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having arrived at a joyful conclusion, ' for the Mysteries,
by the name of whatever god they might be called, were
invariably of a mixed nature, beginning in sorrow and
ending in joy ;'^ and having now become Epopts, were
dismissed with a benediction and the words *Konx
Om Pax,' in the interpretation of which much ingenuity
has been exercised.^ The Dionysiak mysteries relating

drawing at times upon hia own ^ Fe^^if Dissertation on the CMt't,

imagination for Eleusinian detail ii. 337. A long exploded work, of

{Aglaoph. i. 182) ; but if St. Croix great learning, absurd etymologies,

occasionally errs a little in this direc- and baseless meories.

tion, Lobeck is liable to an opposite • Wilford (Asiatic Researchesy vol.

fault of unbelief. v.) identified them with Oanscha-Om-

* Christie, Disquisitions, 40. Pacsha, words with which the Brah-

* Damaskios, apud Photios, Biblio- mans close their services (vide Ouva-
thekaf cod. 242. rofi", Essay on the Eleusinian Myste-

« Ood in History, ii. 73. vies, 28. Nork. i. 7, apud Rev. G.

* Ihid. 69. W. Cox, Mythol. of the Aryan No-

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to Zagreus and the Titanes, I shall notice subse-

Seventh Day. — The Return. The initiated returned to
Athenai, and merrily jested with those whom they met,
especially at the bridge over the Kephissos. Sacred
games also were held, the victors in which were rewarded
with a measure of barley.

Eighth Day. — The Day of the Epidaurians. On which
those who had been too late for the Greater Mysteries were
initiated in the Lesser. It was so called from a tradition
that Aisklepios once then arrived at Eleusis fromEpidauros.

Ninth Day. — The Day of Earthen Vessels. Two large
earthen vessels were filled with wine, type of the anima-
ting principle, and were then upset, the wine being thus
ofiered as a libation to the Infernal Divinities. One of
these jars * was placed towards the east, the other to the
west ; and they were emptied while certain mystic words
were uttered. These have been made known to us by
Proclos in the Timaeus of Plato. They were, vU, tokvic,
while the first of these was pronounced, they looked up
to heaven ; and casting their eyes downward to the earth,
they pronounced the latter. By thus accosting each
Epopt as a son, vie might be implied the heavenly origin
of man ; by tokvU might be denoted regeneration.' *

The four principal personages at Eleusis were the
Hierophant, who is said by Eusebios to have been an im-
personation of the Demiurge ; the Dadouchos or Torch-
bearer, a type of the Sun or Helios-Dionysos ; the
Assistant at the Altar, who is said to have represented the
Moon ; and the Hierokerux or Sacred Herald, who was
a type of Hermes. With respect to this last subtle-

tions, ii. 126). Pococke, in his ro- lection of authoritiee, A^^oph. 776

mance asserts * the langua^ is Tibe- et seg). The subject does not con-

tian,' and signifies * salutation to the cem a Dionysiak enquiry.

Three Holy Ones.' (India in Greece^ * Inf. IX. vi.

273, vide Lobeck's remarks and col- ' Christie, Disquisiti(mSy 33.

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phased divinity, Professor Max Miiller remarks ; * He is the
herald of the gods ; so is the twilight. He is the spy of
the night, wktos oinainrjp ; he sends sleep and dreams ;
the bird of the morning, the Cock, stands by his side.
Lastly, he is the guide of travellers, and particularly of
the souls who travel on their last journey; he is the
Psychopompos.' ^ *The officiating ministers at Eleusis/
observes Christie ' were four in number, in imitation of
those in Samothrace.'^ Without absolutely accepting this
proposition, we may undoubtedly conclude that the two
rituals were by no means unconnected ; but it must be
remembered that the Mysteries of Eleusis, however sub-
sequently impregnated with Orientalism, were Aryan in
origin, whilst those of Samothrake were Semitic. These
latter I shall notice subsequently ,• when speaking of the
introduction of the Bakchic cult into Hellas, for the
principles of the Dionysiak Myth are to be found in full
vigour * in the secret Phoenician worship of Lemnos and
Samothrake.' *



From the theatrical exhibitions of Eleusis we pass, by
easy transition, to the stage of Athenai, and here again
find Dionysos enthroned in the persons of his two
daughters. Tragedy and Comedy, twin representations of
his Janus character, and of the double aspect of life,
either in the individual or in the abstract.^ The Drama

* LectvreB on the Science of Lan- * Bunsen. Egypt'^s Tiace, iv. 285.
Quage, ii. 522 ; cf. Od, xxiv. i. ; Rus- * It wiU oe lemembeTed that I am
Kin, Queen (^ the Atr, i. 25-9, where not speaking of the Hellenik Drama
a suhtle and elegant partial analysis as such, criticallj, historically, or
of the concept of Hermes is given. otherwise, but merely of it m its

' Diaqumtions, 64. connection with Uie god from whose

* Inf. X. i. prolific being it spnmg.

