Mythology - Maenads

by Erin on December 9, 2011

Maeands (also known as Bacchantes, Bacchae, or Thyiades) played an important role in Greek mythology, literature, and art. These women worshipped the Greek god Dionysos, and, along with the notorious satyrs, formed part of the god’s entourage. Indeed, Maenads frequently appear together with the frenzied deity of wine in both myth and art, where they are depicted holding Dionysian symbols such as the thyrsos, ivy or grapes, and often shown wearing panther or fawn skins.

One of our best ancient sources for the story of Dionysos and his Maenad followers is found in the Bacchae of Euripides. In this play, the power and destructive capacity of Dionysos are emphasized. This deadly aspect of the god is conveyed primarily through the women who are drawn into his mysterious realm. These women (who, as the title indicates, are called Bacchae or Bacchantes) celebrate Dionysos by abandoning themselves to the wild, liberating energy of nature. Bacchantes, when in the trance of the deity, leave behind home and family, and haunt the forests and mountains, their roles as wives, mothers, and sisters temporarily forgotten.

The Bacchae of course is recommend reading for anyone interested in more information about these followers of Dionysos. And in light of this fact, we offer one more enticing detail about Euripides’s depiction of these wild women: when possessed by Dionysos, the Maenads can become savage and brutal…

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