In the Form of an Ancient Drama
Wine has put Antiope to sleep on Mt. Cithaeron where she is discovered by Zeus.
Oh! What joy to see the faithful house again. I left in great anticipation on a holy journey and I return with concern. See the beehives there. See how the bees are so dutiful and productive. It is they who gave the name Hyrai to this place. Those bees, winged, armed with toxin, creators of the fermentable honey, so female in their social nature; I wonder how this means anything to me? I needed some inspiration for my future and perhaps I needed to learn what is to come. For this reason I journeyed to Mt. Cithaeron to worship with Dionysus. I prayed and I poured libations for the god of rebirth and regeneration. I had heard that Dionysus would give me insight into my problems and allow me to foretell what is to come.
The door opens
Oh Mother! There you are. How are things at home? The journey was full of excitement but things did not go well. At the festival I drank a lot of wine and it made me very sleepy. When I woke up I found I had been ravished and my virginity taken. I tried to find out who did this. A number of people saw a satyr with me but he acted strangely and everyone was afraid of him. Some suggested it was Zeus in disguise.
I hoped your trip would turn out better. You made a difficult choice. I hoped your visit to the holy place have been more positive. I had hoped they would have given you some spiritual guidance. Many get this and are improved. But now we have more worries. If your father finds out about this he will be quite angry. He is a very angry man and he wanted better things for you. I do not know what he would do to you if you became pregnant. But wait a while. You will not know for certain if you miss your next period.
Maybe I should go to the temple to pray.
Yes! Go to the temple. We are lucky to have that temple here. My father, Asopus, insisted that a temple be dedicated. And because your grandfather founded the city you should lead the processions. There will be one in a few days. Everyone loves you to do it because you are so beautiful. After your prayers why don’t you make the necessary arrangements? Come in now. Let the servants go their way and you can lie down for a rest before you go.
Mother! Did father ever talk to you about a husband for me?
Mainly he talked about who he would not want, and that list was very long. I tried to ask him about the young men of good birth who I became acquainted with and he always refused them. The only man he ever spoke favorably of was your uncle Lycus. But he has a bad temper and he is more interested in a daughter of Helios. The daughter of a god, he feels would advance him. But this topic will only upset you. Come in and rest.
Days have past. Antiope is before the temple after leading a procession.
Look favorably on us Artemis that our fields may prosper. Protect our children from the wrath of monsters. May Boreas bring us quiet rain and let the storms fall upon our enemies. May the maidens of our community grow to be faithful wives. Please protect the babies of our mothers. And bring us bountiful game for our tables. Thanks to Hyreus who settled this land and gave it to us so that we may feast.
You did well Antiope, so well that you have attracted the favor of a fine young man here on business. He comes now.
Hello! I came for bees but I found a goddess. You are so beautiful and you speak so well. Would you like a ride in my chariot? The horses are fast and I can go like the wind.
I know you from somewhere. Do you come often?
On occasion. I like the ceremonies at the temple of Artemis. Didn’t I see you there? I came all the way from Sicyon for the last festival. I was able to dance with the priestess.
You live in Sicyon? That is a very old town. How do you get to travel so freely?
I am the king of Sicyon and nobody tells me what to do. I was not born in Sicyon but I became a favorite of Corax the descendent of Aegialeus. He liked the way I handled the horses. I actually was born in Thessalia. I came to Corax with a team of horses. On his deathbed he made me king. If you come to visit me I can really show you around. We have nice gardens with interesting food.
I think it was me that you danced with. I really would like to go with you. My father is very mad at me and I think I could get hurt.
Really! No girl as beautiful as you could be bad. I will take you to Sicyon right now.
Antiope leaves with Epopeus on a chariot. Now Nycteus lies on his deathbed
I am glad you came, brother. I am badly wounded and I do not think I will survive much longer. When I heard that Antiope had fled to Sicyon with Epopeus I gathered some men together. We marched to the city but as we approached the door to the city was shut. So I shouted my demand at the guard. After a while the door opened and Epopeus appeared. I demanded Antiope. He said that she was his wife now and that she was no longer my property. I was inscensed that I should be deprived so such a valuable possession. And besides in hands her former degradation would be public and exonerated. I could not stand that. Our family name is at stake here. So I called on Epopeus to call on his mother to see what dignity was all about. His mother, Canace was a beautiful women but she seduced her brother. This was even after she was suitably married. She is the laughing stock of all Greece. How could he, Epopeus, have any notion of dignity if he is from such a family? I told him how my father, Hyreius, founded our city, and that my wife was daughter of a god. We are the ones with the honor and he should give Antiope up to that honor. Then I called him a bastard son of incest. With this he drew his sword and attacked me. I was able to fend him off even though he was a younger man and eventually I wounded him badly enough that he fell to the ground. But he wounded me too as you see. My men had to carry me away on a litter and we returned home without Antiope. To preserve our family honor you must return to Sicyon and bring Antiope back with you. On my deathbed I ask for your pledge.
