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Dionysus 2

Dionysus 2. 0135: Roman copy of Greek original from 4C BC. Glyptothek, München.

"… Wait a moment while I fetch you some mellow wine, so that you may first make a libation to Zeus and the other immortals and then, if you like, enjoy a drink yourself. Wine is a great comfort to a weary man …" (Hecabe 1 to Hector 1. Homer, Iliad 6.260).

"O Cyclops, son of the sea-god, come see what kind of divine drink this is that Greece provides from its vines, the gleaming cup of Dionysus." (Odysseus to Polyphemus 2. Euripides, Cyclops 415).

Polyphemus 2: Who is this Dionysus? Is he worshipped as a god?
Odysseus: Yes, the best source of joy in life for mortals.
(Euripides, Cyclops 521).

"This is the effect of your wine—for wine is a crazy thing. It sets the wisest man singing and giggling like a girl; it lures him on to dance and it makes him blurt out what were better left unsaid." (Odysseus to Eumaeus 1. Homer, Odyssey 14.464).

"Moi je suis Bacchus qui pressure pour les hommes le nectar délicieux." (Ludwig van Beethoven, on the 7th Symphony).

Here is a god who gives pleasure to mankind: he discovered honey, and the vine and its cultivation, though some say that it was Aristaeus who discovered honey, and that he competed with his honey against the wine of Dionysus 2, Zeus giving the first prize to wine. Dionysus 2 was attended by SATYRS and MAENADS, whom he formed into an army, making a campaign all over the inhabited world as far as India. During his wars, it is told, he arrayed himself in suitable arms and in the skin of panthers, but in times of peace during his festive gatherings, he wore bright-coloured, luxurious, and effeminate garments. It is said that Dionysus 2 loves the panther because it is the most excitable of animals, and leaps like a Maenad. He instructed all men in the knowledge of his rites, and some affirm that King Oeneus 2 of Calydon was the first to receive a vine-plant from Dionysus 2. On the other hand, he punished severely those who opposed him (like Lycurgus 1 and Pentheus 1).


Zeus fell in love with Semele, daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia 1, and consorted with her, but Hera was jealous, and in order to delude her husband's mistress, the goddess took the shape of the girl's nurse Beroe 3, persuading her to ask Zeus to come to her as he comes to Hera, so that she would know what pleasure it is to sleep with a god. At her suggestion then, Semele made this fatal request to Zeus, and being unable to endure divine presence, was smitten by a thunderbolt and gave birth to Dionysus 2 prematurely. This is how Semele died, but later her son Dionysus 2 brought her up from the Underworld, named her Thyone 1, and ascended with her to heaven, where she was made immortal by Zeus. (About the pregnancy of Semele see also Zagreus below.)


After Semele's death, Zeus carried the abortive child in his thigh, and when Dionysus 2 was born, Zeus brought him to Nysa in Arabia where he was reared by NYMPHS. It is also said that Hermes entrusted Dionysus 2 to Athamas 1 and Ino (Semele's sister), and persuaded them to rear him as a girl. But Hera, or the Erinye Tisiphone 1, drove them mad in such a way that Athamas 1 hunted his elder son Learchus as a deer, killing him; and Ino cast herself into the sea, together with her little son Melicertes. Also the CORYBANTES are named as guardians of Dionysus 2 in his growing days, and the daughters of Atlas that are called the HYADES 1 or NYMPHS DODONIDES are sometimes said to have been the nurses of Dionysus 2, and to have been put to flight by Lycurgus 1, king of the Edonians (Thrace) or the Arabians, who was the first to expel Dionysus 2. Others say that the NYMPHS LAMUSIDES took care of the child Dionysus 2, and that they were maddened by Hera. And if one is to believe Silenus, he himself protected the child Dionysus 2 from the wrath of Hera.

Hera persecutes him

Hera hated Dionysus 2 so much that she promised Artemis to the giant Alcyoneus 1 if he would fight against him. And to the giant Chthonius 4 she promised Aphrodite for performing the same task. Hera incited also the giant Peloreus against Dionysus 2, and to the giant Porphyrion 1 she promised Hebe as his wife if he would fight against the god. Hera, they say, drove Dionysus 2 mad, and with his mind in disorder, he came to a large swamp that he could not cross. He was there met by two asses, and one of them carried him across the water so that he could reach a temple of Zeus. When Dionysus 2 came to the temple, he was freed at once from his madness, and feeling gratitude for the asses he put them among the stars (Asellus Borealis, and Asellus Australis in Cancer), and gave human voice to the Ass that had carried him. This Ass is said to be the saddle-ass of Silenus, the Satyr adviser and instructor of Dionysus 2. Later the god came to Cybela in Phrygia where Rhea 1, the mother of the gods, purified him and taught him the rites of initiation.

