Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Mystery cults and the polis of Athens : a reading of Bakchai and frogs
Author: Barzini, L.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7969 565X
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2019
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
This work is dedicated to a comparative study of Euripides' Bakchai and Aristophanes' Frogs (also "the plays") in their religious, historical and political context and in particular in their connection with mystery cults. Aristophanes had his comedy Frogs performed at the Lenaia festival in the winter of 405. The son of Euripides had his father's tragedy Bakchai produced at the Great Dionysia at some point after Euripides' death, possibly in the spring of the same year 405. The two plays have several points in common: the protagonist, the god Dionysos; they are both rich in themes, motifs and images connected with the initiation cults of Dionysos (in Bakchai) and those of Demeter (in Frogs); the choruses have the same role on stage as they have in their cultic reality in the theatre, worshippers of the deity; the two plays were awarded the first prize. This thesis is dedicated to exploring the plays in their Athenian religious and socio-political context, a theme largely ignored by classical scholars. By estimating the number of mystic initiates in Athens at the end of the fifth century the thesis shows that mystic initiates were a sizable part of the population and therefore of theatre audiences, likely to be sensitive to the plays' mystic and civic content and able to influence public opinion. It examines the way Athenian audiences perceived the impact of public poetry and drama performances and shows that their effect on audiences was associated with a religious experience; it follows the thread of mystic and civic values in the perception of ancient writers before and during the Peloponnesian War and 2 evaluates the role of those values in the development of Athenian political consciousness during the fifth century; it analyses the political atmosphere in Athens in the period the plays were written, after the restoration of democracy in 410 and on the eve of the restoration of oligarchic rule by the Thirty that was followed by open stasis and the civic reconciliation of 403. This thesis proposes a new interpretation of the texts of the plays to evidence the relevance of their religious content in the political conditions Athens found itself in. The two plays delivered a message to the polis that was inspired by mystery cults, a message at the same time religious, ethical and political: the reconciliation of the polis' social, religious and political conflicts through the acceptance of mystery cults and of their rituals.
Supervisor: Seaford, R. ; Mitchell, L. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available