Dionysus

Dionysus

Overview
Dionysus icon was the god
God (male deity)
A god, as a male deity, contrasts with female deities, or "goddesses". While the term 'goddess' specifically refers to a female deity, the plural 'gods' can be applied to all gods collectively, regardless of gender....

 of the grape harvest, winemaking
Winemaking
Winemaking, or vinification, is the production of wine, starting with selection of the grapes or other produce and ending with bottling the finished wine. Although most wine is made from grapes, it may also be made from other fruit or non-toxic plant material...

 and wine
Wine
Wine is an alcoholic beverage, made of fermented fruit juice, usually from grapes. The natural chemical balance of grapes lets them ferment without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes, or other nutrients. Grape wine is produced by fermenting crushed grapes using various types of yeast. Yeast...

, of ritual madness and ecstasy
Religious ecstasy
Religious ecstasy is an altered state of consciousness characterized by greatly reduced external awareness and expanded interior mental and spiritual awareness which is frequently accompanied by visions and emotional/intuitive euphoria...

 in Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

. His name in Linear B
Linear B
Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, an early form of Greek. It pre-dated the Greek alphabet by several centuries and seems to have died out with the fall of Mycenaean civilization...

 tablets shows he was worshipped from c. 1500—1100 BC by Mycenean Greeks: other traces of Dionysian-type cult have been found in ancient Minoan Crete. His origins are uncertain, and his cults took many forms; some are described by ancient sources as Thracian, others as Greek.
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Dionysus icon was the god
God (male deity)
A god, as a male deity, contrasts with female deities, or "goddesses". While the term 'goddess' specifically refers to a female deity, the plural 'gods' can be applied to all gods collectively, regardless of gender....

 of the grape harvest, winemaking
Winemaking
Winemaking, or vinification, is the production of wine, starting with selection of the grapes or other produce and ending with bottling the finished wine. Although most wine is made from grapes, it may also be made from other fruit or non-toxic plant material...

 and wine
Wine
Wine is an alcoholic beverage, made of fermented fruit juice, usually from grapes. The natural chemical balance of grapes lets them ferment without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes, or other nutrients. Grape wine is produced by fermenting crushed grapes using various types of yeast. Yeast...

, of ritual madness and ecstasy
Religious ecstasy
Religious ecstasy is an altered state of consciousness characterized by greatly reduced external awareness and expanded interior mental and spiritual awareness which is frequently accompanied by visions and emotional/intuitive euphoria...

 in Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

. His name in Linear B
Linear B
Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, an early form of Greek. It pre-dated the Greek alphabet by several centuries and seems to have died out with the fall of Mycenaean civilization...

 tablets shows he was worshipped from c. 1500—1100 BC by Mycenean Greeks: other traces of Dionysian-type cult have been found in ancient Minoan Crete. His origins are uncertain, and his cults took many forms; some are described by ancient sources as Thracian, others as Greek. In some cults, he arrives from the east, as an Asiatic foreigner; and in others, from Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

 in the South. He is a god of epiphany
Theophany
Theophany, from the Ancient Greek , meaning "appearance of God"), refers to the appearance of a deity to a human or other being, or to a divine disclosure....

, "the god that comes", and his "foreignness" as an arriving outsider-god may be inherent and essential to his cults. He is a major, popular figure of Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 and religion
Ancient Greek religion
Greek religion encompasses the collection of beliefs and rituals practiced in ancient Greece in the form of both popular public religion and cult practices. These different groups varied enough for it to be possible to speak of Greek religions or "cults" in the plural, though most of them shared...

, and is included in some lists of the twelve Olympians
Twelve Olympians
The Twelve Olympians, also known as the Dodekatheon , in Greek mythology, were the principal deities of the Greek pantheon, residing atop Mount Olympus. Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Hestia, and Hades were siblings. Ares, Hermes, Hephaestus, Athena, Apollo, and Artemis were children of Zeus...

. His festivals were the driving force behind the development of Greek theater.

The earliest cult images of Dionysus show a mature male, bearded and robed. He holds a fennel
Ferula
Ferula is a genus of about 170 species of flowering plants in the family Apiaceae, native to the Mediterranean region east to central Asia, mostly growing in arid climates. They are herbaceous perennial plants growing to 1–4 m tall, with stout, hollow, somewhat succulent stems...

 staff, tipped with a pine-cone and known as a thyrsus
Thyrsus
In Greek mythology, a thyrsus or thyrsos was a staff of giant fennel covered with ivy vines and leaves, sometimes wound with taeniae and always topped with a pine cone. These staffs were carried by Dionysus and his followers. Euripides wrote that honey dripped from the thyrsos staves that the...

. Later images show him as a beardless, sensuous, naked or half-naked youth: the literature describes him as womanly or "man-womanish". In its fully developed form, his central cult imagery shows his triumphant, disorderly arrival or return, as if from some place beyond the borders of the known and civilized. His procession (thiasus
Thiasus
In Greek mythology and religion, the thiasus , was the ecstatic retinue of Dionysus, often pictured as inebriated revelers. Many of the myths of Dionysus are connected with his arrival in the form of a procession...

)
is made up of wild female followers (maenads) and ithyphallic, bearded satyrs. Some are armed with the thyrsus, some dance or play music. The god himself is drawn in a chariot, usually by exotic beasts such as lions or tigers, and is sometimes attended by a bearded, drunken Silenus
Silenus
In Greek mythology, Silenus was a companion and tutor to the wine god Dionysus.-Evolution of the character:The original Silenus resembled a folklore man of the forest with the ears of a horse and sometimes also the tail and legs of a horse...

. This procession is presumed to be the cult model for the human followers of his Dionysian Mysteries
Dionysian Mysteries
The Dionysian Mysteries were a ritual of ancient Greece and Rome which used intoxicants and other trance-inducing techniques to remove inhibitions and social constraints, liberating the individual to return to a natural state. It also provided some liberation for those marginalized by Greek...

. In his Thracian
Thrace
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

 mysteries, he wears the bassaris or fox
Fox
Fox is a common name for many species of omnivorous mammals belonging to the Canidae family. Foxes are small to medium-sized canids , characterized by possessing a long narrow snout, and a bushy tail .Members of about 37 species are referred to as foxes, of which only 12 species actually belong to...

-skin, symbolizing a new life. Dionysus is represented by city religions as the protector of those who do not belong to conventional society and thus symbolizes everything which is chaotic, dangerous and unexpected, everything which escapes human reason and which can only be attributed to the unforeseeable action of the gods.

He was also known as Bacchus (icon or ˈ; , Bakkhos), the name adopted by the Romans
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 and the frenzy he induces, bakkheia. His thyrsus is sometimes wound with ivy and dripping with honey. It is a beneficent wand but also a weapon, and can be used to destroy those who oppose his cult and the freedoms he represents. He is also the Liberator (Eleutherios
Eleutherios
- First name :It is also used as a first name in modern Greek :*Eleftherios Eleftheriou , Cypriot football midfielder...

), whose wine, music and ecstatic dance frees his followers from self-conscious fear and care, and subverts the oppressive restraints of the powerful. Those who partake in his mysteries are possessed and empowered by the god himself. His cult is also a "cult of the souls"; his maenads feed the dead through blood-offerings, and he acts as a divine communicant between the living and the dead.

In Greek mythology, he is presented as a son of Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

 and the mortal Semele
Semele
Semele , in Greek mythology, daughter of the Boeotian hero Cadmus and Harmonia, was the mortal mother of Dionysus by Zeus in one of his many origin myths. In another version of his mythic origin, he is the son of Persephone...

, thus semi-divine or hero
Hero
A hero , in Greek mythology and folklore, was originally a demigod, their cult being one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion...

ic: and as son of Zeus and Persephone
Persephone
In Greek mythology, Persephone , also called Kore , is the daughter of Zeus and the harvest-goddess Demeter, and queen of the underworld; she was abducted by Hades, the god-king of the underworld....

 or Demeter
Demeter
In Greek mythology, Demeter is the goddess of the harvest, who presided over grains, the fertility of the earth, and the seasons . Her common surnames are Sito as the giver of food or corn/grain and Thesmophoros as a mark of the civilized existence of agricultural society...

, thus both fully divine, part-chthonic
Chthonic
Chthonic designates, or pertains to, deities or spirits of the underworld, especially in relation to Greek religion. The Greek word khthon is one of several for "earth"; it typically refers to the interior of the soil, rather than the living surface of the land or the land as territory...

 and possibly identical with Iacchus
Iacchus
In Greek mythology, Iacchus is an epithet of Dionysus, particularly associated with the Mysteries at Eleusis, where he was considered to be the son of Zeus and Demeter...

 of the Eleusinian Mysteries
Eleusinian Mysteries
The Eleusinian Mysteries were initiation ceremonies held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. Of all the mysteries celebrated in ancient times, these were held to be the ones of greatest importance...

. Some scholars believe that Dionysus is a syncretism
Syncretism
Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. The term means "combining", but see below for the origin of the word...

 of a local Greek nature deity and a more powerful god from Thrace
Thrace
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

 or Phrygia
Phrygia
In antiquity, Phrygia was a kingdom in the west central part of Anatolia, in what is now modern-day Turkey. The Phrygians initially lived in the southern Balkans; according to Herodotus, under the name of Bryges , changing it to Phruges after their final migration to Anatolia, via the...

 such as Sabazios
Sabazios
Sabazios is the nomadic horseman and sky father god of the Phrygians and Thracians. In Indo-European languages, such as Phrygian, the -zios element in his name derives from dyeus, the common precursor of Latin deus and Greek Zeus...

 or Zalmoxis
Zalmoxis
Zalmoxis , is a divinity of the Getae, mentioned by Herodotus in his Histories IV, 93-96...

.

Etymology


The name Dionysos is of uncertain significance. The dio- element has been associated since antiquity with Zeus (genitive Dios). The earliest attested form of the name is Mycenaean Greek di-wo-nu-so, written in Linear B
Linear B
Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, an early form of Greek. It pre-dated the Greek alphabet by several centuries and seems to have died out with the fall of Mycenaean civilization...

 syllabic script, presumably for /Diwo(h)nūsos/, found on two tablets at Mycenaean
Mycenaean Greece
Mycenaean Greece was a cultural period of Bronze Age Greece taking its name from the archaeological site of Mycenae in northeastern Argolis, in the Peloponnese of southern Greece. Athens, Pylos, Thebes, and Tiryns are also important Mycenaean sites...

