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DIONYSUS 100.00%
sometimes Dionysus (Greek). 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 Semele, the daughter of Cadmus. Semele 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 daughter of Semele. (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 Hera. 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 (thiasos), his nurses and other nymphs, Satyrs, Sileni, and similar woodland deities. Whoever welcomes him kindly, like Icarius in Attica, and CEneus in Aetolia, receives the gift of wine; but those who resist him are terribly punished. For with all his appearance of youth and softness, he is a mighty and irresistible god, strong to work wonders. 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, PRCETUS.) This worship soon passed from the continent of Greece to the wine-growing islands, and flourished pre-eminently at Naxos. Here it was, according to the story, that the god wedded Ariadne. 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 in vine and ivy, the god was changed into a lion, while the seamen throw 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 (thyrsi) 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 be descends to the lower world, whence he brings his mother, who is worshipped with him under the name of Thyone (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, Evios, 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 Persophone, 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 conexion he was called Zagreus ("Torn in pieces") and represented as a son of Zeus and his daughter Persephone, or sometimes of Zeus and Demeter. In his childhood he was torn to pieces by the Titans, at the command of the jealous Hera. But every third year, after spending the interval in the lower world, he is born anew. According to the Orphic story, Athene brought her son's heart to Zeus, who gave it to Semele, 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 woke up 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 (Cybele), and Atys, and Sabus or Sabazius. (See SABAZIUS.) In Greece Proper the chief seats of these were Parnassus, with Delphi and its neighbourhood, Baeotia, Argos, and Laconia, and in Baeotia and Laconia especially the mountains Chitaeron and Taygetus. 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 Persephone and Demeter, under the name of Iacchos, as brother or bridegroom of Persephone. 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 Lyaeos, 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, Aphrodite, 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 phallus, 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 called Sardanapalus, of high stature, with a luxuriant wealth of hair on head and chin (comp. fig. 1). 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 vine or ivy, generally naked, or with a fawn or panther skin thrown lightly over him. He is either reposing or leaning idly back with the Thyrsos, grapes, or a cup in his hand (fig. 2). 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. (See the engravings.) 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. In Italy the indigenous god Liber, with a feminine Libera at his side, corresponded to the Greek god of wine. Just as the Italian Ceres was identified with Demeter, so these two deities were identified with Dionysus, or Iakchos, and Persephone, with whom they were worshipped under their native name, but with Greek rites, in a temple on the Aventine. (See CERES.) Liber or Bacchus, like Dionysus, had a country and an urban festival. The country festivities were held, with unrestrained merriment, at the time of grape-gathering and straining off the wine. The urban festival held in Rome on the 17th March, was called Liberalla. Old women, crowned with ivy, sold cheap cakes (liba) of meal, honey, and oil, and burnt them on little pans for the purchasers. The boys took their toga virilis or toga libera on this day, and offered sacrifice on the Capitol. Side by side with this public celebration, a secret worship, the Bacchanalia, found its way to Rome and into the whole of Italy. The Bacchanatia were celebrated by men and women, in Italy outside the cities, in Rome in the sacred enclosure of Stimula or Semele. They were accompanied with such shameless excesses that in 186 B.C. they were put down, with unsparing severity, by a decree of the senate.
The name given by the Greeks, and later also by the Romans, to various kinds of secret worships, which rested on the belief that, besides the general modes of honouring the gods, there was another, revealed only to the select few. Such religions services formed in almost all the Greek states an important part of the established worship, and were in the hands of an important body of priests appointed by the State. If any one divulged to the uninitiated the holy ceremonies and prayers, or sometimes even the names only, by which the gods were invoked, he was publicly punished for impiety. Some mysteries were exclusively managed by special priests and assistants to the exclusion of all laymen. To others a certain class of citizens was admitted; thus the Attic Thesmophoria could only be celebrated by women living in lawful wedlock with a citizen, and themselves of pure Athenian descent and of unblemished reputation. At other mysteries people of every kind and either sex were allowed to be present, if they had carried out certain preliminary conditions (especially purification), and had then been admitted and initiated. The usages connected with the native mysteries were similar to the ceremonies of Greek divine service; in the course of time, however, many other elements were borrowed from foreign modes of worship. They consisted usually in the recital of certain legends about the fortunes of the deity celebrated, which differed from the ordinary myths in many respects (e.g. the names and genealogies), and were often accompanied by a dramatic representation, with which was connected the exhibition of certain holy things, including symbols and relics. In many cases the symbols were not hidden from the public eye, but their meaning was revealed to the initiated alone. Of native mysteries those considered most holy were the Eleusinian mysteries of Demeter; we know more about the ceremonies in this case than in any other. (See ELEUSINIA.) Next to these came the Samothracian mysteries of the Cabiri (q.v.), which in cource of time appear to have become very similar to the Eleusinian. In these two mysteries, as indeed in all, no deeper meaning was originally attached to the legends, usages, and symbols. But, as time went on, these initiations were supposed to have a peculiar power of preserving men amid the dangers of this life by purification and expiation, of giving him a temporary blessedness, and above all of conferring a sure prospect of a state of bliss after death. [Isocrates, Paneg. § 28.] This change is in great part due to the influence of a sect, the Orphici (See ORPHEUS). Following Oriental, Egyptian,and also Pythagorean doctrines, they taught that expiation and sanctification were necessary for this and for a future life, and that these must be effected by means of the initiations and purifications which they pretended Orpheus had revealed to them. Those who enjoyed these revelations of Orpheus constituted a religious society which gradually extended to every Greek country. Their religious services were also called mysteries, not only because the initiated alone could take part in them, but because the representations and usages connected with them had a hidden mystic meaning. It was chiefly owing to their influence that foreign mysteries were introduced into Greece, and that thus the various systems were blended together. Among foreign mysteries must be mentioned the wild and fanatic orgies of Dionysus (or Bacchus), Sabazius, and Cybele. The first of these gained a footing in Rome and Italy under the name of Bacchanalia, and in 186 B.C. had to be firmly suppressed by the government on account of the excesses connected with them [Livy xxxix 8-19]; while the last-mentioned were most widely spread even in early imperial times. (See RHEA.) The mysteries connected with the worship of Isis and of Mithras (q.v.) were also held in high esteem by Greeks and Romans down to a late period. The whole system of mysteries endured to the very end of the pagan times, for the deeper meaning of its symbolism offered a certain satisfaction even to the religious requirements of the educated, which they failed to find in the empty forms of the ordinary worship. (Cp. ORGIES.)
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