On Dionysos Eubouleus
One of the most important forms of Dionysos honored within the Starry Bull tradition is Eubouleus (Ευβουλευς), an epiklesis meaning “He of Good Counsel,” related to Epikoōs (Επικοως) “He who Listens” and Meilichios (Μειλιχιος) “the Gentle; He who Soothes.”
Eubouleus is one of the most popular titles given to the God in the collection of Orphic Hymns that have come down to us from a 2nd century cult association in Roman Anatolia:
Euboulos, you once took pure Demeter’s daughter as your bride. (18. To Plouton)
Resourceful Eubouleus, immortal God sired by Zeus when he mated with Persephone in unspeakable union. (30. To Dionysos)
I call upon the giver of law, dispenser of seed, Eubouleus of many names, he who bears the leafy rod. (42. To Misa)
I call upon you, blessed, many-named and frenzied Bacchos, bull-horned Nysian redeemer, God of the wine-press, conceived in fire. Nourished in the thigh, O Lord of the Cradle, you marshal torch-lit processions in the night, O filleted and thyrsos-shaking Eubouleus. (52. To the God of Triennial Feasts)
Likewise, it shows up in one of the gold leaves from Thurii in Southern Italy where he is hailed among the court of the Chthonic Queen:
A: I come from among the pure, Pure Queen of Those Below,
Eukles, Eubouleus and you other immortal daimones.
I, too, boast that I belong to your blessed race,
though Fate conquered me, and he who strikes from the stars with his thunder.
I flew forth from the painful circle of deep sorrow,
I launched myself with agile feet after the longed-for crown,
and I plunged beneath the lap of my Lady, the subterranean Queen.
B: Happy and blessed one! You shall be divine instead of mortal.
A: I have fallen as a kid into milk.
The role he performs there is a significant one, for Dionysos Eubouleus intercedes on behalf of the initiate by speaking words to soothe the ancient grief (ποινή) of Persephone, which must otherwise receive appeasement through punishment and purgation:
Now you have died and now you have been born, thrice blessed one, on this very day. Say to Persephone that Bakcheios himself set you free. A bull you rushed to milk. Quickly, you rushed to milk. A ram you fell into milk. You have wine as your fortunate honor. And rites await you beneath the earth, just as the other blessed ones. (Gold tablet from Pelinna)
From whomsoever Persephone shall accept requital for ancient grief, the souls of these she restores in the ninth year to the upper sun again; from them arise glorious kings and men of splendid might and surpassing wisdom, and for all remaining time men call them sainted heroes. (Pindar, fragment preserved in Plato’s Meno)
And Orpheus says: “Men performing rituals will send hekatombs in every season throughout the year and celebrate festivals, seeking release from lawless ancestors. You, Dionysos, having power over them, whomever you wish you will release from harsh toil and the unending goad.” (Damascius, Commentary on the Phaedo 1.11)
This is far from the only instance where he acts in this capacity. Once when none of the other Gods could break the cycle of violence and recrimination that Hera and Hephaistos found themselves bound up in it was Dionysos who stepped forward and (despite the incomparable hardship he had suffered at the hands of his step-mother) used his persuasive speech to bring about a reconciliation between them:
Hera hurled Hephaistos down from heaven, ashamed at her son’s lameness, but he made use of his skill. Having been rescued in the ocean by sea divinities he made many glorious things – some for Eurynome, some for Thetis, by whom he had been saved – but he also built a throne with invisible chains and sent it as a gift to his mother. And she was very delighted with the gift and she sat on it and found herself trapped, and there was no one to release her. A council of the Gods was held to discuss returning Hephaistos to heaven; for as they thought he was the only one who could release her. So while the other Gods remained silent and were at a loss for a solution, Ares undertook to do something, and when he got there, he accomplished nothing, but quit in disgrace when Hephaistos threatened him with blazing torches. Since Hera was in such great distress, Dionysos came with wine and, by making Hephaistos drunk, compelled him to follow through persuasive speech. When he came and released his mother he made Dionysos Hera’s benefactor, and she, rewarding him, convinced the heavenly Gods that Dionysos too should be one of the heavenly Gods. (Libanios, Progymnasmata Narration 7)
And then there’s Melinoe.
