This paper investigates the mythical and ritual background of Dionysus’ representation as “fir-bender” in Euripides’ "Bacchae" (ll. 1061 ff.), in an attempt to shed light not only on the dramaturgical aspects of the tragic plot, but also on the cultural categories that make this representation intelligible to the Athenian audience at the end of the fifth century BC. Following Louis Gernet’s historical-anthropological approach based on the notion of "polyvalence des images", this paper aims to define a mythical pattern – the connection between the bending of a tree and the dismemberment of a human victim – already attested in the Attic legend of Theseus and Sinis, in which both characters seem to be ‘specialised’ in bending pine trees. Through a comparative analysis of this mythical dossier it is possible to show how the Euripidean scene of the bending of the fir tree on mount Cithaeron can be interpreted as a tragic resemantisation of mythical ordeals concerning the construction of power and the performance of royal identity in archaic Greece, without necessarily postulating a "passive" reception of the Dionysian imagery or the survival of a remote Frazerian “tree-cult”.
|Title of host publication||Dendrolatrie. Miti e pratiche dell'immaginario arboreo|
|Number of pages||25|
|Publication status||Published - 2021|
|Name||GLI ARCHIVI DI MORGANA. TESTI E ATTI|