I always knew your daughter was up to no good. She was always flirting with the men and boys. She seemed always to be causing trouble. And I do not believe that story about her mating with Zeus. She was probably having sex with every boy in the town and she does not even know who the father is. But if she did mate with Zeus she is pregnant and any children that result will be noble heroes. All the children of Zeus are outstanding. We need to punish Antiope and recover her children. So I agree to wrest Antiope from Sicyon.
Gods of my ancestors, hear me. Look down upon me with righteous grace. Do not grant this woman an easy way out. She has sinned and will sin again. A daughter owes her father an allegiance that allows him to choose what is right for his daughter. Now Antiope may seek refuge in some holy place to prevent her retribution. Though the deep will of Zeus is hard to follow yet I know that it is his will to punish such promiscuous behavior. A daughter cannot just run off and cohabit with anyone. Please allow me to carry out the will of the divine.
Nycteus dies and Lycus leaves. Antiope comes in and stands on the slope of Mount Cithaeron
What horror can befall me now? I escaped the wrath of my father by leaving with Epopeus. He was so kind and even wanted to marry me. This could have been the solution to all my problems. He was a wonderful man who seemed to care for me. He did not have very much time to get to know me when he came to my family’s town. But he took me in his arms and drove me to Sicyon in his chariot. The horse ran the whole way to the sea where there was a ship waiting. We had a feast that night by the ship on the beach and we slept on the beach. The next day we sailed to Sicyon.
Epopeus had a fine house with a large garden. The servants were out in the garden harvesting vegetables when we arrived. I was given my own room and bed so I was quite comfortable. After a few days he told me he wanted to marry me. So we had a wedding festival and all the villagers joined in. It was quite a party.
Life was going well until my father arrived. Why did he travel all the way to Sicyon? I was happy not ever seeing him again. Now when I had my babies they could have been to a married woman. But it was not to be. I told my husband not to get in an argument with him. But he took his weapons and met with my father. I did not go out with him in front of the gates. I guess I should have. It would be better to have thrown myself at the mercy of my father. The worst he could have done was to kill me. Then my troubles would have been over. But I could see the fight from the house. It was terrible. I knew right away that my husband went down. Then they carried my father off on a litter. They brought my husband to me, but it was too late. He was gone. I knew fighting often did not work. In this case it made things much worse. No sooner was my husband dead but the townspeople were accusing me of his death.
The only thing I could do was run. That evening I escaped with what little I could gather together. I decided that the only thing I could do was throw myself at the mercy of the god who started all this. So I headed for the temple of Dionysus on Mt. Cithaeron. This must have been the right choice because I was not troubled on my journey there. When I got to the altar this is the prayer I gave:
Great god of all nature, Dionysus, hear me. I chose you above all and I participated in your celebration. You saw that I came pregnant there. Please have mercy upon me. May I be reborn out of the squalor of my present position. Let me dance for you once again. I will twirl and whirl in such an ecstasy for you. Let me be an example for the spring garden of fresh flowers from the black soil. Let me soak up the warm rays basking in the sunshine of a new life.
My prayers were answered by the arrival of a shepherd family to pray. They took me in. They fed me and allowed me to bathe. I told them I was pregnant and they were overjoyed. They wanted to care for babies. I had no I idea that they would soon have to care for all. They gave me my own small room and I was comforted by their attention. I helped with cooking, washing, and fetching water until my babies were delivered. They were twin boys, beautiful and strong. I nursed them myself as no one was around. As soon as I was able I returned to my duties. Later I felt well enough to fetch water from the local spring. How could I to know what was in store?
