Who is Pentheus?
Pentheus was a king of Thebes, son of the Spartan Echion, and Agave (daughter of Cadmus, the founder of Thebes, and the goddess Harmonia).
Pentheus succeeded Cadmus as the king of Thebes and banned Dionysian worship in Thebes, ordering his soldiers to arrest anyone else found engaging in the rites. He saw the women’s (including his mother and aunts’) divinely-caused insanity merely as drunken cavorting and an illicit attempt to escape the mores and legal codes regulating Theban society.
As a result of these actions Dionysus, wishing to punish Pentheus, lured Pentheus on mount Cithaeron where the Maenads (the female followers of Dionysus, including Perseus’ mother Agave and his aunts) performed their bacchic rituals. Pentheus climbed up to the top of a tree for a better view of the Maenads but he was then spotted by the women who thought him to be a wild animal. Driven wild by this intrusion, the women tore the trapped Pentheus down and ripped his body apart, piece by piece (called “sparagmos” in Greek).