A son of Echion and Agave, the daughter of Cadmus.1 He was the successor of Cadmus as king of Thebes, and being opposed to the introduction of the worship of Dionysus in his kingdom, he was torn to pieces by his own mother and two other maenads, Ino and Autonoë, who in their Bacchic frenzy believed him to be a wild beast.
The place where Pentheus suffered death, is said to have been Mount Cithaeron, but according to some it was Mount Parnassus. Pentheus is said to have got upon a tree, for the purpose of witnessing in secret the revelry of the Bacchic women, but on being discovered by them, he was torn to pieces.2 According to a Corinthian tradition, the women were afterwards commanded by an oracle to find that tree, and to worship it like the god Dionysus himself; and out of the tree two carved images of the god were made accordingly.3
Pentheus' death is depicted on vases, reliefs, and murals. He is depicted as a youth wearing a mantle, a Boeotian cap, and hunting boots, often carrying a sword. He is also depicted in the nude, such as on a fresco in the Casa dei Vettii at Pompeii.
- Euripides. Phoenician Women, iv, 942; Pausanias. Description of Greece ix, 5.2.
- Euripides. Bacchae, 816, 954, 1061 ff.; Theocritus, xxvi, 10.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece ii, 2.6.
- Euripides. Bacchae, 1215.
- Hyginus. Fabulae, 184.
- Nonnus. Dionysiaca xlv, 46.
- Oppian. Cynegetica iv, 289.
- Ovid. Metamorphoses iii, 513 ff.
- Philostratus of Lemnos. Imagines i, 1.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library iii, 5.2.
- Servius on Virgil's Aeneid iv, 469.
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.