Dionysos-Greek Mythological God of Wine

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Dionysus (Roman name: Bacchus, also known as Dionysus) was the ancient Greek god of wine, entertainment and theater. As the bad boy of Mount Olympus, he was perhaps the most colorful of the Olympian gods.

Despite being the son of Zeus and Semele (daughter of Kadmos and Harmonia) in Greek mythology, Dionysus did not get a good start in life when his mother died while pregnant. Hera, Zeus' wife, was jealous of her husband's illegitimate relationship and deviously tricked Semele into asking Zeus to show her in all her divine glory.

That was too much for a mortal. Semele died on the spot, however, Zeus took her unborn child and raised her in her calf. Most source satyrs and nymps describe Dionysus' caretakers in his childhood and Silenus the wise as his chief educator, far from Hera's wrath on Mount Nysa.

Homer describes the god as 'the joy of men' and Hesiod likewise describes him as 'very cheerful'. Undoubtedly, this is because it is believed that Dionysus gave wine to people. God gave the vine tree to Ikarios, a noble citizen of Ikaria in Attica.

The reason is that Ikarios made this vine-tree wine with a group of shepherds passing by. However, unaware of the stunning effects of the wine, the shepherds thought they had been poisoned and quickly took revenge and killed the unfortunate Ikarios. Despite this sinister beginning of the wine industry, wine became an immensely popular beverage in antiquity.

The Greeks usually drank wine diluted with mixed water (one part wine to three parts water) in a large crater bowl. Wine was drunk at banquets, festivals and private parties, especially at symposiums; it was a kind of informal, men-only drinking session where guests leaned on a sofa (kline) and chatted about everything from gossip to philosophy.

In Greek mythology, Dionysus traveled widely as far as India and spread his cult throughout Greece, in fact he himself is known to be of eastern origin. Rites resembling group sex were held in his honor, in which the participants indulged in a frenzied Dionysian dance and fun that surpassed them.

It is believed that the theater arose from this activity, as those who worshiped Dionysus tried to leave their personalities behind and integrate with the character they portray. Indeed, Dionysian priests were given seats of honor in Greek theaters.

When the Phrygian King Midas found Silenus, the god's chief follower and drinking friend, in a very bad condition in the garden after the drinking race, the king fed him and gave him back to Dionysus. In gratitude, the god granted Midas a wish.

The king wanted everything he touched to turn into gold, but unfortunately that included food and water, so the king nearly died of hunger and thirst, until Dionysus reversed the gift by telling Midas to bathe in the Pactolus river.

Another legend tells that Dionysus was kidnapped by pirates who were unaware of his identity. God turned the mast of the ship into a giant vine, dripped wine on the sails, and a divine chorus filled the air with music. Dionysus transformed himself into a lion and, with the help of a bear, killed the pirate captain. Terrified, crew members jumped into the sea and turned into dolphins.

The Helmsman survived only because he advised his crewmates not to detain that stranger. And then the boat sailed for Naxos, where God stayed for a while, and when Theseus stopped killing the Minotaur and returned, Dionysus fell in love with Ariadne and married Ariadne. When Ariadne died, Dionysus transformed the wedding crown into the constellation Corona in her memory.

Other legends include that Dionysus persuaded Hephaestus (possibly with wine) to return to Mount Olympus and release Hera, who had been deftly trapped on a throne by the metallurgical god. To express her gratitude, Hera made sure that Dionysus, who was actually only a demigod, became a full Olympian god with a permanent residence on Mount Olympus.

Lycurgus, King of Thrace, and Pentheus, King of Thebes, inflicted the wrath of Dionysus when they cautiously tried to curb the excesses of the god's festivities. King Lycurgus of Thrace went mad and Pentheus, King of Thebes, was torn apart by a group of women who believed in the mad Dionysus after disguising himself as a woman to spy on his vices.

The cult of Dionysus became an important part of Greek religion in Athens from the 6th century BC, and the Dionysia festival of Athens and other cities would later become the Bacchanalia of Rome. The island of Naxos was a particularly important temple site for the god.

There is evidence of a cult of Dionysus dating from the Mycenaean period (14th century BC), and this site continued to be important until Roman times. There was also a temple and a theater of Dionysus in Athens, and there was also a temple of Mycenaean origin, dated to the 2nd century.

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