According to Wikipedia:
Melinoë is the daughter of Persephone, who was visited by Zeus disguised as her husband Plouton (Pluto). Although the wording of the hymn is unclear at this point, Pluto (or perhaps Zeus) becomes angry upon learning of the pregnancy and rends her flesh. The figure called Zeus Chthonios in the Orphic Hymns is either another name for Pluto, or Zeus in a chthonic aspect. Melinoë is born at the mouth of the Cocytus, one of the rivers of the underworld, where Hermes in his underworld aspect as psychopomp was stationed. In the Orphic tradition, the Cocytus is one of four underworld rivers. Melinoë’s connections to Hecate and Hermes suggest that she exercised her power in the realm of the soul’s passage, and in that function may be compared to the torchbearer Eubouleos in the mysteries. According to the hymn, she brings night terrors to mortals by manifesting in strange forms, “now plain to the eye, now shadowy, now shining in the darkness,” and can drive mortals insane. The purpose of the hymn is to placate her by showing that the Orphic initiate understands and respects her nature, thereby averting the harm she has the capacity for causing. The translation of Thomas Taylor (1887) has given rise to a conception of Melinoë as half-black, half-white, representing the duality of the heavenly Zeus and the infernal Pluto. This had been the interpretation of Gottfried Hermann in his annotated text of the hymns in 1805. This duality may be implicit, like the explanation offered by Servius for why the poplar leaf has a light and dark side to represent Leuke (“White”), a nymph loved by Pluto. The Orphic text poses interpretational challenges for translators in this passage. Melinoë appears on a bronze tablet for use in the kind of private ritual usually known as “magic”. The style of Greek letters on the tablet, which was discovered at Pergamon, dates it to the first half of the 3rd century AD. The use of bronze was probably intended to drive away malevolent spirits and to protect the practitioner. The construction of the tablet suggests that it was used for divination. It is triangular in shape, with a hole in the center, presumably for suspending it over a surface. The content of the triangular tablet reiterates triplicity. It depicts three crowned goddesses, each with her head pointing into an angle and her feet pointing toward the center. The name of the goddess appears above her head: Dione (ΔΙΟΝΗ), Phoebe (ΦΟΙΒΙΗ), and the obscure Nyche (ΝΥΧΙΗ). Amibousa, a word referring to the phases of the moon, is written under each goddess’s feet. Densely inscribed spells frame each goddess: the inscriptions around Dione and Nyche are voces magicae, incantatory syllables (“magic words”) that are mostly untranslatable. Melinoë appears in a triple invocation that is part of the inscription around Phoebe: O Persephone, O Melinoë, O Leucophryne. Esoteric symbols are inscribed on the edges of the triangle.
Which got me thinking, what if Melinoë is the ancient grief of Persephone?
What if Persephone felt such anger and pain and sorrow that it fractured her mind – and the part that broke loose became sentient, almost a Goddess in her own right?
I say almost because Melinoë doesn’t really have any powers or functions or attributes of her own. They are all borrowed either from Persephone herself or the female divinities her mother was picking flowers with when she was abducted.
Not only does Melinoë lack distinctiveness, but there’s a pronounced instability to her. One of her epithets is Amibousa (the changeable one) and Melinoë can be interpreted as Dark Mind (melas noos) and she:
drives mortals to madness with her airy phantoms,
as she appears in weird shapes and forms,
now plain to the eye, now shadowy, now shining in the darkness,
and all this in hostile encounters in the gloom of night.
This interpretation does clear up some fundamental problems within Orphism. For instance there’s the oft-quoted line of Pindar’s:
Those from whom Persephone receives the recompense for the ancient grief (fr. 133)
Why would Persephone still be grieved after all this time? Especially since the body of myths and the accounts of her ancient devotees portray her in a variety of different moods. So perhaps the Goddess got over her grief – but that grief now exists independent of her and requires appeasement. (Remember, the hymn speaks of Persephone’s flesh being mangled or rent, a lesser version of the sparagmos suffered by her son.)
If true, I believe that Dionysos was instrumental in soothing this grief and that the methods by which he did so are the basis for Orphic ritual. This is why the initiate is instructed:
Tell Persephone that Bakcheios himself has freed you.
And Damascius, in his commentary on the Phaedrus (1.11) explains:
Dionysos is the cause of release, whence the god is also called the Releaser. And Orpheus says: ”Men performing rituals will send hekatombs in every season throughout the year and celebrate festivals, seeking release from lawless ancestors. You, having power over them, whomever you wish you will release from harsh toil and the unending goad.”
Perhaps the Zagreus myth wasn’t the heart of Orphism after all. Although numerous sources from antiquity allude to the dismemberment and also man’s generation from the blood of the Titans none of them contain all of the details familiar to us from the “reconstruction” of this myth by modern scholars. Indeed, the closest we get is Olympiodoros who made it into a complex alchemical allegory and also, I might add, wrote close to a thousand years after we first start encountering Orphic material.
