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Metamorphoses: Book 3: Pentheus and Bacchus (2) Summary & Analysis

Pentheus interrupts Acoetes, saying he’s heard enough nonsense. He tells his guards to take Acoetes to the dungeon to torture him. However, before Acoetes’s torture can begin, the doors of the dungeon magically open and release him. Acoetes then goes to the mountain where the sacrificial rites in honor of Bacchus are taking place. When Pentheus hears the cries of worship from the mountains, he goes up to spy angrily on the rituals. His mother Agave sees him and she and her sisters begin to attack him. Pentheus begs for mercy, but the women pull off his arms, and Agave wrenches off his head. Agave holds Pentheus’s head up in victory, and the women continue to worship Bacchus.
Pentheus’s mother Agave is the one who finally punishes Pentheus for his refusal to worship Bacchus. This suggests that, in the order of relationships, the relationship between humans and gods is above that between mother and son or other familial relationships. Since Pentheus refused to worship a god, Agave puts aside her motherly ties to him and gives him his just retribution. This story establishes the superiority of the gods by showing that they demand more allegiance than one’s family does.
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