 Pylos
Pylos
Pylos , historically known under its Italian name Navarino, is a town and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Pylos-Nestoras, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit. It was the capital of the former...

 and dated to the 12th or 13th century BC.

Later variants include and in Boeotia; in Thessaly; and in Ionia; and in Aeolia, besides other variants. A prefix is found in other names, such as that of the Dioscures, and may derive from Dios, the genitive of the name of Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

.

Janda (2010, following Peters 1989) sees the verbal stem of diemai "to chase, hurry, impel". The second element is associated with Mount Nysa
Nysa (mythology)
In Greek mythology, the mountainous district of Nysa, variously associated with Ethiopia, Libya, Tribalia, India or Arabia by Greek mythographers, was the traditional place where the rain nymphs, the Hyades, raised the infant god Dionysus, the "Zeus of Nysa"...

, the birthplace of the god in Greek mythology, where he was nursed by nymphs (the Nysiads
Nysiads
The Nysiads or Nysiades were the nymphs of Mount Nysa who cared for and taught the infant Dionysus.Their names include:* Ambrosia* Arsinoe* Bromia or Bromis* Cisseis* Coronis* Erato...

), but according to Pherecydes of Syros
Pherecydes of Syros
Pherecydes of Syros was a Greek thinker from the island of Syros, of the 6th century BC. Pherecydes authored the Pentemychos or Heptamychos, one of the first attested prose works in Greek literature, which formed an important bridge between mythic and pre-Socratic thought.- Life :Very little is...

, was an archaic word for "tree".

The cult of Dionysus was closely associated with trees, specifically the fig tree, and some of his bynames exhibit this, such as "he in the tree" or , "he of the tree". Peters suggests the original meaning as "he who runs among the trees", or that of a "runner in the woods". Janda (2010) accepts the etymology but proposes the more cosmological interpretation of "he who impels the (world-)tree." This interpretation explains how Nysa could have been re-interpreted from a meaning of "tree" to the name of a mountain: the axis mundi
Axis mundi
The axis mundi , in religion or mythology, is the world center and/or the connection between heaven and Earth. As the celestial pole and geographic pole, it expresses a point of connection between sky and earth where the four compass directions meet...

 of Indo-European mythology is represented both as a world-tree and as a world-mountain.

Epithets


Dionysus was variably known with the following epithets:

Acratophorus, ("giver of unmixed wine"), at Phigaleia in Arcadia
Arcadia
Arcadia is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the administrative region of Peloponnese. It is situated in the central and eastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula. It takes its name from the mythological character Arcas. In Greek mythology, it was the home of the god Pan...

.

Acroreites at Sicyon
Sicyon
Sikyon was an ancient Greek city situated in the northern Peloponnesus between Corinth and Achaea on the territory of the present-day prefecture of Corinthia...

.

Adoneus ("ruler") in his Latinised, Bacchic cult.

Aegobolus ("goat killer") at Potniae, in Boeotia
Boeotia
Boeotia, also spelled Beotia and Bœotia , is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Central Greece. It was also a region of ancient Greece. Its capital is Livadeia, the second largest city being Thebes.-Geography:...

.

Aesymnetes
Dionysus Aesymnetes
Aesymnetes was an epithet of the Greek god Dionysus, which signifies the "Lord", or "Ruler", and under which he was worshipped at Aroë in Achaea....

("ruler" or "lord") at Aroë and Patrae
Patras
Patras , ) is Greece's third largest urban area and the regional capital of West Greece, located in northern Peloponnese, 215 kilometers west of Athens...

 in Achaea
Achaea
Achaea is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of West Greece. It is situated in the northwestern part of the Peloponnese peninsula. The capital is Patras. The population exceeds 300,000 since 2001.-Geography:...

.

Agrios ("wild"), in Macedon
Macedon
Macedonia or Macedon was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south....

ia.

Bromios ("the thunderer" or "he of the loud shout").

Dendrites ("he of the trees"), as a fertility god.

Dithyrambos, form of address used at his festivals, referring to his premature birth.

Eleutherios ("the liberator"), an epithet for both Dionysus and Eros.

Endendros ("he in the tree").

Enorches
Enorches
In Greek mythology, Enorches was a son of Thyestes by his sister Daeta. He was born out of an egg and built a temple to Dionysus, who was hence called Dionysus Enorches, though Enorches may also describe the god as the dancer....

("with balls", with reference to his fertility, or "in the testicles" in reference to Zeus' sewing the baby Dionysus into his thigh, i.e., his testicles). used in Samos
Samos Island
Samos is a Greek island in the eastern Aegean Sea, south of Chios, north of Patmos and the Dodecanese, and off the coast of Asia Minor, from which it is separated by the -wide Mycale Strait. It is also a separate regional unit of the North Aegean region, and the only municipality of the regional...

 and Lesbos.

Erikryptos ("completely hidden"), in Macedonia.

Evius, in Euripides
Euripides
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

' play, The Bacchae
The Bacchae
The Bacchae is an ancient Greek tragedy by the Athenian playwright Euripides, during his final years in Macedon, at the court of Archelaus I of Macedon. It premiered posthumously at the Theatre of Dionysus in 405 BC as part of a tetralogy that also included Iphigeneia at Aulis, and which...

.

Iacchus
Iacchus
In Greek mythology, Iacchus is an epithet of Dionysus, particularly associated with the Mysteries at Eleusis, where he was considered to be the son of Zeus and Demeter...

, possibly an epithet of Dionysus and associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries
Eleusinian Mysteries
The Eleusinian Mysteries were initiation ceremonies held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. Of all the mysteries celebrated in ancient times, these were held to be the ones of greatest importance...

. In Eleusis, he is known as a son of Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

 and Demeter
Demeter
In Greek mythology, Demeter is the goddess of the harvest, who presided over grains, the fertility of the earth, and the seasons . Her common surnames are Sito as the giver of food or corn/grain and Thesmophoros as a mark of the civilized existence of agricultural society...

. The name "Iacchus" may come from the Ιακχος (Iakchos), a hymn sung in honor of Dionysus.

Liknites ("he of the winnowing fan"), as a fertility god connected with the mystery religions
Greco-Roman mysteries
Mystery religions, sacred Mysteries or simply mysteries, were religious cults of the Greco-Roman world, participation in which was reserved to initiates....

. A winnowing fan was used to separate the chaff from the grain.

Lyaeus ("he who unties") or releases from care and anxiety.

Melanaigis ("of the black goatskin") at the Apaturia
Apaturia
Apaturia were Ancient Greek festivals held annually by all the Ionian towns, except Ephesus and Colophon. At Athens the Apaturia took place on the 11th, 12th and 13th days of the month Pyanepsion , on which occasion the various phratries, or clans, of Attica met to discuss their affairs.The name...

 festival.

Oeneus, as god of the wine press
Wine press
A wine press is a device used to extract juice from crushed grapes during wine making. There are a number of different styles of presses that are used by wine makers but their overall functionality is the same. Each style of press exerts controlled pressure in order to free the juice from the fruit...

.

Pseudanor
Pseudanor
Pseudanor was a Macedonian epithet applied to Dionysus. Other Macedonian appellations to the god were Agrios "wild" and Erikryptos "completely hidden" Pseudanor (Greek: pseudo- + anēr "false man", metaphorically an "effeminate man") was a Macedonian epithet applied to Dionysus. Other...

("false man"), in Macedon
Macedon
Macedonia or Macedon was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south....

ia.

In the Greek pantheon
Pantheon (gods)
A pantheon is a set of all the gods of a particular polytheistic religion or mythology.Max Weber's 1922 opus, Economy and Society discusses the link between a...

, Dionysus (along with Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

) absorbs the role of Sabazios
Sabazios
Sabazios is the nomadic horseman and sky father god of the Phrygians and Thracians. In Indo-European languages, such as Phrygian, the -zios element in his name derives from dyeus, the common precursor of Latin deus and Greek Zeus...

, a Thracian
Thracians
The ancient Thracians were a group of Indo-European tribes inhabiting areas including Thrace in Southeastern Europe. They spoke the Thracian language – a scarcely attested branch of the Indo-European language family...

/Phrygia
Phrygia
In antiquity, Phrygia was a kingdom in the west central part of Anatolia, in what is now modern-day Turkey. The Phrygians initially lived in the southern Balkans; according to Herodotus, under the name of Bryges , changing it to Phruges after their final migration to Anatolia, via the...

n deity. In the Roman pantheon
Roman mythology
Roman mythology is the body of traditional stories pertaining to ancient Rome's legendary origins and religious system, as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans...

, Sabazius became an alternate name for Bacchus.

Birth



Dionysus had a strange birth that evokes the difficulty in fitting him into the Olympian pantheon. His mother was a mortal woman, Semele
Semele
Semele , in Greek mythology, daughter of the Boeotian hero Cadmus and Harmonia, was the mortal mother of Dionysus by Zeus in one of his many origin myths. In another version of his mythic origin, he is the son of Persephone...

, the daughter of king Cadmus
Cadmus
Cadmus or Kadmos , in Greek mythology was a Phoenician prince, the son of king Agenor and queen Telephassa of Tyre and the brother of Phoenix, Cilix and Europa. He was originally sent by his royal parents to seek out and escort his sister Europa back to Tyre after she was abducted from the shores...

 of Thebes
Ancient Thebes (Boeotia)
See Thebes, Greece for the modern city built on the ancient ruins.Ancient Thebes was a Boeotian city-state , situated to the north of the Cithaeron range, which divides Boeotia from Attica, and on the southern edge of the Boeotian plain...

, and his father was Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

, the king of the gods. Zeus' wife, Hera
Hera
Hera was the wife and one of three sisters of Zeus in the Olympian pantheon of Greek mythology and religion. Her chief function was as the goddess of women and marriage. Her counterpart in the religion of ancient Rome was Juno. The cow and the peacock were sacred to her...

, discovered the affair while Semele was pregnant. Appearing as an old crone
Crone
The crone is a stock character in folklore and fairy tale, an old woman who is usually disagreeable, malicious, or sinister in manner, often with magical or supernatural associations that can make her either helpful or obstructing. She is marginalized by her exclusion from the reproductive cycle,...

