Monday, January 28, 2013


By Travis Muller         
            Of the many gods that Greek and Hellenistic civilizations worshipped, none have entertained a sense of mysticism quite like that of Dionysus. His role in Greek mythology, to the people that worshipped him, as well as his role in modern thought is commonly misunderstood (Bleiberg). When characterized as solely the god of wine and theatre, which is typical, the importance of Dionysus in Greek thought and mythology cannot be aptly appreciated.  I will broadly cover the story of Dionysus, especially of his upbringing, and the Bacchae by Euripides. These stories illustrate the personal nature of a god that is “complex, often contradictory,” and relatable to the Greek explanation of the human condition (Grube 37).
            Born of Zeus and the mortal woman Semele, Dionysus’s demigod status causes the distinction of “seeming like an outsider” to the other gods of Olympus (Blieberg 303). When Semele was 6 months pregnant, Hera, Zeus’s wife, enraged in jealousy, tricks her husband into killing Semele. However, Zeus took the unborn child and puts it into his thigh muscle until ready to be born (Blieberg). When Dionysus is born, Zeus “carried him off to a faraway place called Nysa where maenads attended to him until he grew to manhood” (Blieberg 304). When fully grown, Dionysus traveled as far east as India before returning to Greece. Bacchae by Euripides catalogues the events of his arrival in the city of Thebes to claim a place of followers and ascend to his rightful place as a god of Olympia. How Dionysus exacts his place atop the city of Thebes, however, illustrates the true nature of the god. Upon arrival, Dionysus seeks to show the people of Thebes the wonders and beauties of being in his following. Yet, when denied by his mother’s sisters and their brother Pentheus, the king king of the city, Dionysus seeks to demand their acceptance not only as family, but as their god. Dionysus then persists in an elaborate scheme that tricks all members of his family. In the end, all of them are dead due the chaos that he caused. After these tumultuous events have passed, the people of Thebes see Dionysus’s great power, and erect a great temple in his honor (Grube).
            There are many significant aspects to the tale of Dionysus. What distinguishes him from all other Olympic gods is that he lived with humans on Earth for an extensive time period. This point becomes relevant in understanding the attributes of Dionysus. Although Dionysus is normally described as the god of wine and theatre, the domains are taken too literally (Long). Dionysus is more accurately described as the god of intoxication, ecstasy, chaos, and all “uncontrollable powers of nature” (Detienne 2357).  The ideas of wine and theatre are generalized specializations of what Dionysus actually represented (Long).
            The connection between Dionysus as an Earth-bound-god and as a symbol of nature is not isolated from one another in context. The point can be made that his connection with the natural is due to his earthly presence during the first part of his life. To grasp the essence of this concept requires the thought that gods were not assigned roles in Olympia until post-Hellenistic times (Detienne). The Greek myths served the purpose to explain events and concepts that the people at that time could not explain in any other fashion. For example, in the relationship between Dionysus and Apollo, two essential ideas of Greek thought were symbolized. Apollo, the sun god, represented the ideas of “civilization, order, moderation, and reason,” while Dionysus was a symbol for the opposing thoughts (Detienne 2357). To the Greek culture, the stories of these two gods shed light to the people over important concepts of the human condition. Essentially, these were order versus chaos, civilization versus nature, rigidness versus emotion and fluidity (Detienne). It is evident in these photos that the left is Apollo with a rigid body structure, and the left, Dionysus, looking relaxed.

