dithyramb (dĭthˈĭrăm) [key], in ancient Greece, hymn to the god Dionysus, choral lyric with exchanges between the leader and the chorus. It arose, probably, in the extemporaneous songs of the Dionysiac festivals and was developed (according to tradition, by Arion) into the literary form to be found, for example, in the dithyrambs of Bacchylides. In its later development by such poets as Philoxenus and Timotheus it became freer in its meter and more musical. The tragedy seems to have come out of the dithyramb, but the dithyramb was also cultivated after tragedy was invented.
See A. W. Pickard-Cambridge, Dithyramb, Tragedy, and Comedy (1927, repr. 1962).
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