Dionysus’s Effect on Women in Bacchae in the ancient Athenian society The position of women during the time of ancient Greek and ancient Rome, had been considered, mentally and physically weaker than most of the men, the duty for women was pretty different from their husbands. In the play of Bacchae, the impression of women had been totally changed by Euripides, “No sharp weapons, but you’d have seen one woman tear apart a young cow with her care hands- it was bellowing, its udder was swollen with milk”. 737) This is something almost impossible for a woman to do but the power of women had been extremely magnified after intoxicated by Dionysus, their mind and soul had been taken away.
Traditionally regarded as inferior to men in ancient times, the women in Bacchae have been strongly magnified through the intoxication of Dionysus. In the ancient time of Greek, the class of women were viewed as inferior to most of the men, none of them were given political powers, which is unfair. One Athenian group that can without absurdity be called an exploited productive class was the women. They were unusually restricted in their property rights even by comparison with the women in other Greek states. ” The position for men was much better when compare to women, they share more political rights and statistically, male had been named more frequently then women by historian. The Bacchae’s most obvious perversion of custom and the question of gender demonstrate one way how impression of women is changed in the play.
As Dionysus indicates early in the play, the enraptured band of Bacchant followers is comprised only of females: “Every woman in Thebes-but the women only I drove from home” (35-36). Though Cadmus further illuminates the matter by raising the question, “Are we the only men who will dance for Bacchus? ” (195-196), the text offers no definitive explanation for why Dionysus calls solely upon the women however it was quite common that women followed men in that time period.
A superficial reading might suggest that Euripides attempted to portray the stereotypical “weaker-sex” as the one more susceptible to invasive passions than men, especially eros and demonic possession, but more is probably at stake. Dionysus further confuses the notions of gender with his appearance and manner, violations of the ideals of masculinity summarized as the femininity of Dionysus, transvestism in his cult, and symbolic gender inversions in Greek ritual. The opening description depicts him as “soft… dressed in a fawn skin… s long blond curls ripple down over his shoulders,” an image that Pentheus later mocks by scorning his “fair skin” (456) and accusing the god, The arrogant, “manly” Pentheus again taunts Dionysus’ masculinity by continuing, in a tone more appropriate for a vulgar brute than a king. The later reversal when Pentheus dons his own fawn skin and curls brings climax to the sharp irony that surely makes the gender cross-over worthy of mention. This offers proof that feminine traits can be seen in a powerful authority figure.
Women in The Bacchae not only leave their traditional place within the home but are thrust into an unconventional new position that contrasts sharply with the usual characterization, of submissiveness and modesty. In the play of Bacchae, women driven wild by Dionysus, my impression for women had been totally changed. Woman were always seen as traditional housewives up to this point but Dionysus offered new meaning to the lives of women. They began to commit acts that were sacred for men, such as drinking and having sex.
So they began to be seen as unholy, a reason why Pentheus had a desire to rid of the followers of Dionysus. Dionysus had little care for the women he controlled as long as the people of Thebes understood that Dionysus was indeed the son of Zeus. Clearly there is no easy characterization of the degree to which Dionysus typified or challenged the traditional Athenian ideology. Though his concern with worship was somewhat extreme, honoring the deities was quite customary among the pious Greek people.
The gender question requires special caution for in the words of Pomeroy, it is not legitimate for scholars to make judgements about the lives of real women solely on the basis of information gleaned from tragedy. Care must be taken not to use this drama to comment definitively on Athenian society since “things could happen in the real life of Athens which were virtually unthinkable in tragedy, and vice versa. ” Perhaps the safest assessment of Dionysus is that while not a direct opponent of the traditional ways, his presence, and especially his effect on other characters, serves to highlight many social norms.