sight they pillaged and destroyed. They snatched the children from their homes. And when they piled their plunder on their backs, it stayed in place, untied. Nothing, neither bronze nor iron, fell to the dark earth. Flames flickered in their curls and did not burn them. Then the villagers, furious at what the women did, took to arms. And there, sire, was something terrible to see. For the men's spears were pointed and sharp, and yet drew no blood, whereas the wands the women drew inflicted wounds. And then the men ran, routed by women! Some god, I say, was with them. The Bacchae then returned where they had started, by the springs the god had made, and washed their hands while the snakes licked away the drops of blood that dabbled their cheeks.13

The collective insanity of Agave, Ino and Autonoe culminates in the murder and dismemberment of Agave's son Pentheus, whom she and the other women mistakenly perceive to be a wild animal. At the denouement of the play, Agave goes into exile, the house of Cadmus is destroyed and the worship of Dionysus firmly established in its cult center of Thebes. It is difficult to determine the extent to which these activities of the possessed women reflect actual ritual practices in the orgiastic cult of Dionysus. But the Bacchae itself does provide some relatively straightforward information about the rites. In the first encounter between Dionysus and Pentheus, the god, here disguised as his own prophet, informs Pentheus that Dionysus has instructed him to spread

'2Bacchae 680-711. '3Ibid. 728-68.



his rites.14Pentheus inquires the form of these rites and Dionysus replies that the uninitiated may not be told that. Pentheus then asks what gain there is for the participants; Dionysus again responds that this information is, so to speak, classified. Pentheus goes on to inquire whether Thebes is the first to adopt the rites and is told that the rites are danced He also learns (&vaXopvEVi)in every foreign land (7n& ... /oap3oap6&v). that the orgia are practiced at night. When he suggests that nocturnal rites are conducive to sexual misconduct on the part of women, Dionysus replies that such immorality (aloX pav) is possible in daylight as well. From this passage we may infer that Euripides knew of Dionysiac rites which were restricted to the initiated, which were celebrated by night, which involved dancing, and which carried with them the suspicion of sexual misconduct. References here and elsewhere in the play suggest that the initiates were primarily women, but Teiresias' remark to Cadmus that the god wishes honor from all'5 suggests that men were not altogether banned from the cult, a point to which I will return. From the detailed descriptions in Euripides' play, one might argue that the Bacchae describes actual rituals practiced by Greek women prior to or contemporaneous with Euripides' own lifetime. Such rites might have included nocturnal wanderings on the mountains, the nursing of baby wild animals, frenzied dancing, the consumption of wine, honey and milk, and possibly the performance of a two-part sacrificial ritual, the sparagmos ("rendering apart") and omophagia ("consuming raw") of a wild beast identified simultaneously with the god and with one's own son (Agave dismembering Pentheus). While engaged in the Bacchic rites, the participants might have worn appropriate ritual clothing, including perhaps a fawnskin, and carrieda thyrsus wand. Most classical scholars, however, contend that there is virtually no evidence to support the existence of such ritual practices in fifth- or fourth-century Athens.16 In their opinion, the rites and practices described in the Bacchae may be explained in a variety of ways. Some, like E. R. Dodds, believe that Euripides utilized a myth of the origins of

'4The Greek word here is dpyia. Unfortunately it is often rendered in English translations by the term "mysteries." '5Bacchae 208-9. '6Dodds, "Introduction to Bacchae," xxii; xxv; Guthrie, Greeks, 178. Dodds offers no substantiation for his claim that there were no trieteric rites in Athens in the fifth/fourth century; Guthrie bases his remarks on Dodds' statement and passages in Pausanius' firstcentury report that the women of Athens sent a delegation to Delphi for the biennial festival (Description of Greece 10.4.2; 10.32.5).



Dionysiac worship at Thebes whose form was fairly well fixed, and thus whose specifics need not reflect actual Greek practice.'7Others point to the arrival of oriental mystery religions in Euripides' Athens as the instigation for the writing of the play; in depicting and commenting on the ancient cult of Dionysus, Euripides is really addressing himself to Greek response to the new eastern religions, notably that of the god Sabazios, whose cult bore a remarkable resemblance to that of Dionysus. 8 This parallel with Sabazios is one which has received insufficient attention in the literature to date. In Demosthenes' De Corona, the orator attempts to impugn the reputation of his opponent, Aeschines, by accusing him of participating in his mother's cultic association.
On attaining manhood, you abetted your mother in her initiations and the other rituals, and read aloud from the cultic writings. At night, you mixed the libations, purified the initiates and dressed them in fawnskins. You cleansed them off with clay and cornhusks, and raising them up from the purification, you led the chant, "The evil I flee; the better I find" ... In the daylight, you led the fine thiasos through the streets, wearing their garlands of fennel and white poplar. You rubbed the fat-cheeked snakes and swung them above your head, crying "Euoi Saboi" and dancing to the tune of "hues attes, attes hues." Old women hailed you (with titles) "Leader," "mysteries instructor," "ivy-bearer,""liknon carrier"and the like.'9

From this we learn that in the mid-fourth century, some Athenians engaged in cultic practices marked by the following characteristics: initiation; the use of sacred writings; nocturnal purifications consisting at the least of cleansing seated initiates with clay and cornhusks; the wearing of fawnskins; daylight parades of dancing, chanting and snakehandling; ritual garlands of fennel and poplar. Were it not for the chants "euoi saboi" and "Attes hues" it would be difficult to assert that we had here anything but the description of a Bacchic thiasos. The characteristic features of the orgia are all here: nightly celebrations, restricted initiations, snakes, fennel, ritual dancing, the predominance of women. Even the titles ascribed to Aeschines, Demosthenes' opponent, are strikingly Dionysiac (kittophoros-"ivy-bearer," and liknophoros"winnowing fan carrier").20 Yet despite the strong affinity with Dionysiac symbols and practices, the reference to Sabazios has led scholars to reject any formal association between the cult in Demosthenes and Dionysiac worship. Festugiere's remarks are typical:
'7See above, n. 10. See also Erwin Rohde, Psyche (London: Kegan Paul, 1925; reprint ed., New York: Harper & Row, 1966) 2. 262. '"Dodds himself held both views. The relationship of the cult of Dionysus to that of Sabazios will be discussed below. '9Demosthenes De Corona 258-59. 200n the association of the liknon with Dionysus, see Nilsson, Mysteries, 38-45.