            The origins of Dionysus as Greek cannot be ignored, yet, neither can the influence these thoughts have on modern ideas. Sarah Maier discusses the role of Dionysian theory in Feminism. Dionysian theory is used to describe the patriarchal perception (better known as Apollonian Aestheticism) of women living solely “by nature.” This is easily understood by the patriarchal characterization that women are ruled by their emotions. Because of this men sit atop women in their ability to self-determine. Sarah Maier quotes Simone de Beauvoir describing Dionysian principles of art and literature in the following:
“Man seeks in woman the Other as Nature and as his fellow being. But we know what ambivalent feelings nature inspires in man. He exploits her, but she crushes him, he is born of her and dies in her; she is the source of his being and the realm that he subjugates to his will; Nature is a vein of gross material in which the soul is imprisoned, and she is the supreme reality; she is contingence and Idea, the finite and the whole; she is what opposes the Spirit, and the Spirit itself. Now ally, now enemy, she appears as the dark chaos from whence life wells up, as this life itself, and as the over-yonder toward which life tends. Woman sums up nature as Mother, Wife and Idea […] (144)”
            The importance of Dionysus to Greek culture is undeniable as a way to integrate certain aspects of the human condition. What I believe to be the most impressive aspect of the symbolic manifestation of nature, chaos, and all of the ideas that a represented in Dionysus, is the applicability of these principles today. These ideas are still used to explain and discuss issues in modern society. As is the case with original advancements in science, mathematics, and philosophy, ideas in Greek mythology have remained in the formation of Western thought and identity.
Works Cited
Detienne, Marcel. "Dionysos." Encyclopedia of Religion. Ed. Lindsay Jones. 2nd ed. Vol. 4. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005. 2356-2360. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 27 Jan. 2013.
"The Gods of Olympus." Arts and Humanities Through the Eras. Ed. Edward I. Bleiberg, et al. Vol. 2: Ancient Greece and Rome 1200 B.C.E.-476 C.E. Detroit: Gale, 2005. 294-307. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 27 Jan. 2013
Grube, George. “Dionysus in the Bacchae.” Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association. Vol.66 (1935): 37-54. Print. 27 Jan. 2013
Long, H. S. "Dionysus, Cult of." New Catholic Encyclopedia. 2nd ed. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 753. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 27 Jan. 2012
Maier, Sarah E. "Symbolist Salom├ęs And The Dance Of Dionysus." Nineteenth-Century Contexts 28.3 (2006): 211-223. Academic Search Premier. Print. 27 Jan. 2013.
"Darkmatters: Apollo to the Left of Me, Dionysus to the Right...." Darkmatters: Apollo to the Left of Me, Dionysus to the Right.... N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2013.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sexual Violence in Prisons

by Rachael Creger 

            In our nation, there are close to 2.3 million inmates incarcerated at any time. And of these 2.3 million, over 200,000 are sexually abused annually. In 2003, under President Bush, Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). Six years later, President Obama issued these much-needed standards (Kaiser). One may wonder if this act will really stop this immense issue our nation is facing. The United State’s Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Statistics continually surveys both prisoners and correctional workers on sexual violence in their prisons. A Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) survey reports that sexual violence in state and federal prisons rose 386% between 1980 and 1994. And in 1995, 6% of previously incarcerated prisoners reported experiencing some type of sexual violence during their sentence (Thomas). An article from CNN titled “Study finds nearly 1 in 10 state prisoners is sexually abused while incarcerated” reports that in 2009 the victimization rate of 9.6% was nearly double what it was in 2008, and that female prisoners are victimized three times more than men (“Study”). Because of the higher frequency of sex crimes against female prisoners, I have chosen to focus my research on women. I also saw the focus on women as fitting because we have been talking a lot about women in terms of spirituality in our Ancient Mesopotamia unit.
            Tom Martin has worked in both male and female correctional facilities and wrote about his experiences in these prisons in his book Behind Prison Walls. In his chapter on female inmates he explains, “But even with experience and common sense, more male staff members are likely to destroy their careers being compromised by female inmates than by being physically hurt by them” (92). He continues on to explain the protocol the officers would follow so they would never be left alone with one of the women he calls manipulative or self-centered. Martin made it very clear that many of the correctional staff watch each other’s backs to keep themselves out of any risk of accusations. One may wonder why they have to take such precautions. An article in the Journal of Urban Health explains that inmate-on-inmate sexual violence is not only more prevalent in women, but that it is much more prevalent than officer-on-inmate sexual violence. Wolff and the other authors of this article conducted a survey of 6,964 men and 564 women in state prisons and found that more than 20% of women admit to being a victim of sexual violence; less than 5% of men admitted to being victims (835). Their surveys also indicated that unwanted sexual contact is more prevalent than penetrative rape or sodomy. I’ve included a table from their article that summarizes the different types of sexual acts, consensual and non-consensual that occurs statewide. 

