The City Dionysia - Dionysus on His Festival

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The City Dionysia

Dionysus on His Festival

        I am the son of Zeus and Semele.  I am Dionysus, God of wine, drama, laughter and fertility.  Those who do not believe this I will punish and these are not feeble words for I showed no mercy to Pentheus of Thebes.  He who claimed that I was no God and that I died in the same lightning flash as my mother.  Everyone knows that my father is the Almighty Zeus and that I am a true God.  I will bring pain to those who do not believe in this.

        I do not just have one festival in honour of me but four. The Anthesteria, the Lenaia, the Country Dionysia and the biggest off all, aptly named the Great Dionysia.  However before the processions can begin I must first bless the land to awaken the spring.  The Spring Festival, a great procession, assisted with my two attendants to join me when I shall bring food and merriment back to Athens.  Crowds of people will follow me and why shouldn't they?  For I pass through the farms and the fields of Athens blessing the land so that the upcoming harvest will be fruitful.  This is not for my needs for the Gods eat ambrosia and drink nectar.  Every year people sing and dance, play flutes and trumpets and enjoy the worship of Dionysus.

        Every March in Athens, when the seas are free and calm to sail upon and when the farmers have prayed for success in the future when gathering their harvest produced from the Spring Festival, the Great Dionysia can begin.  Many people still come to watch and participate in the festival.  People come, even if they do not have tickets for the plays, for the festival itself, which is always magnificent.  They can still join and enjoy the great procession on the first day.  This is a grand momentous procession, which reflects my grand self.  Obviously sacrifices are offered, not pigs or sheep, but the most powerful creature the bull who is respected like me a powerful God.  Others sacrifices are made but the greatest is the bull.  The scene is colourful with any sponsors wearing magnificent gowns and other people wearing brightly coloured clothes.  After these sacrifices the plays begin.  These plays are devoted to me.

        My faithful and loyal followers the Bacchantes worship me.  A fine example I made of Pentheus of Thebes through his mother Agave and her sisters, fellow Bacchantes.  With my powers I made her believe that Pentheus' head was a lion.  She lost her personality and took on the power of me, the God.  This is the example I make of people who do not believe in me.  Appropriately as I am the God of drama many plays are held in my homage.  Actors wearing their masks losing their own personalities like my Bacchantes.  As I am also the God of laughter and drama many comedies, tragedies and satyr-plays are performed.  Comedies were performed in my reverence, as I am a God who brings laughter to my followers.  The word 'comedy' means 'the song of the merrymakers.'  My fellow merrymakers accompanied my processions at the dawn of the festival, welcoming my awaited arrival to the city, singing and dancing in their great joy for my destination.  For the city I am bound for is the City of Athens.  Satyr-plays were also held in my great name.  Satyrs were strange wood-creatures but soon became my followers.  They often made or drank wine.  Lastly, but certainly not the least important, tragedies took place during these climacteric times.  Tragic costumes were similar to my robes, which the Bacchantes traditionally dressed me in, as they worshipped me.  The full-length robe covered by a shorter cloak, which came below the knees.  So one can see how closely tragedies and plays are linked to my nature.  'For I am a god terrible to man, and yet, most gentle'. However where are all these plays to be held?  Nowhere except the oldest theatre in Greece, my theatre, the theatre of Dionysus.  This theatre is not the only part dedicated to me, many shrines and temples are at the heart of Athens on the slopes of the Acropolis, as I am in the hearts of all men.  Many people visit the theatre from all parts of Greece.  In the audience are my priests and in the centre of the orchestra is my altar reminding each and every person that this was still a religious ceremony.

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        Such an extraordinary festival, The Great Dionysia for such an extraordinary God, myself Dionysus.  People from across the seas will know the name of Dionysus and will recognise my important festival.

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