Dionysian Dithyramb

“Be that as it may, Tragedy – as also Comedy – was at first mere improvisation.
The one originated with the authors of the Dithyramb,
the other with those of the phallic songs,
which are still in use in many of our cities.”
[Aristotle]

Dithyramb

The cult came from the east.
No one knew where it originated.
Women left their homes by night and wandered in the mountains.
Men adopted feminine mannerisms.
Reflection yielded to participation.
The Classic moment passed as an unknown god gathered followers in the groves of madness.
The youth were sure they were on the cutting edge of liberation.
The elders clucked and scolded as society unraveled.
A god of youth and frenzy subverted the order of the ancient days -
but they called it freedom in ecstasy.
The idol Dionysus reigned as the culture imploded.
And yet it took several generations -
and each successive generation was sure they were breaking with a useless past and dancing, hypnotized, into a glorious future.

With the degeneration of the Classical period, new forms of music and rhythm rose to popularity as plebeian slave-values became widespread in a general reaction against the Patrician and administrative governing classes. The street musicians, often affecting the manner of the criminal underclass, sang popular airs to simple rhythmic accompaniment, often with prostitutes or priestesses dancing to attract passers-by. Such musicians were in abundance on feast days and during civic festivals, and the ribald content which was their staple, often inflamed certain sectors of the urban populace to moral outrage.

But that was long ago…

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