dithyramb

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dithyramb

dithyramb (dĭthˈĭrăm), 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 Arion) into the literary form to be found, for example, in the dithyrambs of Bacchylides. In its later development by such poets as Philoxenus and Timotheus it became freer in its meter and more musical. The tragedy seems to have come out of the dithyramb, but the dithyramb was also cultivated after tragedy was invented.

Bibliography

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

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Dithyramb

 

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.

REFERENCES

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.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

dithyramb

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
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005