Copyright Year: 2016
Contributors: Gildenhard and Zissos
Publisher: Open Book Publishers
License: CC BY
This extract from Ovid's 'Theban History' recounts the confrontation of Pentheus, king of Thebes, with his divine cousin, Bacchus, the god of wine. Notwithstanding the warnings of the seer Tiresias and the cautionary tale of a character Acoetes (perhaps Bacchus in disguise), who tells of how the god once transformed a group of blasphemous sailors into dolphins, Pentheus refuses to acknowledge the divinity of Bacchus or allow his worship at Thebes. Enraged, yet curious to witness the orgiastic rites of the nascent cult, Pentheus conceals himself in a grove on Mt. Cithaeron near the locus of the ceremonies. But in the course of the rites he is spotted by the female participants who rush upon him in a delusional frenzy, his mother and sisters in the vanguard, and tear him limb from limb.