Marpesia, “The Snatcher,” was the ruler of the Scythian
Amazons along with Lampedo. In frenzies, Maenads were
fierce creatures, not to be toyed with, especially after a
few nips of ritual new grape wine, Marpesia wrestled
and tore off the head of her own son, Pentheus, in one of
her ecstasies, mistaking him for a lion. She then paraded
around proudly holding his decapitated head up for all
to see. Her husband met a similar end in another rite.
Agave was a Moon-Goddess and was in charge of some
of the revelries that were the precedent for Dionysus’
cult. Euripides celebrated the ferocity of Agave and her
fellow Maenads, Ino and Aunonoë, in his Bacchae, as
soldiers report how “we by flight hardly escaped tearing
to pieces at their hands” and further describe the shock of
witnessing the semi-divine females tearing young bulls
limb from limb with their terrible “knifeless fingers.”
In his version, Pentheus died while trying to spy on the
private ritual of the Maenads in transvestite disguise.
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