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The traditional reading, Ἰταλίαν, may be supported by these considerations. (1) Southern Italy, the seat of so many Greek colonies, was preeminently associated with the cultivation of the vine; and Sophocles has himself used the name which expresses that fact: Triptolemus fr. 538 “Οἰνωτρία τε πᾶσα καὶ Τυρσηνικὸς κόλπος Αιγυστική τε γῆ σε δέξεται”. (2) The opening words of the ode, “Καδμείας νύμφας ἄγαλμα”, claim Thebes as the birth-place of Dionysus. Though Italy, then, is mentioned before Eleusis, Parnassus and Euboea, that precedence has not the effect of representing Italy as the head-quarters of the Dionysiac worship. Rather the mention of Italy just after Thebes serves to exalt the Theban god by marking the wide range of his power. And this reference to a distant country well suits the immediately following “παγκοίνοις”, expressing that Eleusis receives votaries from every part of the Greek world. (3) Athenian colonists founded Thurii, on the site of Sybaris, in 444—3 B.C.,—only two or three years before the probable date of this play. Thus, just at this time, the Athenian mind had been turned towards Southern Italy, and the allusion would strike a chord of sympathy in the audience. It may be worth remembering that the poet himself would naturally have felt a more than common interest in the new home of his friend Herodotus.

The only worthy rival of “Ἰταλίαν” is the conjecture Ἰκαρίαν. This was the name of a deme in the N. E. of Attica, picturesquely situated in an upland valley bounded on the N. by the mountainchain (‘Aphorismo’) which shuts in the plain of Marathon, and on the s. by Pentelicus. The site—at a place called ‘Dionyso’—is proved by local inscriptions, found by members of the American School in 1888. The story was that, when Dionysus first entered Attica, he was received at Icaria by Icarius, whom he taught to make wine. Icaria was associated with the earliest celebrations of the rural Dionysia (thus the “ἀσκωλιασμός”, or dancing on greased wine-skins, was said to have been introduced by Icarius himself), and with the infancy of Attic drama in both kinds,—as it was also the birth-place of Thespis , and, at a later time, of the comic poet Magnes. Inscriptions and other remains show that, in the 5th century B.C., it was the seat of an active Dionysiac worship, with dramatic performances. These discoveries remind us that Sophocles might well have called Icaria “κλυτάν”. Prof. C. Merriam A. further points out that, in literature, the legend of Icaria is often associated with that of Eleusis (American School at Athens: Seventh Annual Report, 1887—88, p. 96). To Statius, Theb. 12. 619Icarii Celeique domus), may be added Apollod. 3. 14. 7, Lucian De Salt. 39 f., Nonnus 27. 283 ff., etc. But these facts remain: (1) Ἰταλίαν is also suitable, and is in all the MSS.: (2) it widens the range ascribed to the god's power: (3) a corruption of “Ἰκαρίαν” into “Ἰταλίαν” is not one to which the letters would readily lend themselves, and would have been the less likely to occur because Icaria was familiarly associated with Dionysus.

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  • Commentary references from this page (2):
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 3.14.7
    • Statius, Thebias, 12
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