Often, rites properly belonging to the cult of the Phrygian god Sabazios, who was identified by the mythographers sometimes with Zeus and sometimes with Dionysus, are attributed to Bacchics. But Sabazios retains his name and his cult up until the end of Greco-Roman religion. He is never identified with Dionysus in the inscriptions. When he appears in Athens, from the time of Demosthenes, with the winnowing fan and the serpent, he is regarded as a stranger.21

But in fact the relationship between Sabazios and Dionysus appears far from clear in the ancient sources as well as in the minds of modern scholars. Diodorus Siculus (ca. 40 B.C.E.)records that some of the mythographers tell of a Dionysus who was not the son of Zeus and Semele, but rather the son of Zeus and Persephone, and who is called Sabazios. To this second Dionysus are attributed rites celebrated at night and in secret, presumably including licentious sexual activities.22 Dionysus and Sabazios appear to be identified, or closely linked in several of the Orphic hymns.23 Among modern writers no clear consensus emerges, due perhaps to the relative lack of definitive evidence about Sabazios and his cult. Guthrie refers to Sabazios as the "Thracianequivalent of Dionysus."24 Walton considers Sabazios a Thracian-Phrygian god "regardedby the Greeks now as purely foreign, again as identical with Dionysus."25 Nilsson describes Sabazios as "akin to Dionysus, but foreign and despised."26Dodds, in his analysis of the setting of Euripides' Bacchae, clearly distinguishes between Sabazios and Dionysus.27 On the other hand, Masiello concludes that the reference to a serpent in Plutarch's Life of Crassus which coils itself about the head of Spartacus reflects an initiation rite of the cult of "Dionysus-Sabazios."28 While the question remains unresolved and worthy of more extensive investigation,29 Jeanmaire's contribution to the discussion seems the most pertinent of all:
21Festugiere, Mysteres, 17 (translation mine).

22Diodorus Siculus 4.4.1. 23Hymn49. 24Guthrie,Greeks, 45. in the Oxford Classical Dictionary, 941. 25"Sabazius" 26Nilsson, Mysteries, 23. 27Dodds, "Introduction to Bacchae," xxxix-xxv. 2'From the French summary in L'Annee Philologique (1967) of P. Masiello, "L'idiologia messianica e le rivolte servile," Annali della Facolta di Lettere e Filosofia. Bari Universita xl (1966) 176-96. 29Fora recent summary of the state of Sabazius research see Sherman E. Johnson, "A Sabazius Inscription from Sardis" in Religions in Antiquity: Essays in Memory of Erwin Ramsdell Goodenough (ed. Jacob Neusner; Leiden: Brill, 1968) 542-50. See also Erling, Sarcophagi, esp. 20-45; also the entries under Sabazius in W. H. Roscher, Ausfiihrliches Lexicon der griechischen und romischen Mythologie, and in PW. I intend to discuss the cults of Dionysus and Sabazios more fully in a future paper.



Sabazios may not have been exactly, as some considered him already in Antiquity, the Thracian Dionysus under his native name. But he was certainly a major divinity of the Phrygian world and a god whose similarities and confusion with Dionysus are to be explained precisely by the resemblance or the quasi-identity of the honorific rites in the thiases where their devotees gathered.30

If Jeanmarie is correct that the confusion and/or identification of Dionysus and Sabazios stems precisely from their common ThracoPhrygian attribution and the similarity of their rites, the possibility arises that the two cults were actually contemporaneous at some point in Athens and elsewhere. Further, the possibility also arises that the two cults were so closely related in form and origin, if not also in function, that evidence for one must be weighed also as evidence for the other, particularly where there is evidence of confusion between the two. Dodds' assertion that there were no Bacchic thiasoi or Dionysiac orgia in classical Athens needs to be reconsidered for Demosthenes' description may in fact refer to precisely such associations and activities, if under another name.31 The complications of the relationship between Dionysus and Sabazios and their respective cults aside, the evidence for fifth- or fourth-century orgiastic Dionysia in Athens is ambiguous. There are no inscriptions which demonstrate the active existence of such cults, the earliest epigraphical evidence coming from third-century Asia Minor.32 Greek literature of the classical and pre-classical periods may be interpreted to allude to the ecstatic worship of Dionysus, but such interpretations are open to question. For these periods, the textual evidence in support of ecstatic worship is often inferred from references to the activity of maenads (crazed women followers of Dionysus) or from Dionysiac myths marked by the motif of madness. The Iliad employs the term "maenads"although not specifically in referenceto a cult of Dionysus.33 The Iliad also records a myth of Dionysus and Lycurgus which is connected with the ecstatic cult principally by the motif of insanity. Hesiod relates a tradition of Semele and Zeus as the parents of Dionysus, but the relationship between this myth and any cult at Hesiod's time is unclear.34An allusion to maenadic practices also
30Jeanmaire, Dionysos, 95. 31Although, perhaps arbitrarily,evidence for Sabazius seems more fruitful for our study

of Dionysus than vice versa. Methodologically and perhaps evidentially there are problems here. But this kind of paper is oriented as much to posing the questions and provoking response as to offering definitive solutions. 32Principallyan inscription from Miletus on cult regulations, in F. Sokolowski, Lois Sacrees de L'Asie Mineure (Paris: Ecole Franqaise d'Athenes, 1955) 48. 33Although Jeanmaire (Dionysos, 59-60) argues for the probability of such a connection. 34Hesiod Theogony 940ff.



occurs in one of the three Homeric hymns to Dionysus where he is called by the epithet "gynaimanes,"he who drives women insane.35In all three hymns, Dionysus is known as the child of Zeus and Semele. Unfortunately, the Homeric hymns are extremely difficult to date with any certainty, particularly those to Dionysus.36 Among the classical references37Plato quotes the mystagogues that
rodhhoL CITv Vap6rKKOd6pOL' B6KXOL 6& re rraVpOL ("many bear the

narthex, but few are (actually) Bacchics"). The principal references from this period, however, come from dramatic sources. In addition to Euripides' play short references and allusions to an exclusivistic cult occur in Sophocles' Antigone; Euripides' Ion; and Aristophanes' Clouds.38Of these, Euripides' Bacchae is by far the most significant, providing various myths about the birth of Dionysus and the origin of his ecstatic worship and a detailed description of the rites and activities of the maenads.39 The other potential witness for classical orgia comes from the wealth of Attic red-figure vases depicting various Dionysiac scenes. L. Lawler studied these vases extensively40and reached several conclusions which have a bearing on our discussion. First, she found that by charting the distribution of the vases chronologically, the greatest number of them fell between the years 460 and 400 B.C.E. These same vases portray maenadic dancers more in an "ecstatic" posture than do those of the earlier periods, from which Lawler concludes that there was extensive interest in the Dionysiac worship in this period. She is further of the opinion that the vase depictions represent human dancers, and not merely mythological figures.
We seem to be brought to the conclusion, then, that the model for the art representations was furnished by real women in Thyiad dancers .... Hence we shall

