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Reading Dionysus: Euripides’ Bacchae and the Cultural Contestations of Greeks, Jews, Romans, and Christians
Friesen, Courtney

Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2015 pp. xii + 331. €79.00

Series Information
Studien und Texte zu Antike und Christentum, 95

Description: Courtney J. P. Friesen explores shifting boundaries of ancient religions by way of the reception of a popular tragedy, Euripides’ Bacchae . As a play staging political crises provoked by the arrival of the “foreign” god Dionysus and his ecstatic cult, audiences and readers found resonances with their own cultural moments. This dramatic deity became emblematic of exuberant and liberating spirituality and, at the same time, a symbol of imperial conquest. Thus, readings of the Bacchae frequently foreground conflicts between religious autonomy and political authority, and between ethnic diversity and social cohesion. This cross-disciplinary study traces appropriations and evocations of this drama ranging from the fifth century BCE through Byzantium not only among “pagans” but also Jews and Christians. Writers variously articulated their religious visions over against Dionysus, often while paradoxically adopting the god’s language and symbols. Consequently, imitation and emulation are at times indistinguishable from polemics and subversion.

Subjects: Greco-Roman Literature, Early Christian Literature, Literature, Methods, Historical Approaches, History, History of Judaism, History of Religions

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Review by J. R. C. Cousland
Published 3/22/2018
Citation: J. R. C. Cousland, review of Courtney Friesen, Reading Dionysus: Euripides’ Bacchae and the Cultural Contestations of Greeks, Jews, Romans, and Christians, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2018).


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