Dionysus

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Dionysus

(dīənī`səs), in Greek religion and mythology, god of fertility and wine. Legends concerning him are profuse and contradictory. However, he was one of the most important gods of the Greeks and was associated with various religious cults. He was probably in origin a Thracian deity. According to the Orphic legend, he was Dionysus Zagreus, the son of Zeus and Persephone (see Orphic MysteriesOrphic Mysteries
or Orphism,
religious cult of ancient Greece, prominent in the 6th cent. B.C. According to legend Orpheus founded these mysteries and was the author of the sacred poems from which the Orphic doctrines were drawn.
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); in other legends he was the son of Zeus and Semele and was reared by the nymphs on Mt. Nysa, where he invented the art of wine making. Having grown to manhood, Dionysus wandered through many lands, teaching men the culture of the vine and the mysteries of his cult. He was followed by an entourage of satyrs, sileni, maenads, and nymphs. Many festivals were held in honor of Dionysus; most famous were the Lesser or Rural Dionysia (in late December), the Greater or City Dionysia (in late spring), the Anthesteria (in early spring), and the Lenaea (in winter). His characteristic worship was ecstatic and women were prominently involved. Votaries, through music, dancing, and drinking, and through eating flesh and blood of sacrificial animals, attempted to merge their identities with nature. Later, however, the worship of Dionysus became more formalized and calm. It was believed that not only could he liberate and inspire man through wine and ecstatic frenzy, but he could endow him directly with divine creativity. Dionysus thus came to be considered a patron of the arts. He was variously represented as a full-grown bearded man, as a beast, and as a delicate, effeminate youth. The Romans identified him with Liber and with BacchusBacchus
, in Roman religion and mythology, god of wine; in Greek mythology, Dionysus. Dionysus was also the god of tillage and law giving. He was worshiped at Delphi and at the spring festival, the Great Dionysia.
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, who was more properly the god of wine. From the music, singing, and dancing at the festivals of Dionysus developed the dithyrambdithyramb
, in ancient Greece, hymn to the god Dionysus, choral lyric with exchanges between the leader and the chorus. It arose, probably, in the extemporaneous songs of the Dionysiac festivals and was developed (according to tradition, by Arion) into the literary form to be
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 and ultimately Greek drama.

Bibliography

See M. Nilsson, The Dionysiac Mysteries of the Hellenistic and Roman Age (1975).

Dionysus

 

in ancient Greek mythology, the son of Zeus and the Theban princess Semele.

The cult of Dionysus—a vegetation or zoomorphic deity— which had existed in Greece as far back as the Minoan-Mycenean epoch, became widespread from the eighth through the sixth centuries B.C. among the rural people (demos}, who revered Dionysus primarily as the protector of viticulture and wine-making. During the classical period the cult of Dionysus enjoyed particular popularity in Delphi (along with the cult of Apollo) and Athens. The other name for Dionysus is Bacchus, from which the name of the festivals in honor of this god—the bacchanalia—is derived.

REFERENCES

Jeanmaire, H. Dionysos. Histoire du culte de Bacchus. Paris, 1951.
Otto, W. F. Dionysos. Mythos und Kultus, 3rd ed. Frankfurt am Main, 1960.

Dionysus

unborn god is saved from his dead mother and sewn into Zeus’s thigh, from which he is later born. [Gk. Myth.: Benét, 273]

Dionysus

god of fertility; sometimes associated with fertility of crops. [Gk. Myth.: NCE, 575]
See: Farming

Dionysus

inspired men through wine; considered a patron of the arts. [Gk. Myth.: NCE, 767]

Dionysus

(Rom. Bacchus) god of wine and revelry. [Gk. Myth.: Parrinder, 39]
See: Revelry

Dionysus

god of the vine and its enlightening powers. [Gk. Myth.: Avery, 404–408; Parrinder, 80]
See: Wine

Dionysus

, Dionysos
the Greek god of wine, fruitfulness, and vegetation, worshipped in orgiastic rites. He was also known as the bestower of ecstasy and god of the drama, and identified with Bacchus