Dionysus as well as Apollo had a share at Delphi as one of the chief
Hellenic gods. “Dionysus was the god of the peasantry, the bestower of
the fullest festive enjoyment in the free conditions of a life led
according to Nature” (Curtius, Hist. of Greece,
2.78). Hence we are not surprised to meet his festivals everywhere. Thebes
is said to have been his birthplace (Paus. 9.12
), whence his worship spread to Corinth and
2.2, 7); to Euboea, where he was
educated; and Naxos, where he was united with Ariadne. In Athens his worship
is said to have been introduced by Amphictyon (Ath.
); that is, that it belonged to the Ionic Amphictyony. For other
legends connected with the introduction of Dionysiac worship into Attica,
see Suidas, Μελαναιγίδα Διόνυσον,
: Hesych., s. v. Ἑλεύθερος
: Steph. Byz Σημαχίδαι
: Paus. 1.2
: Schol. on Ach.
especially Ribbeck, Anfänge und Entwichelung des.
Dionysuskultes in Attika.
No less old in Attica was the worship
of the Icarian Dionysus (Dict. Mythology,
s. v. Icarius
). In historic times we find Dionysia held at
Delos, Tenos, Syrus, Ceos, Amorgos, Paros, Astypalaea (Hermann,
65, 11); at Miletus, Teos, Smyrna (ib.
66, 9), and at Corcyra in the west (lb.
68, 1): cf.
Preller, Griech. Myth.
i.3 557 sqq.
But there had been another form of the worship of Dionysus, quite
un-Hellenic, and a scandal in their eyes (ψόγος ἐς
778), which was
wildly orgiastic. In very early times, it originated in Thrace and
Macedonia, whence it spread into Asia Minor, where it united with the
Oriental mysteries of Cybele, and then reacted on the Hellenic ceremonies.
The mystic forms of the Bacchic worship for the most part go back to
Orpheus. These, which are known as the trieteric
festivals of Dionysus, i. e. occurring every other year (τριετηρίδες,
Verg. A. 4.302
), first gained ground, in
Greece proper, in Boeotia, coming perhaps across the sea by the islands;
for, as Preller has shown (in Pauly, 2.1065), such orgiastic rites are found
in a vast number of the islands. And, like a fire, they soon spread all
through Greece. There were revels in Parnassus (Soph. Ant. 1126
), in Phocis (Paus.
), Messenia, Arcadia, even Sparta
(Ael. VH 3.42
): see Preller, l.c.
1066. The festivals were held on mountains,
with blazing torches (Eur. Bacch.
133, 146), in dark winter
nights (Ov. Fast. 1.394
). The votaries were
in large part women, and were known by many names,--Maenads, Thyiads,
Clodones, Mimallones, Bassarides, &c. They were clothed in fawn
], carried thyrsi
], and in their
ecstasies used to hunt wild animals, tear them in pieces, and sometimes eat
them raw. In very early times, human sacrifice seems to have been offered to
Dionysus Zagreus (Paus. 9.8
), and Themistocles before the battle of Salamis sacrificed
three young Persian prisoners to Dionysus Omestes (Plut. Them. 13
). The splendours of trieteric Bacchic revelry
in excelsis are
brilliantly depicted in the
choruses and messengers' speeches of the Bacchae;
cf. also Preller in Pauly, 2.1064-1067.
But the genuine Hellenic worship of Dionysus was of a more cheerful and less
frantic nature. It was simple, if somewhat coarse, enjoyment. When the
vintage was over and the must had fermented, Dionysus, the god of the grape,
was honoured by the country folk with the best they could offer, with
sacrifices of oxen and goats, those enemies of the god who used to eat his
vines: and, in their hearty and natural revelry, they used to march about in
procession, and dance and sing, and dress themselves up in odd costumes.
Many writers, such as Preller, K. O. Müller, &c., tell us
how the worshipper was filled with an intense desire “to fight, to
conquer, and to suffer in common with the god.” Such ideas did
certainly arise in connexion with the cult of Dionysus; but most probably
they were later additions, coming from the mysteries and partly belonging to
the trieteric votaries of Dionysus as Zagreus. Of the Attic Dionysia we have
most knowledge. These, which we now [p. 1.638]
describe, though mainly Hellenic and natural wine-feasts, had suffered
somewhat from the influence of the Thracian and Asiatic mysteries, and
exhibit a strange compound of what is ridiculous and grotesque with what is
solemn and serious. The country Dionysia alone remained free from the
influence of the mystic Bacchic rites (August Mommsen,
p. 77). But regular trieteric revels are not
found in Attica (Schömann, Alterth.
