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Related to dithyramb: Dionysus, Thespis


(dĭth`ĭrăm), in ancient Greece, hymn to the god Dionysus, choral lyric with exchanges between the leader and the chorus. It arose, probably, in the extemporaneous songs of the Dionysiac festivals and was developed (according to tradition, by ArionArion
, Greek poet, inventor of the dithyramb. He is said to have lived at Periander's court in Corinth in the late 7th cent. B.C. A legend repeated by Herodotus tells how, having been thrown overboard by pirates, Arion was saved by a dolphin charmed by his music.
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) into the literary form to be found, for example, in the dithyrambs of BacchylidesBacchylides
, fl. c.470 B.C., Greek lyric poet, b. Ceos; nephew of Simonides of Ceos. A contemporary of Pindar, he was patronized by Hiero I. His poetry is noted for its narrative powers, clarity, and lucidity.
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. In its later development by such poets as Philoxenus and TimotheusTimotheus
, c.450–c.357 B.C., Greek poet and musician of Miletus. An innovator in music, he added a string to the kithara. Fragments of his dithyrambs and nomes remain. Euripides wrote the prologue for his Persae, a lyric nome.
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 it became freer in its meter and more musical. The tragedytragedy,
form of drama that depicts the suffering of a heroic individual who is often overcome by the very obstacles he is struggling to remove. The protagonist may be brought low by a character flaw or, as Hegel stated, caught in a "collision of equally justified ethical aims.
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 seems to have come out of the dithyramb, but the dithyramb was also cultivated after tragedy was invented.


See A. W. Pickard-Cambridge, Dithyramb, Tragedy, and Comedy (1927, repr. 1962).



a genre of ancient lyric poetry; it appears to have originated in ancient Greece as a choral song and hymn in honor of Dionysus (Bacchus), the god of the grapevine and wine-making. It later honored other gods and heroes. The dithyramb, accompanied by frenzied orgiastic dance, had the rudiments of dialogue between the lead singer and the chorus and contributed to the development of Greek drama. The dithyramb was given a literary form in the seventh century B.C. by Arion, a poet and musician from the island of Lesbos. During the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. the dithyramb flourished in the poetry of Simonides of Ceos, Pindar, and Bacchylides. Only fragments have been preserved.

Imitations of the ancient dithyramb are encountered in modern European literature (Schiller, Möller, and Herder), and satirical imitations have been written by Nietzsche. The word dithyramb is used figuratively to signify excessive praise.


Golosovker, la. E. Lirika drevnei Ellady. Moscow-Leningrad, 1935. (Translations from ancient Greek; includes a translation of Bacchylides’ dithyramb Theseus.)
Radtsig, S. I. Istoriia drevnegrecheskoi literatury, 2nd ed., Moscow, 1959.


1. (in ancient Greece) a passionate choral hymn in honour of Dionysus; the forerunner of Greek drama
2. any utterance or a piece of writing that resembles this
References in periodicals archive ?
The "dance-loving Kithara" relates to the central figure of her poem, Arion, an ancient Greek poet and the inventor of the dithyramb who, in the poem, takes "his god-like stand, / The cithara in hand" (11.
Dionysian song was represented by dithyrambs, a large-scale song type performed by about fifty men and boys and accompanied by an aulos.
According to him, "Of the various kinds of words, compounds are best suited to the dithyramb, foreign words to epic verse, and metaphors to iambic verse" (61, section 22, 1459a9).
Charles Livingston Bull's alley cats bring to mind the lines of Orlando Dobbin's diatribe in A Dithyramb on Cats: Confound the cats
The first dithyramb is rough in expression like the Romans, while the second is reminiscent of the Greeks in its subtlety and charm; in the third both are merged together.
Instead she looks "to civic ritual performances, oral traditions, popular legends, and other Athenian cultural practices" (6), on the grounds that Athenians experienced their democratic citizenship by "traversing civic space, participating in a procession or public sacrifice, attending the theater, heading a household, performing the dithyramb, acting in a chorus, as well as many other activities" (7).
Whereas Nietzsche sought his (artistic) salvation in the Wagnerian Totalkunstwerk, Ivanov longed for a rejuvenation of the choral dithyramb as the primary form of collective expression: "The age of the epos has whirled away: let that of the choral dithyramb begin" (SS, I: 838).
My winning first prize earned me Shawn's favorite book, The Dithyramb of the Rose.
This is the true dithyramb (literally, `divine-three-step') to which the kosmos dances.
To his horror, he was attacked in Time magazine, which said: "When he settles down to guzzle beer, which is most of the time, his incredible yarns tumble over each other in a wild Welsh dithyramb (inflated speech or writing) in which truth and fact become hopelessly smoothered in boozy invention.
This theory silently overlooks the fact that in addition to the tragedies there were also at the Dionysia both comedies and an elaborate competition between choruses in the dithyramb, a musical and poetic form about which we know less than we should like.
He committed that judgment in a recent dithyramb in The New Yorker, in the mode of its threnody for Lady Diana.