Lycurgus (Thrace)

Lycurgus (Thrace)

Lycurgus (also Lykurgos, Lykourgos) was a king of the Edoni in Thrace, and the father of Dryas, the "oak" ("Iliad" vi). He banned the cult of Dionysus. When Lycurgus heard that Dionysus was in his kingdom, he imprisoned Dionysus' followers, the Maenads. Dionysus fled, taking refuge with Thetis the sea nymph. Dionysus then sent a drought to Thrace.

Going insane, Lycurgus mistook his son for a mature trunk of ivy, which is holy to Dionysus, and killed him, pruning away his nose and ears, fingers and toes. Dionysus decreed that the land would stay dry and barren as long as Lycurgus was left unpunished for his injustice, so his people had him dismembered by wild horses. With Lycurgus dead, Dionysus lifted the curse.

In some versions the story of Lycurgus and his punishment by Dionysus is placed in Arabia rather than in Thrace. The tragedian Aeschylus, in a lost play, depicted Lycurgus as a beer-drinker and hence a natural opponent of the wine god: Athenaeus, "Deipnosophistae" 447c Harv|Dalby|2005|pp=65-71, 153. There is a further reference to Lycurgus in Sophocles' Antigone in the Chorus' ode after Antigone is taken away (960 in the Greek Text).

In Homer's Iliad, an older source than Aeschylus, Dryas is not the son of Lycurgus, but the father, and Lycurgus' punishment for his disrespect towards the gods, particularly Dionysus, is blindness inflicted by Zeus followed not long after by death (Iliad Book 6.130-140).


*Harvard reference | Surname=Dalby | Given=Andrew | Title=The Story of Bacchus | Publisher=British Museum Press | Place=London | Year=2005 | ISBN=0714122556 (US ISBN 0-520-22789-1)Homer's Iliad

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