In myth, son of Agavē, daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia, and Echion. Euripides' Bacchae gives the most familiar version of his legend. The disguised Dionysus returns from his conquests in the east to Thebes, where the young king Pentheus is refusing to recognize his deity or to allow his worship. Pentheus imprisons Dionysus, in ignorance of his true identity and seeing him simply as a corrupting influence on the women of Thebes; but Dionysus escapes, and, by making Pentheus mad, inveigles him up on to Mt. Cithaeron to spy on the maenads there. Pentheus, deranged and himself dressed as a maenad, is torn to pieces by the women led by his mother Agave. She carries his head home in triumph, believing it to be that of a lion killed in the hunt, where she is gently brought to sanity and grief by Cadmus.
Subjects: Opera — Classical Studies.