My uncle and his men were waiting for me at the spring. They bound me and led me away. I said nothing because I felt afraid for my babies. I felt the babies were better of with the kind shepherds than they would be with my vengeful family. They took me to Thebes to the house of my uncle, Lycus, and his wife Dirce. Compared to her I was beautiful. She did not seem to like me either. I was no better than a slave. I slept with the other women slaves in one room. Some one was always guarding me either with an eye or a chain. I was given filthy work to do, carrying out the chamber pots, and sweeping, and washing. I was punished if I made a mistake just like the other slaves. What misery! I tried many times to escape but I was always restrained. Dirce was a hard taskmaster. She ruled the slaves with an iron hand. If there was any chance of my escape I was chained. This was no different than the other slaves’ treatment. They would tell on me to protect themselves from further punishment. After fifteen years of this I finally got my chance. I was chained but the lock did not hold. I did not realize this until the dead of night. I was able to leave quietly by the front door. No one saw me leave.
I tried to make my way back to Mount Cithaeron. I wanted to see if I could be united with my babies. But hunger and my desire to avoid capture sent me toward Thespiae. When I approached Entresis I looked for shelter. Outside of the town a young man took pity on me and asked me to come to his house. There I met his brother. They gained my confidence and I exchanged stories with these two young men and our stories matched. I actually had found my sons. They were horrified by my treatment by Dirce and they vowed revenge. These brash young men charged off to Thebes where they found Lycus and Dirce. They quickly dispatched Lycus with a sword. Then they captured Dirce and tried her to a bull. This Bull raged through Thebes and tore Dirce to bits. I was not happy with this because it was such a horrible death. I was so horrified that I left for Mount Cithaeron to find solace in the festival of Dionysus. I am now on the way to one of the festivals.
Antiope leaves and Dionysus enters
Here am I, god’s son, come to the land of Thebes where I was born to Semele. It is not easy to forget how Hera fooled my mother and she became a hot cinder by exposing herself to god’s light. And so I receive ridicule from those who think that no god can arise from such a thing. How little they know of my power and the mystery of my realm.
There is some similarity between the plight of Antiope and my mother. But I am not one to take quick action. Especially when one makes the choices of Antiope’s direction. My realm is a difficult one with many challenges. It is not the view of a happy party that many see. It takes an extra effort to understand the mysteries of life and death. The wine is there to loosen the ties that bind one to the straight and narrow. But many take advantage and turn a friendly party into a drunken brawl. It is their choice that they do this and miss the insight. And so it is with Antiope. She chose to worship me but she failed to make the proper choice of worship. She deadened herself beyond any insight. She chose the path of painlessness and avoided the struggle of life. She gained no insight from my worship. How can I help her then?
Dirce came to me in another wise. She understood my will and tempered herself. It is she that I favored. The punishment administered to Antiope was deserved as a result of her excess. But now her sons have punished Dirce in the extreme. I cannot look the other way. I must raise Dirce above the death that she did not deserve. She will become a Nymph of the steam upon which Thebes depends and she will be worshiped there forever. Antiope may not be done with me but for her I will do no good. She needs more control.
Dionysus leaves. Antiope wanders all around Greece crazed in the company of the Maenads. Finally she attends a festival in Phocis. There she meets up with Phocus. Enter Antiope and Phocus
I hope this festival is better than the last. I still have the image of Dirce before my eyes. She met a horrible death tied to the bull. Her screaming rings in my ears. I never suffered that much at her hands. What can I do?
What is this trial you have undergone? I heard the death of Dirce and I too thought it unfair. Dirce was a just woman. What do you have to do with this?
My sons killed her to punish her for my bad treatment. She treated me like a slave for 15 years.
Is there anything that happened to you before that to explain this?
I had just birthed my babies when her husband dragged me to her?
And what did the father of the babies say about this?
The father of the babies is not certain. At a previous festival, years ago, I drank a lot of wine and when I woke up I found I had been ravished. The others described a strange behaving satyr. Some said I had been ravished by Zeus. I did give birth to noble sons. I had run away to Sicyon and gotten a new husband for me and my babies there. Then my uncle came and took me to Dirce but could not find my babies. Much later I was able to escape and be reunited with my babies, now young men. Even at their young age they were able to overpower all of Thebes, kill the king, and punish Dirce in that way. But they seemed rash.
Well! You do not want to take on a Sisiphaean task based on what others say. Your sons seem to be of the line of Zeus because of their heroism. But it also is easy to see how Dirce and her family thought you were promiscuous. She probably prevented you from drinking or having sex in all those years. Is this true?
Yes, it is true in spite of my protestations.