After all, if Dionysos is Zagreus redivivus and he’s hanging out and talking to Persephone below, why is she still so upset that she’s in need of appeasement? If she’s pining for his original form and its lost potential, then I don’t think emphasizing one’s association with her son (and especially not his murderers) is going to prove all that beneficial to the initiate.
But if the grief is over something else – her deception and rape, according to the Orphic Hymn to Melinoë – then it makes sense that Dionysos would be able to step in and assist with that. It’s kind of his specialty, after all.
A young girl suffers something horrible and is either murdered or takes her own life. Disease, drought, violent madness and other forms of devastation befall the community (usually with an element of compulsive imitation involved) until Dionysos or one of his votaries arrives on the scene and provides purification and release through ritual and dance. Afterwards a festival is instituted in remembrance of the girl.
Right there you’ve got the plot of two-thirds of his myths – more if you include the stories about tragic young men. And Dionysos is uniquely skilled in this work because he of all the Gods is most acquainted with suffering and madness. Horrible, horrible things happened to him yet he made it through and can show each of us the way through our own personal labyrinth More than that he can help unbind and heal the ancestral trauma that we carry with us and which often works itself out in our lives, consciously or unconsciously.
And that is what Orphism is about, as Plato himself made perfectly clear:
Next, madness can provide relief from the greatest plagues of trouble that beset certain families because of their guilt for ancient crimes: it turns up among those who need a way out; it gives prophecies and takes refuge in prayers to the Gods and in worship, discovering mystic rites and purifications that bring the man it touches through to safety for this and all time to come. So it is that the right sort of madness finds relief from present hardships for a man it has possessed. (Phaedrus 244de)
But the most astounding of all these arguments concerns what they have to say about the Gods and virtue. They say that the Gods, too, assign misfortune and a bad life to many good people, and the opposite fate to their opposites. Begging priests and prophets frequent the doors of the rich and persuade them that they possess a God-given power founded on sacrifices and incantations. If the rich person or any of his ancestors has committed an injustice, they can fix it with pleasant things and feasts. Moreover, if he wishes to injure some enemy, then, at little expense, he’ll be able to harm just and unjust alike, for by means of spells and enchantments they can persuade the Gods to serve them. And they present a hubbub of books by Musaeus and Orpheus, offspring as they say of Selene and the Muses, according to which they arrange their rites, convincing not only individuals but also cities that liberation and purification from injustice is possible, both during life and after death, by means of sacrifices and enjoyable games to the deceased which free us from the evils of the beyond, whereas something horrible awaits those who have not celebrated sacrifices. (Republic 2.364a–365b)
Interestingly, some derive Melinoë’s name from meilia noos meaning Propitiating Mind.
The word meilia was often used to describe propitiatory offerings made to the spirits of the dead, such as those prescribed by the commentator of the Derveni Papyrus:
… prayers and sacrifices appease the souls, and the enchanting song of the magician is able to remove the daimones when they impede. Impeding daimones are revenging souls. This is why the magicians perform the sacrifice as if they were paying a penalty. On the offerings they pour water and milk, from which they make the libations, too. They sacrifice innumerable and many-knobbed cakes, because the souls, too, are innumerable. (col.6.1-11)
According to Liddell & Scott:
meilia soothing things, esp. of gifts, of a bridal dowry and of playthings. Also propitiations, offerings to the dead and rarely a charm against storms. Related to meilichios soothing speech, with gentle words and later of persons who are mild and gracious; used of many Gods including Dionysus and Zeus M. the protector of those who invoked him with propitiatory offerings at Athens. Propitiatory offerings were so called because of the honey mixed in the drink-offerings.
And it forms the basis of the Dionysian epithet Meilichios:
Sosibos the Lakedaimonian, by way of proving that the fig-tree is a discovery of Dionysos, says that for that reason the Lakedaimonians even worship Dionysos Sykites (of the Fig). And the Naxians, according to Andriskos and again Aglaosthenes, record that Dionysos is called Meilichios (Gentle) because he bestowed the fruit of the fig. For this reason, also, among the Naxians the face of the God called Dionysos Bakcheos is made of the vine, whereas that of Dionysos Meilichios is of fig-wood. For, they say, figs are called meilicha (mild fruit). (Athenaios, Deipnosophistai 3.78a)
It’s interesting to note that other sources mention that these two masks were in opposition to each other. The Bakcheos mask filled everyone who looked upon it (and it was kept locked in a chest except once a year when it was brought out during his festival) with a savage frenzy while the Meilichios mask was brought in to loosen and soothe that frenzy.