Silenus, protector of the child Dionysus 2. 0226: Silen / Dionysos. Vielleicht Kopie nach einer Statue des Lysipp (310-300 v. Chr.). Glyptothek, München.

Lycurgus 1

Dionysus 2 then came to the land of the Edonians, who lived beside the river Strymon in Thrace and were ruled by Lycurgus 1. This king was the first to insult, persecute and expel Dionysus 2. Some have said that Charops 4, the grandfather of Orpheus, warned Dionysus 2 of Lycurgus 1's plot against him, and when they met in battle Dionysus 2 conquered the Thracians, and killed their king. But others have said that Lycurgus 1 was maddened by the god, and committed suicide. In any case, this is how Charops 4 became king in Thrace; for Dionysus 2, out of gratitude for his aid, handed over the kingdom to him, and instructed him in the secret rites of the initiations. Later the son of Charops 4, Oeagrus, took over both the kingdom and the initiatory rites. According to others, Dionysus 2, being persecuted by Lycurgus 1, took refuge in the sea with the Nereid Thetis, while the MAENADS and SATYRS that attended him were taken prisoners. Later the MAENADS were released and Dionysus 2 drove Lycurgus 1 mad, so that he struck his own son dead with an axe, imagining that he was lopping a branch of a vine; and before he recovered his mind, he cut off his son's extremities. Still others say that the MAENADS almost killed Lycurgus 1, who was saved by Hera and made immortal, but first, they add, he was driven mad by Zeus so that no other man should be as proud as he. It is also told that the Edonians themselves bound him to horses which rent him in pieces, because they believed Dionysus 2, who had said that the land would not bear fruit until Lycurgus 1 was put to death.

Pentheus 1

Having come to Thebes, Dionysus 2 induced the Theban women to abandon their houses, and rave in Bacchic frenzy on Mount Cithaeron, which is between Boeotia and Attica. King Pentheus 1, a man with strange ideas about law and order, attempted to put a stop to these proceedings, declaring that Dionysus 2 was no god, but he was torn limb from limb either by his mother, who believed him to be a wild beast, or by the MAENADS. King Pentheus 1 was son of Echion 2, one of the so called SPARTI, and of Agave 2, one of the daughters of Cadmus, the founder of Thebes.


After Thebes, Dionysus 2 came to Argos, and because they did not wish to honor him, he drove the women mad, and they devoured the infants whom they carried at their breasts.


On another occasion, Dionysus 2 desired to sail from Icaria to Naxos. He then hired a Tyrrhenian pirate ship. But when the god was on board, they sailed not to Naxos but to Asia, intending to sell him as a slave. So Dionysus 2 turned the mast and oars into snakes, and filled the vessel with ivy and the sound of flutes so that the SAILORS went mad, and leaping into the sea, were turned into dolphins. Others say that Dionysus 2 came on board after these SAILORS, having leapt ashore, captured him, stripped him of his possessions, and tied him with ropes.


Love weeps as Theseus, having deserted Ariadne, sails in the distance. 4720: Angelica Kauffmann 1741-1807: Die verlassene Ariadne vor 1782. Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden.

When Theseus came to Crete, Ariadne, falling in love with him, offered to help him if he would agree to carry her away to Athens, and have her to wife. Theseus having agreed on oath to do so, she asked Daedalus to disclose the way out of the labyrinth. And at his suggestion she gave Theseus a thread when he went in. Having found the Minotaur, he killed him, and gathering the thread he made his way out again. By night he arrived with Ariadne at Naxos, where Dionysus 2 fell in love with Ariadne and carried her off, when deserted by Theseus. He brought her to Lemnos where she had children by him. Some say that Ariadne had children by Theseus as well.

Ariadne's final fate

Ariadne's final fate is most uncertain. Some affirm that she was killed by Artemis, for something that Dionysus 2 told the goddess. Others declarte that she was turned into stone when Perseus 1 shook in front of her the face of Medusa 1. Still others assert that she hung herself because she was abandoned by Theseus. It is also told that Theseus and Ariadne, coming from Crete, were driven out of their course by a storm to Cyprus. Ariadne was then big with child, and Theseus set her on shore alone, while he was borne out to sea again by the storm. Ariadne was taken into the care of the Cyprian women, who helped her during the pangs of travail, and gave her burial when she died before her child was born. Yet others say that Ariadne was made immortal by Zeus, and that Dionysus 2 set the Crown among the stars as a memorial of the dead Ariadne.