35HymnI, 1.17. 36Seethe introduction to the Loeb edition, edited by H. G. Evelyn-White. 37As indicated in the beginning of this paper, the evidence offered here is a selective representation of the Dionysiac references, rather than any attempt at exhaustive coverage. Many Dionysiac referencesdo not pertain specifically to the cults and practices under examination. The referencesin nn. 1 and 2 above offer a starting place for additional research into the range of Dionysiaca. 38Antigone 1126; Ion 1125, 540; Clouds 603. 39The vividness of Euripides' description has led to much debate over whether real women actually performedthe rites depicted in the Bacchae, and if so where and when. See Jeanmaire, Dionysos; Dodds "Introduction to Bacchae"and also his "Maenadism in the Bacchae" (appendix to The Greeks and the Irrational, Sather Classical Lectures 25 [Berkeley: University of California] 1951);Guthrie, Greeks;Rohde, Psyche, 2; Festugiere, Mysteres; and Farnell, Cults, 5. 40LillianB. Lawler, The Dance in Ancient Greece (London: Black, 1964). For a general discussion of Dionysiac iconography, see also H. Philippart, "Iconographie."



proceed on the assumption that the Maenad dancers on the art representations,be they mythological or real, reflect the contemporary Thyiad dancers.41

The evidence from the vase paintings may be taken as proof that a high degree of interest in maenadism and the Dionysiac ecstasies existed early in the fifth century, prior to the Peloponnesian wars which some scholars have argued served as the impetus for the resurgenceof ecstatic cults.42Lawler's findings may even suggest that contrary to the opinion of Dodds, Guthrie and others, dancing maenads were known in Attica in this period not merely as mythological figures or outsiders. If we cannot be sure of the precise nature of any fifth- or fourthcentury orgiastic worship by women in a cult which may clearly be identified as Dionysiac,43 we have a better picture of the cult and its organization beginning in the Hellenistic period. Apollodorus' Bibliotheca contains various forms of most of the myths describing the importation of Dionysiac orgia into various regions in Greece. Diodorus Siculus devotes extensive sections to Dionysiac lore, including the Theban myth cycle and descriptions of Hellenistic practices. From Diodorus comes one of the major quotations brought forth by scholars in the attempt to ascertain Dionysiac practices, although there is some debate as to whether Diodorus was here describing the practices of his own time, or quoting an earlier source describing earlier customs.
... in many Greek cities the women assemble to celebrate Bacchic festivals every other year, and ... it is customary for the maidens to carry thyrsi and join in the frenzied revels with shouts of Evo, while the matrons sacrifice to the god and celebrate the Bacchic festival in groups, and in general extol with hymns the presence of Dionysus, in this manner acting the part of the Maenads who, as history records, were of old the companions of the god.44

The writings of Plutarch also contain numerous references to the Dionysiac orgia. In De primo frigido he discusses the midwinter rites and relates one occasion when a search party was sent out to rescue the women caught in a severe winter storm.45 De mulierum virtutibus records how the women of Amphissa protected sleeping maenads from unwanted attentions from soldiers and provided them with a safe escort home.46Plutarch's friend Klea was a priestess of Dionysus, as well as a devotee of Isis.47Pausanius contributes a legend of the origin of the cult
41Lawler, "The Maenads: A Contribution to the Study of the Dance in Ancient Greece," Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome 6 (1927) 79. 42Theproblem of the cult of Sabazios becomes relevant again here. See above, n. 29. 43Nilsson (Mysteries, 7) favors the former view. See also Diodorus 3. 62 ff. 44Diodorus 4.3. 45PlutarchDe primo frigido 953 D. 46De mulierum virtutibus 249 E. 47PlutarchDe Iside et Osiride 364 E. For a recent study of the roles of women in the cult of Isis, see Sharon Kelly Heyob, The Cult of Isis among Women in the Greco-Roman World (Leiden: Brill, 1976).



at Delphi in which Thyia, the daughter of Castalios, gave the first sacrifice to Dionysus and introduced the orgia.48The term "thyiad" frequently used at Delphi to describe those engaged in the ecstatic rites of Dionysus supposedly comes from her name. Thyia apparently bore Apollo a son, whom she named Delphos. Elsewhere49 Pausanius describes the Thyiades as "Attic women who go every other year with the Delphian women to Parnassus and there hold orgies in honor of Dionysus." His writings contain numerous additional references to Dionysus and his cult.50 The Hellenistic period also yields inscriptions relating to the Dionysiac cults. Among these is an inscription from Magnesia on the Meander concerning the origins of the worship of Dionysus there, according to which an image of the god was found in a plane tree. This portent was interpreted to mean that Dionysus wished the people to institute his worship and accordingly they sent for maenads from the house of Ino in Thebes to establish the orgia and Bacchic thiasoi.5' While the inscription itself is dated sometime in the second century B.C.E., Farnell argues that the cult was established at Magnesia in the fifth.52A tomb inscription from Miletus bids farewell to a priestess of the orgia of Dionysus while a cult regulation from the same city regulates the practices of omophagion, discusses financial questions and prescribes the priestess' role in Dionysiac initiations.53 These texts and inscriptions confirm the existence of well-regulated Dionysiac cults, with relatively tame rituals consisting of dancing, snake-handling and wandering on the mountains nocturnally. These cults appear to have had both private and public dimensions. Such practices are well attested for the first century by various Greek writers, and as early as the third century by the epigraphical evidence. In this period, the cult of Dionysus flourished at Delphi, at Magnesia and Miletus, and many other cities and regions as well.54 The sum total of our evidence for the orgiastic worship of Dionysus, or the private, ecstatic, non-agricultural and presumably biennial cult,

48PlutarchLife of Alexander 2.5-6. This passage is extremely intriguing, for it purports to describe Macedonian and Thracian rites from the fourth century. Plutarch's remark that women's snake-handling terrified the men may suggest something about the social mechanism of such activities. 49PausaniusDescription of Greece 10.4.3. 50PausaniusDescription 2. 2.6; 9.20.3; 7.37.3; 7.18.3, et al. 5'The text may be found in Otto Kern, Die Inschriften von Magnesia am Meander (Berlin: Konigliches Museum, 1900) 215. 52Farnell,Cults, 5. 53Textof the tomb inscription in Nilsson, Mysteries, 6, n. 7. For the cult inscription, see n. 32 above. 54Forreferences by geographic location, see Farnell, Cults, 5. 324-33.