The Attic festivals are generally allowed to be four in number,--the country
Dionysia, the Lenaea, the Anthesteria, and the Great Dionysia; for O.
Gilbert's view (Die Festzeiten der attischen Dionysien,
1872), that the first three are parts of the same festival, is demolished by
Schömann (op. Cit.
I. The Lesser
or Country Dionysia
or τὰ κατ̓
) were very ancient wine
-feasts, celebrated in the various demes throughout Attica, from
about the 8th to 11th of Poseideon (= about Dec. 19-22), under the
presidency of the demarchs. As A. Mommsen (op. cit.
324 ff.) points out, we must not suppose with Kannegiesser, Boeckh, and
Preller, that they were vintage
) Poseideon is too late for the vintage,
which was usually about the equinox, sometimes extending to the beginning of
November, but not later (Plin. Nat.
) ; (b
) the Lesser Dionysia are
(Harpocr. s. v.), i. e.
festivals of θέοινος
: cf. Aesch.
397, πάτερ θέοινε
which Tzetzes (ad
Lycophr. 1247) explains as θεὸς οἴνου
and which may be explained as the god himself
turning into wine (cf. οὗτος θεοῖσι σπένδεται
) intoxication is one of the marks of the Dionysiac
festival, and must cannot intoxicate, it needs fermentation. The country
Dionysia, then, was a wine
-feast, and we find it
celebrated with dramatic performances in Collytus, Piraeus, Salamis,
Eleusis, Aixone, Phlya, Myrrhinus, &c. (see A. Müller,
317, 318). We have an
excellent picture of the coarse sort of thing it was in the
240 ff. There is a procession: the daughter
of Dicaeopolis marches in front as κανηφόρος,
and the slave Xanthias carries behind an erect
phallus, to which Dicaeopolis sings a rollicking song, &c.
II. The Lenaea
or τὰ ἐν Λίμναις,
Hesych., Suid.; or Διονύσια ἐπὶ Αηναίῳ,
C. I. G.
157, 11) was a town-festival. Preller (op. cit.
2.1060) supposes that the Lenaea and the
country Dionysia were originally one feast, but were separated after the
temple of the Lenaeon in Limnae got included within the city; the Lenaea was
then put off a month later, to allow the country folk to celebrate their
festival in their separate districts, and afterwards to bring their wine to
the city and enjoy the festivity there also. Mommsen, however (op. cit.
338), holds that Limnae was included in the
city long before Athens knew anything about Dionysia. He thinks (p. 46; cf.
73) that the Lenaea was originally a trieteric festival, held in the
intercalary month as a sort of makeshift, not to let the month be entirely
without a feast. A difficulty still attaches to the name Λήναια,
which certainly points to a vintage
-feast: but Λῆναι
are Bacchae, votaries intoxicated by the god accordingly
the word is not derived from ληνὸς
sense of “a wine-press,” but in that of “a vat” ;
for the produce of the wine-press is not, as we have seen, intoxicating at
that stage. The festival was certainly celebrated during historical times in
Gamelion (Bekk. Anecd.
235, 6; Schol. on Hes.
506), but there is great uncertainty as to the exact
days. After a full discussion, Mommsen decides (op.
pp. 332-337) for 8th to 11th (=about Jan. 28-31), though Boeckh
(C. I. G.
523, 21) considers the κιττώσεις Διονύσου
of the 19th refer to the Lenaea.
Another name for the festival or part of it was probably Ambrosia [AMBROSIA
], though this matter
is not quite decided. At the Lenaea there was a great feasting and a
procession (Law of Evagoras, ap. Dem. Mid.
which there was plenty of jesting ἐξ
(Schol. on Aristoph. Kn.
), though this jesting appears to have been a feature introduced
into the Lenaea from the Anthesteria (Phot. p. 565, 14). It was a cheerier
and less pompous festival than the great city Dionysia, for strangers did
not take part in it (Aristoph. Ach.
). Dithyrambs were sung on the first day, and the victor got an
ivy crown (Mommsen, op.
III. About the date of the Anthesteria,
there can be no
doubt. It consisted of three days, called the Λιθοίγια,
was held on the 11th of Anthesterion (=about March
2nd): see Plut. Symp.
