And wishing to be ferried across from Icaria to Naxos he hired a pirate ship of Tyrrhenians. But when they had put him on board, they sailed past Naxos and made for Asia, intending to sell him. Howbeit, he turned the mast and oars into snakes, and filled the vessel with ivy and the sound of flutes. And the pirates went mad, and leaped into the sea, and were turned into dolphins.1 Thus men perceived that he was a god and honored him; and having brought up his mother from Hades and named her Thyone, he ascended up with her to heaven.2
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
1 The story of Dionysus and the pirates is the theme of the HH Dion. Compare Ov. Met. 3.581ff.; Hyginus, Fab. 134; Hyginus, Ast. ii.17; Serv. Verg. A. 1.67; Scriptores rerum mythicarum Latini, ed. Bode, i. pp. 39, 133 (First Vatican Mythographer 123; Second Vatican Mythographer 171).
2 Compare Diod. 4.25.4. Dionysus is said to have gone down to hell to fetch up his mother Semele at Lerna, where he plunged into the Alcyonian Lake, a pool which was supposed to be bottomless and therefore to afford an easy access to the nether world. See Paus. 2.37.5; and for a description of the pool as it is at the present time, see Frazer's commentary on Pausanias, vol. v. pp. 604ff. Never having been in hell before, Dionysus did not know how to go there, and he was reduced to the necessity of asking the way. A certain Prosymnus pointed it out to the deity on condition of receiving a certain reward. When Dionysus returned from the lower world, he found that his guide had died in the meantime; but he punctually paid the promised reward to the dead man at his grave with the help of a branch of fig wood, which he whittled into an appropriate shape. This story was told to explain the similar implements which figured prominently in the processions of Dionysus. See Clement of Alexandria, Protrept. ii.34, pp. 29ff., ed. Potter; Nonnus, in Westermann's Mythographi Graeci, Appendix Narrationum, xxii.1, p. 368; Tzetzes, Scholiast on Lycophron 212; Arnobius, Adversus Nationes v.28; Hyginus, Ast. ii.5. Pausanias calls the god's guide Polymnus, unless that form of the name is the mistake of a copyist for Prosymnus, as seems to be suggested by the epithet Prosymna, which was applied to Demeter in the sacred grove at Lerna, where Dionysus also had an image. See Paus. 2.37.1. However, Hyginus gives Hypolipnus as the name of the guide to hell. Every year the descent of the god through the deep water was celebrated with nocturnal rites on the reedy margin of the pool （Paus. 2.37.6）. The pious Pausanias shrank from divulging the nature of the rites; but from Plutarch we learn that a lamb was thrown into the lake as an offering to the warder of hell, while on trumpets hidden in the god's leafy emblems the buglers blew blasts which, startling the stillness and darkness of night, were believed to summon up the lost Dionysus from the watery depths. See Plut. Isis et Osiris 35. Perhaps in answer to this bugle call an actor, dressed in the vine-god's garb, may have emerged dripping from the pool to receive the congratulations of the worshippers on his rising from the dead. However, according to others, the resurrection of Dionysus and his mother took place, not in the gloomy swamp at Lerna, but on the beautiful, almost landlocked, bay of Troezen, where nowadays groves of oranges and lemons, interspersed with the dark foliage of tall cypresses, fringe the margin of the calm blue water at the foot of the rugged mountains. See Paus. 2.31.2. Plutarch has drawn a visionary picture of the scene of the ascension. It was, he says, a mighty chasm like the caves sacred to Bacchus, mantled with woods and green grass and blooming flowers of every sort, and exhaling a delicious, an intoxicating, perfume, while all about it the souls of the departed circled and stooped upon the wing like flights of birds, but did not dare to cross its tremendous depth. It was called the Place of Forgetfulness. See Plut. De sera numinis vindicta 22, pp. 565ff. A pretty story was told of the device by which Dionysus induced the grim warden of the dead to release the soul of his mother from the infernal gaol. It is said that Hades consented to set her free provided that her son would send of his best beloved to replace her shade in the world of shadows. Now of all the things in the world the dearest to Dionysus were the ivy, the vine, and the myrtle; so of these he sent the myrtle, and that is why the initiated in his rites wreathed their brows with myrtle leaves. See Scholiast on Aristoph. Frogs 330. The harrying of hell is the theme of Aristophanes's amusing comedy The Frogs.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.