The Ancient Library

Scanned text contains errors.


and his struggles in passing from one state to another, were not only represented and sym­pathised in by the Dithyrambic singers and dan­cers, but they also carried their enthusiasm so far, as to fancy themselves under the influence of the same events as the god himself, and in their at­tempts to idevitify themselves with him and his fortunes, assumed the character of the subordinate divinities, the Satyrs, Nymphs, and Panes (Nym-pliarumque leves cum Satyr is chori), who formed the mythological train of the god. Hence, as is ex­plained under dionysia (p, 410, b), arose the custom of the disguise of Satyrs being taken by the worshippers at the festivals of Dionysus, from the choral songs and dances of whom the Grecian tra­gedy originated, " being from its commencement connected with the public rejoicings and ceremo­nies of Dionysus in cities, while comedy was more a sport and merriment of the country festivals." In fact the very name of Tragedy (r/xrywfti'a), far from signifying anything mournful or pathetic, is most probably derived from the goatlike appearance of the Satyrs who sang or acted with mimetic gesticula­tions (o/>x??<ns) the old Bacchic songs, with Silenus, the constant companion of Dionysus, for their leader. (Bode, Gesch. d. Hellen. Dichtkunst, vol. iii. p. 31.) From their resemblance in dress and action to goats, they were sometimes called rpdyoi, and their song rpayySia. Thus Aeschylus in a fragment of tire Prometheus Uvptyopos calls a Satyr Tpayos, and the Satyric chorus in the Cyclops of Euripides (1. 80) appears in the skin of a goat (x^-cui/a rpdyov). The word ^drupos also is apparently the same as rirvpos, a kind of goat. (Phot. Lex. s.v.) According to another opinion, the-" word Tragedy was first coined from the goat that was the prize of it, which prize was first constituted in Thespis' time." (Bentley, PItalar. p. 249.) This derivation, however, as well as another, connecting it with the goat ojfered on the altar of Bacchus (Miiller, Literat. of Greece, p. 291), around which the chorus sang, is not equally supported either by the etymological principles of the language, or the analogous instance of ««/*'/>5ta, the " revel-song." (Etyntoi. Mayn. p. 764 ; Eiirip. Bacch. 131; Aelian, V. hi. iii. 40.)

But the Dionysian dithyrambs were not always of a gay and joyous character: they were capable of expressing th^ extremes of sadness aud wild lamentation as well as the enthusiasm of joy ; and it was from the Dithyrambic songs of a mournful cast, probably sung originally in the winter months, that the stately and solemn tragedy of the Greeks arose. That there were Dithyrambs of such a character, expressive of the sufferings of Dionysus (ra rou aioj/ihtov 7rd9r}\ appears from the state­ment in Herodotus (v. 67), that at Sieyon in the time of Clisthenes (b. c. 600) it was customary to celebrate (yepaipew) the sufferings of that god with " tragic choruses." But it must be remarked that in the most ancient times the Dithyrambic song was not executed by a regular chorus. Thus Archilochus says in Trochaic verse, '' 1 know how when my mind is inflamed with wine to lead off the Dithyramb, the beautiful song of Dionysus," whence we may infer that in his time (b. c. 700) tne Dithyramb was sung by a band of revellers led by a flute-player. Lyrical choruses, indeed, had been even then established, especially in the Dorian states of Greece, in connection with the worship of Apollo, the cithara or (p6pijay^ being the instrument



to which the choreutae sang and danced. (Miiller, Literat. of Greece, p. 204 ; Dorians, iv. 7. § 8.) In fact the connection of the Dorian choral poetry with the worship of Apollo, the direct opposite to that of Dionysus, and its consequent subjection to established rules and forms, admitting too, from the Dorian character but little innovation, affords the most obvious explanation of the striking cir­cumstance that nothing decidedly dramatic sprang from it, as from the dithyrarnbic performances. (Bode, p. 16.) Still there were some points in which the Dorian worship of Apollo resembled that of Dionysus, e.g. the dances with which the former god was honoured, and the kind of mimicry which characterised them. Other circumstances also, on which we cannot here dwell, would pro­bably facilitate the introduction of the Dionysian Dithyramb amongst the Dorian states, especially after the improvements made in it by Arion (b. c. 600), which were so great, that even the invention of that species of poetry is ascribed to him, though it had been known in Greece for a century before his time. The worship of Dionysus was celebrated at his native place, Methymnae in Lesbos, with music and orgiastic rites ; and as Arion travelled extensively in the Dorian states of Hellas, he had ample opportunities of observing the varieties of choral worship, and of introducing any improve­ments which he might wish to make in it. (Bode, p. 22.) He is said to have been the inventor of the " tragic turn " (rpctyiKov rp6irov), a phrase of doubtful signification* but which seems to mean, that he was the inventor of a grave and solemn style of music, to which his Dithyrambs were danced and sung. (Hermann, Opusc. vol. vii. p. 216.) Suidas (s.v.) adds of him, heyzrai Kal Trpwros xopbv (rTr}<rai, kcu ^i9vpa./^€ov qoai kcu. 6vo/j.d(rai rb a^o^vov vtrlb


From the first clause, in connection with other authorities (Schol. in Aristoph. Aves, 1403), we learn that he introduced the cyclic chorus (a fact my thologically expressed by making him the son of Cycleus) ; i.e. the Dithyramb, instead of being sung- as before his time in a wild irregular manner, was danced by a chorus of fifty men around a blazing altar; whence in the time of Aristophanes, a dithyrambic poet and a teacher of cyclian choruses were nearly synonymous. (Miiller, p. 204.) As the alteration was made at Corinth, we may suppose that the representation of the Dithyrambic was assimilated in some respects to that of the Dorian choral odes. The clause to the effect that Arion introduced Satyrs, i. e. Tpdyoi, speaking in verse (trochaic), is by some thought another expression for the invention of the " tra­gic style" A simpler interpretation is, that he introduced the Satyrs as an addition and contrast to the dance and song of the cyclic chorus of the Dithyramb, thus preserving to it its old character as a part of the worship of Bacchus. The phrase avo/j,d(rai (compare Herod, i. 23) alludes to the different titles given by him to his different Dithy­rambs according to their subjects, for we need not suppose that they all related directly to Bacchus. (Welcker, Naclitrag. p. 233.) As he was the first cithara player of his age (Herod, i. 23), it is pro­bable that he made the lyre the principal instru­ment in the musical accompaniment.

From the more solemn Dithyrambs then, as im­proved by Arion, with the company of Satyrs, who probably kept up a joking dialogue, ultimately

4 I) a

About | First | English Index | Classified Index | Latin Index | Greek Index



page #  
Search this site
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of