Article

Bacchanalia

John North

in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Classics


Published online March 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780199381135 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780199381135.013.1031

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Bacchanalia can be used to mean either ‘Bacchic festival’ or ‘Bacchic places of worship’, but usually translates the Greek *mysteries (orgia), with special reference to the worship suppressed by the Roman authorities in 186 bce. We have an account of the suppression in Livy (39. 8–18) and an inscribed version of the senatorial decree (ILLRP 511) against the cult, in the form in which it was circulated to the allied states of Italy. These sources can be supplemented by references in *Plautus' plays and now by archaeological evidence to show that the Bacchic cult, perhaps of south-Italian Greek origin, was widespread in Italy, central and south, decades before the senate chose to act against it. The form of the Italian cult seems to differ from other Hellenistic examples in admitting men as well as women to the mysteries and in increasing the frequency of meetings. It is a matter of debate how far the cult's followers were forming a movement of protest against the Roman authorities.

Article.  402 words. 

Subjects: Religion in the Ancient World

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