I think that Dionysos took this broken fragment of Persephone, healed it and integrated it as part of his retinue and that Melinoë now serves to assist people in getting right with their dead.
And in the mortal realm Dionysos is the one who gives voice to those who suffer and have been deprived of all other outlets, as he did with Erigone and her father:
When Ikarios was slain by the relatives of those who, after drinking wine for the first time fell asleep (for as yet they did not know that what had happened was not death but a drunken stupor) the people of Attika suffered from disease, Dionysos thereby (as I think) avenging the first and the most elderly man who cultivated his plants. At any rate the Pythian oracle declared that if they wanted to be restored to health they must offer sacrifice to Ikarios and to Erigone his daughter and to her hound which was celebrated for having in its excessive love for its mistress declined to outlive her. (Aelian, On Animals 7.28)
Indeed, one of the central tenets of tragedy is that μίμησις (imitation) brings about κάθαρσις (purification), as Aristotle famously remarks in the Poetics:
Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament; in the form of action, not of narrative; through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions.
This is the basis of the cures effected by the Orpheotelestai or itinerant religious specialists who flourished in the Athens of Plato – methods which are still proving useful today, as Michael Meade discovered when he started working with veterans suffering from PTSD and other psychological ailments:
Meade calls himself a “mythologist,” and he uses ancient stories from Ireland, Greece, India and other cultures to prod veterans into unloading their experiences and making sense of them over four-day retreats on the West Coast. Veterans in Meade’s program also sing ancient warrior chants together, take part in a “forgiveness” ceremony, and write and recite poetry. He believes that many ancient cultures did a better job of formally welcoming returning warriors home and helping to collectively shoulder some of their burdens. “Everyone wants to tell their story,” Meade said. “Even the most wounded people, given the chance, want to tell the story of that wound. A wound is like a mouth.” Meade, who has no military background himself, sees his task as guiding veterans out of the “underworld” – where they may have left comrades or parts of their personalities – and back into the land of the living. (Liz Goodwin, Ancient warrior myths help veterans fight PTSD)
This psychopompic function of language is strongly associated with Dionysos’ first prophet, Orpheus:
But if I had had the voice and music of Orpheus, so that, by bewitching the daughter of Demeter or her husband by my songs, I could lead you out of Hades, I would have descended, and neither the hound of Pluto, nor Charon at his oar, the transporter of souls, would have stopped me from bringing your life back to the light. (Euripides, Alcestis 357-62)
Indeed, all of the early sources – Phanocles included, who gives the name of Orpheus’ spouse as Agriope (wild-faced) or Argiope (shining-faced) not Eurydike (wide-ruling; a title belonging to Persephone and several Makedonian queens) – seem to indicate that Orpheus was successful in his task. The sudden madness and backwards glance costing him his lady love is found sporadically in the Classical period (Plato makes derisive allusion to it) and only becomes the dominant tradition with the Hellenistic poets, who always try to strike the most tragic chord possible. (One of them, Eratosthenes, is also responsible for introducing a note of tension between Dionysos and Orpheus, likely for political reasons.)