 (in other stories a nurse), Hera befriended Semele, who confided in her that Zeus was the actual father of the baby in her womb. Hera pretended not to believe her, and planted seeds of doubt in Semele's mind. Curious, Semele demanded of Zeus that he reveal himself in all his glory as proof of his godhood. Though Zeus begged her not to ask this, she persisted and he agreed. Therefore he came to her wreathed in bolts of lightning; mortals, however, could not look upon an undisguised god without dying, and she perished in the ensuing blaze. Zeus rescued the fetal Dionysus by sewing him into his thigh. A few months later, Dionysus was born on Mount Pramnos in the island of Ikaria, where Zeus went to release the now-fully-grown baby from his thigh. In this version, Dionysus is born by two "mothers" (Semele and Zeus) before his birth, hence the epithet dimētōr (of two mothers) associated with his being "twice-born".

In the Cretan version of the same story, which Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus was a Greek historian who flourished between 60 and 30 BC. According to Diodorus' own work, he was born at Agyrium in Sicily . With one exception, antiquity affords no further information about Diodorus' life and doings beyond what is to be found in his own work, Bibliotheca...

 follows, Dionysus was the son of Zeus and Persephone
Persephone
In Greek mythology, Persephone , also called Kore , is the daughter of Zeus and the harvest-goddess Demeter, and queen of the underworld; she was abducted by Hades, the god-king of the underworld....

, the queen of the Greek underworld
Greek underworld
The Greek underworld was made up of various realms believed to lie beneath the earth or at its farthest reaches.This includes:* The great pit of Tartarus, originally the exclusive prison of the old Titan gods, it later came to be the dungeon home of damned souls.* The land of the dead ruled by the...

. Diodorus' sources equivocally identified the mother as Demeter. A jealous Hera again attempted to kill the child, this time by sending Titans
Titan (mythology)
In Greek mythology, the Titans were a race of powerful deities, descendants of Gaia and Uranus, that ruled during the legendary Golden Age....

 to rip Dionysus to pieces after luring the baby with toys. It is said that he was mocked by the Titans who gave him a thyrsus (a fennel stalk) in place of his rightful sceptre. Zeus turned the Titans into dust with his thunderbolts, but only after the Titans ate everything but the heart, which was saved, variously, by Athena
Athena
In Greek mythology, Athena, Athenê, or Athene , also referred to as Pallas Athena/Athene , is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, justice, and skill. Minerva, Athena's Roman incarnation, embodies similar attributes. Athena is...

, Rhea
Rhea (mythology)
Rhea was the Titaness daughter of Uranus, the sky, and Gaia, the earth, in Greek mythology. She was known as "the mother of gods". In earlier traditions, she was strongly associated with Gaia and Cybele, the Great Goddess, and was later seen by the classical Greeks as the mother of the Olympian...

, or Demeter
Demeter
In Greek mythology, Demeter is the goddess of the harvest, who presided over grains, the fertility of the earth, and the seasons . Her common surnames are Sito as the giver of food or corn/grain and Thesmophoros as a mark of the civilized existence of agricultural society...

. Zeus used the heart to recreate him in his thigh
Thigh
In humans the thigh is the area between the pelvis and the knee. Anatomically, it is part of the lower limb.The single bone in the thigh is called the femur...

, hence he was again "the twice-born". Other versions claim that Zeus recreated him in the womb of Semele, or gave Semele the heart to eat to impregnate her.

The rebirth in both versions of the story is the primary reason why Dionysus was worshipped in mystery religions
Greco-Roman mysteries
Mystery religions, sacred Mysteries or simply mysteries, were religious cults of the Greco-Roman world, participation in which was reserved to initiates....

, as his death and rebirth were events of mystical reverence. This narrative was apparently used in several Greek and Roman cults, and variants of it are found in Callimachus
Callimachus
Callimachus was a native of the Greek colony of Cyrene, Libya. He was a noted poet, critic and scholar at the Library of Alexandria and enjoyed the patronage of the Egyptian–Greek Pharaohs Ptolemy II Philadelphus and Ptolemy III Euergetes...

 and Nonnus
Nonnus
Nonnus of Panopolis , was a Greek epic poet. He was a native of Panopolis in the Egyptian Thebaid, and probably lived at the end of the 4th or early 5th century....

, who refer to this Dionysus with the title Zagreus
Zagreus
In ancient Greek religion and myth, the obscure and ancient figure of Zagreus was identified with the god Dionysus and was worshipped by followers of Orphism, whose late Orphic hymns invoke his name....

, and also in several fragmentary poems attributed to Orpheus
Orpheus
Orpheus was a legendary musician, poet, and prophet in ancient Greek religion and myth. The major stories about him are centered on his ability to charm all living things and even stones with his music; his attempt to retrieve his wife from the underworld; and his death at the hands of those who...

.

The myth of the dismemberment of Dionysus by the Titans, is alluded to by Plato in his Phaedo (69d) in which Socrates claims that the initiations of the Dionysian Mysteries are similar to those of the philosophic path. Late Neo-Platonists such as Damascius
Damascius
Damascius , known as "the last of the Neoplatonists," was the last scholarch of the School of Athens. He was one of the pagan philosophers persecuted by Justinian in the early 6th century, and was forced for a time to seek refuge in the Persian court, before being allowed back into the empire...

 explore the implications of this at length.

Infancy at Mount Nysa



According to the myth Zeus gave the infant Dionysus into the charge of Hermes
Hermes
Hermes is the great messenger of the gods in Greek mythology and a guide to the Underworld. Hermes was born on Mount Kyllini in Arcadia. An Olympian god, he is also the patron of boundaries and of the travelers who cross them, of shepherds and cowherds, of the cunning of thieves, of orators and...

. One version of the story is that Hermes took the boy to King Athamas
Athamas
The king of Orchomenus in Greek mythology, Athamas , was married first to the goddess Nephele with whom he had the twins Phrixus or Frixos and Helle. He later divorced Nephele and married Ino, daughter of Cadmus. With Ino, he had two children: Learches and Melicertes...

 and his wife Ino
Ino (Greek mythology)
In Greek mythology Ino was a mortal queen of Thebes, who after her death and transfiguration was worshiped as a goddess under her epithet Leucothea, the "white goddess." Alcman called her "Queen of the Sea" , which, if not hyperbole, would make her a doublet of Amphitrite.In her mortal self, Ino,...

, Dionysus' aunt. Hermes bade the couple raise the boy as a girl, to hide him from Hera's wrath. Another version is that Dionysus was taken to the rain-nymph
Nymph
A nymph in Greek mythology is a female minor nature deity typically associated with a particular location or landform. Different from gods, nymphs are generally regarded as divine spirits who animate nature, and are usually depicted as beautiful, young nubile maidens who love to dance and sing;...

s of Nysa
Nysa (mythology)
In Greek mythology, the mountainous district of Nysa, variously associated with Ethiopia, Libya, Tribalia, India or Arabia by Greek mythographers, was the traditional place where the rain nymphs, the Hyades, raised the infant god Dionysus, the "Zeus of Nysa"...

, who nourished his infancy and childhood, and for their care Zeus rewarded them by placing them as the Hyades
Hyades (mythology)
In Greek mythology, the Hyades , are a sisterhood of nymphs that bring rain.The Hyades were daughters of Atlas and sisters of Hyas in most tellings, although one version gives their parents as Hyas and Boeotia...

 among the stars (see Hyades star cluster
Hyades (star cluster)
The Hyades is the nearest open cluster to the Solar System and one of the best-studied of all star clusters. The Hipparcos satellite, the Hubble Space Telescope, and infrared color-magnitude diagram fitting have been used to establish a distance to the cluster's center of ~153 ly...

). Other versions have Zeus giving him to Rhea, or to Persephone to raise in the Underworld, away from Hera. Alternatively, he was raised by Maro
Maro
Maro may refer to:*A male name emanating from the Republic of Ragusa often used by noble families, such as:**Lucijan Toma Natal Maro Frano Pucic **Maro Bona...

.

Dionysus in Greek mythology is a god of foreign origin, and while Mount Nysa is a mythological location, it is invariably set far away to the east or to the south. The Homeric hymn to Dionysus places it "far from Phoenicia, near to the Egyptian stream". Others placed it in Anatolia, or in Libya
Ancient Libya
The Latin name Libya referred to the region west of the Nile Valley, generally corresponding to modern Northwest Africa. Climate changes affected the locations of the settlements....

 ('away in the west beside a great ocean'), in Ethiopia (Herodotus), or Arabia (Diodorus Siculus).

According to Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

:
Apollodorus
Apollodorus
Apollodorus of Athens son of Asclepiades, was a Greek scholar and grammarian. He was a pupil of Diogenes of Babylon, Panaetius the Stoic, and the grammarian Aristarchus of Samothrace...

 seems to be following Pherecydes, who relates how the infant Dionysus, god of the grapevine, was nursed by the rain-nymphs, the Hyades
Hyades (mythology)
In Greek mythology, the Hyades , are a sisterhood of nymphs that bring rain.The Hyades were daughters of Atlas and sisters of Hyas in most tellings, although one version gives their parents as Hyas and Boeotia...

 at Nysa.

Childhood


When Dionysus grew up, he discovered the culture of the vine and the mode of extracting its precious juice; but Hera struck him with madness, and drove him forth a wanderer through various parts of the earth. In Phrygia
Phrygia
In antiquity, Phrygia was a kingdom in the west central part of Anatolia, in what is now modern-day Turkey. The Phrygians initially lived in the southern Balkans; according to Herodotus, under the name of Bryges , changing it to Phruges after their final migration to Anatolia, via the...

 the goddess Cybele
Cybele
Cybele , was a Phrygian form of the Earth Mother or Great Mother. As with Greek Gaia , her Minoan equivalent Rhea and some aspects of Demeter, Cybele embodies the fertile Earth...

