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From Dionysus to Aristotle

The various Greek tribes worshipped many different gods. Dionysus, or Bacchus, was an important god for the Thracians, a tribe who lived in the northern part of Greece. When the Thracians discovered how to make beer, they thought intoxication divine and gave honor to Bacchus, and when they came to know wine, they thought even better of him.

Greek songs honoring the god of wine - Dionysus - which were originally sung by masked choruses developed later into a singing exchange between a leader and the choruses. During the fifth century B.C. music, costumes and dancing all became more elaborate, and antiphonal singing between leader and chorus evolved into dramatic dialogue. Everywhere these festivals were regarded as public acts of worship, but only in Athens did these crude beginnings develop into tragedy.

The tragic performances of ancient Athens presented a magnificent spectacle. All citizens could attend freely, for the festivals were still regarded as public acts of worship. Everybody could easily respond to the rhythms of dance amd song - because the words were sung by the chorus and the actors' line also conformed to poetic meters.

The tragic poets of Athens took advantage of the traditional celebrations handed down to them to construct stories that confronted fundamental problems of human life. Three great poets worked this remarkable transformation of the ancient wine songs : Aeshylus, Sophocles, and Euripides.

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