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is That-which-is-done imitatively and representatively : a
definition equally true when applied to the drama of life
and existence, or to a stage-play; inasmuch as all our
actions are imitative and unoriginal, and also representa-
tive ; and that doubly so, first, because in doing them we
aim consciously or unconsciously after an ideal model : ^
and secondly, because in acting we become representatives
of other actors, and embody more or less accurately their
feelings and circumstances. Thus, in this latter sense, the
kings and queens of tragedy and comedy form a parlia-
ment selected to their state and dignity by the universal
sufirages of mankind, and so chosen because the electors
of the world see themselves, i.e.^ their own feelings, aims,
and possibilities reflected with surpassing merit in the
individuals of their choice. Human feeling, using the
expression in its widest sense as including the power of
feeling after truth, makes man the astonishing creature
that he is ; * without it he would be a stone, or at best
a plant, or as some have put it, ' a forked, straddling
animal, with bandy legs.' The existence of this property
of feehng alone renders the Drama specially so called
possible, for plants and trees imitate nothing ; we imitate
them. And, therefore, the Drama is the expression of
feeling in action ; but feeling in action is Dionysos the
kosmic Life-source, beaming, blushing, blooming, blow-
ing, storming, raging, raving, bearing with him hfe and
death. The Drama, then, in one aspect is but an anthro-
pomorphic crystallisation of Dionysos the Wine-god, yes,
the Wine-god, but his wine is not merely the typical
juice of the grape, but mther the heat and life-blood that
beats through all worlds. Well says Professor Euskin,

' Of. Emerson, Sssap x. drcles, * *Wbatapiece of work is man I

* The flying Perfect, around which How noble in reast^n I how infinite

the hands of man can never meet, at in Acuity t In action, how like an

once the inspirer and oondemner of angel ! In apprehension, how like a

every succesB.' god ! ' (Hanuet, II. ii.)

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* Wine, the Greeks, in their Bacchus, made, rightly, the
type of all passion,' ^ which noble word, including in its
sweep a wide range of action from righteous anger to
holy suffering, leads us to Tragedy, the eldest daughter of
Dionysos, Lord of the Drama, herself often styled the
Drama, inasmuch as in this world's history the tragic
element is the stronger and prevailing one. Tragedy con-
sidered etymologically, and with reference to its historic
origin, is a song accompanied by a satyrik dance, i.^., one
performed by persons in the garb of Satyrs, and these
songs in early Hellas were the choric, dithyrambic odes
in honour of Dionysos ; and so Aristoteles tells us that,

* Tragedy originated in a rude and unpremeditated
manner from the leaders in the dithyrambic hymns.' ^
The Chorus, who thus celebrated the god, * bewailed the
sorrows of Bacchus, or commemorate his wonderful
birth, in spontaneous effusions, accompanied by suitable
action, for which they tiiisted to the inspiration of the
wine-cup.' ^ This Chorus at first * was nothing more than
a Comus, and one too of the wildest and most corybantic
character. A crowd of worshippers, under the influence
of wine, danced up to and around the blazing altar of
Jupiter. They were probably led by a flute -player, and
accompanied by the Phrygian tamborines and cymbals,
which were iLsed in the Cretan worship of Bacxjhus.' *
Now it was as the kosmogonic Lord of life, and especially
as the Sun-god, head of the animated creation and pro-
tagonistic principle of vitality, that Dionysos was honoured.
Hence the changes and apparent sufferings both of Nature
and of the Sun,^ when imitated and viewed anthropomor-
phically as the joys and sorrows of Dionysos, occasioned
the mixed nature of the dithyrambic celebration, which

» * Vnio thii last; 124. » Theatre of the Greeks, 39.

« Poet, iv. ; vide inf. VIH. ii. * Ibid. 36.

Dithyramb. » Vide stkp. IV. iii. 3.

