Dionysus (Bacchus, the Wanderer)

dionysusDionysus was an Olympian god of wine, festivals and pleasure. He was so popular among gods and mortals that many festivals, which were being held during a year, were in his honor. Dionysus traveled more time than being home in order to escape Hera's harrasment. In his journey, he gained many followers and fans because, wherever he came, he taught the locals making wine out of grapes. With a bit more than a drop of wine in their bodies, they sure knew how to celebrate the arrival of "The Wanderer", a name that he got while still traveling across Greece and partying with the locals. His journey brought him to the eastern edge of the planet (now known as Asia) and made him known worldwide. When he came home, he was asked to take his place on Mount Olympus. Even Hera has finally accepted him.

Appearance in the works of art

Usually, he is depicted as a healthy young man, wearing a wreath of ivy on his head, holding "thyrsos", a light staff wrapped with leaves of ivy, and a pine cone on its top. He is also usually accompanied by a troop of Satyrs and Mainades. Sometimes, he is depicted as a fully grown man with a large beard.

Birth of Dionysus

Dionysus was a descendant of Zeus and mortal woman Semele. He is actually the only god of mortal mother and his birth was unique as well. It all started when Hera disguised in Semele's maid and gave her advice to make Zeus swear an oath to answer a single question.bacchus and nymphs of Nysa It was all a plot to kill Semele because Hera suspected her having a relationship with Zeus. And when Zeus came and swore that he would answer any question, Semele asked him to reveal his true identity. Zeus had no choice but to answer and when he shifted to his true nature, the room, they were in, was overwhelmed with lightnings and killed pregnant Semele. The king of the gods then immediately sent for his loyal servant Hermes to help with saving the child. Hermes stitched the child into the thigh of Zeus who helped him grow a bit more before releasing him. When Dionysus was born, he was, like many other illegitimate infants, harassed by Hera and her minions. Those who helped Dionysus had to be moving him constantly to keep his whereabouts a secret. And it was Hermes once again who finally found him a safe shelter with a group of mountain nymphs, away from the eyes of many. Dionysus spent his childhood with these nymphs and invented the process of growing grapes and making wine. However, his childhood did not last long because Hera found out about his location and he was forced to move again. His path guided him around the world.

Wandering around

While traveling to Thebes, Dionysus was a witness of great insolence by a man called Pentheus who dismissed him as a god and prevented all the women of Thebes to join his rites or parties. This angered Dionysus who then casted a spell of Bacchic frenzy, causing all the women to answer and come to his party. Because of this, Pentheus had Dionysus arrested and imprisoned, thinking he was nothing but a follower. The prison could not hold Dionysus who in revenge disguised himself as a woman and lured Pentheus to spy on the Bacchic ritual. Pentheus, a grandson of the great Cadmus, thought he would be a part of famous orgy but was instead tied to a tree because women had seen him as a wild animal. He was torn to pieces by women of Thebes and only when they were heading back to the city and carrying his parts, his true identity was revealed by Dionysus. In another myth, Dionysus travels to Attica to celebrate the new king of Athens. Icarius welcomed Dionysus who taught him the art of making wine. Icarius was eager to share the god’s kindness with mankind and he went to some locals to present the wine.bacchic rituals They drank it all at once, not knowing of its effects, and thought they had been poisoned and consequently killed Icarius. Next day, when they woke up and realised what they had done, they buried poor Icarius. But his daughter Erigone was looking for him and her dog helped her to unearth the body. She was so desperate that she hanged herself. Dionysus, angered again, brought drought to the land of Athens and afflicted their women with frenzy which caused them into hanging themselves. By consulting with Apollo, Athenians softened the wrath of Dionysus by honoring and celebrating the deaths of Icarius and Erigone each year. In Tyrrhenian pirates myth, he was captured by Tyrrhenian pirates who promised him to give him a ride to Naxos but instead turned their ship to Asia, where they had planned to sell him. They tied him on the deck of the ship, trying to rape him when suddenly the sounds of flute were heard and ivy and grapevines covered the ship, making it stop. Lions and panthers appeared on ship and frightened the sailors who jumped from the ship into the sea. Upon falling into water, they were transformed into dolphins. One of them was put in the sky as the constellation (Delphinus), as a warning for sailors to behave.

Other myths

In more of a family oriented myths, when Dionysus finally came to Naxos, he found Ariadne, a daughter of king Minos. She was abandoned by Theseus, after helping him to slay the minotaur. Theseus and his crew abandoned her on the island when she was still sleeping, after Theseus had a dream where Dionysus approached him and ordered him to leave her behind. Dionysus then came in the morning and married her. In the other myth, Dionysus went to the underworld to search for his mother Semele. When he finally found her, he had to bargain with Hades for her release. In the end, Hades agreed to let her go and Semele was resurrected and ascended to Mount Olympus to live with her son. And it is said that it was Hestia who allegedly gave her place to Dionysus at Mount Olympus. Dionysus was also involved in the myth of Hephaestus, where he had to convince the god of craftsmanship to release Hera from the magical chair.