, better known to the Greeks as Rhea, cured him and taught him her religious rites, and he set out on a progress through Asia teaching the people the cultivation of the vine. The most famous part of his wanderings is his expedition to India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, which is said to have lasted several years. Returning in triumph he undertook to introduce his worship into Greece, but was opposed by some princes who dreaded its introduction on account of the disorders and madness it brought with it (e.g. Pentheus
Pentheus
In Greek mythology, Pentheus was a king of Thebes, son of the strongest of the Spartes, Echion, and of Agave, daughter of Cadmus, the founder of Thebes, and the goddess Harmonia....

 or Lycurgus).
Dionysus was exceptionally attractive. One of the Homeric hymns
Homeric Hymns
The Homeric Hymns are a collection of thirty-three anonymous Ancient Greek hymns celebrating individual gods. The hymns are "Homeric" in the sense that they employ the same epic meter—dactylic hexameter—as the Iliad and Odyssey, use many similar formulas and are couched in the same dialect...

 recounts how, while disguised as a mortal sitting beside the seashore, a few sailors spotted him, believing he was a prince. They attempted to kidnap him and sail him far away to sell for ransom or into slavery. They tried to bind him with ropes, but no type of rope could hold him. Dionysus turned into a fierce lion and unleashed a bear onboard, killing those he came into contact with. Those who jumped off the ship were mercifully turned into dolphins. The only survivor was the helmsman, Acoetes
Acoetes
Acoetes was the name of two men in Greek and Roman mythology. The first Acoetes is known for helping the god Bacchus. Another, lesser-known Acoetes was father to Laocoon, who warned about the Trojan Horse.-Bacchic myth:...

, who recognized the god and tried to stop his sailors from the start. In a similar story, Dionysus desired to sail from Icaria
Icaria
Icaria, also spelled Ikaria , is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, 10 nautical miles southwest of Samos. It derived its name from Icarus, the son of Daedalus in Greek mythology, who fell into the sea nearby. Administratively the island forms a separate municipality within the Ikaria peripheral...

 to Naxos
Naxos (island)
Naxos is a Greek island, the largest island in the Cyclades island group in the Aegean. It was the centre of archaic Cycladic culture....

. He then hired a Tyrrhenian
Tyrrhenians
The Tyrrhenians or Tyrsenians is an exonym used by Greek authors to refer to a non-Greek people.- Earliest references :...

 pirate ship. However, when the god was on board, they sailed not to Naxos but to Asia, intending to sell him as a slave. So Dionysus turned the mast and oars into snakes, and filled the vessel with ivy and the sound of flutes so that the sailors went mad and, leaping into the sea, were turned into dolphins.

Midas


Once, Dionysus found his old school master and foster father, Silenus
Silenus
In Greek mythology, Silenus was a companion and tutor to the wine god Dionysus.-Evolution of the character:The original Silenus resembled a folklore man of the forest with the ears of a horse and sometimes also the tail and legs of a horse...

, missing. The old man had been drinking, and had wandered away drunk, and was found by some peasants, who carried him to their king (alternatively, he passed out in Midas' rose garden). Midas
Midas
For the legend of Gordias, a person who was taken by the people and made King, in obedience to the command of the oracle, see Gordias.Midas or King Midas is popularly remembered in Greek mythology for his ability to turn everything he touched into gold. This was called the Golden touch, or the...

 recognized him, and treated him hospitably, entertaining him for ten days and nights with politeness, while Silenus entertained Midas and his friends with stories and songs. On the eleventh day, he brought Silenus back to Dionysus. Dionysus offered Midas his choice of whatever reward he wanted. Midas asked that whatever he might touch should be changed into gold. Dionysus consented, though was sorry that he had not made a better choice. Midas rejoiced in his new power, which he hastened to put to the test. He touched and turned to gold an oak twig and a stone. Overjoyed, as soon as he got home, he ordered the servants to set a feast on the table. Then he found that his bread, meat, daughter and wine turned to gold.

Upset, Midas strove to divest himself of his power (the Midas Touch); he hated the gift he had coveted. He prayed to Dionysus, begging to be delivered from starvation. Dionysus heard and consented; he told Midas to wash in the river Pactolus
Pactolus
Pactolus is a river near the Aegean coast of Turkey. The river rises from Mount Tmolus, flows through the ruins of the ancient city of Sardis, and empties into the Gediz River, the ancient Hermus. The Pactolus once contained electrum that was the basis of the economy of the ancient state of Lydia...

. He did so, and when he touched the waters the power passed into them, and the river sands changed into gold. This was an etiological myth that explained why the sands of the Pactolus were rich in gold.

Pentheus



Euripides
Euripides
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

 composed a tragedy about the destructive nature of Dionysus in The Bacchae
The Bacchae
The Bacchae is an ancient Greek tragedy by the Athenian playwright Euripides, during his final years in Macedon, at the court of Archelaus I of Macedon. It premiered posthumously at the Theatre of Dionysus in 405 BC as part of a tetralogy that also included Iphigeneia at Aulis, and which...

. Since Euripides wrote this play while in the court of King Archelaus
Archelaus I of Macedon
Archelaus I was a king of Macedon from 413 to 399 BC. He was a capable and beneficent ruler, known for the sweeping changes he made in state administration, the military, and commerce. By the time that he died, Archelaus had succeeded in converting Macedon into a significantly stronger power...

 of Macedon
Macedon
Macedonia or Macedon was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south....

, some scholars believe that the cult of Dionysus was malicious in Macedon but benign in Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

.

In the play, Dionysus returns to his birthplace, Thebes, which is ruled by his cousin Pentheus
Pentheus
In Greek mythology, Pentheus was a king of Thebes, son of the strongest of the Spartes, Echion, and of Agave, daughter of Cadmus, the founder of Thebes, and the goddess Harmonia....

. Dionysus wants to exact revenge on Pentheus and the women of Thebes (his aunts Agave
Agave (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Agave was the daughter of Cadmus, the king and founder of the city of Thebes, Greece, and of the goddess Harmonia. Her sisters were Autonoë, Ino and Semele, and her brother was Polydorus. She married Echion, one of the five Spartoi, and was the mother of Pentheus, a king of...

, Ino
Ino (Greek mythology)
In Greek mythology Ino was a mortal queen of Thebes, who after her death and transfiguration was worshiped as a goddess under her epithet Leucothea, the "white goddess." Alcman called her "Queen of the Sea" , which, if not hyperbole, would make her a doublet of Amphitrite.In her mortal self, Ino,...

 and Autonoe
Autonoe
In Greek mythology, Autonoë was a daughter of Cadmus, founder of Thebes, Greece, and the goddess Harmonia. She was the wife of Aristaeus and mother of Actaeon and possibly Macris...

) for not believing his mother Semele's claims of being impregnated by Zeus, and for denying Dionysus's divinity (and therefore not worshiping him).

Dionysus slowly drives Pentheus mad, lures him to the woods of Mount Cithaeron, and then convinces him to spy/peek on the Maenads (female worshippers of Dionysus, who often experienced divine ecstasy). The Maenads are in an insane frenzy when Pentheus sees them (earlier in the play they had ripped apart a herd of cattle), and they catch him but mistake him for a wild animal. Pentheus is torn to shreds, and his mother (Agave, one of the Maenads), not recognizing her own son because of her madness, brutally tears his limbs off as he begs for his life.

As a result of their acts the women are banished from Thebes, ensuring Dionysus's revenge.

Lycurgus


When King Lycurgus of Thrace
Thrace
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

 heard that Dionysus was in his kingdom, he imprisoned all the followers of Dionysus; the god fled, taking refuge with Thetis
Thetis
Silver-footed Thetis , disposer or "placer" , is encountered in Greek mythology mostly as a sea nymph or known as the goddess of water, one of the fifty Nereids, daughters of the ancient one of the seas with shape-shifting abilities who survives in the historical vestiges of most later Greek myths...

, and sent a drought which stirred the people into revolt. Dionysus then made King Lycurgus insane, having him slice his own son into pieces with an axe, thinking he was a patch of ivy, a plant holy to Dionysus. An oracle
Oracle
In Classical Antiquity, an oracle was a person or agency considered to be a source of wise counsel or prophetic predictions or precognition of the future, inspired by the gods. As such it is a form of divination....

 then claimed that the land would stay dry and barren as long as Lycurgus was alive, so his people had him drawn and quartered; with Lycurgus dead, Dionysus lifted the curse. This story was told in Homer's epic, Iliad 6.136-7. In an alternative version, sometimes shown in art, Lycurgus tried to kill Ambrosia, a follower of Dionysus, who was transformed into a vine that twined around the enraged king and restrained him, eventually killing him.

Prosymnus


A better-known story is that of his descent to Hades to rescue his mother Semele, whom he placed among the stars. He made the descent from a reputedly bottomless pool on the coast of the Argolid near the prehistoric site of Lerna
Lerna
In classical Greece, Lerna was a region of springs and a former lake near the east coast of the Peloponnesus, south of Argos. Its site near the village Mili at the Argolic Gulf is most famous as the lair of the Lernaean Hydra, the chthonic many-headed water snake, a creature of great antiquity...

. He was guided by Prosymnus
Prosymnus
Prosymnus or Polymnus , in Greek mythology, was a shepherd living near the reputedly bottomless Alcyonian Lake, hazardous to swimmers, which lay in the Argolid, on the coast of the Gulf of Argos, near the prehistoric site of Lerna....

 or Polymnus, who requested, as his reward, to be Dionysus' lover. Prosymnus died before Dionysus could honor his pledge, so in order to satisfy Prosymnus' shade, Dionysus fashioned a phallus
Phallus
A phallus is an erect penis, a penis-shaped object such as a dildo, or a mimetic image of an erect penis. Any object that symbolically resembles a penis may also be referred to as a phallus; however, such objects are more often referred to as being phallic...

 from an olive branch and sat on it at Prosymnus' tomb. This story survives in full only in Christian sources whose aim was to discredit pagan mythology. It appears to have served as an explanation of the secret objects that were revealed in the Dionysian Mysteries
Dionysian Mysteries
The Dionysian Mysteries were a ritual of ancient Greece and Rome which used intoxicants and other trance-inducing techniques to remove inhibitions and social constraints, liberating the individual to return to a natural state. It also provided some liberation for those marginalized by Greek...

.

Ampelos


Another myth according to Nonnus
Nonnus
Nonnus of Panopolis , was a Greek epic poet. He was a native of Panopolis in the Egyptian Thebaid, and probably lived at the end of the 4th or early 5th century....

 involves Ampelos
Ampelos
Ampelos is the Ancient Greek for "vine".In an etiology told by Nonnus, the vine is personified as a beautiful satyr youth, who was close to Dionysus. As foreseen by Dionysus, the youth was killed in an accident with a bull...

, a satyr
Satyr
In Greek mythology, satyrs are a troop of male companions of Pan and Dionysus — "satyresses" were a late invention of poets — that roamed the woods and mountains. In myths they are often associated with pipe-playing....

