Monday, December 8, 2008

‘Fury is Understandable’

In Euripides famous tragedy The Bacchae, the god Dionysus, humiliated by the young King Pentheus, punishes the king by luring him into a violent frenzy of Maenads. The women literally tear him apart.

What is often overlooked in the play is the fact that it is, in essence, a story of revenge. I was reminded of this by the wave of riots currently raging across Greece following the fatal shooting of a 15-year-old boy by police.

The police claim the boy was shot after their squad was attacked by a gang of youths. Despite this, riots have been spreading across the country and appear to be growing more violent.

"The fury is understandable," said the interior and public order minister, Prokopis Pavlopoulos. "What can't be understood is raw violence."

Perhaps the bewildered minister--and the Greeks themselves--have forgotten the lessons of The Bacchae. As Euripides demonstrated nearly 2,500 years ago, a sense of vengeance can unleash in a mob the most incomprehensible madness.

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