Differences and Similarities: Apollo and Dionysus
In Greek Mythology a rivalry always occurs between certain Gods and Goddesses. In the case of Apollo and Dionysus there is no exception. They are half brothers, both sons of Zeus and they compete just as most brothers do. Though the two Greek Gods, Apollo and Dionysus, were actually very similar in some ways, they severely contrasted in others.
Dionysus, son of Zeus and Semele and Apollo, son of Zeus and Leto, both were born under strange conditions. Dionysus was born from the thigh of Zeus after being fully grown, and Apollo’s mother, Leto, was in labor for nine days with him because Hera did not want him to be born and would not give Leto a safe place for the child to be delivered. Both these Gods have the need for power and a very creative drive. They spent their youth recruiting new worshipers for their respective cults in which they started, each cult showing their divinity. They are both associated with the phenomenon of ecstasy, meaning to stand outside oneself. In one such case, Apollo’s priestess Pythia was overcome by his spirit and began speaking in tongues. Also when possessed by Dionysus, his followers similarly changed there normal actions, breaking into wild dances and “experienced a rapturous sense of union with their God.” This shows how they made contact with humans, but in very different ways.
The Differences between Apollo and Dionysus are not difficult to see. Though both Gods are associated with music and dance, their musical styles are dissimilar. Apollo plays the golden lyre, which invokes feelings of harmony and serenity. Dionysus, on the other hand, invents the timbrel, it is a drum beaten to furious, erratic rhythms that express his compulsive nature. Apollo retains abstract intellect, he is an educator of young men, and promotes logical and rational thought. Dionysus desires irrational power, he liberates humans to explore there potential for emotional and behavioral extremes, he allows his unconscious to flourish, and he is embodied by spontaneous emotion.Greek tradition said that each year Apollo left his sanctuary at Delphi to live with the Hyperboreans, a mythical tribe inhabiting the extreme north. When he did that, Dionysus reigned in Delphi for the 3 winter months. During these months a noticeable change would come over people. Spontaneity came over everyone, and the concept of rational thought would be lost until Apollo’s return. Obviously Dionysus was much more liberal when compared to Apollo.
One would clearly be able to see these noticeable similarities between Dionysus and Apollo, but I feel that their severe differences are not as obvious. When taken into consideration, half-brothers that are both Gods would not be deemed such opposites. Their character’s express extreme parallels of personality, one being passive and the other more aggressive. I believe that for all of Apollo and Dionysus’ similarities, that they are more different than anyone would conclude. It doesn’t seem that they would meet eye to eye on any one subject and that their only real connection is the father that they share.
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