Now if you can make that choice of your own free will you will no longer be a slave. For many people desires enslave them to a life which is not beneficial. Wine can help you to forget, and sometimes you gain insight, but it can dull your senses until you can gain nothing. You have to control yourself. This is what the worship of Artemis is all about. You seem to have been worshiping the wrong deity. Artemis will help you more than Dionysus in this case.
Oh Artemis! Can you forgive me? You were the goddess of the temple in our town. Why didn’t I go to you to help with my problems? Now I see the mistake of my choice. Dionysus was there to help me but not in the way I was ready for. Now I see the way. Dirce did some good in spite of all the pain. It was she who Dionysus favored and he did not favor me and I see why.
Exit Antiope and Phocus. Enter Artemis.
I hear the call.
Leto’s child am I. From my mother I learn how important a mother can be. When I was born it was I who helped with the birth of my brother. And many arrows have I launched to bring down the haughty and disrespectful to mothers. My brother and I killed Python and giant Titus, both of whom persecuted my mother. Motherhood is to be protected. But this cannot be done unless the mother is suitable. A good mother must be chaste. And the young girls must remain virginal until they are married. What I demand is a sacrifice. Do not be fooled by my youthful figure and beauty. Though Zeus I obey, yet there is no mortal ever who can stand to ignore me. It is a hunt for life and death as is the call of the wild. But I have compassion, too, and protect the young from this drama. And young girls, too, I try to protect. I try to keep them virgin until they are old enough to easily bear children and pick a good mate.
So I tell of a woman who could have done better with my worship. Instead she followed the path to Dionysus. She did not choose the virginity that protects young girls from the trials of birth. So she traveled to Mount Cithaeron on a religious pretext of insight and prophesy. On the mountain there is a temple and there are regular festivals. Some of these festivals involve a hunt like those I prefer. But it is not the same. And it is not for me to interfere in the work of another god. The worshippers think that they can be one with the cycles of life and death if they embrace death in another being. This is not a choice that I make but for Dionysus it is acceptable for he is the god of life eternal. For some the wine is a source of inspiration. And this inspiration allows a better life. For others the wine is just a way to ease the pain of life and death. So when they wake up from their drunken stupor nothing has changed. These must seek more wine to help forget. Better are those who do not drink so much and the wine loosens their imagination. Some do well with the choice of Dionysus. But they do not choose me. And so I cannot help them out of their own self-destruction if they overdo it.
Antiope chose on Mount Cithaeron to participate in a festival, a revel as some would call it. I prefer a quiet procession to an altar. I prefer the willing victim, the domestic animal for a community feast, not that wild revel. But Antiope chose the wildness. And her beauty did not go unnoticed. Everyone desired her. When the wine had done its work her robes were gone and with them any hope of chastity. Just then a satyr appeared. She thought this was just part of the festival. But Zeus himself had come to take her virginity. The result was inevitable. With Zeus it is not a matter of social intercourse but conception. When the festival was over everyone else knew what had happened but Antiope was not certain and she returned home. She had been too drunk to know anything. She stumbled through her life not realize the cause of her stumbling. The sacrifice must be chosen, not the easy way. When she finally realized what to give up and what to do all was well.
- Euripides wrote a tragedy Antiope (415) BCE which survives only in fragmentary form.
- Antiope discussion and source quotes
Art which includes aspects of the myth of Antiope:
- Correggio, Jupiter and Antiope, c. 1523, Oil on canvas, 190 x 124 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris
- Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Jupiter and Antiope. 1851. Oil on canvas. Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.
- Jean-Antoine Watteau. Jupiter and Antiope. c. 1715. Oil on canvas. Louvre, Paris, France
- Antoon van Dyck 1599-1642 Jupiter en Antiope, Museum of Fine Arts Ghent
- Antiope at the hour of vengeance, part of the farnese bull, Rhodian art of the sculptors Apollonio and Tauriscus of Tralle, mid 1st c. BC
- Rembrandt van Rijn, Jupiter and Antiope, 1659. Etching, drypoint and burin.
- Annibale Carracci, Jupiter and Antiope, 1592. Etching.
- Hendrick Goltzius, Jupiter and Antiope, oil on canvas, 100 cm x 133 cm, Louvre, Paris Date 1616,
- Titian. Pardo Venus (Jupiter and Antiope). 1535-1540, reworked c.1560. Oil on canvas. The Louvre, Paris, France.
- Bartholomäus Spranger: Jupiter und Antiope, ca. 1596 Museum: Kunsthistorisches Museum