Title: Divine denominations and the gender of participants in the ritual and of cultic agents: the example of the priesthood of Dionysus
In the Greek world, the gender of the cultic agent did not necessarily match the “gender” of the deity concerned. To what extent can the epicleses, which provide information on the field of competence of the deities in ritual contexts, help understand the choice of a priest rather than that of a priestess, and vice versa? This study focuses on one particular God: Dionysus. Frequently surrounded by female worshippers and standing in between male and female gender, Dionysus occupies a singular place in the Greek pantheon. He was sometimes honoured by a priest, sometimes by a priestess, and there does not seem to be any obvious explanation for this choice. Through the analysis of the epigraphic documentation related to the priesthood of Dionysus (4th-1st century B.C.), and more precisely to the female priesthood, this paper explores the possible reasons for choosing a female or male cultic agent. Through the cross-reading of the epicleses associated to the cult, the information provided on the tasks assigned to the priestly officials and the gender of the participants in the ritual, it shows that there was no link between the gender of the cultic agent and the divine denomination, except perhaps when Dionysus was honoured in female rituals for his connection to vegetation and harvests.
Keywords: Dionysus, epiclesis, priesthood, gender, epigraphy.