. Foreseen by Dionysus, the youth was killed in an accident riding a bull maddened by the sting of an Ate
Ate
Atë or Aite a Greek word for "ruin, folly, delusion", is the action performed by the hero, usually because of hubris, that leads to his or her death or downfall. There is also a goddess by that name in Greek mythology, a personification of the same.In Homer's Iliad she is called eldest daughter...

's gadfly. The Fates
Moirae
The Moirae, Moerae or Moirai , in Greek mythology, were the white-robed incarnations of destiny . Their number became fixed at three...

 granted Ampelos a second life as a vine, from which Dionysus squeezed the first wine.

Chiron


Young Dionysus was also said to have been one of the many famous pupils of the centaur
Centaur
In Greek mythology, a centaur or hippocentaur is a member of a composite race of creatures, part human and part horse...

 Chiron
Chiron
In Greek mythology, Chiron was held to be the superlative centaur among his brethren.-History:Like the satyrs, centaurs were notorious for being wild and lusty, overly indulgent drinkers and carousers, given to violence when intoxicated, and generally uncultured delinquents...

. According to Ptolemy Chennus in the Library of Photius, "Dionysius was loved by Chiron, from whom he learned chants and dances, the bacchic rites and initiations."

Secondary myths


When Hephaestus
Hephaestus
Hephaestus was a Greek god whose Roman equivalent was Vulcan. He is the son of Zeus and Hera, the King and Queen of the Gods - or else, according to some accounts, of Hera alone. He was the god of technology, blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metals, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes...

 bound Hera
Hera
Hera was the wife and one of three sisters of Zeus in the Olympian pantheon of Greek mythology and religion. Her chief function was as the goddess of women and marriage. Her counterpart in the religion of ancient Rome was Juno. The cow and the peacock were sacred to her...

 to a magical chair, Dionysus got him drunk and brought her back to Olympus after he passed out.

A third descent by Dionysus to Hades is invented by Aristophanes
Aristophanes
Aristophanes , son of Philippus, of the deme Cydathenaus, was a comic playwright of ancient Athens. Eleven of his forty plays survive virtually complete...

 in his comedy The Frogs
The Frogs
The Frogs is a comedy written by the Ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes. It was performed at the Lenaia, one of the Festivals of Dionysus, in 405 BC, and received first place.-Plot:...

. Dionysus, as patron of the Athenian dramatic festival, the Dionysia, wants to bring back to life one of the great tragedians. After a competition Aeschylus
Aeschylus
Aeschylus was the first of the three ancient Greek tragedians whose work has survived, the others being Sophocles and Euripides, and is often described as the father of tragedy. His name derives from the Greek word aiskhos , meaning "shame"...

 is chosen in preference to Euripides
Euripides
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

.

When Theseus
Theseus
For other uses, see Theseus Theseus was the mythical founder-king of Athens, son of Aethra, and fathered by Aegeus and Poseidon, both of whom Aethra had slept with in one night. Theseus was a founder-hero, like Perseus, Cadmus, or Heracles, all of whom battled and overcame foes that were...

 abandoned Ariadne
Ariadne
Ariadne , in Greek mythology, was the daughter of King Minos of Crete, and his queen Pasiphaë, daughter of Helios, the Sun-titan. She aided Theseus in overcoming the Minotaur and was the bride of the god Dionysus.-Minos and Theseus:...

 sleeping on Naxos, Dionysus found and married her. She bore him a son named Oenopion, but he committed suicide or was killed by Perseus
Perseus
Perseus ,Perseos and Perseas are not used in English. the legendary founder of Mycenae and of the Perseid dynasty of Danaans there, was the first of the mythic heroes of Greek mythology whose exploits in defeating various archaic monsters provided the founding myths of the Twelve Olympians...

. In some variants, he had her crown put into the heavens as the constellation Corona; in others, he descended into Hades
Hades
Hades , Hadēs, originally , Haidēs or , Aidēs , meaning "the unseen") was the ancient Greek god of the underworld. The genitive , Haidou, was an elision to denote locality: "[the house/dominion] of Hades". Eventually, the nominative came to designate the abode of the dead.In Greek mythology, Hades...

 to restore her to the gods on Olympus. Another different account claims Dionysus ordered Theseus to abandon Ariadne on the island of Naxos for he had seen her as Theseus carried her onto the ship and had decided to marry her.

Callirrhoe
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 was a Calydon
Calydon
Calydon was an ancient Greek city in Aetolia, situated on the west bank of the river Evenus. According to Greek mythology, the city took its name from its founder Calydon, son of Aetolus. Close to the city stood Mount Zygos, the slopes of which provided the setting for the hunt of the Calydonian...

ian woman who scorned a priest of Dionysus who threatened to afflict all the women of Calydon with insanity (see Maenad
Maenad
In Greek mythology, maenads were the female followers of Dionysus , the most significant members of the Thiasus, the god's retinue. Their name literally translates as "raving ones"...

). The priest was ordered to sacrifice Callirhoe but he killed himself instead. Callirhoe threw herself into a well which was later named after her.

Acis
ACIS
The 3D ACIS Modeler is a 3D modelling kernel owned by Spatial Corporation . ACIS is used by many software developers in industries such as computer-aided design , Computer-aided manufacturing , Computer-aided engineering , Architecture, engineering and construction , Coordinate-measuring machine...

, a Sicilian
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 youth, was sometimes said to be Dionysus' son.



Parallels with Christianity



The earliest discussions of mythological parallels between Dionysus and the figure of the Christ
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 in Christian theology
Christian theology
- Divisions of Christian theology :There are many methods of categorizing different approaches to Christian theology. For a historical analysis, see the main article on the History of Christian theology.- Sub-disciplines :...

 can be traced to Friedrich Hölderlin
Friedrich Hölderlin
Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin was a major German lyric poet, commonly associated with the artistic movement known as Romanticism. Hölderlin was also an important thinker in the development of German Idealism, particularly his early association with and philosophical influence on his...

, whose identification of Dionysus with Christ is most explicit in Brod und Wein (1800–1801) and Der Einzige (1801–1803).

Modern scholars such as Martin Hengel
Martin Hengel
Martin Hengel was a German historian of religion, focusing on the "Second Temple Period" or "Hellenistic Period" of early Judaism.-Biography:...

, Barry Powell
Barry B. Powell
Barry B. Powell is the Halls-Bascom Professor of Classics Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, author of the widely used textbook Classical Myth and many other books. He is a specialist in Homer and in the history of writing...

, and Peter Wick, among others, argue that Dionysian religion and Christianity have notable parallels. They point to the symbolism of wine and the importance it held in the mythology surrounding both Dionysus and Jesus Christ; though, Wick argues that the use of wine symbolism in the Gospel of John
Gospel of John
The Gospel According to John , commonly referred to as the Gospel of John or simply John, and often referred to in New Testament scholarship as the Fourth Gospel, is an account of the public ministry of Jesus...

, including the story of the Marriage at Cana
Marriage at Cana
In Christianity, the transformation of water into wine at the Marriage at Cana or Wedding at Cana is the first miracle of Jesus in the Gospel of John....

 at which Jesus turns water
Water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

 into wine, was intended to show Jesus as superior to Dionysus.

Scholars of comparative mythology
Comparative mythology
Comparative mythology is the comparison of myths from different cultures in an attempt to identify shared themes and characteristics. Comparative mythology has served a variety of academic purposes...

 identify both Dionysus and Jesus with the dying-and-returning god
Life-death-rebirth deity
A dying god, also known as a dying-and-rising or resurrection deity, is a god who dies and is resurrected or reborn, in either a literal or symbolic sense. Male examples include the ancient Near Eastern and Greek deities Baal, Melqart, Adonis, Eshmun, Attis Tammuz, Asclepius, Orpheus, as well as...

 mythological archetype
Archetype
An archetype is a universally understood symbol or term or pattern of behavior, a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated...

. Other elements, such as the celebration by a ritual meal of bread and wine, also have parallels. Powell, in particular, argues precursors to the Christian notion of transubstantiation
Transubstantiation
In Roman Catholic theology, transubstantiation means the change, in the Eucharist, of the substance of wheat bread and grape wine into the substance of the Body and Blood, respectively, of Jesus, while all that is accessible to the senses remains as before.The Eastern Orthodox...

 can be found in Dionysian religion.

Another parallel can be seen in The Bacchae
The Bacchae
The Bacchae is an ancient Greek tragedy by the Athenian playwright Euripides, during his final years in Macedon, at the court of Archelaus I of Macedon. It premiered posthumously at the Theatre of Dionysus in 405 BC as part of a tetralogy that also included Iphigeneia at Aulis, and which...

where Dionysus appears before King Pentheus on charges of claiming divinity which is compared to the New Testament scene of Jesus being interrogated by Pontius Pilate.

E. Kessler in a symposium Pagan Monotheism in the Roman Empire, Exeter, 17–20 July 2006, states that Dionysian cult had developed into strict monotheism
Monotheism
Monotheism is the belief in the existence of one and only one god. Monotheism is characteristic of the Baha'i Faith, Christianity, Druzism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Samaritanism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism.While they profess the existence of only one deity, monotheistic religions may still...

 by the 4th century CE; together with Mithraism
Mithraism
The Mithraic Mysteries were a mystery religion practised in the Roman Empire from about the 1st to 4th centuries AD. The name of the Persian god Mithra, adapted into Greek as Mithras, was linked to a new and distinctive imagery...

 and other sects the cult formed an instance of "pagan monotheism" in direct competition with Early Christianity
Early Christianity
Early Christianity is generally considered as Christianity before 325. The New Testament's Book of Acts and Epistle to the Galatians records that the first Christian community was centered in Jerusalem and its leaders included James, Peter and John....

 during Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, in both mainland Europe and the Mediterranean world. Precise boundaries for the period are a matter of debate, but noted historian of the period Peter Brown proposed...

.

Symbolism


The bull
Bull (mythology)
The worship of the Sacred Bull throughout the ancient world is most familiar to the Western world in the biblical episode of the idol of the Golden Calf. The Golden Calf after being made by the Hebrew people in the wilderness of Sinai, were rejected and destroyed by Moses and his tribe after his...

