QUESTION: Hello Sean,

In Greek myth, the Thracian women known commonly as the "Mainades" ("the raving ones") are alternatively called the "Bassarids" ("the Foxy ones.") Clearly, the two names impart very different opinions as to their behaviour.

As you likely already know, the "Foxy Ones" had its source in Aeschylus; this leaves me wondering who is responsible for the title of "Mainades"?

Do you know?


ANSWER: Hello Buzz,

well the two names of the same women would show whether they are the Greek or the Roman version.

The Greeks called these women 'Maenads', which as you know meant the 'mad/frenzied/raving ones'. This was due to the fact that they held rites and orgiastic feasts in honour of their patron god Dionysus, and their ways might have actually been thanks to the amount of wine they consumed.
This was the general Greek term for their title ever since their existence which I would think came about during the introduction of Dionysus' cult during the Hellenistic period.

'Bassarids' on the other hand was the Roman version, including also 'Bacchantes' since their patron was the Roman version of Dionysus, Bacchus. These women were described as wearing fox skins -a bassaris- hence their title.

another term given to these women was 'Thyiades', meaning 'the inspired ones'

I hope this helps. sorry for my late reply; my email program was not functioning well but now it is fine so I shouldn't take as much time if you need further help/info.

best regards,

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello Sean, and thank you for answering--but you have me a little confused. The second of Aeschylus's lost trilogy, the Lyko˙rgeia (being his version of the story of Orpheus) was entitled the Bassarids, was it not? But you are saying the name is a Roman attribution, when, in Aeschylus's time, Rome was barely a backwoods fishing village?

To restate my original question, however, do you know of a record, play, poem, etc, anywhere, which indicates which Greek originated the name of the Thracian women as "Maenads/Mainades?" (I.e., where is the earliest mention of the name?)

regards again,

Hi again Buzz,

I must admit this puts me in an awkward position. Indeed there is a 377-year discrepancy between Aeschylus and Roman Greece...

my knowledge unfortunately does not give me a precise name/group of people having named these women such; but probability is they took root from during Dionysus' cult in the Greek pantheon somewhere way back in around 1500BC.
The term 'maenad' was given to various women of diverse occupation, which might be why I have never arrived to find any one name to give it.
The term 'bassarid' I personally know to be the Roman counterpart of the 'maenad', but maybe this would be either a name which stuck in later antiquity after Aeschylus, or maybe it was in fact a term used by both Greek and Roman, but the Romans kept it to specifically indicate the Bacchantes...

I hope this gives a shred of help. if per chance I find further info I will let you know...



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Sean Caruana Webster


I became interested in the subject at a very early age, and learnt more and more as I grew up by visiting libraries and browsing through the internet. I believe to have a very wide knowledge on the subject.

Primary (3-10 years), Secondary (10-16 years) and Post-secondary (16-19 years) education.

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