Greek God of Wine & the Grape Harvest
Dionysus was the ancient Greek god of wine, winemaking, grape cultivation, fertility, ritual madness, theater, and religious ecstasy. His Roman name was Bacchus. He may have been worshiped as early as 1500-11000 BCE by Mycenean Greeks. As wine was a major part of ancient Greek culture, Dionysus was an important and popular figure in mythology. He was one of the twelve Olympians, although he was the last to arrive, and his unusual birth and upbringing marked him as an outsider.
Earlier images and descriptions of Dionysus depict him as a mature male, bearded and robed holding a fennel staff tipped with a pine-cone. However, in later images the god is show to be a beardless, sensuous, naked or semi-naked androgynous youth. He is described in literature as womanly or “man-womanish”.
He was the son of Zeus and the mortal Semele, making Dionysus semi-device or a hero.
The most common origin given for Dionysus was that he was the son of Zeus and Semele. Zeus seduced and impregnated the beautiful princess of Thebes, but then a jealous Hera tricked Semele into demanding that Zeus reveal his true form to her. As a mortal, Semele could not look upon a god’s true form without dying. Zeus managed to rescue the unborn Dionysus by sewing him into his thigh. A few months later, Dionysus was born from Zeus’s thigh. Other versions state that Dionysus’s mother was Persephone or Demeter and that Hera sent Titans to kill the infant Dionysus. Regardless of the mother’s identity or the nature of the near-death, the myths remained consistent that Zeus sewed Dionysus into his thigh. Thus, Dionysus was known to have been twice-born and was sometimes called “dimetor” (of two mothers).
After Dionysus was born from Zeus’s thigh, he was taken to Silenus and the rain nymphs of Mount Nysa to be raised hidden from Hera’s wrath. In some versions, he was later taken to be cared for by Semele’s sister Ino. Once Dionysus was grown, he learned to cultivate grapes and became the first to turn them into wine. He then wandered across Asia teaching mortals the secrets of winemaking. After his long sojourn, Dionysus ascended Mount Olympus and became the last-arriving of the twelve Olympians.
Because Dionysus was the only Olympian with a mortal mother, because he was raised on the mythical Mount Nysa (which was believed to be either far to the south or the east), and because he wandered Asia before arriving in Greece, Dionysus was seen as an outsider. This was an inherent part of his cult, which often focused on the more subversive elements of his nature. Dionysus was often called Eleutherios, meaning “the liberator,” because his wine, music, and ecstatic dance freed his followers from self-consciousness and the restraints of society.
Indeed, as the “twice-born” god, Dionysus had crossed the boundary between life and death, and he was often portrayed as the god who crossed the boundary between the civilized and uncivilized and the known and unknown. He was represented as a god of chaos and the protector of misfits.
Facts about Dionysus
- Dionysus was primarily known as the God of the Vine.
- He was also referred to as Bacchus.
- Dionysus and Demeter, the Goddess of the Corn, were the supreme deities of the earth.
- Unlike the immortal gods, who were often hostile toward human beings, Dionysus and Demeter were benevolent toward mankind.
- Dionysus was the younger of the two, and little is known about how he came to take his place beside Demeter to be worshipped.
- Dionysus and Demeter were worshipped at Eleusis, a little town near Athens.
- Dionysus was a happy god during the harvest, but during the winter he languished along with the rest of the Earth.
- Dionysus was the last god to enter Olympus.
- Dionysus was the son of Zeus and the Theban princess Semele. He was the only god who had a mortal parent.
- He was born in Thebes.
- He was born of fire and nursed by rain. His birth corresponds to the development of grapes: heat ripens the fruit and water keeps it alive.
- Upon reaching adulthood, Dionysus wandered the Earth, teaching men the culture of the vine.
- Many festivals were held in honor of Dionysus: the Lesser or Rural Dionysia, the Greater or City Dionysia, the Anthesteria, and the Lenaea.
- Dionysus was variously represented in art as a full-grown bearded man, as a beast, and as a slight youth.
- Dionysus was insulted by Lycurgus, one of the kings in Thrace. Dionysus initially retreated and took refuge in the sea, but later he imprisoned Lycurgus for opposing his worship.
- Performances of tragedy and comedy were a part of the festivals thrown in his honor.
- Dionysus was also honored in lyric poetry.
- Dionysus was once captured by pirates because he looked like the son of a king. They kidnapped him, envisioning the ransom his parents would pay upon his return. Aboard the ship, the pirates were unable to confine him; the ropes fell apart when they touched Dionysus.
- Dionysus rescued the princess of Crete, Ariadne, and subsequently fell in love with her. Upon her death, Dionysus placed the crown he had given her among the stars.
- Though Dionysus was mostly a kind and generous deity, he could be cruel when necessary. Pentheus, a king of Thebes, tried to stop the frenzied worship of Dionysus. He attempted to imprison the God of Wine, while hurling insults and accusations at him. Dionysus explained his own eminence calmly, but Pentheus was unreceptive. Dionysus caused the Theban women to go mad so that they thought Pentheus a wild beast. They tore Pentheus limb from limb.
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Link will appear as Dionysus: https://greekgodsandgoddesses.net - Greek Gods & Goddesses, September 19, 2014