3.7, 1; 8.10, 3; the Χόες
on the 12th, and the Χύτροι
on the 13th (Harpocr. 184, 24, and 186, 9). The
whole festival is sometimes called by one of its days, viz. the chief one,
2.1062: cf. Phot. 269; Thuc. 2.15
; and Mommsen, p. 348). (1) The
was the preliminary opening of the winecasks,
and general preparation for the Choes. “Among our paternal
customs,” says the Scholiast on Hes. Op.
“is a festival called Pithoigia, during which it is not lawful to
debar either slave or hired labourer from the enjoyment of the wine; but
when we (i.e. the
masters) have sacrificed,
we must give all a share of the good gifts of Dionysus.” Indeed,
during all the days of the Anthesteria, the rustic slaves had leisure, and a
verse tells of the somewhat brusque reminder to them that the feast is over:
θύραζε, Κᾶρες:οὐκέτ̓ Ἀνθεστήρια
4.33). The schoolboys appear to have got
holidays during the Anthesteria (Theophr. Char.
30 (17)); and
some days prior to this Christmas of the Athenians, there was a regular fair
at Athens, bringing a conflux of foreign traders (cf. Aristoph. Ach. 719
ff.; and Mommsen, p.
352). The fastening of a rope round the temple in Limnae doubtless took
place on the afternoon of the Pithoigia (περισχοινίσαι,
Poll. 8.141), though Alciphron seems to refer
it to the Χύτροι,
to which festival it
probably at first and in essence belonged, but afterwards it was effected
before the first event of the Choes. During the afternoon the procession
assembled, those taking part in it, especially the children, who were
allowed to join from three years old upwards (for did not Eurysaces, son of
Ajax, take part in the festival in times long past? Philostr.
314, 11), gaily adorned with crowns and flowers. At
six o'clock the next day, (2) the Choes
began. The procession
started, no doubt with torches, the common people following [p. 1.639]
in waggons. It originally represented the entry of the Wine-god
as the Liberator (Ἐλευθερεύς
without the city into the little temple of the Ceramicus (Paus. 1.29
Preller (Gr. Myth.
i.3 556) attributes
this procession to the Greater Dionysia, considering Mommsen's reference of
it to the Anthesteria “certainly erroneous,” --and his
incorporation into the city, by union with the noblest woman of the land,
the wife of the king. The marriage does not appear in the Orphic theology;
but there were many mystic accretions. All this part of the ceremony was
symbolical. It was a marriage procession, and the votaries of the god--the
Horae, Nymphae, Bacchae--led him along with curious pipings and moanings,
and songs which tell the deeds of Orpheus and the stories of the gods
(Philostr. Vit. Apoll.
p. 158, Kayser). Anon he is joined by
the Basilinna, accompanied by fourteen venerable priestesses (γεραιραὶ
), and she is solemnly betrothed to the god in secret.
Within the temple in Limnae, which is opened on this day only in the year,
she administers by the Sacred Herald to the priestesses a vow, which
declares the most spotless purity of life, and exact scrupulousness in
attending to the festivals of the Theoinia
and the Iobakcheia (i.e. Greater
Mysteries), and which the priestesses swear to, laying their hands on their
baskets; afterwards she offers a mystic sacrifice, wherein she prays for all
blessings for the state, and then remains for the night in the cella of the
temple (see Dem. c. Neaer.
pp. 1370-1, § §
74-78; and Mommsen, op. cit.
pp. 358-360). Preller
(in Pauly, 2.1062) compares this sacrifice to the Roman Augurium Salutis
Div. 1.4. 7
, 105), and the mystic marriage with
Dionysus to that of the Doge of Venice to the Adriatic. The next morning was
given to rest, and in the early afternoon the drinking began. The state had
given money to the poor to buy wine and provisions (Plut. Reip. ger.
25; Boeckh, Sthh.
1.280). All salaries had been paid, even those of the poor Sophists (Ath. x.
p. 437). Guests are invited, the hosts supplying all the accessories, such
as tables, crowns, cushions, &c., while the guests brought their own
containing food, and χόες
of wine (Aristoph. Ach. 1085
ff.). The place of festivity was perhaps the
neighbourhood of the theatre in the Lenaean region (Mommsen, p. 363). At the
proclamation of the herald, contests in drinking took place, and whoever
drank up his χοῦς
of wine first got a prize
(Aristoph. Ach. 999
ff. From this on
to the end of the play, the scene is laid during the Χόες
). The amusement of the ASCOLIASMOS (ἀσκωλιάζοντας
) is remarked by Alciphron (3.51, 3) to be un-Attic.
