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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: May 2011
  • First published in: 1909



The study of the Dionysiac cult is one of the most attractive in the whole investigation into the religion of Hellas. For though its influence on the progress of the national culture was masterful at one point only, namely, in the evolution of the drama, yet the problems that it presents to the student of Mediterranean religion, history, and anthropology, are of primary importance. Many of them are very perplexing; and the adequate discussion of Dionysiac ritual demands a wide comparison with the phenomena of primitive and advanced religions. It is in the organization of this cult that the early Hellenic character displays itself in the clearest light; and here, if anywhere, in the Greek peoples' worship, we may find traces of that fervour and self-abandonment which in our religious vocabulary is called faith.

The first inevitable question is in regard to the original home of the cult. Was Dionysos by earliest ancestry a genuinely Hellenic divinity? The same question arises, as we have seen, concerning other personages of the Pantheon; but Dionysos stands on a different footing from any of them. The Homeric poems reveal only a glimmer of his personality and cult; he plays no ancestral part in the early genealogies, and certain communities preserved a tradition of his late arrival and the opposition that his rites provoked.

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