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was tragedy and comedy combined. Such, then, was the
germ and origin of what we now know as Tragedy ; its
cradle was a Dionysiak combination of satyr, goat, and
psychico-solar life-heat worship. But what then is
Tragedy, considered with reference to its familiar develop-
ment? Aristoteles has given us a somewhat painfully
elaborated definition, according to which it is * an imita-
tion of an action that is important, entire, and of a proper
magnitude — by language embellished and rendered
pleasurable, [i.e., having rhythm, harmony, and melody],
in the way of action — eflfecting, through pity and terror,
the correction and refinement of such passions.' ^ This
applies fairly enough to Attik tragedy during the brief
period of its perfection, though Aristoteles, him^lf a
schoolmaster, evidently regards the Stage as an important
means of improvement for youth, and probably instructed
his pupils to draw such moral lessons from the fate of
heroes, as an industrious apprentice of the City of London
may have deduced in olden days from the career of
George Barnwell. But not to wander into suggestions
which arise from this definition, Platon seems to me to
speak far more deeply and satisfyingly, when he says that
real Tragedy is an imitation of the noblest Ufe, which is
necessarily that of gods and heroes ; ^ and this observation,
though far from being in itself a complete definition, yet
goes to the very root of the matter. Now a hero has
been beautifully defined as ' a god-bom soul true to its
origin ; ' and so gods are great heroes, heroes, little gods.
But heroes, from the necessity of things, must suffer, and
that chiefly for others, and it is evident that volunt&ry
suffering is far higher and nobler than compulsory
What nobler concept then, than a voluntarily suffering

1 Poet, y. ' is an imitatioii of the best and noblent

* *We, according to our abUity, life, which we affinu to be indeed

are tra^c poets, and our tragedy the the yery truth of tragedy * (/^w«,

best aim noblest, for our whole state vii.).


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hero, except indeed a voluntarily suflTering god ? Hence
the passion of gods and heroes, as connected and in
divine agreement with the harmony of things, gives
Tragedy her lofty theme. And in this delineation
there must ever be an absence of two things,^ (1) ^ record
of crime as such, a Titus-Andronicus-Wke Newgate Calen-
dar of horrors, which constitutes spiuious or bastard
Tragedy ; and (2) all final triumph of the worser cause,
of baseness, or evil, or by whatever name the inharmo-
nious principle may be designated.

Next, as to Comedy, which, according to Platon, is
the common name of all performances intended to cause
laughter,^ and which * originated in a rude and unpre-
meditated manner from these who led ofi* the phallic
songs.' * Etymologically regarded, it is the song of the
Komos, or band of revellers ; and ' whatever may have
been the birthplace of Greek Comedy, it was, in fact, the
celebration of the vintage, when the country people went
round from village to village, some in carts, others on
foot, who bore aloft the phallic emblem, and invoked in
songs Phales, the comrade of Bacchus,' ^ or personified
Priapos. So sprang Comedy into existence, amidst
Semitic vintage-shoutings,* in honour of the riotous and
orgiastic god of earth-life; and thus from Oriental
materials, moulded by a gifted family of an Aryan nation,
sprang into their familiar forms Tragedy and Comedy.
Syria and Egypt had rites and orgies many, but drama
none. Yet even the West was, on the whole, scarcely
more successful than the East ; and in Hellas itself a single
city almost monopolised dramatic genius, which could
only be maintained in an exalted form, even in its pecu-
liar home at Athenai, during a few brief years. The Drama

' Laws, vii. thee with my tears, Heehbon, and

* Aristot Po i., iv. Elealeh : for the bhoudng lor ihy
' Theatre oftJie Greeks, 70. summer fruits and for thy hardest w

* Of. /«. xvi. 9, *I will bewail fallen.'
th^ vine of Sibniah: I will water

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is thus Aryan and Hellenik ; and is yet singularly con-
nected in origin with the cult of a Semitic divinity of the
Outer-world, for had Dionysos remained what he once
was, a stranger to the shores of the Aigaion, the theatre,
whatever form it might have assumed, would never have
known him as its patron. The question why the Drama
became a fact in flellas, and was almost unknown else-
where, has often been considered ; it depends on ethnic
characteristics, and is not to our present purpose.

Thus was Dionysos the fountain alike of Tragedy and
of Comedy; the Drama formed a part of his worship,
and the Theatre was his temple. In this large stone
Dionysiak shrine at Athenai, which was finished about
B.C. 380, and stood a little south of the Akropolis, almost
the entire population assembled to celebrate the dramatic
cult of the god from dawn to dark on the occasion of the
production of the new pieces at the Lenaia and the
Dionysia Megala. The actors generally performed not in
what we should consider appropriate costumes, but in
* modifications of the festal robes worn in the Dionysian
procession,' ^ which were of bright and gaudy hues, the
imder garments having coloured stripes and the * upper
robes of purple or some other brilliant colour, with all
sorts of gay trimmings and gold ornaments, the ordinary
dress of Bai^^.hic festal processions and choral dances ; ' '^
in fact, remnants of barbaric splendour and Oriental
magnificence.® Euripides, who was a striver after a
certain kind of reaUty, * ventured to allow his tragic
heroes to appear in rags, and he incurred by this depar-
ture from Bacchic magnificence the keenest ridicule of
his comic contemporaries.'* The stage character of the
tragic Dionysos has been already noticed. The Dionysos
of Comedy is chiefly known to us from the Batrachoi of

> Theatre of the CfreekSy 211. » Vide inf, VIII. i. Aiohmarphos,

« Mailer, Ilist, Lit, Or,, i. 206. * Theatre of the OreekSj 254.

