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Invitation to World Literature

The Bacchae – Map & Timeline

As the play opens, Dionysus has returned from the east, where his cult has been established.
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Greece is very small compared to her eastern neighbor, the Persian Empire. Today’s Turkey was the westernmost outpost of the Persians, who wanted to expand farther west—by conquering Greece. The threat of foreigners from the east is played out in The Bacchae, when Dionysus circles through Persian lands and then takes a direct line to Greece, bringing with him the strange new religion that will destroy the city of Thebes.

c. 550 BCE

The beginning of the era of classical Greek theater.

c. 540-530 BCE

The Great Dionysia (the religious festival of Dionysus, also known as the City Dionysia) is established in Athens. Processions, plays, awards, tributes to the God, and by some accounts animal sacrifice and other ritual acts, took place.

c. 525 BCE

Aeschylus is born.

c. 496 BCE

Sophocles is born.

c. 483 BCE

Euripides is born.

c. 480 BCE

The Battle of Thermopylae in Spartan War against the Persians; the Persians were victorious, but conflict with the East continued for much of Euripides’ life. This was not a peaceful era.

c. 455 BCE

The likely date that Euripides’ first play, Rhesus, was written.

447 BCE

Construction of the Parthenon begins.

c. 446 BCE

Aristophanes is born. This comic playwright critiques Euripides in his play “The Frogs,” in which both Euripides and Aeschylus defend their plays to Dionysus who is judging a contest in the underworld.

431 BCE

The first performance of Euripides’ Medea.

431-404 BCE

The Peloponnesian War is fought between Athens and its allies and Sparta, the head of the Peloponnesian League; Athens is defeated after years of drawn-out conflict.

c. 406 BCE

The death of Euripides.

406-405 BCE

The first posthumous presentation of The Bacchae.

335 BCE

Aristotles’ Poetics defines the terms of tragedy and discusses Euripides as a classic dramatist.

220 BCE

The end of the era of classical Greek theater.