as distinct from the public, yearly agricultural festivals, yields an intriguing but incomplete picture. We know that in the Hellenistic period, groups of Dionysiac worshippers, often organized in three groups after the three sisters of Semele, Agave, Ino and Autonoe, gathered together periodically to dance upon the mountains, wear ritual clothing and pay homage to the god. In some instances, the interval was one of two years, while other references suggest that thiasic groups, as they may be called, met more frequently.55 A ritual sacrifice was apparently performed by some thiasoi, the exact form of which is difficult to reconstruct.56 Despite our lack of extensive precise knowledge about the Dionysiac orgia, a constellation of myths, rituals and symbols emerges which is susceptible to analysis and interpretation. In particular, we may discern two major motifs, those of insanity and possession on the one hand, and of socio-biological roles and status on the other. In the many myths of the introduction of the worship of Dionysus, including those represented by Euripides' play, the reversal of sanity and insanity predominates. Those who yield to the divine madness of Dionysiac possession are the truly sane, while those who resist the holy insanity are truly insane.57Those who accept the call of the god and surrenderto the temporary possession suffer no harm, while those who struggle against the god invoke a second level of possession far more dangerous than the first. It is insane to be sane, sane to be insane. This motif of the reversalof normal states and judgments occurs in the sphere of socio-biological roles as well. Women possessed by Dionysus are compelled to abandon, at least temporarily, their domestic obligations of housework and child-rearing in favor of the worship of the god. While in the service of Dionysus, their activities express a marked ambivalence towards the neglected roles. On the one hand, the Bacchae mimic their normal roles, in a transmuted form, as they nurse baby wild animals with the milk intended for their own young.58But the death and dismemberment of Pentheus reflects the inversion of their maternal loyalties-the slaughter of Pentheus is the vicarious slaughter of each woman's own offspring. Likewise, the temporary abstinence from marital sexual obligations is also reflected in the activities attributed to the worshippers of Dionysus. On the one hand, the maenads are repeatedly accused of sexual immorality while in the possession of Dionysus,59 but often elsewhere in the same myths, and in the Bacchae itself, they are defended from such ac55Jeanmaire,Dionysos, 173-74. 56TheMiletus inscription (n. 32 above) regulatesa ritual sacrifice, but the text is unclear. 57Bacchae195-96. 58Ibid.699-702. 59Ibid.487; 222-25.



cusations. If there is a historical truth to be extracted here, it may be reflected in Dionysus' speech to Pentheus, in which he proclaims that the Dionysiac rites do not compel a woman to be unchaste, at the same time conceding by implication that the rites afford the opportunity for such activities.60But we should keep in mind that accusations of unchastity are themselves a form of social control, and we should be extremely cautious in seeing such accusations and their defenses as rooted in actual historical practices of either sort, chastity or unchastity. Further indications of sex-role reversal in the Dionysiac rites appear in the hunting activities of the maenads, climaxing in Agave's slaughter of Pentheus and her victorious boasts to her own father, Cadmus, upon her return to Thebes. In a speech we might expect more from a Greek son than a Greek daughter, and one most tragic in its irony, Agave addresses her father:
Now, Father, yours can be the proudest boast of living men. For you are now the father of the bravest daughters in the world. All your daughters are brave, but I above the rest. I have left my shuttle at the loom; I raised my sight to higher things-to hunting animals with my bare hands.61

In this brief passage, Agave makes clear the values of Greek society, and the roles normally appropriate for each sex. Agave has become, in her own crazed mind, a hunter, rejecting the pursuits of women for the higher achievements of men. In the Bacchae, elements of male sex role reversalalso occur. Cadmus and Teiresias don the ritual clothing of women to worship Dionysus, as does Pentheus under the spell of the god. Further, the god himself embodies the form of both sexes simultaneously; an essentially androgynous figure, Dionysus aptly represents sex role reversal for both sexes. The cult of Dionysus thus emerges as one in which the concept of reversal predominates. As I shall suggest shortly, this reversal has significant functions for the adherents of the cult. But it is also crucial to point out, as does Victor Turner in another context,62 that one of the primary functions of reversal is to affirm the appropriateness of that which is reversed precisely by the sharp delineation which the phenomenon of reversalaffords. If the cult of Dionysus temporarily reversesthe standards for sanity, and for socio-biological roles and values, it must be stressed that such reversal is necessarily temporary and ultimately confirms the appropriateness of the reversed roles.

60Ibid.314-18; Plutarch, De mulierum virtutibus. 6'Bacchae 1232-38; translation from Arrowsmith. 62VictorTurner, The Ritual Process (Chicago: Aldine, 1970) 172-77. See also 183-85 on the sexes and status reversal.



Having discerned the major motifs of the Dionysiac myths and rituals, only one additional point needs to be addressed before we may begin to formulate an answer to our initial question of the attractions of the cult of Dionysus for women, and that concerns the degree of male participation in the cult. For admittedly, any discussion of the significance of the participation of women in the cult must take into account the possible implications of male participation as well. The evidence for male participation in the classical period is scant. The much quoted saying in Plato is expressed in male terms, using the word Bacchoi.63Euripides, in the Ion, alludes to the participation of one Xuthus in the Dionysiac rites at Delphi.
Xuthus. I came once for the Bacchic mysteries. Ion. Yes? Xuthus. And I was taken by my host, along with some Delphian girlsIon. To the revels, no doubt? Xuthus. Yes, they were in a state of religious frenzy.64

Xuthus was drunk at the time and apparently fathered Ion on one of the "Delphian girls." Guthrie takes this passage as evidence for male participation (when Ion asks if Xuthus had been drunk or sober, he replies, "I had enjoyed the celebration").65But Dionysiac celebrations at Delphi were hardly limited to the ecstatic orgia, and the passage actually only tells us that Xuthus got drunk as part of a Dionysiac festival and fathered an illegitimate child on a female participant. In themselves these references cannot be taken as absolute proof that the kinds of activities described in the Bacchae actually involved men. In the Bacchae, though, three male characters other than Dionysus himself participate, or attempt to participate in the Dionysiac rites. In an early scene of the play, Teiresias, the blind seer, and Cadmus, the former king of Thebes (and grandfather of the reigning king Pentheus), meet to prepare themselves for the Dionysiac dance. Teiresias comes knocking on Cadmus' gate dressed in a fawnskin cloak, wearing an ivy garland and carrying a wand of thyrsus, three elements typical of the

63TrXXotL p,v vapOrlKoqb6pot B&KXOL 6c TE rraVpot, Plato Phaedo 69D. The use of the masculine plural neither guarantees nor rules out feminine participation, as Smyth (Greek Grammar [Cambridge: Harvard University, 1920]) notes that whole classes are denoted by the masculine, but unless Greek gender usage is unusual in this respect, it implies male participation, or the possibility of it, since many languages which use the masculine to include the feminine rarely use the feminine to denote the masculine. Thus the feminine plural Bacchae would probably refer to female Bacchics, while Bacchoi could refer either to men alone, or to both men and women. It is, I suppose, possible that at least in specific cases Bacchoi might refer only to women, but this would be highly improbable. '4Euripides Ion 550ff. 65lbid. 554.



