Apollo & Dionysus: Greeks and the Irrational
Apollo (called Apollo by Romans also, often called the Far-darter or far-shooter, from his use of arrows as weapons, and the "Pythian one", from his killing of the dragon/snake Pytho; also often referred to as "Phoebus Apollo" or simply "Phoebus")
Attributes: cithara or lyre, the bow, the laurel wreath, sometimes the tripod (used by the priestess at Delphi) and the fawn; often represented together with his sister Artemis
Apollo and Artemis: Niobid Painter, ca. 460-450 B.C. (bow, laurel)
Artemis, Apollo, and Hermes: Barclay Painter, ca. 450-440 B.C. (lyre, laurel)
Apollo of Piombino: Late Archaic bronze, ca. 480 B.C.
More images of Apollo (from the University of Victoria)
Characteristics of Apollo
Light: powerful divine light (refined, brilliant): brilliance, purity, order, morality, wisdom; to be sure, within the cult is a mantic (inspired, "mad") seer, the "Pythian" priestess at Delphi, but that too is a non-madness in its madness, for the madness is strictly controlled by the god, and the mantic offerings -- the poetic, riddling prophecy -- serves rational ends
Dionysus (or Bacchus, called Bacchus or Liber by the Romans)
Attributes: drinking vessel, ivy wreath, grape (or ivy) vines, the thyrsus (a long fennel stalk wound with ivy leaves and topped with a large pine cone), long eastern-style locks and beard; usually accompanied by his followers, the Bacchantes / Maenads (female) and/or the satyrs / Sileni (males with goat features & horse tails)
Dionysus: the eery face of the god. Red-figure amphora ca. 525 B.C.
Dionysus on a ship. Exekias painter, ca. 540 B.C.
Dionysus in the beginning. Alkimachus painter, ca. 460 B.C.
Dionysus and Ariadne. With sons Oinopion and Staphylos. Black figure amphora, ca. 525 B.C.
Dionysus with his followers, on a ship. Black figure amphora, ca. 510 B.C.
Dionysus with 2 dancing Maenads. Amasis painter. ca. 530 B.C.
The Sileni boogie down. Amasis painter. ca. 525 B.C.
Dionysus with satyr. ca. 480 B.C.
Other images of Dionysus, from the Univ. of Victoria.
Apollo and Dionysus
Frederich Nietzsche first identified the opposition between the Apollonian and the Dionysian as quintessential to classical Greek thought
Who is Dionysus?
Homeric Hymn to Dionysus (7th c. B.C.): a strange image, haunting, eery: Powell. p. 252. D. is a god who (1) comes among men (he does not "shoot from afar" like Apollo), and (2) causes weird things to happen
Dionysus brings us the wine: the "god of many joys" (polygethes), the "giver of riches", the "benefactor". Pindar (5th c. lyric poet): "the soul grows great, overcome by the arrow of the vine."
The discovery of wine: a dark myth. Ikarios - neighbors - now one, now another falls and collapses - villagers beat him to death - body in a well - Erigone (daughter) finds him and then hangs herself
Story of Dionysus' birth: Semele, thunderbolt, thigh: born from death
Dionysiac cult: Compare Demeter: Dionysus also has mysteries, initiates, etc. He like Demeter is a fertility god. But unlike the sedate & matronly goddess of the dry grain, whose followers are initiated into the blessings of the afterlife through a vision of rebirth by death as symbolized in the seeds of grain. For Dionysus is the god of wet fertility (wine, blood, milk, honey, semen). City Dionysia: procession of young maidens carrying a huge statue of a phallos.
The "woman-maddening" god (Dionysius Eirophiotes): wine, dancing, music, s.t. sex
sparagmos: the tearing apart of a live animal (goat)
homophagia: the eating of the raw flesh, often thought of as the "eating of the god" [later, wine and bread are substituted!]
inversion festivals (e.g. the Roman Saturnalia): oppression of women in antiquity: release valve for the under classes, an opportunity, within a limited time and in a controlled context, for the women to "run wild" on the mountains: an intoxicated time of license, a controlled riot
Dionysus and inversion
birth of Dionysus: destruction yields creation
Agave and Pentheus: mother's role is its terrible opposite
Women act like men (fighting, defeating with the thyrsus men armed with iron), and men act like (or at least dress like) women
Dionysus among and even IN US: wine is something we ingest
enthousiasmos ("having the god in us", compare "enthusiasm": en="in", thou="god", compare "theo" in theology)
ecstasis ("standing outside of ourselves", compare ecstasy): an important aspect of the GROUP experience
Dionysian ecstasy is a mass phenomenon and spreads almost infectiously. This is expressed mythically by the fact that the god is always surrounded by his swarm of followers. Everyone who surrenders to this god must risk abandoning his everyday identity and becoming mad: both god and follower can be called Bacchus (!)
Dionysus brings to the fore (when he is "in us" and causes us to "stand outside ourselves" with the group) the irrational side of our nature, unlike Apollo who stands aloof as a symbol of the higher, refined cultivation to which we mere mortals can only aspire
But what is essential, and quintessentially Greek, is that these two sides -- both the Rational and the Irrational, the Apollonian and the Dionysian -- are not something that defines now one person, now another: rather they BOTH exist with us all, and it is the god that brings to the fore now the part that delights in Homer, and now the part that delights in ripping live goats apart.
Dionysus and the Bacchae of Euripides
The play clearly at times shows an interest in exposing the absurdity of the Bacchic madness, even as it also captures -- vividly! -- the allure of running to the mountains, of yielding to that power, the dangerous power of the irrational that lurks within all of us.