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THE BACCHANTES by Euripides, Part 01

410 BC
by Euripides
Characters in the Play
First Messenger
Second Messenger
CHORUS of Bacchantes

Before the Palace of Pentheus at Thebes. Enter Dionysus.

Lo! I am come to this land of Thebes, Dionysus' the son of Zeus,
of whom on a day Semele, the daughter of Cadmus, was delivered by a
flash of lightning. I have put off the god and taken human shape,
and so present myself at Dirce's springs and the waters of Ismenus.
Yonder I see my mother's monument where the bolt slew her nigh her
house, and there are the ruins of her home smouldering with the
heavenly flame that blazeth still-Hera's deathless outrage on my
mother. To Cadmus all praise I offer, because he keeps this spot
hallowed, his daughter's precinct, which my own hands have shaded
round about with the vine's clustering foliage.
Lydia's glebes, where gold abounds, and Phrygia have I left
behind; o'er Persia's sun-baked plains, by Bactria's walled towns
and Media's wintry clime have I advanced through Arabia, land of
promise; and Asia's length and breadth, outstretched along the
brackish sea, with many a fair walled town, peopled with mingled
race of Hellenes and barbarians; and this is the first city in
Hellas I have reached. There too have I ordained dances and
established my rites, that I might manifest my godhead to men; but
Thebes is the first city in the land of Hellas that I have made ring
with shouts of joy, girt in a fawn-skin, with a thyrsus, my
ivy-bound spear, in my hand; since my mother's sisters, who least of
all should have done it, denied that Dionysus was the son of Zeus,
saying that Semele, when she became a mother by some mortal lover,
tried to foist her sin on Zeus-a clever ruse of Cadmus, which, they
boldly asserted, caused Zeus to slay her for the falsehood about the
marriage. Wherefore these are they whom I have driven frenzied from
their homes, and they are dwelling on the hills with mind
distraught; and I have forced them to assume the dress worn in my
orgies, and all the women-folk of Cadmus' stock have I driven raving
from their homes, one and all alike; and there they sit upon the
roofless rocks beneath the green pine-trees, mingling amongst the sons
of Thebes. For this city must learn, however loth, seeing that it is
not initiated in my Bacchic rites, and I must take up my mother's
defence, by showing to mortals that the child she bore to Zeus is a
deity. Now Cadmus gave his sceptre and its privileges to Pentheus, his
daughter's child, who wages war 'gainst my divinity, thrusting me away
from his drink-offerings, and making no mention of me in his
prayers. Therefore will I prove to him and all the race of Cadmus that
I am a god. And when I have set all in order here, I will pass hence
to a fresh country, manifesting myself; but if the city of Thebes in
fury takes up arms and seeks to drive my votaries from the mountain, I
will meet them at the head of my frantic rout. This is why I have
assumed a mortal form, and put off my godhead to take man's nature.
O ye who left Tmolus, the bulwark of Lydia, ye women, my revel
rout! whom I brought from your foreign homes to be ever by my side and
bear me company, uplift the cymbals native to your Phrygian home, that
were by me and the great mother Rhea first devised, and march around
the royal halls of Pentheus smiting them, that the city of Cadmus
may see you; while I will seek Cithaeron's glens, there with my
Bacchanals to join the dance.

Exit Dionysus.


From Asia o'er the holy ridge of Tmolus hasten to a pleasant task,
a toil that brings no weariness, for Bromius' sake, in honour of the
Bacchic god. Who loiters in the road? who lingers 'neath the roof?
Avaunt! I say, and let every lip be hushed in solemn silence; for I
will raise a hymn to Dionysus, as custom aye ordains. O happy he!
who to his joy is initiated in heavenly mysteries and leads a holy
life, joining heart and soul in Bacchic revelry upon the hills,
purified from every sin; observing the rites of Cybele, the mighty
mother, and brandishing the thyrsus, with ivy-wreathed head, he
worships Dionysus. Go forth, go forth, ye Bacchanals, bring home the
Bromian god Dionysus, child of a god, from the mountains of Phrygia to
the spacious streets of Hellas, bring home the Bromian god! whom on
a day his mother in her sore travail brought forth untimely,
yielding up her life beneath the lightning stroke of Zeus' winged
bolt; but forthwith Zeus, the son of Cronos, found for him another
womb wherein to rest, for he hid him in his thigh and fastened it with
golden pins to conceal him from Hera. And when the Fates had fully
formed the horned god, he brought him forth and crowned him with a
coronal of snakes, whence it is the thyrsus-bearing Maenads hunt the
snake to twine about their hair. O Thebes, NURSE of Semele! crown
thyself with ivy; burst forth, burst forth with blossoms fair of green
convolvulus, and with the boughs of oak and pine join in the Bacchic
revelry; dor;-thy coat of dappled fawn-skin, decking it with tufts
of silvered hair; with reverent hand the sportive wand now wield. Anon
shall the whole land be dancing, when Bromius leads his revellers to
the hills, to the hills away! where wait him groups of maidens from
loom and shuttle roused in frantic haste by Dionysus. O hidden cave of
the Curetes! O hallowed haunts in Crete, that saw Zeus born, where
Corybantes with crested helms devised for me in their grotto the
rounded timbrel of ox-hide, mingling Bacchic minstrelsy with the
shrill sweet accents of the Phrygian flute, a gift bestowed by them on
mother Rhea, to add its crash of music to the Bacchantes' shouts of
joy; but frantic satyrs won it from the mother-goddess for their
own, and added it to their dances in festivals, which gladden the
heart of Dionysus, each third recurrent year. Oh! happy that votary,
when from the hurrying revel-rout he sinks to earth, in his holy
robe of fawnskin, chasing the goat to drink its blood, a banquet sweet
of flesh uncooked, as he hastes to Phrygia's or to Libya's hills;
while in the van the Bromian god exults with cries of Evoe. With
milk and wine and streams of luscious honey flows the earth, and
Syrian incense smokes. While the Bacchante holding in his hand a
blazing torch of pine uplifted on his wand waves it, as he speeds
along, rousing wandering votaries, and as he waves it cries aloud with
wanton tresses tossing in the breeze; and thus to crown the revelry,
he raises loud his voice, "On, on, ye Bacchanals, pride of Tmolus with
its rills of gold I to the sound of the booming drum, chanting in
joyous strains the praises of your joyous god with Phrygian accents
lifted high, what time the holy lute with sweet complaining note
invites you to your hallowed sport, according well with feet that
hurry wildly to the hills; like a colt that gambols at its mother's
side in the pasture, with gladsome heart each Bacchante bounds along."



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