Images of the youngest of the pantheon of the ancient Greek gods of Olympus have come down to us in the form of a young attractive youth with an ivy wreath on his head and a staff in his hand. Less common in mythology are images of him in adulthood, then he looks like a man with curls on his head and a thick beard. Dionysus was considered the god of vegetation and winemaking, as well as inspiration and theater. His presence always guaranteed celebration and fun, he was constantly surrounded by satyrs and priestesses of the cult.
Dionysus in mythology and culture
The first mentions of Dionysus are found on Cretan writing tablets of the 14th century BC. Translated from ancient Greek, the name means "consecrated by the god Dionysus." The patron saint of winemakers received his nickname "God with bull horns" because he loved to turn into this animal. In literature, the first mention of him is found in one of the chapters of the "Odyssey" of the ancient Greek poet Homer. In the mythology of Ancient Rome, there is a similar deity, which received the name Bacchus or Bachos. The most recognizable image of the god of wine and fun is the sculpture of the great Michelangelo "Bacchus". The marble statue, two meters high, depicts a drunken god accompanied by a satyr.
The god of wine and winemaking took his place in the pantheon of Olympus later than others. There is a version that the cult of this controversial character came to Greece from Thrace or Asia Minor and received its maximum development already in the 7th century of our time. For a long time, Greek mythology did not pay enough attention to winemaking and gardening.
The mystery of birth
The biography of Dionysus is shrouded in great mystery. Even the story of his birth remains a mystery. One of the myths says that his mother Semele was the daughter of a king in Thebes. Zeus was carried away by a beautiful girl and became a frequent guest in her house. His jealous wife Hera found out about the adventures of the Thunderer and decided to severely punish her rival. She turned as a wanderer, and invited the girl to ask the supreme deity to show her true face. Zeus agreed to the request of his beloved and appeared in the guise of a lightning thrower. One of them got into the house of the king of Thebes, a fire broke out. Semele, who was expecting a baby, had a premature birth. Burning out, she managed to transfer the baby to Zeus and entrusted his father with his fate. To save the newborn, the supreme god sewed it into his thigh and carried it there for three months until the time came for his son to be born again, therefore Dionysus is often called “twice born”.
The prudent Zeus knew the character of his wife and understood that she would not leave the boy alone. He hid him in a stone grotto of the nymphs, turned him into a kid, at one time the child lived with his aunt. The father understood that his son needed a good teacher and a reliable protector. Dionysus was brought up by the Greek god Hermes. He was considered the most agile and cunning of all the Olympians. Outwardly, he looked like a young man, whose invariable attributes were a hat with small wings at the temples, a staff and winged sandals. The divine messenger and guide of dead souls to the underworld has always had a lot of work. But Hermes repeatedly had to save the child and each time he managed to appear on time. Then the Thunderer decided to give his son to the upbringing of the goddess Cybele, who is not inferior in strength to Hera and who revealed the forces of nature to the boy.
When Dionysus grew up a little, unexpectedly for everyone, he made friends with the satyr Ampelius. The old bully did not let the boy get bored and played with him. Satyr suffered a grievous death from the horns of a bull. Dionysus tried to save him, but the efforts were in vain. Ampelia's body turned into a vine of grapes, from the fruits of which a sad young man squeezed juice, and gave the drink the name wine. The first person whom Dionysus gave to taste wine was Ikarios. The farmer from Attica liked the drink so much that he decided to introduce it to other people.The comrades soon became drunk and decided that Ikarius decided to poison them. In a rage, they pounced on him and killed him. So the first acquaintance of the Greeks with wine turned into a tragedy. Over time, Dionysus taught people to make another intoxicating drink - barley beer.
Traveling on Earth
After that, the carefree young man decided to travel the world. For three whole years, Dionysus stayed in India, and wherever he appeared, grapes ripened everywhere. The youngest son of Zeus visited many places, descended into the underworld, from where he returned his mother. He raised her from the possessions of Hades and elevated her to Olympus, she became a goddess and received a new name Theon. The young god traveled accompanied by his retinue. He was accompanied everywhere by satyrs - demons with goats' legs and priestesses. The retinue was joined by the teacher of Dionysus Silenus, who was rarely seen sober. He was delighted with the new drink and did not know the measure of its use. In the images that have come down to our days, the bald, funny old man Silenus always sits on a donkey and utters wise thoughts.
One day, Dionysus got on a ship to sea robbers. When one of the pirates noticed that the chains holding the prisoner fell from his hands, he assumed that they were not an ordinary person. In fright, he invited his comrades to let the young man go, but they only laughed. Dionysus could not forgive this and turned into an angry lion, which tore the captain of the pirates to pieces. The young god turned the mast and oars into a serpent, and the remaining villains in fear jumped into the raging sea and turned into dolphins. Dionysus spared only one stranger, who saw a deity in him.
In the cultural centers of ancient Greece, celebrations were held in honor of the Greek god of wine and winemaking. Their organization was taken over by the city authorities, and they lasted a whole week. At this time, all business in the city was suspended, the prisoners were released, government agencies did not work, and fun reigned everywhere. The holidays were held annually in March and were called the Great Dionysias. The festivities began with the Hellenes taking out the image of the god Dionysus from the temple and the whole city was filled with a noisy crowd. At the statue of the deity, a choir of boys sang during the day, and in the evening the entertainment of the mummers began. The actors put on goat skins and showed the audience funny scenes. For their performances, the Dionysus Theater was specially erected; part of this architectural monument has survived to this day on one of the slopes of the Acropolis. Creative people believed that wine, a gift from Dionysus, gives them inspiration and helps them in art. Therefore, the god of wine and fun was especially respected by artists and poets, they dedicated many of their works to him.
At the very beginning, having received wine from the hands of Dionysus, people organized noisy celebrations, at which laughter and joy were the main ones. Wine cheered the soul, gave strength and cheered up. But gradually the simple fun became unbridled. Alcohol turned the night festivities in honor of the god of wine into ghastly spectacles. Drunkenness drove the Greeks to the point that they put on animal skins, ate raw meat and at the same time glorified the name of Dionysus. Relaxation and liberation turned into madness. Drunkenness led to the fact that people stopped listening to their minds and often dances ended in a bloody spectacle and bacchanalia.
Dionysus acted cruelly with those who refused to recognize the divine principle in him. Such Greeks were haunted by madness. There is a legend according to which the king Lycurgus, who rejected the god of winemaking, in a mad impulse hacked his heir to death with an ax, at that moment it seemed to him that he was cutting down a vine. The daughters of King Miny went insane, and one of the women in Argos, in a fit of madness, began to devour her own baby.
Marriage to Ariadne
The charming young man has struck more than one woman's heart. Even the beautiful Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of love and beauty, could not resist the patron saint of winemakers. The fruit of their secret relationship was the son of Priapus.Dionysus is credited with having a relationship with Avra, the titan's daughter, who bore him twins. Before his marriage, Dionysus was a merry fellow and a windy young man, but, having created a family with Ariadne, he turned out to be a wonderful husband.
Ariadne was the daughter of King Minos, who had unlimited power in Crete. When Theseus arrived on the island, ready to fight the terrible minotaur, the girl helped the daredevil. The guiding thread of her tangle led him and his comrades out of the labyrinth. Together with his savior, the hero went by ship to Athens, but on the way the young man treacherously abandoned her. In despair, Ariadne was ready to say goodbye to life, but Dionysus appeared and saved her. He not only consoled the Cretan beauty, but also invited her to become his wife. In a happy marriage, the couple had a son, Foant. After that, the great Zeus, who has a special love for his youngest son, made Ariadne a goddess and granted her immortality.