Strangers took part in the festival, of whom there were great numbers in
Athens, owing to the fair and the mysteries at Agrae, which occurred shortly
after. The festival was administered by the Archon Basileus, as it had been
by king Pandion originally (Schol. on Ach.
961). But, besides
all the revelry, there is a note of solemnity. If a libation is poured out
to the Jolly God, there is another to Hermes Chthonius (Schol.
1076). Photius (269, 21) tells us that the Choes was a
on which the souls of
the dead used to walk on earth (cf. the mundus
of the Romans, Marquardt, Staatsverw.
3.352). Eustathius (ad Il. 24.526
that the Pithoigia also was ἀποφράς.
mythical origin of this drinking on an unlucky day was the device of king
Pandion, whereby Orestes, still pursued by the Erinnyes, might yet take part
in the festivity (see Schol. on Ach.
961). The pursuing
Erinnyes are like the shades which walked this day on earth (Voigt in
Roscher's Lexikon der Myth.
1.1072). On into the evening and
night the revelry continues: but there is a touch of seriousness in the last
act of the festival. The drinker winds his garland round his χοῦς,
brings it to the priestess at Limnae, and,
pouring out the remnants of the wine as a libation, offers the crown to the
god, and in so doing makes his libation and offering to the dead (Ath. x. p.
437; cf. Aristoph. Fragm.
480 Meineke=488 Kock; Plut. Arist. 21
; Mommsen, p. 365).
(3) We are now at the Chytri
), a feast to the dead, where everything is solemn and
serious. The administration was probably in the hands of the king archon.
The feast got its name because food, mostly vegetables, were brought in pots
), as sacrifices to the Shades
and to Hermes Chthonius (Schol. on Ran.
218); the story was
that the offering was first made by the survivors to the shades of those who
perished in Deucalion's flood. There is no question but that it was
celebrated on the 13th of Anthesterion (Harpocr. 186, 9); and if Didymus
(ap. Schol. on Ach.
1076) says that the Chytri and the Choes
were celebrated on one day, the explanation is that the revelry of the Choes
extended into the night of the 13th (Mommsen, 346). The first ceremony was
bringing water (Etym. M.
p. 744, ὑδροφόρια ἑορτὴ Ἁθήνῃσι πένθιμος ἐπὶ τοῖς ἐν τῷ
); then into a pit, about a cubit
deep, outside the Lenaean district but in the neighbourhood, into which
legend said the waters of the Flood passed away, there was poured ground
corn and honey kneaded together (Paus. 1.18
). Then fourteen altars were erected
Alciphr. 2.3, 11, and
Meineke ad loc.
), on which the Γεραιραὶ
offered pots of πανσπερμία
after women solemnly carrying them thither on their
heads (Etym. M.
227; Schol. on Plutus,
1197, 1198; Ach.
218). None of the offerings were eaten. There were no doubt cyclic choruses
at the Chytri (Aristoph. Frogs 212
ff.); but the χυτρινοὶ ἀγῶνες
certainly contests of actors, not dramas [COMOEDIA
On the whole the Anthesteria was in essence a feast of drinking, when the
year's wine was brought into the city; Mommsen (p. 370) thinks it may have
been originally celebrated to Kronos and Zeus Kronion, but certainly in
historical times to Dionysus Eleuthereus. It mainly represented the
introduction of the Dionysiac cult into Athens and its incorporation with
the Athenian religion, and was grafted on to a festival of the dead. But all
the ceremonies cannot be understood without bringing in the Orphic theology,
which tells how Zeus made his son Dionysus king of all things for a day (see
552), and the subsequent death of Dionysus
(as the Chytri of mourning follow the Choes of joy) at the hands of the
giants, who cut him into fourteen pieces (hence fourteen altars), and so on.
For details, see Mommsen, pp. 371-373. [p. 1.640]
IV. The Greater or City Dionysia
or τὰ ἐν ἄστει
were probably celebrated from the 9th to 13th of Elaphebolion (= about March
28-April 2). Mommsen (pp. 58-60) thinks that these Dionysia must have been
introduced either in the time of the Pisistratidae. or in that of Cimon and
Pericles, probably the latter. They took the place of an earlier lyrical
festival to Apollo. The 8th was the ASCLEPIEIA
and the προάγων
63.67). At this the
poets, choregi, actors, and chorus appeared before the public in festal
attire, but not in theatrical costume (Schol. to Aeschin. l.c.
