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Dionysus: Myth and Cult
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Dionysus: Myth and Cult

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  163 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
In this classic study of the myth and cult of Dionysus, Walter F. Otto recreates the theological world of ancient Greek religion. Otto's provocative starting point is to accept the immanent reality of the gods. To understand the cult of Dionysus, it is necessary to reimagine the original vision of the god. Otto challenges us to understand the power of this vision not as a ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 1st 1995 by Indiana University Press (first published 1933)
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Jan 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Excellent introduction to Dionysus and the complexities of his cultus. If you've already read Euripides' "Bacchae," some of Otto's research and findings will be familiar to you, albeit much more contextualized and grounded in academia. If not, than read Euripides afterwards for an excellent tragedy that perfectly encapsulates the full range of the Dionysian. It's quite a treat for 21st century readers of the play to be able to study the complex and interesting background of a greek god and then ...more
The gold-standard work for understanding the origin of Dionysus and the permutations of his myth and cult of worship. Much referenced in mythopoetic fiction, Dionysus is a complex, evolving god; one of the very first of the persecuted, suffering and dying gods of the ancient near east. Seeking a deeper background for understanding ancient near east thought which underlies some of the historical fiction and comparative mythology I enjoy, I found it here.
Jul 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
At his conception the earthly was touched by the splendor of divine heaven. But in this union of the heavenly with the earthly, which is expressed in the myth of the double birth, man’s tear-filled lot was not dissolved but preserved, rather, in sharp contrast to superhuman majesty. He who was born in this way is not only the exultant god, the god who brings man joy. He is the suffering and dying god, the god of tragic contrast. And the inner force of this dual reality is so great that he appear ...more
M.L. Rio
Mar 29, 2015 rated it liked it
An interesting read--the translation is clumsy in the places but the ideas are, for the most part, clear (except in the introductory theorizing on the ideas of myth and cultus, which was so confusing I don't even know what else to say about it). It's refreshing so see someone take Dionysus so seriously, as he's often dismissed as a drunken reveler and simple rustic god of wine and orgies. Otto's dissection of the deity is sometimes repetitive, but provides a solid foundation for further study. T ...more
Bruce Morton
Sep 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Walter Otto's study has weathered well. It remains more than forty years later a certain place to start in understanding the ancient Dionysus Cult. Important reading for someone wanting to better grasp what early Christians faced in Roman Asia.
Terence Gallagher
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an extraordinary book. Prof. Otto attempts to look at Dionysus as the object of Greek religious devotion rather than simply as a functional "vegetation god" or "god of wine." He avoided the reductionist approach of many other classicists and tried to tease out the "personality" of the god and show how it manifested itself in all his attributes. The book is not without flaws, (sometimes the reader is not sure whether Prof. Otto is describing genuine ancient Greek beliefs or his own!), but ...more
Mar 31, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: heartwarming
Well, you see.... puthhhhhhhhhhh, grecian mythology has always been my cup of tea. In fact I had a good friend named Gretchen who I was rather fond of, and Gretchen and grecian are reather close in sound, but thats beside the rather obvious stupendously stupid point. This book is clearly only read by people who were once smart people, and may perhaps retain some of their previous knowledge, but are now currently alcoholics.
As such:
click here for enlightenment on why I see things the way I do .
Aug 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mythology
I enjoyed this book a great deal but it is not light reading. It also helps if you know something about Dionysus before you read it, as this is a scholarly work on the god and assumes you have some knowledge of him already. I learned a lot but stayed a bit confused throughout. Now that I've finished it, however, I feel I have a good context for further reading about Dionysus. If you love Greek mythology, check this one out. Dionysus is a rather unusual character, being a god of dual natures and ...more
Jun 27, 2008 marked it as to-read
So far (a few chapters in), it seems very dense, difficult to read, and academic -- though it does contain interesting concepts, I get the feeling that I would benefit from those concepts infinitely more if I had the context of an elaborate and extensive Greek History education to connect it with. Shibboleths and topically-specific terminology are used extensively. I'll keep plugging through and see how it goes.
Jan 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very enjoyable and informative book. It is broken up into easy to deal with chapters and fully cited. There is passion here behind the words written. This is not dry academic writing at all even though it is a scholarly work. I really liked this book and learned a lot from it. I highly recommend reading this if you are interested at all in Dionysus.
Wilson Décembre
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
A "must read" for people interested in the subject.
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Deutscher Altphilologe, der besonders für seine Arbeiten über Bedeutung und Nachwirkung der griechischen Religion und Mythologie bekannt ist, vor allem durch das Standardwerk Die Götter Griechenlands (zuerst 1929).
More about Walter F. Otto
“Man's experience tells him that wherever there are signs of life, death in in the offing. The more alive this life becomes, the nearer death draws, until the supreme moment - the enchanted moment when something new is created - when death and life meet in an embrace of mad ecstasy. The rapture and terror of life are so profound because they are intoxicated with death. As often as life engenders itself anew, the wall which separates it from death is momentarily destroyed. Death comes to the old and the sick from the outside, bringing fear or comfort. They think of it because they feel that life is waning. But for the young the intimidation of death rises up out of the full maturity of each individual life and intoxicates them so that their ecstasy becomes infinite. Life which has become sterile totters to meet its end, but love and death have welcomed and clung to one another passionately from the beginning.” 5 likes
“He who begets something which is alive must dive down into the primeval depths in which the forces of life dwell. And when he rises to the surface, there is a gleam of madness in his eyes because in those depths lives cheek by jowl with life. The primal mystery is itself mad - the matrix of the duality and the unity of disunity.” 3 likes
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