Likewise, Orpheus used his enchanting verse to lead those afflicted with madness into wholeness:
Also false is the myth about Orpheus – that four-footed animals, snakes, birds and trees followed him as he played his lyre. Here is what I think happened: in Pieria frenzied female worshipers of Dionysos were tearing apart the bodies of sheep and goats and performing many other violent acts; they turned to the mountains to spend their days there. When they failed to return to their homes, the townspeople, fearing for the safety of their wives and daughters, summoned Orpheus and asked him to devise a plan to get the women down from the mountain. Orpheus performed appropriate sacrificial rites to the God Dionysos and then by playing his lyre led the frenzied Bacchants down from the mountain. But as the women descended they held in their hands various kinds of trees. To the men who watched on that occasion the pieces of wood seemed wondrous. So they said, ‘By playing his lyre Orpheus is bringing the very forest down from the mountain.’ And from this the myth was created. (Palaiphatos, Peri Apiston 33)
Through such ritual reenactments the Orpheotelest induces a healing and redemptive madness which delivers the afflicted from dangerous and destructive madnesses:
Madness can provide relief from the greatest plagues of trouble that beset certain families because of their guilt for ancient crimes: it turns up among those who need a way out; it gives prophecies and takes refuge in prayers to the Gods and in worship, discovering mystic rites and purifications that bring the man it touches through to safety for this and all time to come. So it is that the right sort of madness finds relief from present hardships for a man it has possessed. (Plato, Phaedrus 244de)
What can be used for good can also be used for evil, and indeed those who were able to manipulate language to influence people were often seen as tricksters, thieves, con-men and wizards:
Fearful shuddering and tearful pity and sorrowful longing come upon those who hear it, and the soul experiences a peculiar feeling, on account of the words, at the good and bad fortunes of other people’s affairs and bodies. But come, let me proceed from one section to another. By means of words, inspired incantations serve as bringers-on of pleasure and takers-off of pain. For the incantation’s power, communicating with the soul’s opinion, enchants and persuades and changes it, by trickery. Two distinct methods of trickery and magic are to be found: errors of soul, and deceptions of opinion. (Gorgias, Encomium of Helen)
Not only did Orpheus frequently come under criticism on these grounds:
At the base of Olympus is the city of Dium, near which lies the village of Pimpleia. Here lived Orpheus, the Ciconian, it is said — a wizard who at first collected money from his music, together with his soothsaying and his celebration of the orgies connected with the mystic initiatory rites, but soon afterwards thought himself worthy of still greater things and procured for himself a throng of followers and power. Some, of course, received him willingly, but others, since they suspected a plot and violence, combined against him and killed him. And near here, also, is Leibethra. (Strabo, Geography 7.7)
People are wrong to think that Orpheus did not compose a hymn that says wholesome and lawful things; for they say that he utters riddles by means of his composition, and it is impossible to state the solution to his words even though they have been spoken. But his composition is strange and riddling for human beings. Orpheus did not wish to say in it disputable riddles, but important things in riddles. For he tells a holy tale even from the first word right through to the last, as he shows even in the well-known verse: for by bidding them ‘put doors on their ears’ he is saying that he is not legislating for the many, (but is addressing) those who are pure in hearing … (Derveni Papyrus col. 7)
But so, too, did his God Dionysos.
In Euripides’ Bakchai, when Pentheus hears that Dionysos is stirring up the women of the city he mocks the interloper and boasts:
People say some stranger has arrived, some wizard,
a conjurer from the land of Lydia—
with sweet-smelling hair in golden ringlets
and Aphrodite’s charms in wine-dark eyes.
He hangs around the young girls day and night,
dangling in front of them his joyful mysteries.
If I catch him in this city, I’ll stop him.
He’ll make no more clatter with his thyrsus,
or wave his hair around. I’ll chop off his head,
slice it right from his body.
Pentheus was right to fear the persuasive power of Dionysos, for once he’s allowed himself to be captured and brought to the palace, a rhetorical duel commences:
You’ve avoided that question skillfully, making me want to hear an answer.
The rituals are no friend of any man who’s hostile to the Gods.
This God of yours, since you saw him clearly, what’s he like?
He was what he wished to be, not made to order.
Again you fluently evade my question, saying nothing whatsoever.
Yes, but even a wise man can seem totally ignorant when speaking to a fool.
Pentheus’ vaunted rationality and self-control gives way as Dionysos teases, entices and weaves a snare for him with his words:
Where is he then, this God of yours? My eyes don’t see him.
He’s where I am. You can’t see him, because you don’t believe.
[to his attendants] Seize him! He’s insulting Thebes and me.
I warn you—you shouldn’t tie me up. I’ve got my wits about me. You’ve lost yours.
But I’m more powerful than you, so I’ll have you put in chains.
You’re quite ignorant of why you live, what you do, and who you are.
I am Pentheus, son of Agave and Echion.
A suitable name, as you’ll soon discover.
Get on with it! Lock him up! Take him out of my sight, deep below, so he’ll see nothing but darkness!
By the end of their encounter he’s convinced Pentheus to forsake everything – power, sanity, even his masculinity – until he is like a butterfly squirming in a spider’s web.
Then the squirming, too, stops:
Fancy that! I seem to see two suns,
two images of seven-gated Thebes.
And you look like a bull leading me out here,
with those horns growing from your head.
Were you once upon a time a beast?
It’s certain now you’ve changed into a bull.
The God walks here. He’s made a pact with us.
Before his attitude was not so kind.
Now you’re seeing just what you ought to see.
How do I look? Am I holding myself
just like Ino or my mother, Agave?
When I look at you, I think I see them.
But here, this strand of hair is out of place.
It’s not under the headband where I fixed it.