Bacchic cult. Cadmus is likewise prepared, and together they plan to set off to dance to Dionysus. The same scene contains a reference to their participation in the cult as men. Cadmus asks Teiresias, "Shall we be the in Thebes who dance to Bacchus?" and the seer only men (iOdvoL) "We are the are only men (/6voL) rightminded; the rest (&XXot) replies: If the term 6OvoL refers to as to the perverse."66 men, opposed women, scene is particularly important, for it implies that by and large the men of Thebes did not participate in the Dionysiac cult, although the same lines, and Teiresias' following speech, suggest that this was contrary to the god's intention.67M6Ootby itself cannot be taken necessarilyto refer only to men. However, earlier passages in the play have already described how Dionysus has possessed all the women of Thebes and driven them out of their homes and up into the mountains to celebrate his rites.68 Thus the passage cannot mean that of all the people in Thebes, only Teiresias and Cadmus worship the god; it must rather refer to the men of Thebes. But if Cadmus and Teiresias at least intend to participate in the worship of Dionysus, of what does their service consist? In the scene already described, they speak of two and possibly three elements of the cultic activities outlined elsewhere: they wear the prescribed clothing and carry the thyrsus, they propose to dance, and they intend perhaps to do so upon the mountains, although this is unclear. There is no mention made by either of them of any possession experience, spontaneous or induced, and in this scene and the following one with Pentheus, the two men seem singularly in their right minds. Nor do we find any referenceto the sacrifices which are characteristically associated with the orgiastic worship of the god. One is tempted to suggest that some Greeks, whether men or women, participated in the cult only to the extent of wearing ritual clothing, and performingcertain dances. Such differentiation may be evidence of levels of cultic initiation, and it may be possible that men were only allowed to participate in the lesser activities, initiation with its practices of possession and sacrifice being denied to them.69
66Bacchae 195-96. 67"Butthe god wishesto receivehonor from all alike"(dXX' e a'7ralvTW(v flovXErat Bacchae 208. TLwaaL KOLValS) 'XELV 68Ibid.32-36. 69Bacchae 35-36 when taken together with the described activities of Cadmus and Teiresias may lend furthercredence to this suggestion. Dionysus states that "Everywoman in Thebes-but the women only-I drove from home, mad" (rr&vrT OhXv oTreplua KaouEicv, 6oat yvvaLK;e f4oav). The second Greek phrase raises some problem of interpretation and translation, which Dodds discusses in his commentary on the Bacchae, as part of his edition of the play, 67. He rejects the reading of 6oatt yvvaofKe as excluding married women (although yvvalKSir may have that meaning in the passage in Diodorus). Dodds argues that the phrase is essentially tautological and meant to stress the exclusion



The other male character who participates in the Dionysiaca in the play is Pentheus, and his involvement cannot be taken as evidence for normal male cultic activity, although it does suggest several associations concerning the identity of the sacrifice. Pentheus is variously the slaughtered animal, the dismembered child and perhaps the torn and rent god. But far from being a celebrant, he is the hapless victim of the celebration who is punished for his refusal to accept and permit the rites of the god in what is perhaps an unusual mode for a god whose usual revenge is insanity. If there are no other male characters who worship Dionysus in the Bacchae, there are nevertheless other clues in the play which tell us something about the nature and extent of male participation in the cult. In 11.135-69 the chorus describes the celebrant of Dionysus, who, wrapped in his fawnskin, hunts and eats the raw goat, dances in ecstasy and leads the band of frenzied Bacchae upon the mountains of Lydia. The role of the celebrant in this passage resembles that of the god in the later portions of the play dealing with the actions of the Theban women upon the mountains; the god leads the women and inspires them to dance. Although the god does not participate in the hunt, except to provide the final, human victim, nor share in the sparagmos, there is a clear suggestion of identification of the male celebrant (4eapXos) with Dionysus, which in turn suggests that groups of Bacchic women were led by an actual male celebrant or leader,70who was at certain times during the ritual identified with the god himself. But if this points to the presence of a male leader, there is no evidence of male participation in the ecstatic bands themselves, at least not within the play. In the Hellenistic period, evidence of male participation is more definitive. Diodorus describes the company of Dionysus as both male and female71 and states that the god instructed all pious men and

of men. But since the play clearly notes that men perform some Dionysiac ritual, this seems to me to strengthen the notion that, although men may pay homage to Dionysus, it is only the women who are possessed and who, in the state of ecstatic possession, perform the higher rites. Additional evidence for levels of cultic initiation comes from Lawler's observation that not all the maenads in the vase paintings are depicted in fawnskins but only some, from which Jeanmaire suggests that the fawnskin may have been a sign of cultic initiation, to be worn henceforth only by initiates, and possibly being the skin of the animal actually sacrificed at the initiation (Dionysos, 170). Additionally, Diodorus' description of the Bacchic rites may be taken to mean that married women and unmarried maidens performed different rituals which may have carried with them levels of cultic differentiation, but the text may be read in a variety of ways (Diodorus 4.3). 7'As Aeschines is said to have done in the Sabazian rites, according to Demosthenes (De corona 259). See also Dodds, Bacchae, 86. 71Diodorus 4.2.5.



initiated them into his mysteries, a statement juxtaposed with one concerning the god's special identification with women.72 The cult inscription from Miletus is even more instructive. While regulating the cultic activities of the participants, it refers to both men and women and sets down somewhat different conditions for their participation. The first part of the inscription discusses activities ("to sacrifice, performed by both men and women, using the verb Ovco offer or celebrate"), while the second part, regulating only the behaviour of women, uses the term TreXCo ("to be initiated"). This would further in the Bacchae that while men participated in the implications support the cult, they were limited to certain practices, while only women could become full initiates. An Alexandrian tomb epigram, recorded by Dioscurides, refers to a male dpylOavTrlS Aleximenes.73Nilsson interpretsthis to mean that at the writer's time
there were . . .Bacchic mysteries, similar to the orgia, in which men as well as women took part. This may represent a transitional stage between the old orgia, which were celebrated by women exclusively, and the new Dionysiac mysteries that were open to men as well as women.74

Finally, Pausanius gives notice of a temple of Mount Taygetos which was open exclusively to women.75 Thus it appears that at least until the late Hellenistic period, the primary participants in the Bacchic orgia were women, with the possible exception of male celebrants, or cultic leaders, and occasional other men. Where there is evidence for male participation, it is almost always of a limited nature, and with the exception of the ?EapXoqin the Bacchae, we never hear of a man, driven to the heights of ecstatic frenzy, participating in the sparagmos and omophagia of the victim, whose identity where given is always that of a male. Since it is now apparent that the involvement of men in the Dionysiac orgia was relatively restricted, the issues of feminine attraction become even more pressing. Why were these rites, whatever their form, so
7'2bid. 3.64.7.