A table taken from Wolff's article in the Journal of Urban Health

Their table is very informative in summarizing a large amount of data. Although they have included many advanced statistics principles that some readers may not fully understand, it clearly demonstrates the higher occurrences of inmate-on-inmate sexual violence; and also the higher rates in women than in men.
            Joycelyn Pollock, author of Sex and Supervision: Guarding Male and Female Inmates used her research and surveys to cross reference with what previous studies had concluded. In her first Appendix she featured a chart of authors of previous studies, what they concluded and if her research agreed or disagreed. I’ve included a reproduction of an excerpt of her appendix’s section on behavior differences.

Author(s) of study
Finding of study
More assaults among women
McKerracher, Street and Segal
More acting out types of behaviors among women
Lombroso, Thomas, Pollak, and Knopka
Women in prison more masculine
Giallombardo, Tittle, Ward, and Kassebaum
Different needs fulfilled and manifested by male and female homosexuality
Van de Wormer
Masculinity related to homosexual involvement

I found it very interesting that our assigned viewing for this unit, “Shawshank Redemption” came up in Tom Martin’s book. Martin believes that this movie is a poor representation of correctional facility officers, but an accurate depiction of the sexual violence. A small gang in his previous place of employment was referred to as “The Sisters” just like in the movie. The real-life posse operated much like in the movie. He defines them as “predatory homosexual rapists” (57).  It will be interesting to see how this movie parallels Martin’s accounts of dealing with this group in the correctional facility he once worked in.
            Overall many different scholars have different things to say about this horrible problem in our nation’s prison. And many surveys have come up with differing results. We can only hope that with the enacting of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, that these statistics will see a major reduction.

Works Cited

Kaiser, David & Louisa Stannow. Prison Rape: Obama’s Program to Stop It. N.p., Web. 23 Jan 2013.

Martin, Tom. Behind Prison Walls. Boulder: Paladin, 2003. Print.

Pollock, Joycelyn M. Sex and Supervision: Guarding Male and Female Inmates. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1986. Print.

“Study Finds Nearly 1 in 10 State Prisoners is Sexually Abused While Incarcerated.” CNN, N.p., 17 May 2012. Web. 23 Jan 2013.

Thomas, Dorothy Q. All Too Familiar: Sexual Abuse of Women in U.S. State Prisons. New York: Human Rights Watch, 1996. Print.

Wolff, Nancy, et al. “Sexual Violence inside Prisons: Rates of Victimization.” Journal of Urban Health 83.5 (2006): 835-48. Print.

Wolff, Nancy, et al. “Six-month prevalence of sexual victimization in statewide correction system.” 2006. JPEG.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Bas-Relief Sculpture

