Svetlana Boym’s Another Freedom

The word for freedom, eleutheria, is related to the border zone town of Eleutherae between Athens and Thebes, to art and religion, the history of the festival of the Dionysia and the emergence of classical tragedy. Pausanias reports that “the reason why the people of Eleutherae came over was not because they were reduced by war, but because they desired to share Athenian citizenship and hated the Thebans.” They carried with them the wooden statue of Dionysus, who initially was not accepted in Athens. According to the legend, the got from the borderlands became infuriated and brought plague to the city of Athens. This is how the festival of the Dionysia came into being. Subsequently this collective festival opened a space for individual creativity, transforming ritual into theater–a space where political and artistic eleutheria opened dialogues about the boundaries of the polis. Eleutheria is a freedom of the border zone–a freely chosen “immigration” and incorporation of local and foreign gods–that also gives birth to poetry and theater.

From Svetlana Boym’s Another Freedom, Chicago UP, 2010

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