73Citedin Nilsson, Mysteries, 8, n. 11. 74Nilsson, Mysteries, 8. 75"There still remains here [in Bryseae] a temple of Dionysus with an image in the open. But the image in the temple women only may see, for women by themselves perform in secret the sacrificial rites"(Pausanius Description of Greece3.20.4). This prompts Farnell to remark that "This is indeed the only example of the exclusion of men in this worship, in which the priest is after all more common than the priestess, and one hears frequently of the male votary, the ,/3KXoS, as well as of the Bacchai. But the woman ministrant was more essential generally to this cult than to that of any other male divinity, and was never excluded as she frequently was in others"(Cults, 5. 160). Farnell's observations here are to be taken with at least a grain of salt.



appealing to women? It is my contention that the strong fascination for women may be informed by a theoretical model based on the work of anthropologist Kenelm Burridge. Burridge maintains that all societies promulgate measures of worth by which individuals are judged and on the basis of which the rewards of privilege and prestige are meted out. Burridge writes:
In any community the basic measure of prestige and status must refer either to the activities which all or most undertake in common, or to those assets to which all or most in the community have a common access, or both.76

When a sufficient proportion of a society perceives that it no longer has access to the implied rewards, or perhaps when those rewards appear inadequate, the result is frequently activities and movements whose function is to provide alternative measures of worth and adequate rewards. But it is significant that in most societies there are few if any activities which men and women undertake in common, and few assets to which both men and women have access. In practice, most societies, especially traditional ones, promulgate different standards of worth for men and women. While men are usually judged in terms of learned achievements (hunting prowess, education, artistic accomplishments, accrued wealth), women are normally evaluated primarily on the basis of their reproductive functions and their ascribed social relationships (wife, mother, daughter, sister). The sign of a successful man is frequently his wealth, or his skills; that of a successful woman her husband and her sons. If this is true, then the social deprivation of men will frequently revolve around different issues than the social deprivation of women, where social deprivation is determined with respect to the overall status of the individual in terms of the standards operative in the society. Whereas men will experience social deprivation and seek some kind of redress over issues ranging from physical and military prowess to money and political power, women will experience deprivation primarily in regard to their socio-biological status. A man will perceive himself to be inadequate if he is poor, or unlettered, or an unsuccessful hunter, depending on the criteria of his particular culture, but a woman will perceive herself inadequate (and will be so considered by her peers), in almost all traditional societies (and many modern ones as well), unless she enters into an acceptable marriageand bears many healthy children, preferably sons. Women who fail to meet this standard are by definition marginal: unmarried women past a certain age; childless women; and often, for a variety of reasons, widows. While both "deprived"men and "deprived"women may seek redress in religious settings, women who
76Kenelm Burridge, New Heaven, New Earth (New York: Schocken, 1969).



fail to meet their society's measure of a woman will be attracted to religious activities which specifically address the measure of a woman. The restoration of a sense of social adequacy will, for most women, almost inevitably depend upon the successful resolution of their sociobiological status. The implications of this for women in ancient Greece, and the cult of Dionysus are twofold. On the one hand, we may be led to expect that if ancient Greek society did promulgate different standards of worth for men and for women, and if the women's standards revolved primarily about socio-biological abilities, Greek women who had problems with these standards might be attracted to activities, particularly religious ones, which on some level addressed themselves to these issues. But in addition, the overall status of women in ancient Greece comes into play as a factor. As a multitude of historians have noted, the status of women in classical Greece ranks among the worst of women in western society at any time.77In Burridge's terms, not only were some Greek women likely to perceive that they were unable to meet the measure of a woman, but also many, if not all, Greek women were likely to perceive a tremendous disparity between the rewards bestowed the "successful" woman and those which accrued to the successful man. This disparity may have threatened the entire social fabric of ancient Greece; that it had the potential to do so emerges convincingly from Philip Slater's psychoanalytically oriented treatment of the Greek family pathology.78
770n the subject of the status of women in ancient Greece, and often antiquity in general, see J. Leipoldt, Die Frau in der antiken Welt und im Urchristentum(Giitersloh: Mohn, 1962); Robert Flaceliere, "Histoire de la femme antique en Crete et en Grece," in Histoire Mondiale de la Femme (ed. Pierre Grimal; Paris: Nouvelle Libraire de France, 1965) 1; Maurice Bardeche, Histoire desfemmes (Paris: Stock, 1968); Verena Zinserling, Women in Greeceand Rome (New York: Schram, 1973);Julia O'Faolain and Lauro Martines, Not in God's Image: Women in Historyfrom the Greeks to the Victorians(New York: Harper & Row, 1973); Vern Bullough, The Subordinate Sex: A History of Attitudes towards Women (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois, 1973);W. K. C. Lacey, The Family in Ancient Greece (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, 1968). Numa Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City: A Study on the Religion, Laws and Institutions of Greece and Rome (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1864) discusses the place of women in ancient society in the course of his broader treatment. H. D. F. Kitto (The Greeks [Harmondsworth: Pelican, 1951]); L. A. Post ("Women's Place in Menander's Athens," TAPA 71 [1940] 420-59); and A. W. Gomme, ("The Position of Women in Athens in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries," Classical Philology 20 [1925] Iff.) offer a somewhat more positive description of the position of women in ancient Greece. See also Wayne Meeks, "The Image of the Androgyne: Some Uses of a Symbol in Earliest Christianity,"HR 13 (1974) 165-208; and Sarah B. Pomeroy, Goddesses, Wives, Whoresand Slaves: Women in ClassicalAntiquity (New York: Schocken, 1975). 'XAlthoughSlater was apparently unaware of Burridge'swork and did not himself view the precipitating factor behind the fervor of Dionysiac religion as due to any perception of disparity between the standards of male and female worth, he proposed a modified Freudian theory, influenced heavily by the work of Karen Homey, to account for the



