Dionysos at a Glance
name | Dionysos (DionusoV
role | god of wine, mysteries, and the theatre
symbols | grape vine, ivy, thyrsos
Dionysos in Greek Mythology
Countless books and articles have been written about the Greek god Dionysos (also spelled Dionysus). Many of these works come to the same conclusion - Dionysos is an atypical Greek deity. While the Olympian
gods are bright beings of sunlight, Dionysos is a creature of mystery, his very essence an enigma. His realm is shadowy, and his followers flirt with madness, drunkenness, and death. He is the patron deity of the Maenads
(or Bacchantes), those wild women who roamed the lofty peaks shouting "evoi, evoi" and were said to tear living animals apart in their trance of divine possession. He is the god who brings wine, but also an intoxication that merges the drinker with the deity. And, perhaps most significantly, his connection with a certain type of cult activity, known as a "mystery", separates him from his fellow Olympians (with the exception of the goddess Demeter
, who inspired her own mystery cult).
It is through these mystery cults, the secrets of which were so well guarded that we know but a few essential details, that we come into contact with a unique characteristic of Dionysos; for according to the legends of one the cults, the god himself dies. That a god should die seems an oxymoron - by definition, a deity is immortal. And yet some of his followers believed that he was slain, and then reborn. Something which is unthinkable in the case of other Greek deities. So the path to understanding Dionysos is divergent from the one that leads to knowledge of the rest of the Olympian gods. It is a road that includes many unexpected tangents and seemingly incomprehensible signs, but which, if travelled with an open mind, leads to a most fulfilling destination.
Legends of Dionysos
Dionysos in Art History
Gallery | For pictures and information about Dionysos in art, visit the Mythography gallery!
Do you have a specific question about Greek mythology? Then try the Mythography forum!
And I know how to lead off the sprightly dance of the Lord Dionysos, the dithyramb. I do it thunderstruck with wine.
Who's Who in Classical Mythology
This book is a great source for information about Greek and Roman mythology! Organized alphabetically, this who's who features information about over 1200 of the most intriguing characters from Classical myth and legend. And there is a comprehensive entry on Dionysos.