Krystal Palmer
HON 201- Concept Post
22 January 2013
Bas-Relief Sculpture
      Bas-relief sculpture is an art form that was started in Ancient Mesopotamia, but more commonly known from Classical Greece. Bas-relief is a French term that means, “low raised.” There are three main types of sculpture: bas-relief, high relief, and in the round. Bas-relief sculpture is very articulate work that is meant to be seen from one direction, unlike in the round sculpture that is meant to be seen from all angles. Bas-relief sculpture could be compared to a pop up book or art work done on a tile (Smart Art 1). Bas-relief sculpture was primarily used as a way to tell stories or record major events.
      We previously read about the people of Sumer in an Inanna poem. An interesting bas-relief work I came across during my research was the Warka Vase. The Warka Vase is an ancient urn carved of stone that features bas-relief. The urn is tall and made of stone. The materials and height of this urn show its importance. Most urns were made of ceramics and were short in stature. The urn depicts various levels of the Sumerian world, in other words, the Sumerian hierarchy (Wildeman 1).  Toward the bottom of the vase, are grains. Above that sheep, and then humans working in a field. At the very top of the vase is the goddess we all know as Inanna. Inanna is the largest figure on the vase. An important element of all art to remember is that the more important figures, especially in ancient times, are always displayed with the largest scales. Their power is bigger than everyone else, and that is reflected in their size. On this vase, there are horizontal lines that separate each level. The horizontal lines are called registers and divide the sections to highlight the hierarchy (Wildeman 2). One the bottom register we see the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.  This image probably symbolizes the honor the people gave to the rivers for providing water and fertile soil to grow plants. The middle register shows a group of males carrying what looks to be fruit and grains. On the top register, Inanna is shown being offered a bowl of fruit by a male figure. The vase shows the sacrifice the people are willing to bestow upon their goddess. The offerings being depicted on the Warka Vase are most likely linked to the Sacred Marriage, which we read about in our first handout. The constant reference to Inanna displays the importance of her presence during this time. I think it is important to mention that the figures on the vase, not including Inanna were nude. Nudity, in Mesopotamian and other ancient art works is an interpretation of destitution or fragileness, however in the Warka Vase, the nude figures are displayed differently.  The nudity depicted on the Warka Vase leans more toward the idea of beauty of the human body, which leads us to the Greek depictions of the nude figure. The Warka Vase was discovered in Inanna’s temple located in Southern Iraq. It is what we would consider a narrative relief sculpture. The vase shows the sacrifice and assurance of fertility and abundance. The importance of the rituals presented on this vase, are verified by it’s narrative.
 <-- The Warka Vase
      Bas-relief sculpture was the beginning of a new art form. Bas-relief is an intricate, but somewhat simple art form that was used for many, many years to document important events and rituals for the ancient civilizations. Bas-relief sculpting, although still prevalent today, was the beginning of a new kind of sculpting era. Bas-relief sculpture opened doors for high relief sculpture, and eventually, in-the-round sculpture. The Greeks took many of the Mesopotamians art making ideas and used them to form their own. As we look at the evolution of the Mesopotamians and civilizations following them, one idea reigns true. Records, whether written, sculpted, or orally shared, are what connect us to the culture from thousands of years ago. From a scholarly point of view, bas-relief sculpture is extremely important. It is a window to the past and connection to the present. Bas-relief sculpture is a part of history and without it, we would not know as much about who came before us or of the trials they faced.

Works Cited
Albenda, Pauline. "Ashurnasipal II Lion Hunt Relief." Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 31, No. 3. The University of Chicago, July 1972. Web. 23 Jan. 2013.

Ancient Relief Sculpture Mesopitamia and Egypt," The Minneapolis Institute of Arts         Bulletin9i 9 42, no. 12 (March, 1953): 56-57.

Atac, Mehmet-Ali. "Visual Forumla and Meaning in Neo-Assyrian Relief     Sculpture." The Art Bulletin 88.1 (2006): 69-101. JSTOR. Web. 21 Jan. 2013.             <>.

Moorey, P. R. S. Ancient Mesopotamian Materials and Industries: The Archaeological       Evidence. Oxford: Clarendon, 1994. Print.

"Relief: king and eunuch attendant.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York:       The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2006. Web. 22 Jan. 2013.   <>

"Smart Art." Smart Art. Walter's Art Museum, 30 Aug. 2010. Web. 22 Jan. 2013.

Wildeman, Brian. "Art History Lab." Brian Wildeman's Ancient Mesopotamia. University of Chicago, 9 May 2012. Web. 22 Jan. 2013.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Women's Roles in Ancient Mesopotamia

