Parados, Lines 64-169
In Greek tragedy, the parados is the ode that the chorus chants as they make their first entrance. The chorus now enters, dancing. They are dressed in “fawn-skins,” are crowned with ivy, and carry the musical instruments associated with the cult of Dionysus, including the kettledrum and the flute. They identify themselves as followers of Dionysus who have followed him from Asia. They sing in praise of the god, saying that all who follow him are blessed. They urge the Bacchae (the name for Dionysus’s worshipers) to continue to worship him, and tell the story of his birth. After Semele was killed, Zeus saved his son by taking the unborn baby from Semele’s womb and concealing it from Hera, his wife, in his thigh. When the time came, Dionysus was then born of Zeus. Zeus crowned him with serpents on his head.
The Chorus then urges the city of Thebes to join the cult of Dionysus, to dance the dance of the god. They give their own history of the worship of Dionysus. It began in Crete, with the Curetes, also known as the Corybantes, who were the dancing attendants of Rhea, the daughter of Uranus (the sky), and Gaea (the earth), and mother of Zeus.
The Chorus then sings more celebratory words about Dionysus and his cult. The Bacchae dance in praise of him and sing sacred songs, accompanied by the flute.
The Chorus is a central feature of Greek tragedy. It acts as an observer, commenting on the action as it unfolds. In this instance, on their first appearance, the Chorus, singing and dancing to the sound of the tambourine, gives the audience a vivid sense of what the worship of Dionysus is all about. They also describe the Dionysian rites, emphasizing that the followers of Dionysus become one with their god and at one with one another in an ecstatic community of worshipers. The references to place names in Asia (Lydia and Phrygia, for example) suggest the Asian origins of the cult. The emphasis is entirely on celebration and ecstasy. Some scholars believe that Euripides modeled this choral hymn to Dionysus on an actual historical hymn in honor of the god.