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Aristophanes. He is cowardly and effeminate, but quick-
witted, and a good judge of poetry ; and, as the patron
and lord of the Drama, is appropriately appointed ai'biter
by Aides of the great question whether Euripides should
eject Aischylos from the tragic throne of the Under- world.
His decision is in favour of the greater poet, and posterity,
that highest court of appeal, has in its ultimate judgment
confirmed the verdict. In illustration of the connection
between Dionysos and the Drama, Aischylos is said to
have written his tragedies at the command of the god,
who appeared to him in a dream, and who is also said to
have shown himself at the time of the death of Sophokles.^
To conclude, the Drama, like Dionysos, has two faces,
one raised to heaven, the other bent ever upon the earth
The former reflects the blue eyes of Athene, the lattei
the fierce, gloating gaze of the Earth-god. And in lift
this last predominates. * Greatly as the Greeks succeeded
in the Beautiful, and even in the Moral, we can concede
to their culture,' says Schl^el, ' no higher character than
that of a refined and dignified sensuality.' Is our present
condition very much superior ? I do not undertake to
answer the question; but let it be remembered that
Dionysos, changed in the Middle Ages into S. Denys,* has
ever ruled and reigned with imdiminished sway in count-
less temples, whose Bakchik cults are infinitely lower than
the grand ritual exhibited of old to the Athenians. No
mightier engine for good than the Drama, properly ap-
plied, can well be imagined : its patrons should do their
utmost to reform it altogether ; to purge away those taints

* Paus. i. 21. Dionvsi Eleutherei (vide inf. Wil. i.

' Of. S. Sabas, %,e. Sabasios, whose Elevihereus) rtuHcumJ At the

festival is on Dec. 5. S. Mithra of triumph of Ohristianity ' the gods oi

Aries, S. Amour, S. xsis (Nov. 27), Greece and Rome went into exile

8. Satumin (Nov. 29), S. Satur the —either dearaded into evil spirit

Martyr (March 29), S. Bacchus the or promoted into Christian saints'

Martyr, S. Dionysius, S. Eleuther, and (Deutsch, Literary Hemains, 182).
S. Rusticus (Oct. 9), i,e, *Fe8tum

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of the earth-life which have so long stained it that they
falsely appear to be all but inseparable. The Athenians
were wont to hear in solemn state the last great tragedy
of the day, the purgation of Orestes, or the woes of
Oidipous, as a message from the gods with whom alone
dwells understanding, and who breathe into the divine
poet his star-lit wisdom and aid his mortal harp to echo
the eternal music. As for ourselves, unable to write
tragedies, or indeed comedies either, it is at least left us
to listen in a reverent spirit to the outpourings of vanished
genius, and to support those who enable us to do so ; and
thus the Theatre of Dionysos will for us become not un-
hallowed ground.

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The Hellenik Vases, beautiful and remarkable iu them-
selves, and of high value as assistants to the artist, the
historian, the archaeologist, and the mythologist, do not
nevertheless present much independent illustration of the
concept of the central figure of the Dionysiak Myth. The
Dionysos of the Vases is supplementary to, and illustrative
of, the Dionysos of the Poets and Historians ; and though
the god of moisture, of water, and of wine, is naturally the
protagonist on hquid-holding vessels,^ yet there is scarcely
a feature in his character, or an incident in his life, illus-
trated or pourtrayed upon a Vase, which is otherwise
unrecorded, and for acquaintance with which we are in
debted to the potter alone. While the number of dis-
covered Vases is immense,^ and the treatment of the sub-
jects represented almost infinite in its variety, the subjects
themselves are comparatively few. The great myths, tlie
Gigantomachia, the Amazonomachia, tlie Wars of Thebai
and Troia ; the most prominent divinities, Zeus, Aphrodite,
Apollon, Artemis, Athene, Eros, Hermes, Nike; the

> EeTamoe,afterwhointheKeram- ' 60,000, De Witte {Etude*, 4).

eikosy or Potter's Quarter, was said to 20,000 in collections, Birch (Ancient

have been named^ is called the son of Pottery , 140).
Dionysos and Ariadne, in/". X. iii.

