Contrasting Apollo & Dionysus
In Greek mythology, Apollo and Dionysus are nearly opposites of one
another, and as with many opposites, life would not operate just quite right
without both of them. They each played a specific role for the Greeks. They had
very different things associated with them.
Apollo was often associated with logic and the power of the mind. He was
basically in charge of the Work section of the people. Logic is something the
Greeks used often, and when they didn't, things often happened for the worst. He
is also associated with intellect. The followers of Apollo would consist of
those who strongly believed in the things he was thought to control. These
people would believe in logic, they would believe in reason, and they would
also pay attention to the power of the human mind. Another thing Apollo is
associated with is music, so he would also be worshipped by music lovers.
Apollo is worshipped in religion to provide his followers with logical
thought and a good intellect. As for Greek thought, he was also very in control
of this. The Oracle at Delphi, mentioned in, but not only in, Sophocles'
Oedipus Rex. The Oracle was there to bestow knowledge from Apollo onto those who
came to it. Another reason people looked to Apollo was to help heal the sick and
the dying, because he is associated with medicine, probably because of his vast
Dionysus, on the other hand, represents the Play side of life. He is the
god of emotions, the god of wine, and also the god of fertility. Some things
attributed to Dionysus are the dithyrambs, or choral hymns, sung for him but the
people. This was how they praised him. Drama is also directly associated with
him. Being the god of wine and the god of fertility led to some very strange
things in situations where Dionysus prevailed over Apollo. Many drunken orgies
took place during this time.
The Dionysion followers might be thought of as all the people who
enjoyed wine, the people who attended and enjoyed the Festival of Dionysus
(leading to perhaps all current people who enjoy the drama), and to those who
prayed for fertility. The Greeks also acknowledged the existence of Dionysus as
much as they did the existence of Apollo, so everyone who worshipped them dually
would also be a follower. This means that Dionysus probably had just as large a
following as Apollo, of not more because of the social aspect of life.
The status of Dionysus for religion is that the is the god of fertility,
so the dithyrambs that were in honor of Dionysus were also a way of praying for
a good harvest or for many children. Like Osiris, he was reborn after dying, and
it is believed that these festivals may be linked to ceremonies that took place
Most Greeks worshipped both Apollo and Dionysus. This acceptance of both
their existences brings about a balance of the two forces. It is interesting
that the Temple to Apollo is right next to the ruins of a Dionysion theater in
Ancient Greece. Also, Apollo was represented with music, and Dionysus with the
theater, and these two things go hand in hand. This dual worship is very similar
to the phrase, "All work and no play..."