), and formally announced the dramas which were going to be
enacted, and solicited the kind attention and favour of the audience (hence
Ulpian on Dem. Androt.
611.59, προάγωνές εἰσι λόγοι οἱ προευτρεπίζοντες ἡμῖν τῶν δικαστῶν
): cf. A. Müller, Gr.
pp. 363-366. On the 9th
there was the procession (πομπή
); on the 10th the lyrical
contest of boys and men. (We should probably insert καὶ οἱ ἄνδρες
the law of Evagoras, Dem.
517.10: see Bergk in Rhein.
xxxiv. p. 31.) From the 11th to the 13th were dramatic
performances, and on the beginning of the 14th the Pandia. This is Mommsen's
(pp. 387-391) arrangement as opposed to K. F. Hermann's
§ 59, 5, 6), who puts
the 15th as the last day of the Dionysia. Mommsen bases his order mainly on
the fact that the Peace of Nicias was ratified on the 14th (Thuc. 4.118
), which can hardly have been a
feast-day; also the 14th was the full moon, and the Pandia was probably a
full-moon feast; festivals moreover seldom passed beyond the full moon: and
besides Calidorus in Plautus (Pseud.
1.3, 87), on the day
before the Dionysia, in asking Ballio to wait six days, virtually asks him
to wait till the festival was over. The Dionysia were great holidays. During
them prisoners were released on parole (Ulpian on Dem.
614.68), and no one was allowed to seize the goods of
a debtor (Law ap. Dem. Mid.
518.10). Even Plato thought it
allowable to get drunk during the festivals of the god of wine
6.775 C). As to the ceremonial, early on the 9th (i.
e. at night-fall) the image of Dionysus by Alcamenes (Paus. 1.20
) was taken from its
“hearth and home” (ἐσχάρα
) in the Lenaeon, and brought into the theatre, by the
Ephebi (according to an inscription in Mommsen, p. 392), who gave a bull for
sacrifice in the temple after the πομπή.
The image was set up in the orchestra (Dio Chrys. xxxi. p. 386, Dindorf).
The priest of Dionysus had doubtless important functions in the setting up
of it. Later on, when day had come, there was the πομπή,
which was of a much more dignified and orderly nature
than that of the Anthesteria or Lenaea. It was partly on foot, partly on
carts, but apparently there were no waggons. (Mommsen, p. 396.) In the agora
a cyclic chorus danced round the altar to the twelve gods (Xen. Hipp. 3
, 2). The goal of the
procession was the Lenaeon. Strangers took part in the festival, of whom
there were considerable numbers in Athens, as the allies used to come and
pay their tribute in Elaphebolion (Boeckh, Staatshaushaltung,
i.3 218; Schol. on Ach.
State gave victims (C. I. G.
157), and sometimes other bodies
did so likewise: e. g. the Ephebi, as we have seen. On the morning of the
10th the lyrical contests for choruses of boys and men began [CHOREGUS
]. We have a splendid
dithyramb of Pindar's composed for the Dionysia (Fragm.
ed. Bergk). A κῶμος
by the victorious
competitors followed. It is in relation to this part of the feast that
Dionysus was honoured as μελπόμενος
). From the 11th
to 13th dramas were exhibited, a tragic trilogy in the morning and a comedy
in the afternoon. The administration of the feast was in the hands of the
Archon Eponymus, assisted by ἐπιμεληταί
(Poll. 8.89; cf. Dem. Mid.
519.15). For a full account of the
dramatic performances held on the different festivals to Dionysus, see COMOEDIA, TRAGOEDIA, THEATRUM; and for minor
festivals connected with Dionysus, see BRAURONIA,
On the whole subject of the Dionysia, see Boeckh, Vom Unterschiede der
Lenäen, Anthesterien, und läindlichen
in the Abhandlungen der Akad. der Wiss. zu
1816-1817; C. F. Hermann, Gottesd.
§ § 57-59; Preller in
Pauly, 2.1056-1067, and his Griech. Mythologie,
i.3 544-593; August Mommsen, Heortologie der
pp. 323-373, 387-398; Schömann,
ii.3 487-504; Voigt in
Roscher's Ausführliches Lexikon der Griechischen und
1.1069-1075. Many illustrations
depicting Bacchic worship are to be found in Mr. Sandys' edition of the
For the worship of Dionysus in Italy, see BACCHANALIA