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8aviour-heroes, Herakles, Perseus, Theseus ; and, more nu-
merous and prominent than all, Dionysos and his train,
appear again and again on the Vases, to the exclusion of
an infinite number of subjects and personages deemed
less worthy of delineation, and notably of scenes from
actual history. Kroisos on the pyre ; Homeros in the
Samian pottery ; Arkesilaos, king of Kyrene, weighing
silphion ; a love scene between Alkaios and Sappho; Ana-
kreon the Eeveller ; and Dareios hunting ; almost exhaust
the undoubtedly historical subjects, and serve, by their
introduction, to render the blank still more remarkable.

Although the Vases, the great majority of which be-
long to a comparatively late age, do not offer any very
remarkable independent illustration of the origin and
character of Dionysos, yet in as much and so far as their
testimony extends, it is quite in accordance with that
already adduced ; and as Dionysiakal subjects form such
an important feature in them, it would be improper to
omit their notice from the enquiry. Here, as heretofore,
it will be remembered that I am writing not of Art, but
of Dionysos as he appears in it, and with special reference
to his origin ; and that, therefore, remarks upon the manu-
facture, classes, uses, and general history of the Vases, are
in the main foreign to the present purpose. The Diony-
siak Cycle forms the third of Millingen's well-known seven
divisions of the Vases according to their subjects ; and
includes the History of Dionysos, the Satyroi, Seilenoi,
Bakchai, Mainades, the Bakchik Thiasos, the ass Eraton,
Dionysiak Festivals, processions, dances, mystic scenes, and
general amusements. ' So numerous,' observes Dr. Birch,
* are the Vases upon which the subject of Dionysos and
his train is depicted, that it is impossible to detail them
all.' ^ ' On them we see depicted his birth, childhood,

» AncL Pottery, 237.

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education, all his exploits, his banquets, and his games ;
his habitual companions, his religious ceremonies, the
Lampadophorae brandishing the long torches, the Dendro-
phorae raising branches of trees, adorned with garlands
and tablets/ ^ To begin with the god hhnself, the follow-
ing are the principal scenes and circumstances in which he
appears on the Vases : —

I. His birth from the thigh of Zeus, who, seated on
an altar, holds the new-born and long-haired infant in his
arms. Poseidon, standing, near, extends his left hand to
receive the child ; a Vase of the finest style.^ The birth
of the god is also the subject of a fine Vase in the Vatican.*
It is noticeable that at his birth the foreign Poseidou is
represented as waiting to receive and cherish his brother
divinity. Compare the reception and cherishing of the
Oriental Hephaistos when an infant by Thetis and Eury-
nome.* Such legends are the last historic traces of the
original local connection of divinities.^

n. Dionysos in the Gigantomachia. — ^The god attacks
with his spear two giants, Eurytos and Khoitos, one of
whom has fallen; he is ivy-crowned, bearded, wears a
panther's skin, and has buskins of the same ; he holds a
kanthar and two ivy branches in his left hand ; his tunic
is dotted : his panther assists him, and has fastened on the
right shoulder of the fallen giant.^ The same subject. — ^The
god, overpowering the falling Eurytos, with his left hand
seizes the giant's helmet and stabs him with the thyrsos-
spear held in hig right hand ; his hair flows down in
ringlets ; he is bearded, wears spotted buskins, and is as-
sisted by his spotted serpent, which coils around the giant's

' Westropp, Handbook of Archao' * Of. No. xxix.

dogy, 257. « Brit Mus. Vase Cat, No. 788.

^ Brit. Mils. Vase Cat, No. 724. ' Millingen, And, Uned, Mom,

» Vide Birch, Anct FoUery, 209. PI. xiv.
* 11, xviii. 398.

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III. Destroyed and resuscitated in a boiling cauldron.^
— The following axe parallel mjrths : Thetis, wishing to
make Achilleus immortal, concealed him by night in fiie
to destroy the mortality inherited from his father, and
anointed him with ambrosia ; but Peleus, discovering him,
cried out in 'terror, and so frustrated the design of the
goddess. An exactly similar legend is told of Demeter
and Demophoon, son of Keleus of Eleusis ; ^ and Medeia,
the sorceress, changes a ram into a lamb by boihng it in
a cauldron, a scene depicted on three Vases in the British

IV. Introduced to Olympos,^ — ^The principal non-
Aryan members of the Hellenik Pantheon are formally
introduced into Olympos as being strangers. Thus He-
phaistos when expelled is reintroduced by his fellow-divinity,

Online LibraryRobert BrownThe great Dionysiak myth → online text (page 27 of 38)