, the serpent
Serpent (symbolism)
Serpent in Latin means: Rory Collins :&, in turn, from the Biblical Hebrew word of: "saraf" with root letters of: which refers to something burning-as, the pain of poisonous snake's bite was likened to internal burning.This word is commonly used in a specifically mythic or religious context,...

, the ivy
Ivy
Ivy, plural ivies is a genus of 12–15 species of evergreen climbing or ground-creeping woody plants in the family Araliaceae, native to western, central and southern Europe, Macaronesia, northwestern Africa and across central-southern Asia east to Japan and Taiwan.-Description:On level ground they...

 and the wine are the signs of the characteristic Dionysian atmosphere, and Dionysus is strongly associated with satyr
Satyr
In Greek mythology, satyrs are a troop of male companions of Pan and Dionysus — "satyresses" were a late invention of poets — that roamed the woods and mountains. In myths they are often associated with pipe-playing....

s, centaur
Centaur
In Greek mythology, a centaur or hippocentaur is a member of a composite race of creatures, part human and part horse...

s, and sileni
Silenus
In Greek mythology, Silenus was a companion and tutor to the wine god Dionysus.-Evolution of the character:The original Silenus resembled a folklore man of the forest with the ears of a horse and sometimes also the tail and legs of a horse...

. He is often shown riding a leopard
Leopard
The leopard , Panthera pardus, is a member of the Felidae family and the smallest of the four "big cats" in the genus Panthera, the other three being the tiger, lion, and jaguar. The leopard was once distributed across eastern and southern Asia and Africa, from Siberia to South Africa, but its...

, wearing a leopard skin, or in a chariot drawn by panthers
Panther (legendary creature)
A Panther is a creature out of ancient myth that resembles a big cat with a multicoloured hide.Under medieval belief after feasting the panther will sleep in a cave for a total of three days. After this period ends, the panther roars, in the process emitting a sweet smelling odor...

, and may also be recognized by the thyrsus
Thyrsus
In Greek mythology, a thyrsus or thyrsos was a staff of giant fennel covered with ivy vines and leaves, sometimes wound with taeniae and always topped with a pine cone. These staffs were carried by Dionysus and his followers. Euripides wrote that honey dripped from the thyrsos staves that the...

 he carries. Besides the grapevine
Vitis
Vitis is a genus of about 60 species of vining plants in the flowering plant family Vitaceae. The genus is made up of species predominantly from the Northern hemisphere. It is economically important as the source of grapes, both for direct consumption of the fruit and for fermentation to produce...

 and its wild barren alter-ego, the toxic ivy plant, both sacred to him, the fig
Ficus
Ficus is a genus of about 850 species of woody trees, shrubs, vines, epiphytes, and hemiepiphyte in the family Moraceae. Collectively known as fig trees or figs, they are native throughout the tropics with a few species extending into the semi-warm temperate zone. The Common Fig Ficus is a genus of...

 was also his symbol. The pinecone that tipped his thyrsus linked him to Cybele
Cybele
Cybele , was a Phrygian form of the Earth Mother or Great Mother. As with Greek Gaia , her Minoan equivalent Rhea and some aspects of Demeter, Cybele embodies the fertile Earth...

. The Dionysia
Dionysia
The Dionysia[p] was a large festival in ancient Athens in honor of the god Dionysus, the central events of which were the theatrical performances of dramatic tragedies and, from 487 BC, comedies. It was the second-most important festival after the Panathenaia...

 and Lenaia
Lenaia
The Lenaia was an annual festival with a dramatic competition. It was one of the lesser festivals of Athens and Ionia in ancient Greece. The Lenaia took place in Athens in the month of Gamelion, roughly corresponding to January. The festival was in honour of Dionysos Lenaios...

 festivals in Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 were dedicated to Dionysus. Initiates worshipped him in the Dionysian Mysteries
Dionysian Mysteries
The Dionysian Mysteries were a ritual of ancient Greece and Rome which used intoxicants and other trance-inducing techniques to remove inhibitions and social constraints, liberating the individual to return to a natural state. It also provided some liberation for those marginalized by Greek...

, which were comparable to and linked with the Orphic Mysteries, and may have influenced Gnosticism
Gnosticism
Gnosticism is a scholarly term for a set of religious beliefs and spiritual practices common to early Christianity, Hellenistic Judaism, Greco-Roman mystery religions, Zoroastrianism , and Neoplatonism.A common characteristic of some of these groups was the teaching that the realisation of Gnosis...

. Orpheus was said to have invented the Mysteries of Dionysus.

Dionysus was another god of resurrection who was strongly linked to the bull. In a cult hymn from Olympia
Olympia, Greece
Olympia , a sanctuary of ancient Greece in Elis, is known for having been the site of the Olympic Games in classical times, comparable in importance to the Pythian Games held in Delphi. Both games were held every Olympiad , the Olympic Games dating back possibly further than 776 BC...

, at a festival for Hera, Dionysus is invited to come as a bull; "with bull-foot raging." Walter Burkert
Walter Burkert
Walter Burkert is a German scholar of Greek mythology and cult.An emeritus professor of classics at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, he also has taught in the United Kingdom and the United States...

 relates, "Quite frequently [Dionysus] is portrayed with bull horns, and in Kyzikos he has a tauromorphic image," and refers also to an archaic myth in which Dionysus is slaughtered as a bull calf and impiously eaten by the Titans
Titan (mythology)
In Greek mythology, the Titans were a race of powerful deities, descendants of Gaia and Uranus, that ruled during the legendary Golden Age....

. In the Classical period of Greece, the bull and other animals identified with deities were separated from them as their agalma, a kind of heraldic show-piece that concretely signified their numinous presence.

Bacchanalia



Introduced into Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 (c. 200 BC) from the Greek culture of southern Italy
Magna Graecia
Magna Græcia is the name of the coastal areas of Southern Italy on the Tarentine Gulf that were extensively colonized by Greek settlers; particularly the Achaean colonies of Tarentum, Crotone, and Sybaris, but also, more loosely, the cities of Cumae and Neapolis to the north...

 or by way of Greek-influenced Etruria
Etruria
Etruria—usually referred to in Greek and Latin source texts as Tyrrhenia—was a region of Central Italy, an area that covered part of what now are Tuscany, Latium, Emilia-Romagna, and Umbria. A particularly noteworthy work dealing with Etruscan locations is D. H...

, the bacchanalia were held in secret and attended by women only, in the grove of Simila, near the Aventine Hill
Aventine Hill
The Aventine Hill is one of the seven hills on which ancient Rome was built. It belongs to Ripa, the twelfth rione, or ward, of Rome.-Location and boundaries:The Aventine hill is the southernmost of Rome's seven hills...

, on March 16 and 17. Subsequently, admission to the rites was extended to men and celebrations took place five times a month. The mystery-cult may have been seen as a threat to the political status quo. The notoriety of these festivals, where many kinds of crimes and political conspiracies were supposed to be planned, led to a decree by the Senate
Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

 in 186 BC — the so-called Senatus consultum de Bacchanalibus, inscribed on a bronze tablet discovered in Calabria
Calabria
Calabria , in antiquity known as Bruttium, is a region in southern Italy, south of Naples, located at the "toe" of the Italian Peninsula. The capital city of Calabria is Catanzaro....

 (1640), now in Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

 — by which the Bacchanalia were prohibited throughout all Italy except in special cases that required specific approval by the Senate. In spite of the severe punishment inflicted on those found in violation of this decree, the Bacchanalia were not stamped out, at any rate in the south of Italy, for a very long time.

Dionysus is equated with both Bacchus and Liber
Liber
In ancient Roman religion and mythology, Liber , also known as Liber Pater was a god of viticulture and wine, fertility and freedom. He was a patron deity of Rome's plebeians and was part of their Aventine Triad. His festival of Liberalia became associated with free speech and the rights...

 (also Liber Pater). Liber ("the free one") was a god of male fertility, wine, and growth, whose female counterpart was Libera
Libera (mythology)
Libera is a fertility goddess in ancient Roman religion. Her origins are unknown; she may have been a fertility goddess of archaic or pre-Roman Magna Graecia. Her Latin name is the feminine form of Liber,...

. His festival was the Liberalia, celebrated on March 17, but in some myths the festival was also held on March 5.

In art



Classical


The god appeared on many krater
Krater
A krater was a large vase used to mix wine and water in Ancient Greece.-Form and function:...

s and other wine vessels from classical Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

. His iconography became more complex in the Hellenistic period, between severe archaising or Neo Attic types such as the Dionysus Sardanapalus and types showing him as an indolent and androgynous young man and often shown nude (see the Dionysus and Eros, Naples Archeological Museum
Naples National Archaeological Museum
The Naples National Archaeological Museum is a museum in Naples, southern Italy, at the northwest corner of the original Greek wall of the city of Neapolis. The museum contains a large collection of Roman artifacts from Pompeii, Stabiae and Herculaneum...

). The 4th century Lycurgus Cup
Lycurgus cup
The Lycurgus Cup is a Roman glass cage cup now in the British Museum, made of a dichroic glass, which shows a different colour depending on whether or not light is passing through it; red when lit from behind and green when lit from in front...

 in the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

 is a spectacular cage cup
Cage cup
A cage cup, Greek diatreton, also vas diatretum, plural diatreta, or "reticulated cup" is a type of luxury Late Roman glass vessel, found from roughly the 4th century, and "the pinnacle of Roman achievements in glass-making"...

 which changes colour when light comes through the glass; it shows the bound King Lycurgus (Thrace)
Lycurgus (Thrace)
In Greek mythology, Lycurgus was the king of the Edoni in Thrace, son of Dryas, the "oak", and father of a son whose name was also Dryas. He banned the cult of Dionysus. When Lycurgus heard that Dionysus was in his kingdom, he imprisoned Dionysus's followers, the Maenads, or drove them and...

 being taunted by the god and attacked by a satyr.

Elizabeth Kessler has theorized that a mosaic appearing on the triclinium
Triclinium
A triclinium is a formal dining room in a Roman building. The word is adopted from the Greek τρικλίνιον, triklinion, from τρι-, tri-, "three", and κλίνη, klinē, a sort of "couch" or rather chaise longue...

 floor of the House of Aion in Nea Paphos, Cyprus, details a monotheistic worship of Dionysus. In the mosaic, other gods appear but may only be lesser representations of the centrally imposed Dionysus.

