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"With the Bacchic comus, which turned a noisy festal banquet into a boisterous procession of revellers, a custom was from the earliest times connected, which was the first cause of the origin of comedy. The symbol of the productive power of nature was carried about by this band of revellers, and a wild, jovial song was recited in honour of the god in whom dwells this power of nature, namely, Bacchus himself, or one of his companions. Such phallophoric or ithyphallic songs were customary in various regions of Greece."--History of the Literature of Ancient Greece (1841) by Karl Otfried Müller

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In Greek mythology, Comus (Κῶμος) is the god of festivity, revels and nocturnal dalliances. He is a son and a cup-bearer of the god Dionysus. He was represented as a winged youth or a child-like satyr and represents anarchy and chaos. His mythology occurs in the later times of antiquity. During his festivals in Ancient Greece, men and women exchanged clothes. He was depicted as a young man on the point of unconsciousness from drink. He had a wreath of flowers on his head and carried a torch that was in the process of being dropped. Unlike the purely carnal Pan or purely intoxicated Dionysos, Comus was a god of excess.

Comus in art

A description of Comus as he appeared in painting is found in Imagines (Greek Εἰκόνες, translit. Eikones) by Philostratus the Elder, a Greek writer and sophist of the 3rd century AD.

Comus appears at the start of the masque Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue by Ben Jonson and in Les fêtes de Paphos (The Festivals of Paphos), an opéra-ballet by Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville.

In John Milton's masque Comus, the god Comus is described as the son of Bacchus and Circe. This is a post-classical invention.

Comus is featured in the baroque operas Les plaisirs de Versailles by Marc-Antoine Charpentier and King Arthur by Henry Purcell and John Dryden, and in a masque, Comus, by Thomas Arne.

A selfish dandy, Comus Bassington, is the central character in the novel The Unbearable Bassington by Saki (H. H. Munro).

Cult British progressive folk group Comus took their name and much of the lyrical content of their 1971 album First Utterance from Comus.

Primary sources

Comus is seen in primary sources including in Philostratus of Lemnos's Imagines, describing artwork he saw.

Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 1.25:

Dionysos sails to the revels of [the island of] Andros and, his ship now moored in the harbour, he leads a mixed throng of Satyroi (Satyrs) and Bakkhantes (Bacchantes) and all the Seilenoi (Silens). He leads Gelos (Laughter) and Komos (Comus, Revelry), two spirits most gay and most fond of the drinking-bout, that with the greatest delight he may reap the river's harvest.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Comus" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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