The work of anthropologist I. M. Lewis provides one of the most useful models for analyzing the Dionysiac ecstasy, particularlywhen his findings are viewed from the perspective of Burridge's studies. Lewis found that the heart of ecstatic religious phenomena lies in its sociological functions, a conclusion which he based on his extensive study of African and Caribbean possession cults. According to Lewis, these sar and bori cults, and others similar to them, are fundamentally mechanisms for the expression of aggression and hostility by the powerless against the powerful, combined with some measure of at least temporary redress, confined within the limits of socially nondestructive activities. Lewis himself perceives that the orgiastic cult of Dionysus falls into this category, although he does not pursue the observation. Sar or bori possession initially involves a bout of physical illness, inflicted by a capricious spirit (sar in the eastern African regions, bori in the western) whose actions are in no way brought on by the afflicted person. Alleviation of such illness usually requires the offering of gifts and sacrifices to the spirit. These offerings are normally made with the help of a shaman, who is herself a prior victim who has reached an accommodation with her possessing spirit, and is now in a position to The primary interpret the spirit's demands and promote appeasement.79 goal of the shaman's activities is interestingly enough not exorcism of the daemon, but rather the establishment of an ongoing relationship between the afflicted person and the possessing spirit. Such a relationship is then continued within the cultic setting, with the support

dynamics of the Dionysiac orgia and their attraction to women. There are many substantial problems with Slater's work, which would require an unwarranteddigression to discuss here; nevertheless, his basic observation that the cult of Dionysus provided the perfect symbols for the expression and resolution of socio-sexual tensions within a sanctioned context is highly significant. A good critical review of Slater's work and the lack of response it has received among classicists may be found in Marylin B. Arthur's review essay on the study of women in the field of classics, in Signs 2 (1976) 395-97. 79Priorpossession and cure are often preliminary qualifications for the role of shaman. In the cult of Dionysus, where the god plays the role both of afflictor and of healer, it is perhaps not insignificant to note that Dionysus was himself considered in the myths to have been originally driven mad by Hera, prior to his affliction of Greek women. It is further interesting to note that psychoanalytic theory, based on nonempirical constructs of id, ego and superego, or in the Jungian system, anima and animus, appears to be not so much objective reality based on our scientific advancement and superiority so much as the only acceptable explanation for such activities and phenomena, given a rationalistic society in which demons and dead ancestors no longer fit the bill. Perhaps the most interesting connection here is that just as the shaman or exorcist is usually (as a preliminary qualification) the prior victim of possession and presumablycured, so also do we require our modern day analysts themselves to undergo the process of analysis before they are qualified to treat others. The notion of the curing cured remains with us.



of other similarly afflicted individuals.80 These cults are basically marginal cults existing on the fringes of Islam and Christianityand have an essentially "popular" character, attracting primarily those of lower social strata and particularly women.81 One of the major characteristics of these cults is that they are, in Lewis' terms, peripheral. The spirits involved play no part in upholding the moral code of the society; they are believed to originate outside the societies whose women they plague, and those whom they afflict usually occupy a "peripheral"place in the social structure, namely, women and socially powerless men. The nature of the possessing spirit is thus of particular significance in that it is the agent by which women are able to retaliate against men or redress grievances. The possessing spirit is typically considered to be amoral, a conception which Lewis considers crucial. No moral judgment on the possessed individual can be inferred from the possession which eliminates the responsibility of the possessed person. Being morally blameless, they are able to take advantage of the special privileged position in which possession places them.
In its primary social function, peripheral possession thus emerges as an oblique aggression strategy. The possessed person is ill through no fault of his own. The illness requires treatment which his (or her) master has to provide. In his state of possession that patient is a highly privileged person: he is allowed many liberties with those whom in other circumstances he is required to treat with respect... Clearly in this context possession works to help the interests of the weak and down trodden who have otherwise few effective means to press their claims for attention and respect.82

Since the possession illness is never fully cured, and likely to recur, the patient is provided with additional social leverage.83 The system of possession thus serves to redresssome of the grievances of oppressed women in male-dominated societies. Furthermore, Lewis suggests that the system is able to function precisely because the men recognize, at least up to a point, the legitimacy of the women's grievances and thus permit the syndrome to go on.
Hence, within bounds which are not infinitely elastic, both men and women are more or less satisfied; neither sex loses face and the official ideology of male supremacy is preserved. From this perspective, the tolerance by men of periodic, but always temporary, assaults on their authority by women appears as the price they have to pay to maintain their enviable position.84 80Jeanmaire,Dionysos, 120-23. 8'Ibid.; I. M. Lewis, Ecstatic Religion: An Anthropological Study of Spirit Possession and Shamanism (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971) 72-75. 82Lewis,Ecstatic Religion, 32. 83Ibid.,88. 84Ibid.,86.



Possession thus appears to neutralize the potentially destructive emotions felt by oppressed individuals of a society by permitting them to be vented through highly institutionalized, regulated forms. Lewis' findings are illuminating for the study of the Dionysiac cult, although the correspondence between the Dionysiac and sar and bori is far from one to one. The primary affliction of the former is not illness, with physical symptoms, but rather madness, or a kind of trance possession, marked by the urge to dance and to abandon home and hearth to follow the god. It is not entirely clear that a secondary phase of Dionysiac possession consisted of initiation into an ongoing cult (although H. Jeanmaire argues that precisely such an initiation was involved).85 Nevertheless, it is clear that possession occurs which can only be cured through participation in the oreibasia, and possibly in the sparagmos and omophagia as well. Furthermore, the language of possession and cure is unmistakably present. It may be argued that Dionysiac possession was not wholly "amoral." In fact, the possession of Agave, her sisters, and Pentheus, in the Bacchae, is clearly not amoral-it is a direct response to their failure to acknowledge the liaison between Semele and Zeus, and the resultant divinity of their offspring, Dionysus. But the nature and consequences of their affliction are qualitatively different from that of the oriental women who accompany Dionysus, and possibly also from that of the rest of the Theban women.86 The latter's guilt of nonrecognition is unclear, but the possession of the oriental women, the chorus, is clearly amoral. In other myths of Dionysus, he is thought to drive women mad because Hera, out of jealousy over Semele, drove him mad. Thus, the women are not to blame; the possession is amoral. Further, if we remember that Hera is the protector of married women, and Dionysiac possession does function as a temporary respite from the antagonism and severe role distinction in Greek society, then Hera, in an indirect way, herself provides Greek women with redress against the disservices of a male-dominated society. Lewis' evaluation of the function of possession cults clarifies one aspect of the Dionysiac which scholars have vigorously debated, namely, the attribution of foreign origin to Dionysus. While there is some evidence that Dionysus was an imported deity, as well as evidence to the contrary,87 the fact remains that he was known in the traditions as a foreign god. If Lewis' understanding of the function of amoral possession is correct, then Dionysus almost has to be foreign in order
85Jeanmaire,Dionysos, 173, 186, 219. 86Adistinction which Rohde supports, Psyche, 2. 304-35 n. 2. 87Among others, the finding of a name taken to be that of Dionysus in the Linear B tablets.



