When Cadmus decided to step off the throne of the city due to old age, he gave the reign to his grandson Pentheus. One of the first things the new king did was to ban the worship of the god Dionysus, his cousin. Dionysus, enraged, caused all the women of Thebes, including Pentheus' mother Agave and aunts Ino and Autonoe, to go into a frenzy that led them to Mount Cithaeron. Pentheus captured Dionysus, and thinking he was simply a follower of the cult, imprisoned him; however, the chains would not bind the god and the cell gate would not close.
Dionysus managed to convince Pentheus to dress as a woman and go to Cithaeron, in order to see the frenzied women engage in sexual activities. He climbed on a tree to see better, but in their madness, the women thought he was a wild animal. They pulled him off the tree and tore him apart limb from limb. The first to actually attack Pentheus was his mother, who only realised what had happened once she had returned to the city.