cypress-wood cut into beams with Chalybean axe and bonded in exact joints with ox-glue.3 Pure is the life I have led since I became an initiate of Idaean Zeus and a servitor10 of night-ranging Zagreus,4 performing his feasts of raw flesh; and raising torches high to the mountain Mother among the Curetes, I was consecrated and named a celebrant.5 In clothing all of white I shun the birthing of men,15 and the places of their dead I do not go near;6 against the eating of animal foods I have guarded myself.
- 3Euripides describes skilled carpentry: see A. T. Hodge, The Woodwork of Greek Roofs (Cambridge, 1960). The Chalybeans were an iron-working people of northern Asia Minor.
- 4In v. 11 Porphyry’s apparent reading ‘thunders’ (instead of ‘a servitor’) is defended by some editors as alluding to thunder imitated during the rites of Zagreus-Dionysus, on whose birth amid lightning see Bacchae 3, 6–8. The reading creates very great further problems in the text.
- 5Vv. 9–15 refer to the cult of Zeus at his birthplace on Mt. Ida in Crete. The Curetes (Kourētes) were ‘(guardians) of the boy (kouros)’, i.e. Zeus, both divinities themselves and worshippers impersonating them. But Euripides brings in elements from other cults: Zagreus (‘The Great Hunter’) was a son of Zeus and seemingly merged with Dionysus; ‘mountain Mother’ here seems to be Rhea, Zeus’ own mother, merged with an original Phrygian fertility goddess Cybele (cf. Palamedes F 586). Their rites were ecstatic, often nocturnal, sometimes involving dismemberment and ingestion of animals, literally or symbolically (historical at Plutarch, Moralia 417c; poetic cf. Eur. Bacchae 734–47). ‘Initiate’, ‘servitor’ (lit. ‘herdsman’, a metaphor from an outdoor cult) and ‘celebrant’ are loosely synonymous.
- 6White clothing and the avoidance of birth (e.g. IT 380–3) and death were widespread religious purities. The apparent contradiction between flesh-eating (12) and vegetarianism (18–19, cf. F 1004 below) shows reality subordinated to the poetic; the latter practice was associated with Orphism (e.g. Hippolytus 952–4).