Artsy Dionysus Picture

Origin of Dionysus

Dionysus is the son of Zeus and Semele, the daughter of Cadmus and Thebes. Semele was a mortal woman whom Zeus took for a wife. However, Hera was jealous of Seleme. Therefore, posing as one of her friends, she planted seeds of doubt in Seleme’s mind regarding Zeus’s legitimacy. She eventually tricked Semele into asking to see Zeus in all his glory and might as proof of his godhood. Though Zeus was reluctant, he did as she wished. However, mortals are unable to withstand the full might of the gods, and Semele, overpowered at the sight of him, gave premature birth to a child before she died. Zeus saved the child and sewed it into his thigh. A few months later, Zeus released the child and named him Dionysus. After his birth, Zeus entrusted Dionysus with Hermes, the messenger god. In order to prevent Hera from discovering Dionysus, Hermes then gave Dionysus to the nymphs of mount Nysa. Hermes convinced the nymphs to raise him as a girl in order to protect him from Hera, which explains his woman-like characteristics. Eventually, when he became old enough, he was given a chair at Mount Olympus (Hestia gave up her seat) to live among the other gods.

Dionysus’s Powers

Dionysus was most commonly referred to as the god of wine and fertility. Both of these were essential components in Greek civilization, and as such, Dionysus was looked upon with high regards. The Greeks felt they had to constantly appease him in order to maintain a steady supply of wine, and had a spring festival for him when leaves began to reappear on grape vines. However, Dionysus possessed the power of ecstasy – he brought madness, drunkenness, and other forms of chaotic being whenever people were around him. People referred to Dionysus as the Liberator, because he could “free a person” from his or her normal self. An additional power of Dionysus was his ability to bring a person back from the underworld. For example, even though he had never seen his mother Seleme, he was greatly concerned for her, and brought her from Hades’ realm back with him to Mount Olympus.

Symbols of Dionysus

Dionysus was (and is) most often symbolized by grapes, as he was the god wine. The Greeks often depicted him surrounded by grape vines. However, Dionysus can also be linked to music, since the Greeks often accompanied their drinking splurges with merry tunes for entertaiment.

by e.l.f. Silverlocke, 1996
You have kissed all the ladies of our court
And made them mad with love.
The maidens shy away at your touch,
Eyes wide, like deer a-frighted.
But modest matrons, at your words,
Blush, tremble, drop all reserve,
Are harlots turned.
You enflame my very soul
That I do look all ways
With the eyes of Love.
Your glamour lies upon me like a sheen —
Men kiss me on the street.
You have wrought Babylon in Arcady
And we are not the same.
If you lift your little finger
We’ll all do it in the road.
Modernized Cartoon of Dionysus

To this day, we continue to recognize Dionysus, directly and indirectly. We make wine companies using his name. His influential powers to take people out of their natural selves are present to this day in society.

Atsma, Aaron J. “Dionysus.” Theoi Greek Mythology. Theoi Project Company, 5 Aug.
     2005. Web. 18 Sept. 2011. <http://www.theoi.com/Olympios/
Atsma, Aaron J. “Gods & Goddesses.” Theoi Greek Mythology. Theoi Project Company, 27 July 2007. Web. 18 Sept. 2011. <http://www.theoi.com/greek-mythology/
“The Story of Dionysus.” Dionysus. Dionysus Wine Distributors, 2008. Web. 20
     Sept. 2011. <http://www.dionysuswinedistributors.com/pages/50/
Wikipedia. “Dionysus.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation Inc., 12 Sept. 2011. Web.
     15 Sept. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dionysus&gt;.

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