He is the god of religious ecstasy, of wine, and of the liberation of the senses. The figure of Dionysus, also known by the Romans as Bacchus, is closely linked to the birth of theatre. The theatre was born as a religious celebration in honour of the god Dionysus, lover of dance and music.
Dionysus was the fruit of the extramarital relationship between Zeus, the king of the gods, and Semele, who was the mortal daughter of Cadmus, king of Thebes. After his birth, Dionysus was brought to Nysa, a mountain with an unknown location. This was done to protect him from the revenge of Hera, who was the wife of Zeus. Dionysus lived by the mountain with his teacher Silenus and his nymphs in a cave covered with wild vines.
The Discovery of Wine
Dionysus was a noisy and lively child. He was passionate about hunting and hiking in the forest and the countryside. He was extremely intrigued by the wild plants that grew around his cave. These plants eventually led him to an important discovery: wine. One day he picked a bunch of grapes and pressed it into a gold cup. The result was a purple-red alcoholic beverage. The nectar was able to strike down fatigue and worries, and it gave a feeling of euphoria. The young man also noticed that the longer he left the wine to rest in the glass, the greater the sensation of intoxication. Dionysus had just discovered the wonders of fermentation.
Dionysus introduced the wine to all the creatures of the forest, the nymphs, and the satyrs. They adopted it as a drink during their holidays. He also embarked on a trip around the world to share his precious discovery with all of humanity. He lived through different adventures, but always escaping the wrath of Hera.
The Birth of the Theatre
During the spring and autumn festivities that celebrated Dionysus, there were festivals and songs – the dithyrambs. These songs told the tales of the actions and adventures of the god Dionysus. The dithyrambs, an ancient form of Greek lyrical poetry sung by a male choir, were initially quite vulgar. However, over time it became a true art form that the true poets grew dedicated to. In addition, singing was often accompanied by dances and rituals. This is where the drama began and, consequently, the history of the theatre.
Translated by Karoline Arberg
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