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Greek Theatre: Ritual and Religion

1. The Cult of Dionysus

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the god Dionysus, and his cult and festival at Athens. In particular, we explore the links between Dionysus and tragedy, as well as the Dionysian Mysteries.


In this course, Professor Richard Seaford (University of Exeter) explores the importance of ritual and religion in Greek tragedy. Having begun with a discussion of the god Dionysus and his cult in Attica, as well as the supposed origins of tragedy, we then look more closely at the use of ritual and religion in three plays: Aeschylus’s Agamemnon, Sophocles’ Antigone, and Euripides’ Hippolytus.


Richard Seaford is a professor of the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Exeter in England. He is the author of academic books, especially on ancient Greece, and has penned over seventy academic papers.

His work on Athenian tragedy and religion has led him to investigate the historical conditions for the radical development of Greek culture in the sixth century BC (sometimes called the origin of European culture), and to argue that a crucial factor in this development was money: the advanced Greek polis of this period was the first society in history that we know to have been thoroughly monetised.

Money and the Early Greek Mind. Homer, Tragedy, Philosophy (Cambridge 2004) explores the socio-historical conditions that made this first monetisation possible as well as its profound cultural consequences, notably the invention of 'philosophy' and of drama.

The investigation is taken further in several recent papers, for instance in ‘Money and Tragedy’ in W. V. Harris (ed.), The Monetary Systems of the Greeks and Romans (2008). His most recent book is Cosmology and the Polis: the Social Construction of Space and Time in the Tragedies of Aeschylus (Cambridge 2012). In 2005-2008 he was awarded a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship by the Leverhulme Trust. For 2013-4 he was awarded an AHRC Fellowship for a comparative historical study of early Indian with early Greek thought.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Seaford, R. (2018, August 15). Greek Theatre: Ritual and Religion - The Cult of Dionysus [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Seaford, R. "Greek Theatre: Ritual and Religion – The Cult of Dionysus." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,