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Διώνυσος or Διόνυσος). The god of luxuriant fertility, especially as displayed by the vine; and therefore the god of wine. His native place, according to the usual tradition, was Thebes, where he was born to Zeus by Semelé (q.v.), the daughter of Cadmus. Semelé was destroyed by the lightning of her lover, and the child was born after six months. Zeus accordingly sewed it up in his thigh till ripe for birth, and then gave it over to Ino, the sister of Semelé. (See Athamas.) After her death Hermes took the boy to the nymphs of Mount Nysa, or according to another version, to the Hyades of Dodona, who brought him up and hid him in a cave away from the anger of Heré. It cannot be ascertained where Mount Nysa was originally supposed to be. In later times the name was transferred to many places where the vine was cultivated, not only in Greece, but in Asia, India, and Africa. When grown up, Dionysus is represented as planting the vine, and wandering through the wide world to spread his worship among men, with his wine-flushed train (θίασος)—his nurses and other nymphs, Satyrs, Sileni, and similar woodland deities. Whoever welcomed him kindly, like Icarius in Attica and Oeneus in Aetolia, received the gift of wine; but those who resisted him were terribly punished. A whole series of fables is apparently based upon the tradition that in many places, where a serious religious ritual existed, the dissolute worship of Dionysus met with a vigorous resistance. See Lycurgus; Minyadae; Pentheus; Proetus.

This worship soon passed from the mainland of Greece to the wine-growing islands, and flourished pre-eminently at Naxos. Here it was, according to the story, that the god wedded Ariadné (q.v.). In the islands a fable was current that he fell in with some Tyrrhenian pirates, who took him to their ship and put him in chains. But his fetters fell off, the sails and the mast were wreathed with vine and ivy, the god was changed into a lion, while the seamen threw themselves madly into the sea and were turned into dolphins. In forms akin to this the worship of Dionysus passed into Egypt and far into Asia. Hence arose a fable, founded on the story of Alexander's campaigns, that the god passed victoriously through Egypt, Syria, and India as far as the Ganges, with his army of Sileni, Satyrs, and inspired women, the Maenades or Bacchantes, carrying their wands (θύρσοι) crowned with vines and ivy. Having thus constrained all the world to the recognition of his deity, and having with Heracles, assisted the gods, in the form of a lion, to victory in their war with the Giants, he was taken to Olympus, where, in Homer, he does not appear. From Olympus he descends to the lower world, whence he brings his mother, who is worshipped with him under the name of Thyoné (“the wild one”), as Leto was with Apollo and Artemis. From his mother he is called Thyoneus, a name which, with others of similar meaning, such as Bacchus, Bromios, Euios, and Iacchos, points to a worship founded upon a different conception of his nature.

In the myth with which we have been hitherto concerned, the god appears mainly in the character and surroundings of joy and triumph. But, as the god of the earth, Dionysus belongs, like Persephoné, to the world below as well as to the world above. The death of vegetation in winter was represented as the flight of the god into hiding from the sentence of his enemies, or even as his extinction; but he returned again from obscurity, or rose from the dead, to new life and activity. In this connection he was called Zagreus (“torn in pieces”) and represented as a son of Zeus and his daughter Persephoné, or sometimes of Zeus and Demeter. In his childhood he was torn to pieces

Dionysus and Lion. (Choragic Monument of Lysicrates.)

by the Titans, at the command of the jealous Heré. But every third year, after spending the interval in the lower world, he is born anew. According to the Orphic story, Athené brought her son's heart to Zeus, who gave it to Semelé or swallowed it himself, whereupon the Theban or younger Dionysus was born. The grave of Dionysus was shown at Delphi in the inmost shrine of the Temple of Apollo. Secret offerings were brought thither, while the women who were celebrating the feast awakened Licnites; in other words, invoked the new-born god cradled in a winnowing-fan on the neighbouring mountain of Parnassus. Festivals of this kind, in celebration of the extinction and resurrection of the deity, were held by women and girls only, amid the mountains at night, every third year, about the time of the shortest day. The rites, intended to express the excess of grief and joy at the death and reappearance of the god, were wild even to savagery, and the women who performed them were hence known by the expressive names of Bacchae, Maenads, and Thyiades. They wandered through woods and mountains, their flying locks crowned with ivy or snakes, brandishing wands and torches, to the hollow sounds of the drum and the shrill notes of the flute, with wild dances and insane cries and jubilation. The victims of the sacrifice—oxen, goats, even fawns and roes from the forest—were killed, torn in pieces, and eaten raw, in imitation of the treatment of Zagreus by the Titans. Thrace and Macedonia and Asiatic Greece were the scene of the wildest orgies; indeed, Thrace seems to be the country of their birth. In Asiatic Greece, it should be added, the worship of Dionysus-Zagreus came to be associated with the equally wild rites of Rhea (Cybelé) and Atys and Sabus or Sabazius (q.v.). In Greece proper the chief seats of these were Parnassus, with Delphi and its neighbourhood, Boeotia, Argos, and Laconia, and in Boeotia and Laconia especially the mountains Cithaeron and Taÿgetus. They were also known in Naxos, Crete, and other islands. They seem to have been unknown in Attica, though Dionysus was worshipped at the Eleusinian Mysteries, with Persephoné and Demeter, under the name of Iacchos, as brother or bridegroom of Persephoné. (See Mysteria.) But the Attic cycle of national festivals in honour of Dionysus represents the idea of the ancient and simple Hellenic worship, with its merry usages. Here Dionysus is the god who gives increase and luxuriance to vineyard and tree. For he is a kindly and gentle power, terrible only to his enemies, and born for joy and blessing to mankind. His gifts bring strength and healing to the body, gladness and forgetfulness of care to the mind, whence he was called Lyaeus, or the loosener of care. They are ennobling in their effects, for they require tending, and thus keep men employed in diligent labour; they bring them together in merry meetings, and inspire them to music and poetry. Thus it is to the worship of Dionysus that the dithyramb and the drama owe their origin and development. In this way Dionysus is closely related, not only to Demeter, Aphrodité, Eros, the Graces, and the Muses, but to Apollo, because he inspires men to prophesy.

The most ancient representation of Dionysus consists of wooden images with the φαλλός (membrum virile) as the symbol of generative power. In works of art he is sometimes represented as the ancient Indian Dionysus, the conqueror of the East. In this character he appears, as in the Vatican statue incorrectly called Sardanapalus, of high stature, with a luxuriant wealth of hair on head and chin. Sometimes again, as in numerous statues which have survived, he is a youth of soft and feminine shape, with a dreamy expression, his long, clustering hair confined by a fillet or crown of ivy, generally naked, or with a fawn or panther skin thrown lightly over him. He is either reposing or leaning idly back with the θύρσος, grapes, or a cup in his hand. Often, too, he is surrounded by the Fauns of his retinue, Maenads, Satyrs, Sileni, Centaurs, etc., or by Nymphs, Muses, Cupids— indeed, in the greatest possible number and variety of situations. Besides the vine, ivy, and rose, the panther, lion, lynx, ox, goat, and dolphin were sacred to him. His usual sacrifices were the ox and the goat.

On the Italian god Liber, afterwards identified by the Romans with Dionysus, see Liber.

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