PENTHEUS [demonstrating his dancing steps]
I must have worked it loose inside the house,
shaking my head when I moved here and there,
practicing my Bacchanalian dance.
I’ll rearrange it for you. It’s only right that I should serve you and fix your head.
[Dionysos begins adjusting Pentheus’ hair and clothing]
All right then. You can be my dresser,
now that I’ve transformed myself for you.
In an epilogue found in one version of the myth the Thebans, fearful of Dionysos’ linguistic prowess and the danger it poses to their polity, bring in a sophist to depose him:
The members of the assembly and the citizens of the city of Kadmeia did not accept Dionysos as administrator of their kingdom. They said that he killed his own cousin without being king; if he became king, he would destroy Boiotia. They summoned Lykourgos, a learned man, pleaded with him and told him what had happened. Lykourgos took up arms against Dionysos, and expelled him from the city of Kadmeia and from Boiotia, whereupon Dionysos fled to Delphi and died. Dionysos’ body was laid there in a tomb, and his weapons were hung up there in the temple, as the most learned Deinarchos has written about Dionysos himself. Equally, the most learned Philochoros has written the same thing; in his account of Dionysos he said: ‘His burial-place could be seen at Delphi, next to the golden Apollo. His tomb is identified by a certain base on which is written, “Here in death lies Dionysos, the son of Semele”’. Likewise, the most learned Kephalion has stated these matters in his writings. (Ioannes Malalas, Chronographia 2.15)
This is in contradistinction to most versions, where Dionysos binds Lykourgos as thoroughly as he bound Pentheus:
Held prisoner, too, was the quickly angered son of Dryas, the king of Edonians, for his mocking fury pent by Dionysos in a rocky prison. Thus the fierce, exuberant force of his madness drained away. He learned too late that he was mad in laying hands on the God, with mocking tongue; for he tried to check the inspired women and the Bacchic fire, and provoked the Muses, fond of the flute. (Sophokles. Antigone 955– 965)
The Thebans would have done well to come to terms with the God, for other cities which heeded his sage counsel prospered, as Plutarch relates:
Therefore Greece, having a great many excellent institutions, and zealously following the customs of the ancients, hath laid the foundations of her polities in wine. For the assemblies in Crete called Andria, those in Sparta called Phiditia, were secret consultations and aristocratical assemblies; such, I suppose, as the Prytaneum and Thesmothesium here at Athens. And not different from these is that night-meeting, which Plato mentions, of the best and most politic men, to which the greatest, the most considerable and puzzling matters are assigned. And those “who, when they do design to seek their rest, to Hermes their just libations pour” do they not join reason and wine together, since, when they are about to retire, they make their vows to the wisest God, as if he was present and particularly president over their actions? But the ancients indeed call Dionysos Eubouleus “the good counsellor”, and for his sake they named the night εὐφρόνη, as it were, wellminded. (Quaestiones Convivales 7.9)
Indeed the chief magistrates of Rhodes, in accordance with ancestral law (CM 181), were responsible for hosting a banquet in honor of Dionysos Eubouleus each day during which important officials and civic elites would attend and drink wine before deliberating on what business should be carried out the following day. Any sensible ideas they come up with were attributed to the God and his wine.
This kind of wine-fueled inspiration prompted the Dionysian Meton to speak up when he feared his fellow citizens were in danger of making a foolish choice, with potentially disastrous consequences:
When the Tarentines wished to summon Pyrrhus from Epirus to aid in the war against the Romans and were banishing those who opposed this course, a certain Meton, himself a Tarentine, in order to gain their attention and show them all the evils that would come in the train of royalty into a free and luxury-loving state, came into the theatre, at a time when the multitude was seated there, wearing a garland, as if returning from a banquet, and embracing a young flute-girl who was playing on her flute tunes appropriate to songs of revelry. When the seriousness of all gave way to laughter and some of them bade him to sing, others to dance, Meton looked round him on every side and waved his hand for silence; then, when he had quieted the disturbance, he said: “Citizens, of these things which you see me doing now you will not be able to do a single one if you permit a king and a garrison to enter the city.” When he saw that many were moved and paying attention and were bidding him to prospect on, he proceeded to enumerate all the evils that would befall them. But while he was still speaking, the men responsible for these evils seized him and threw him head first out of the theatre. (Dionysios of Halikarnassos, Roman Antiquities 19.8.1-4)
Unfortunately on this occasion the Tarentines did not heed the drunken man’s good advice and suffered tragically for their obstinance.