Modern views


Dionysus has remained an inspiration to artists, philosophers and writers into the modern era. In The Birth of Tragedy
The Birth of Tragedy
The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music is a 19th-century work of dramatic theory by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. It was reissued in 1886 as The Birth of Tragedy, Or: Hellenism and Pessimism ...

(1872), the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist...

 contrasted Dionysus with the god Apollo
Apollonian and Dionysian
The Apollonian and Dionysian is a philosophical and literary concept, or dichotomy, based on certain features of ancient Greek mythology. Several Western philosophical and literary figures have invoked this dichotomy in critical and creative works....

 as a symbol of the fundamental, unrestrained aesthetic principle of force, music, and intoxication versus the principle of sight, form, and beauty represented by the latter. Nietzsche also claimed that the oldest forms of Greek Tragedy were entirely based on suffering of Dionysus. Nietzsche continued to contemplate the character of Dionysus, which he revisited in the final pages of his 1886 work Beyond Good and Evil
Beyond Good and Evil
Beyond Good and Evil is a book by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, first published in 1886.It takes up and expands on the ideas of his previous work, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, but approached from a more critical, polemical direction....

. This reconceived Nietzschean Dionysus was invoked as an embodiment of the central will to power
Will to power
The will to power is widely seen as a prominent concept in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. The will to power describes what Nietzsche may have believed to be the main driving force in man; achievement, ambition, the striving to reach the highest possible position in life; these are all...

 concept in Nietzsche's later works The Twilight of the Idols, The Antichrist
The Antichrist (book)
The Antichrist is a book by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, originally published in 1895. Although it was written in 1888, its controversial content made Franz Overbeck and Heinrich Köselitz delay its publication, along with Ecce Homo...

and Ecce Homo
Ecce Homo
Ecce Homo are the Latin words used by Pontius Pilate in the Vulgate translation of the , when he presents a scourged Jesus Christ, bound and crowned with thorns, to a hostile crowd shortly before his Crucifixion. The original Greek is Ἰδοὺ ὁ ἄνθρωπος . The King James Version translates the phrase...

.

Károly Kerényi, a scholar in classical philology
Classical philology
Classical philology is the study of ancient Greek and classical Latin. Classical philology has been defined as "the careful study of the literary and philosophical texts of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds." Greek and Latin literature and civilization have traditionally been considered...

 and one of the founders of modern studies in Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 characterized Dionysus as representative of the psychological life force (Zoê). Other scholars proposing psychological interpretations have placed Dionysus' emotionality
Emotionality
Emotionality is the observable behavioral and physiological component of emotion, and is a measure of a person's emotional reactivity to a stimulus. It is often used by psychology researchers to operationalize emotion in research studies...

 in the foreground by focusing on the joy
Joy
Joy may refer to:* Happiness, an emotion* Joy , people with the given name or surname Joy-Music:Bands & performers* Joy * Joy Albums* Joy ; also the title track from that album...

, terror
Terror
Terror may refer to:*Fear, an emotional response to threats and danger*Terror, a political strategy of the asymmetrical use of threats and violence against enemies using means that fall outside the routine forms of political struggle operating within some current regime*Terrorism, the fact of...

 or hysteria
Hysteria
Hysteria, in its colloquial use, describes unmanageable emotional excesses. People who are "hysterical" often lose self-control due to an overwhelming fear that may be caused by multiple events in one's past that involved some sort of severe conflict; the fear can be centered on a body part, or,...

 associated with the god.

The Russian
Russians
The Russian people are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia, speaking the Russian language and primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries....

 poet
Poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

 and philosopher Vyacheslav Ivanov
Vyacheslav Ivanovich Ivanov
Vyacheslav Ivanovich Ivanov was a Russian poet and playwright associated with the Russian Symbolist movement. He was also a philosopher, translator, and literary critic.-Early life:...

 elaborated the theory of Dionysianism, which traces the roots of literary art in general and the art of tragedy in particular to ancient Dionysian mysteries. His views were expressed in the treatises The Hellenic Religion of the Suffering God (1904), and Dionysus and Early Dionysianism (1921).

Inspired by James Frazer
James Frazer
Sir James George Frazer , was a Scottish social anthropologist influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology and comparative religion...

, some have labeled Dionysus a life-death-rebirth deity
Life-death-rebirth deity
A dying god, also known as a dying-and-rising or resurrection deity, is a god who dies and is resurrected or reborn, in either a literal or symbolic sense. Male examples include the ancient Near Eastern and Greek deities Baal, Melqart, Adonis, Eshmun, Attis Tammuz, Asclepius, Orpheus, as well as...

. The mythographer Karl Kerenyi
Karl Kerényi
Károly Kerényi was a Hungarian scholar in classical philology, one of the founders of modern studies in Greek mythology.- Hungary 1897–1943 :...

 devoted much energy to Dionysus over his long career; he summed up his thoughts in Dionysos: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life (Bollingen, Princeton, 1976).

Dionysus is the main character of Aristophanes' play The Frogs
The Frogs
The Frogs is a comedy written by the Ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes. It was performed at the Lenaia, one of the Festivals of Dionysus, in 405 BC, and received first place.-Plot:...

, later updated to a modern version
The Frogs (musical)
The Frogs is a musical "freely adapted" by Stephen Sondheim and Burt Shevelove from The Frogs, an Ancient Greek comedy by Aristophanes, originally performed in Yale University's gymnasium's swimming pool in 1974....

 by Burt Shevelove
Burt Shevelove
Burt Shevelove was an American musical theater playwright, lyricist, librettist, and director. Born in Newark, New Jersey, he graduated from Brown University and Yale . At Brown in 1935, he acted in the first ever Brownbrokers musical titled Something Bruin...

 (libretto) and Stephen Sondheim
Stephen Sondheim
Stephen Joshua Sondheim is an American composer and lyricist for stage and film. He is the winner of an Academy Award, multiple Tony Awards including the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre, multiple Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize and the Laurence Olivier Award...

 (music and lyrics) ("The time is the present. The place is ancient Greece. ... "). In the play, Dionysus and his slave Xanthius venture to Hades to bring a famed writer back from the dead, with the hopes that the writer's presence in the world will fix all nature of earthly problems. In Aristophanes' play, Euripides
Euripides
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

 competes against Aeschylus to be recovered from the underworld; In Sondheim and Shevelove's, George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60...

 faces William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

.

The Romanised equivalent of Dionysus was referenced in the 1852
1852 in literature
The year 1852 in literature involved some significant new books.-New books:*Manuel Antônio de Almeida - Memoirs of a Police Sergeant*Wilkie Collins - Basil: A Story of Modern Life...

 plantation literature
Anti-Tom literature
Anti-Tom literature refers to the 19th century pro-slavery novels and other literary works written in response to Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. Also called Plantation literature, these writings were generally written by authors from the Southern United States...

 novel Aunt Phillis's Cabin is alive, which featured a character named Uncle Bacchus, who was so-named due to his excessive alcoholism
Alcoholism
Alcoholism is a broad term for problems with alcohol, and is generally used to mean compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcoholic beverages, usually to the detriment of the drinker's health, personal relationships, and social standing...

.

Both Eddie Campbell
Eddie Campbell
Eddie Campbell is a Scottish comics artist and cartoonist who now lives in Australia. Probably best known as the illustrator and publisher of From Hell , Campbell is also the creator of the semi-autobiographical Alec stories collected in Alec: The Years Have Pants, and Bacchus , a wry adventure...

 and Grant Morrison
Grant Morrison
Grant Morrison is a Scottish comic book writer, playwright and occultist. He is known for his nonlinear narratives and counter-cultural leanings, as well as his successful runs on titles like Animal Man, Doom Patrol, JLA, The Invisibles, New X-Men, Fantastic Four, All-Star Superman, and...

 have utilised the character. Morrison claims that the myth of Dionysus provides the inspiration for his violent and explicit graphic novel Kill Your Boyfriend
Kill Your Boyfriend
Kill Your Boyfriend is the title of a comic book one-shot written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Philip Bond and D'Israeli for DC Comics Vertigo imprint in June 1995.-Publication history:...

, whilst Campbell used the character in his Deadface
Bacchus (comics)
Bacchus is a comics character created by Eddie Campbell and based upon the Roman god of wine and revelry, known to the Greeks as Dionysus.-Publication history:...

series to explore both the conventions of super-hero comic books and artistic endeavour.

Dionysus is one of the central myths explored in the 2011 Weaponized anthology The Immanence of Myth.

Inspired by James Frazer
James Frazer
Sir James George Frazer , was a Scottish social anthropologist influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology and comparative religion...

, some have labeled Dionysus a life-death-rebirth deity
Life-death-rebirth deity
A dying god, also known as a dying-and-rising or resurrection deity, is a god who dies and is resurrected or reborn, in either a literal or symbolic sense. Male examples include the ancient Near Eastern and Greek deities Baal, Melqart, Adonis, Eshmun, Attis Tammuz, Asclepius, Orpheus, as well as...

. The mythographer Karl Kerenyi
Karl Kerényi
Károly Kerényi was a Hungarian scholar in classical philology, one of the founders of modern studies in Greek mythology.- Hungary 1897–1943 :...

 devoted much energy to Dionysus over his long career; he summed up his thoughts in Dionysos: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life (Bollingen, Princeton, 1976).

Walt Disney
Walt Disney
Walter Elias "Walt" Disney was an American film producer, director, screenwriter, voice actor, animator, entrepreneur, entertainer, international icon, and philanthropist, well-known for his influence in the field of entertainment during the 20th century. Along with his brother Roy O...

 has depicted the character on a number of occasions. The first such portrayal of Dionysus, as the Roman Bacchus, was in the "Pastoral
Pastoral
The adjective pastoral refers to the lifestyle of pastoralists, such as shepherds herding livestock around open areas of land according to seasons and the changing availability of water and pasturage. It also refers to a genre in literature, art or music that depicts such shepherd life in an...

" segment of Walt Disney's third classic Fantasia
Fantasia (film)
Fantasia is a 1940 American animated film produced by Walt Disney and released by Walt Disney Productions. The third feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, the film consists of eight animated segments set to pieces of classical music conducted by Leopold Stokowski, seven of which are...

