Apollo v. Dionysus: The First Paragraph of Friedrich Nietzche’s “The Birth of Tragedy”

Friedrich Nietzsche (first paragraph of The Birth of Tragedy):


We shall have gained much for the science of aesthetics, once we perceive not merely by logical inference, but with the immediate certainty of vision, that the continuous development of art is bound up with the Apollonian and Dionysian duality—just as procreation depends on the duality of the sexes, involving perpetual strife with only periodically intervening reconciliations. The terms Dionysian and Apollonian we borrow from the Greeks, who disclose to the discerning mind the profound mysteries of their view of art, not, to be sure, in concepts, but in the intensely clear figures of their gods. Through Apollo and Dionysus, the two art deities of the Greeks, we come to recognize that in the Greek world there existed a tremendous opposition, in origin and aims, between the Apollonian art of sculpture, and the non-imagistic, Dionysian art of music. These two different tendencies run parallel to each other, for the most part openly at variance; and they continually incite each other to new and more powerful births, which perpetuate an antagonism, only superficially reconciled by the common term art; till eventually, by a metaphysical miracle of the Hellenic will, they appear coupled with each other, and through this coupling ultimately generate an equally Dionysian and Apollonian form of art—Attic tragedy.



About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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6 Responses to Apollo v. Dionysus: The First Paragraph of Friedrich Nietzche’s “The Birth of Tragedy”

  1. Pierre says:

    A most revealing insight from a most interesting man.

  2. kim says:

    Good article, thank you

  3. Griz says:

    Where did you get that painting?

  4. santitafarella says:


    It’s part of the permanent collection at the Getty Museum in Westwood, Ca. It’s a nearby museum that I frequent. I snapped it with my digital camara without a flash. I’m sorry that I don’t have the date and artist. I’ve never written it down. It’s in the early Renaissance Italian section of the Getty. I’m sure you can go to the Getty website and locate it rather quickly.


  5. Anonymous says:

    The meeting of the Three Kings with David and Isaiah, by the
    Master of the Bartholomew altar, bevor 1480

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