that possession by him not be seen as evidence of a moral deficiency on the part of the victim, and thus fail to alleviate the stress of social strictures upon the individual, and bring down upon her additional social sanctions. Far from being an arbitrary element of the myth, the ascription of foreign origin emerges as part of a coherent, forceful pattern.88 The possession and cure of Greek women did in fact produce a temporary respite from the pressures of Greek life and familial obligations, while providing a temporarily protected social status. The activities of the maenads, as depicted in the Bacchae, could be interfered with only at great risk to the interferer. Unfortunately for the maenad, such respite does not seem to have carried over into everyday life, once the maenad returns, in the same way that initiation into the sar cult permanently insured the African women access to redress. On the other hand, Jeanmaire argues that there probably were small household cults which arose from participation in the biennial orgia, which would have served (although he does not make this connection) to perpetuate to at least some extent the social benefits of the possession.89 Lewis' work affords another valuable insight into the function of Dionysiac possession and cult which relates to the theory of Burridge. The initiation of women into peripheral possession cults was almost always precipitated by a recent or impending change in the sociobiological status of the initiate.90In particular, Lewis noted that women whose husbands are about to take a new wife (in polygamous societies), newlyweds, women who have recently had children, etc., seem to be vulnerable to sar assault.91 This category of women whose socio-sexual status is in some way being threatened or radically altered seems to hold true for many women afflicted with the Dionysiac madness, especially in the myths. The daughters of Minyas refuse to worship Dionysus because they are concerned about getting husbands, that is, they are roughly at the age of
88It seems impossible to determine whether the foreign ascription was imposed of necessity on a god about whom such a cult centered, or whether the cult attached itself to Dionysus in part because of the foreign ascription. 89Jeanmaire,Dionysos, 174, 186. 90Mostof Lewis' women were married;the category of socio-biologically "threatened" or "marginal"is my own modification of Lewis' work. Unmarried women were definitely involved in the Hellenistic cult, according to Diodorus. But Lewis himself remarks that "Successful wives and mothers may occasionally succumb to possession, but they are unlikely to be drawn into permanent involvement in the possession cult groups. The keenest recruits and the most committed enthusiasts are women who, for one reason or another, do not make a success of their marital roles, or who, having fulfilled these roles, seek a new career in which they can give free rein to the desire to manage and dominate others" (191). 9'Lewis, Ecstatic Religion, 66-69.



puberty and anticipating a major socio-biological change from girlhood to womanhood. Agave and her sisters in the Bacchae are all approaching old age (they have grown sons), and the corresponding alteration and diminution of social status which befalls widowed women (as they appear to be, although the evidence is not explicit). As Jeanmaire points out, there appears to be a connection between the Thus it seems possible point at which one entered the cult and puberty.92 to suggest that women whose socio-biological status is in a situation of flux or uncertainty are more vulnerable to peripheral possession and more in need of its therapeutic advantage than are women whose social status is relatively assured. If Lewis is right that peripheral possession brings the stricken persons a certain amount of social prestige and manipulatory powers, the following hypothesis seems logical. Those in need of more defined and stable social status, namely, those who are at least temporarily deprived of it, would be extremely attracted to cults which in some way restored prestige. This is not to suggest that all the women who participated in the Dionysiac orgia were going through a stage of socio-biological transition, but that such situations might provide the occasion through which many if not most women were initiated into the cult. Lewis himself suggests that as far as social marginality is concerned, women are perhaps, ipso facto, a socially marginal group and thus always vulnerable to peripheral possession.93 There are several other parallels between sar and bori cults and the Dionysiac which ought finally to be mentioned. First, M. Leiris notes that the sar cult usually meets at a fixed date about the time of the main festivals of the official religion.94 This observation relates to Lewis' recognition that the cult is an alternative to the normative maledominated worship and may indicate something about the proximity of the trieteric festival to the main cult festival of Anthesterion. Second, Jeanmaire observed that, for certain afflicted persons, the trance is the equivalent of a sexual uniting with the sar.95One cannot help but see in this a parallel to the allusion of sexual activity between Dionysus and the maenads96and the allegations of unchastity which are levelled against them.97
92Jeanmaire,Dionysos, 208. 93Lewis,Ecstatic Religion, 32. 94Citedin Jeanmaire, 125. 95Ibid, 127. 960r, as often depicted in the vase paintings, the sexuality between the maenads and the satyrs. See for example plate 12c "Silen seizing a Maenad" in Prentice Duell, "La Tomba del Triclinio," Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome 4 (1927) 5-68. 97Suchactivity becomes explicit in the myth of Krishna and Radha the gopi, a legend and cult which seems to me to have clear-cut parallels to the Dionysiac-the gopis are called irresistibly away from their homes, flocks and husbands in order to attain union with Krishna, a union which is expressed in sexual-physical terms.



It thus seems evident that participation in the Dionysiac orgia afforded Greek women a means of expressing their hostility and frustration at the male-dominated society, by temporarily abandoning their homes and household responsibilities and engaging in somewhat outrageous activities. It seems clear that one of the main results of Dionysiac possession was that it enabled Greek women at least temporarily to defy their normal roles and participatein activities which were normally not permitted to them, within a framework which prohibited the exercise of any serious sanctions against them, since the possession was, in most instances, understood to be amoral and irresistible. Both the women and the men were able to participate in the game; the women could temporarily disrupt the domestic routine, and the men could permit them their limited expression of hostility and frustration because of their mutual acceptance of the authority of the god and his ability to punish resistance. In conclusion, one final comment seems warranted. It should be stressed that the cult did not, in all probability, arise directly as a response to the devaluation of Greek women but ratherbecame a means of coping with it because of the inherent malleability of the symbols contained within the cult. The worship of Dionysus appears to have had its origins in other concerns: probably the perpetuation of the life-force in the cosmos, and the complex human feelings associated with such events (i.e., the festivals of Thesmophoria and Thargelia, among others), which account for the emphasis on sexual symbols and fertility imagery: the phallus/infant carried in the liknon basket, the ithyphallic satyrs who are frequently depicted in the entourage of Dionysus, the ivy leaves and grape clusters, etc. But symbols whose origins may be in more agriculturally or fertility oriented concerns neverthelesslend themselves admirably to the expression of socio-biological relationships by virtue of their rather obvious ability to evoke sexual images in the mind of the observer.