. In keeping with the more fun-loving Roman god, he is portrayed as an overweight, happily drunk man wearing a tunic
Tunic
A tunic is any of several types of clothing for the body, of various lengths reaching from the shoulders to somewhere between the hips and the ankles...

 and cloak, grape leaves
Grape leaves
Grape leaves are used in the cuisines of a number of cultures, including Turkish cuisine, Greek cuisine, Bulgarian cuisine, Arab cuisine, Romanian cuisine, and Vietnamese cuisine. They are most often picked fresh from the vine and stuffed with a mixture of rice, meat, and spices, and then cooked by...

 on his head, carrying a goblet of wine, and riding a drunken donkey named Jacchus ("jackass
Donkey
The donkey or ass, Equus africanus asinus, is a domesticated member of the Equidae or horse family. The wild ancestor of the donkey is the African Wild Ass, E...

"). He is friends with the fauns and centaurs, and is shown celebrating a harvest festival. Other portrayals have appeared in both the Disney movie
Hercules (1997 film)
Hercules is a 1997 American animated film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The thirty-fifth animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, the film was directed by Ron Clements and John Musker...

 and spin-off TV series
Hercules: The Animated Series
Hercules is an animated series based on the 1997 film of the same name and the Greek myth. The series follows teenage Hercules training as a hero as well as trying to adjust to life. With his free-spirited friend Icarus, his future-seeing friend Cassandra and his teacher Philoctetes , he battles...

 of Hercules. He was depicted as an overweight drunkard as opposed to his youthful descriptions in myths. He has bright pink skin and rosy red cheeks hinting at his drunkenness. He always carries either a bottle or glass of wine in his hand, and like in the myths, wears a wreath of grape leaves upon his head. In the series he is known by his Roman name "Bacchus", and in one episode headlines his own festival known as the "Bacchanal".

In music Dionysius (together with Demeter
Demeter
In Greek mythology, Demeter is the goddess of the harvest, who presided over grains, the fertility of the earth, and the seasons . Her common surnames are Sito as the giver of food or corn/grain and Thesmophoros as a mark of the civilized existence of agricultural society...

) was used as an archetype for the character Tori by contemporary artist Tori Amos
Tori Amos
Tori Amos is an American pianist, singer-songwriter and composer. She was at the forefront of a number of female singer-songwriters in the early 1990s and was noteworthy early in her career as one of the few alternative rock performers to use a piano as her primary instrument...

 in her 2007 album American Doll Posse
American Doll Posse
American Doll Posse is the ninth studio album by singer-songwriter Tori Amos; it was released in 2007. Like her previous albums Strange Little Girls and Scarlet's Walk , American Doll Posse is a concept album, which entails five female personae Amos developed based on Greek mythology. Musically,...

, and the Canadian rock band Rush
Rush (band)
Rush is a Canadian rock band formed in August 1968, in the Willowdale neighbourhood of Toronto, Ontario. The band is composed of bassist, keyboardist, and lead vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer and lyricist Neil Peart...

 refer to a confrontation and hatred between Dionysus and Apollo
Apollo
Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in Greek and Roman mythology...

 in the Cygnus X-1 duology.

Dionysus along with Lilith
Lilith
Lilith is a character in Jewish mythology, found earliest in the Babylonian Talmud, who is generally thought to be related to a class of female demons Līlīṯu in Mesopotamian texts. However, Lowell K. Handy notes, "Very little information has been found relating to the Akkadian and Babylonian view...

 are central characters in James Curcio's 2011 novel Fallen Nation: Party At The World's End.

In literature, Dionysius has proven equally inspiring. Rick Riordan
Rick Riordan
Richard Russell "Rick" Riordan, Jr. is an American author best known for writing the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series. He also wrote the Tres Navarre mystery series for adults and helped to edit Demigods and Monsters, a collection of essays on the topic of his Percy Jackson series...

's series of books Percy Jackson & The Olympians
Percy Jackson & the Olympians
Percy Jackson & the Olympians is a pentalogy of adventure and fantasy fiction books authored by Rick Riordan. The series consists of five books, as well as spin-off titles such as The Demigod Files and Demigods and Monsters. Set in the United States, the books are predominantly based on Greek...

presents Dionysus as an uncaring, childish and spoilt god who as a punishment has to work in Camp Half-Blood. In Fred Saberhagen
Fred Saberhagen
Fred Thomas Saberhagen was an American science fiction and fantasy author most famous for his Berserker series of science fiction short stories and S.F...

's 2001 novel, God of the Golden Fleece, a young man in a post-apocalyptic world picks up an ancient piece of technology shaped in the likeness of the Dionysus. Here, Dionysus is depicted as a relatively weak god, albeit a subversive one whose powers are able to undermine the authority of tyrants.

A version of Bacchus also appears in C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis
Clive Staples Lewis , commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis and known to his friends and family as "Jack", was a novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian and Christian apologist from Belfast, Ireland...

' Prince Caspian
Prince Caspian
Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia is a novel for children by C. S. Lewis, written in late 1949 and first published in 1951. It is the second-published book in the Chronicles of Narnia series, although in the overall chronological sequence it comes fourth.-Plot summary:While standing on a...

, part of The Chronicles of Narnia
The Chronicles of Narnia
The Chronicles of Narnia is a series of seven fantasy novels for children by C. S. Lewis. It is considered a classic of children's literature and is the author's best-known work, having sold over 100 million copies in 47 languages...

. Lewis depicts him as dangerous-looking, androgynous young boy who helps Aslan awaken the spirits of the Narnian trees and rivers. He does not appear in the 2008 film version.

In 2009 the poet Stephen Howarth
Stephen Howarth
Stephen Purbeck Howarth known as S.P. is a poet, Stuckist artist and actor. He was expelled from college for his paintings. He has demonstrated against the Turner prize at the Tate gallery.-Life and work:...

 and veteran theatre producer Andrew Hobbs collaborated on a play entitled Bacchus in Rehab with Dionysus as the central character. The authors describe the piece as "combining highbrow concept and lowbrow humour".

The second season of True Blood
True Blood
True Blood is an American television series created and produced by Alan Ball. It is based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries series of novels by Charlaine Harris, detailing the co-existence of vampires and humans in Bon Temps, a fictional, small town in the state of Louisiana...

 involves a plot line wherein a maenad
Maenad
In Greek mythology, maenads were the female followers of Dionysus , the most significant members of the Thiasus, the god's retinue. Their name literally translates as "raving ones"...

, Maryann, causes mayhem in the Louisiana town of Bon Temps in attempt to summon Dionysus.

Names originating from Dionysus

  • Dion (also spelled Deion, Deon and Dionne)
  • Denise (also spelled Denice, Daniesa, Denese, and Denisse)
  • Dennis, Denis or Denys (including the derivative surnames Denison and Dennison), Denny
  • Denis, Dionis, Dionisie (Romanian
    Romanian language
    Romanian Romanian Romanian (or Daco-Romanian; obsolete spellings Rumanian, Roumanian; self-designation: română, limba română ("the Romanian language") or românește (lit. "in Romanian") is a Romance language spoken by around 24 to 28 million people, primarily in Romania and Moldova...

    )
  • Dénes (Hungarian
    Hungarian language
    Hungarian is a Uralic language, part of the Ugric group. With some 14 million speakers, it is one of the most widely spoken non-Indo-European languages in Europe....

    )
  • Dionisio/Dyonisio (Spanish
    Spanish language
    Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

    ), Dionigi (Italian
    Italian language
    Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

    )
  • Διονύσιος, Διονύσης, Νιόνιος (Dionysios, Dionysis, Nionios Modern Greek
    Greek language
    Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

    )
  • Deniska (diminutive of Russian Denis, itself a derivative of the Greek)
  • Dionísio (Portuguese)
  • Dionizy (Polish)

See also

  • Apollonian and Dionysian
    Apollonian and Dionysian
    The Apollonian and Dionysian is a philosophical and literary concept, or dichotomy, based on certain features of ancient Greek mythology. Several Western philosophical and literary figures have invoked this dichotomy in critical and creative works....

  • Bacchanalia
    Bacchanalia
    The bacchanalia were wild and mystic festivals of the Greco-Roman god Bacchus , the wine god. The term has since come to describe any form of drunken revelry.-History:...

  • Bacchic art
    Bacchic art
    Bacchic art refers, in general, to art honouring the god Bacchus, but in specific to representations, particularly sculpture, of his followers, such as satyrs, centaurs and hermaphrodites...

  • Dionysian Mysteries
    Dionysian Mysteries
    The Dionysian Mysteries were a ritual of ancient Greece and Rome which used intoxicants and other trance-inducing techniques to remove inhibitions and social constraints, liberating the individual to return to a natural state. It also provided some liberation for those marginalized by Greek...

  • Orgia
    Orgia
    In ancient Greek religion, an orgion was an ecstatic form of worship characteristic of some mystery cults...

  • Theatre of Dionysus
    Theatre of Dionysus
    The Theatre of Dionysus is a major open-air theatre and one of the earliest preserved in Athens. It was used for festivals in honor of the god Dionysus...


Further reading

  • Livy
    Livy
    Titus Livius — known as Livy in English — was a Roman historian who wrote a monumental history of Rome and the Roman people. Ab Urbe Condita Libri, "Chapters from the Foundation of the City," covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome well before the traditional foundation in 753 BC...

    , History of Rome, Book 39:13, Description of banned Bacchanalia in Rome and Italy
  • Detienne, Marcel
    Marcel Detienne
    Marcel Detienne is a Belgian historian and specialist in the study of ancient Greece. He is Professor Emeritus at The Johns Hopkins University, where he held the Basil L...

    , Arthur Goldhammer (translator), Dionysos at Large, Harvard University Press, 1989. ISBN 0674207734. (Originally in French as Dionysos à ciel ouvert, 1986)
  • Albert Henrichs, Between City and Country: Cultic Dimensions of Dionysus in Athens and Attica, (April 1, 1990). Department of Classics, UCB. Cabinet of the Muses: Rosenmeyer Festschrift. Paper festschrift18.
  • Seaford, Richard. Dionysos (Gods and Heroes of the Ancient World). Oxford: Routledge, 2006 (hardcover, ISBN 0-415-32487-4; paperback, ISBN 0-415-32488-2).
  • Taylor-Perry, Rosemarie The God Who Comes: Dionysian Mysteries Revisited. New York: Algora Press, 2003 (hardcover, ISBN 0-87586-214-4; paperback, ISBN 0-87586-213-6).

External links