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bacchanalia



A dance performed by the Greek priests and priestesses of Bacchus. The dancers were dressed in fawn skins and each carried an ivy-entwined spear (the thyrsus). When the dance was first taken to Rome in the 2nd century BC, only women took part. Men later performed, and the bacchanalia was then known for such licentiousness and immorality that it was outlawed by the senate in 186 BC. Many participants were sentenced to death or imprisonment.