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DOI 10.12887/28-2015-2-110-11



Danuta MUSIAŁ – 'Dionysian madness,' or On Madness and Emotions in Antique Religion


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Since the time of the publication of Michel Foucault’s book Folie et Déraison: Histoire de la folie à l’âge classique (1961) the concept of madness as a category of culture, variable in time and space, has been developing. Culture determines the boundaries transgression of which is considered as a mad behavior. In classical antiquity madness was believed to be a special kind of emotion (the others being: anger, fear, envy, pity, and hatred) sent on people by the gods (as in the case of Achilles’s anger or in that of Agave’s madness).

The Aeneid had an important role in the presentation of the patterns of madness in the Roman culture. Jupiter destined Rome to rule all nations provided that the Romans would end godless madness. The mad act that began the chain of events unfavorable to Rome was the crime committed by Romulus.

The subject of madness and emotions is developed in relation to the discussion of the cult of Dionysus. Apart from the poetic visions modelled on The Bacchae by Euripides, two descriptions of Dionysian rituals deserve special consideration. The first one is included in Livy’s report on the Bacchanalian Affair. The second Bacchic story is portrayed by Tacitus in his Annals and describes the ceremony organized by the empress Messalina.

Keywords: Roman religion, madness, emotion, Dionysus, Messalina

Contact: Institute of History and Archival Sciences, Faculty of History, Nicolaus Copernicus University,
ul. W. Bojarskiego 1, 87-100 Toruń, Poland
E-mail: dmusial@umk.pl



Pliki do pobrania:

» 110_Musial.pdf


  1. ISSN 0860-8024
  2. The Republic of Poland Ministry of Science and Higher Education Value: 20.00
  3. Quarterly “Ethos” is indexed by the following databases: EBSCO, CEEOL, Index Copernicus (ICV 2017: 55.26), Philosopher’s Index, ERIH Plus.
  4. DOI Prefix 10.12887