Sunday, April 27, 2014

How bad was Lycurgus of Thrace?

And Dryas's son, the Edonian king swift to rage, was tamed in recompense for his heart-cutting insults, when, by the will of Dionysus, he was encased in rocky bonds. There the fierce and blooming force of his madness trickled away. [960] That man came to know the god whom in his frenzy he had provoked with mockeries. For he had sought to quell the god-inspired women and the Bacchanalian fire, [965] and he angered the Muses who love the flute. Sophocles, Antigone.

Lycurgus (also Lykurgos, Lykourgos) was the king of the Edoni in Thrace, son of Dryas, the "oak", and father of a son whose name was also Dryas.[1] He banned the cult of Dionysus. When Lycurgus heard that Dionysus was in his kingdom, he imprisoned Dionysus's followers, the Maenads, or drove them and Dionysus out of Thrace with an ox-goad.[2][3] Dionysus fled, taking refuge in the undersea grotto of Thetis the sea nymph.

Lycurgus mistook his son for a mature trunk of ivy, which is holy to Dionysus, and killed him, pruning away his nose and ears, fingers and toes.
Consequently, the land of Thrace dried up in horror. Dionysus decreed that the land would stay dry and barren as long as Lycurgus was left unpunished for his injustice, so his people bound him and flung him to man-eating horses on Mount Pangaeüs.[4]
Lycurgus cut off his own foot when he meant to cut down a vine of ivy. With Lycurgus dead, Dionysus lifted the curse.
Lycurgus tried to rape his mother after imbibing wine. When he discovered what he had done, he attempted to cut down the grapevines, believing the wine to be a bad medicine. Dionysus drove him mad as a punishment, causing him to kill both his wife and his son, and threw him to the panthers on Mount Rhodope.[5]
The tragedian Aeschylus, in a lost play, depicted Lycurgus as a beer-drinker and hence a natural opponent of the wine god.
In Homer's Iliad, an older source than Aeschylus, Lycurgus's punishment for his disrespect towards the gods, particularly Dionysus, is blindness inflicted by Zeus followed not long after by death.[8] 
According to Sophocles, the frenzied Lycurgus mocked at Dionysus and as punishment was shut in "a prison of stone" until his madness went away.[9]
Dryas, the father of King Lycurgus, was killed when his son went insane and mistook him for a mature trunk of ivy, a plant holy to the god Dionysus, whose cult Lycurgus was attempting to extirpate.

ζεύχθη δ᾽ ὀξύχολος παῖς ὁ Δρύαντος,
Ἠδωνῶν βασιλεύς, κερτομίοις ὀργαῖς
ἐκ Διονύσου πετρώδει κατάφαρκτος ἐν δεσμῷ.
οὕτω τᾶς μανίας δεινὸν ἀποστάζει
ἀνθηρόν τε μένος. κεῖνος ἐπέγνω μανίαις
ψαύων τὸν θεὸν ἐν κερτομίοις γλώσσαις.
παύεσκε μὲν γὰρ ἐνθέους γυναῖκας εὔιόν τε πῦρ,
φιλαύλους τ᾽ ἠρέθιζε Μούσας.
(Antigone 955 ff.)


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