Dionysus eye vase

Although the origin of Greek drama cannot be known with any certainty, we do know that tragedy and comedy had deep roots in the religious and communal life of the Greek polis and were closely connected with the worship of the god Dionysus (sometimes spelled Dionysos, called Bacchus by the Romans). A great deal of basic information about this god and his interactions with other deities and humans can be found in Carlos Parada's Genealogical Guide to Greek Mythology, while Kristi Thompson muses about the nature and meaning of the god.

An excellent article by Patricia Easterling (“A Show for Dionysus.”The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy. Ed. P. E. Easterling. Cambridge University Press, 1997. 36-53) maintains that Dionysus was closely associated with Greek tragedy because of the following major characteristics of the god:

The word tragedy is connected with the Greek word tragoi, meaning goats, and Dionysus and his followers are sometimes pictured with a goat. One of the musical instruments associated with Dionysus, the aulos or double pipe, was used to accompany tragic performances.

Dionysus on a ship
September, 1999
Barbara F. McManus
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