Other loves

Aura 2, a Phrygian huntress unacquainted with love, daughter of the Titan Lelantus and the Oceanid Periboea 8, was ravished by Dionysus 2 while asleep. She had twins but killed one of the children and in despair she threw herself into the river Sangarius, and was transformed into a fountain by Zeus. Nicaea was a huntress and nymph of Astacia with whom Hymnus fell in love. She grew angry and killed him as he was declaring his love for her. However, having drunk wine, she later fell asleep and Dionysus 2 took her maidenhood.

Others with identical name

Zagreus or Dionysus 1, son of Zeus by Persephone or Demeter (the first of two or maybe three Dionysus), was killed by the TITANS who destroyed him with an infernal knife, cutting him into pieces. For some time he appeared in different shapes, but finally collapsed. It is also said that the TITANS boiled him, but his members were brought together by Demeter, and he experienced a new birth. It is said as well that the son of Zeus and Persephone was dismembered by the TITANS, and that Zeus gave his heart, torn to bits, to Semele in a drink, and she was thus made pregnant. Iacchus, the son of Aura 2, was honoured as a god next after the son of Persephone and after Semele's son (Dionysus 2). Later the Athenians honoured all the three together.






Zeus & Semele




Eurymedon 1

Thoas 6

Staphylus 1

Oenopion 1




Eurymedon 1 is counted among the ARGONAUTS.
Thoas 6 is a companion of Aeneas in Italy. He was killed by Halesus 2, alleged son of Agamemnon, and an ally of Turnus.
Staphylus 1 is counted among the ARGONAUTS.
Oenopion 1, who some say was son of Theseus and Ariadne, sailed from Crete and settled in Chios. He is known for having blinded Orion who, after having recovered his sight, came back to take vengeance. However, he could do nothing because Oenopion 1 lived in a house under the earth constructed by Hephaestus.
After Phlias, they say, Phliasia near Sicyonia is called. He is counted among the ARGONAUTS, and married Chthonophyle, daughter of Sicyon and Zeuxippe 3.


Deianira 1

Althaea is daughter of Thestius 1. Some say she had Deianira 1 by King Oeneus 2 of Calydon; others say by Dexamenus 1, king of Olenus (a city of western Achaea on the Gulf of Patrae). Deianira 1 killed herself after having caused the death of her husband Heracles 1.



Physcoa came from Orthia in Elis. Narcaeus was the first to worship Dionysus 2 in Elis.

a) Aphrodite

b) Nymph 21


("a)", "b)", etc. = different versions).


Pasithea 2

Pasithea 2 is the eldest of the CHARITES. She was promised by Hera to Hypnos as a bride if he would help her in making Zeus fall asleep.



Nicaea was a huntress and nymph of Astacia (a place in India) with whom the oxherd Hymnus fell in love. She grew angry and killed him as he was declaring his love for her. Later, having drunk wine, she fell asleep and Dionysus 2 took her maidenhood.



Pallene used to wrestle with her wooers, thus killing them until she was defeated by Dionysus 2. She was daughter of King Sithon 2 of the Odomanti (people living in northeastern Macedonia). He was killed by Dionysus 2 who held him responsible for the death of his daughter's wooers.

Aura 2


The Phrygian huntress Aura 2, daughter of the Titan Lelantus, was ravished by Dionysus 2 while asleep. She had twins but killed one of the children, and then she threw herself into the river Sangarius being transformed into a fountain by Zeus.
About Iacchus it is said that as his mother abandoned him Nicaea (see above). became his nurse. The MAENADS of Eleusis took care of him and honoured him as a god next after the son of Persephone (Zagreus) and after Semele's son (Dionysus 2). Later the Athenians honoured all the three together.

Genealogical Charts

Names in this chart: Agenor 1, Althaea, Anchinoe, Aphrodite, Ares, Ariadne, Aura 2, Belus 1, Cadmus, Ceramus, Deianira 1, Dionysus 2, Epaphus 1, Eurymedon 1, Harmonia 1, Hera, Iacchus, Io, Libya, Memphis 2, Narcaeus, Nicaea, Nilus, Oenopion 1, Pasithea 2, Peparethus, Phlias, Physcoa, Poseidon, Priapus, Semele, Staphylus 1, Telete, Thoas 6, Zeus.


Related sections

Apd.1.8.1-3, 3.4.3; Apd.Ep.1.9; Dio.3.64.3ff., 5.75.4; Eur.Bacc.1 and passim; Eur.Hipp.559; Hes.The.941, 947; Hom.Il.14.325; Hyg.Fab.14; Nonn.1.4, 9.1, 15.91, 16.265, 16.400, 31.186, 48.234, 48.621ff., 48.928ff. and passim; Ov.Fast.3.729ff.; Pau.1.3.1, 5.16.6, 9.31.2; Strab.13.1.12.