The Bacchae

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Euripides’ great tragedy, which was first performed in Athens in 405 BC when the Athenians were on the point of defeat and humiliation in a long war with Sparta. The action seen or described on stage was brutal: Pentheus, king of Thebes, is torn into pieces by his mother in a Bacchic frenzy and his grandparents condemned to crawl away as snakes. All this happened because Pentheus had denied the divinity of his cousin Dionysus, known to the audience as god of wine, theatre, fertility and religious ecstasy. The image above is a detail of a Red-Figure Cup showing the death of Pentheus (exterior) and a Maenad (interior), painted c. 480 BC by the Douris painter. This object can be found at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

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  • Edith Hall 19 episodes
    Professor of Classics at King's College London
  • Emily Wilson No other episodes
    Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Rosie Wyles No other episodes
    Lecturer in Classical History and Literature at the University of Kent

Reading list

  • Aristophanes
    trans. Judith Affleck (Cambridge University Press, 2014)
  • Euripides
    trans. J. Morwood (Oxford University Press, 2008) Google Books →
  • Euripides
    trans. Holly Eckhardt (Cambridge University Press, 2012)
  • Simon Goldhill
    Reading Greek Tragedy (Cambridge University Press, 1986)
  • Edith Hall
    Greek Tragedy: Suffering under the Sun (Oxford University Press, 2010)
  • Edith Hall, Fiona Macintosh and Amanda Wrigley (eds.)
    Dionysus since 69: Greek Tragedy at the Dawn of the Third Millennium (Oxford University Press, 2004)
  • Mary Lefkowitz and James Romm (trans.)
    The Greek Plays: Sixteen Plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides (Random House, 2016)
  • Walter F. Otto
    Dionysus: Myth and Cult (Indiana University Press, 1995)
  • Richard Seaford (trans. and ed.)
    Euripides' Bacchae (Aris & Phillips, 1996)
  • Wole Soyinka
    The Bacchae of Euripides (W. W. Norton & Company, 2004)
  • David Stuttard (ed.)
    Looking at Bacchae (Bloomsbury, 2016)
  • Donna Tartt
    The Secret History (_ Penguin (1993 )
  • John J. Winkler (ed.)
    Nothing to Do with Dionysos? Athenian Drama in Its Social Context (Princeton University Press, 1992)
  • Rosie Wyles
    Costume in Greek Tragedy (Bristol Classical Press, 2011)

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Auto-category: 882.01 (Greek drama and mythology)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. When Athenians first saw Euripides play the Bacchae in 405 BC, they were on the point of defeat in a long war with Sparta.