The afterlife of the Greek gods in the modern world

The revival of the epiphanies of Pan and Dionysus in the early poetry of Angelos Sikelianos

Article appearing in Classical Receptions Journal 9.4: 546-65

Classical Receptions Journal

The article discusses the divine epiphanies of Pan and Dionysus in Sikelianos’s early poetry, situating them in the context of the revival of the ancient Greek gods and their epiphanies in nineteenth-century European literature and thought, and in modern Greek poetry. Moreover, drawing on secularization theory, the article considers the implications of this revival for the historical process of secularization in early twentieth-century Greece. It is argued that Sikelianos seeks to find a viable place for the Greek gods in his early poetry being aware of their displacement in the modern, post-pagan world. The poem Visionary evokes Pan through a reference to Panic dread experienced by the first-person speaker through his contact with modern Greek folk culture. By contrast, the disenchanted literate speaker of ‘Pan’ experiences an imaginative epiphany of Pan, which functions as a modern secular type of enchantment that resides in the aesthetic. Last, in ‘I Set Sail with Dionysus’ and ‘Dionysus-Jesus’ Dionysus is revived as a symbol of Sikelianos’s evolving poetics and as a symbol of synthesis of life’s antinomies.