Becky Wolfe
Context Post
Women’s Roles in Ancient Mesopotamia
            Gender roles are public displays of one’s gender identification. They are a set of expressions, behaviors, and attitudes that show one’s either masculinity or femininity. Men and women have always had different societal roles throughout history, so looking at the ancient Mesopotamians, their culture is no different. Some of the women’s specific roles were getting married, being a household wife, and acting as part of the society’s religious services. But, “central to the life of every married woman, […] was the bearing and raising of children,” which was essential for life to continue (McIntosh 176). Depending on the class of the woman, she would have different responsibilities within society and her marriage. Women who were wives of important businessmen may have had responsibilities like supervising workers, informing their husbands of situations, handling finances, and trying to raise capital (McIntosh 175).
            During this time period of ancient Mesopotamia, gender roles were very specific because it was tradition and things had never been done differently and worked out. From a young age, “girls acquired the skills of running a household from their mothers,” knowing that one day they would be married and would need to know how to keep a home (Mendoza 136). Throughout ancient Mesopotamia, women’s roles were kept similar because it was simple and known to work. Although women were allowed to be a part of their husband’s business, if he had one, women worked mostly behind the scenes, never meeting with other men outside of the actual company. These common roles kept all the women as one unit, always behind the men.
            From a physical appearance point of view, the women have always had more choice in their clothing and accessories. Similar to other cultures, the ancient Mesopotamians believed that “ ‘male’ was associated with the right, and ‘female’ with the left side,” which was always the one difference between male and female clothing (Stol 124). In reality, there were many garments only worn by women, since they have more choice in clothing. As for accessories, golden earrings, silver arm and feet rings, nose rings, beautiful necklaces, and makeup were all a part of a woman’s ensemble (Stol 124). Depending on the wealth class, the woman could wear all of these accessories, some of them, or none at all.
            Marriage is a formal union between a man and a woman that is recognized by the law. Back in ancient Mesopotamia, this was a simple and standard institution between men and women. There are records of written contracts for when “financial interests were involved,” but normal marriage agreements were oral (Stol 125). Historians have constantly discussed the legal character of marriage, since the parents of the bride would essentially sell her to the family of the groom. For his entire life, “Paul Koschaker defended it to be basically a sale, […] comparing the delivery of the woman with that of immovables” (Stol 126). This idea of marriage being a sale, has been discussed and debated by historians, but no conclusion has ever been stated. The next common expression was the “price of a virgin,” which meant the “price for a woman” or the money the bride’s parents had to pay for her to marry the groom (Stol 127). The perspective of marriage is a topic that may never completely be settled because marriage is so different today than it was in ancient Mesopotamia.
            Women’s roles in religion were very defined and meaningful in ancient Mesopotamia. During the prayers the “woman introduces [a] man to his god” which is formally called intercession (Stol 139). She is also expected to pray at home “for her family to the gods” (Stol 139). This shows a woman’s leadership role in religion, which was a huge aspect in ancient Mesopotamia.
            The ancient Mesopotamians believed that women were extremely important, and gave them meaningful roles in society. I, being a female, appreciate the respect given to women in ancient Mesopotamia. From that period, women’s rights and places in society have only expanded. I enjoyed reading about women’s lives and their power in household situations. It is quite comforting to see how many changes have taken place, because it shows that more can and definitely will come.

This is a “portrait of a young girl posing as a poet” (DiCaprio ii). It is a wall painting from Pompeii and is in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy. Since this is a picture of a woman writing, it shows her education and how women have earned more and more respect throughout history.

Works Cited
DiCaprio, Lisa, and Merry E. Wiesner. "The Ancient Mediterranean and Western Asia." Lives and Voices: Sources in European Women's History. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2000. N. pag. Print.
McIntosh, Jane R. "Women in Mesopotamia." World History Encyclopedia. Gale Virtual Reference Library, 2011. Web. 21 Jan. 2013. <¤tPosition=7&contentSet=GALE%7CCX2458800368&&docId=GALE|CX2458800368&docType=GALE>.
Mendoza, Abraham O. "Concepts of Gender, Gender Distinctions, and Roles in the Ancient Near East." World History Encyclopedia. Gale Virtual Reference Library, 2011. Web. 21 Jan. 2013. <¤tPosition=8&contentSet=GALE%7CCX2458800850&&docId=GALE|CX2458800850&docType=GALE>.
Stol, M. "Women in Mesopotamia." Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 2nd ser. 38 (1995): 123-44. BRILL. JSTOR. Web. 21 Jan. 2013. <>.