"The Triumph of Dionysos". Mosaic floor from the House of Dionysos in Paphos. Photo © Cyprus Wine Museum



One day from the top of mountain Olympus Zeus spotted the beautiful Semele one of the daughters of Cadmus the king of Thebes and fell in love with her. He made her his, but Hera his wife became jealous and tricked her into persuading Zeus to present him self to her in all his glory. Zeus did so, appearing on his chariot amongst lighting and thunderbolts, one of which burnt Semele and the palace. But Semele was pregnant and in order to prevent the child from burning, Goddess Earth allowed ivy to grow up the palace columns. Zeus took the child, cut open his thigh, hit it inside and sewed it up again. When the time came for the child to be born, Zeus cut the stitches and the igneous, thigh-sewn, double-born Dionysus was born. So that Hera wouldn’t suspect anything Zeus gave the child to Semele’s sister, Ino, and ordered her to raise it as a girl. But Hera found out and Zeus took the child and turned it into a goat, which he then gave to Hermes to take it away from Greece to Nyssa, a far away mountain in Asia where nymphs lived.

Dionysus kept company with the satyrs (wood and mountain spirits), Selinos (a drunken old man), Pan (half goat, half shepherd, god of the woods and meadows), the centaurs (half men, half horses, guardians of flocks), the Nymphs, (young and beautiful goddesses of the forests and mountains), and Priapus, (God of the gardens and meadows). As Dionysus grew up, Hera’s hate did not subside. She drove him mad and forced him to wonder through Egypt and Syria. In Phrygia he was cured by Rhea, who initiated him into her rituals. Whoever refused to worship Dionysus went mad and in the case of the inhabitants of Argos, the women massacred and ate their own children.

In Euripides, Backhaes, he described the story of Pentheas, king of Thebes, who because he forbade the worship of Dionysus, was killed by the female members of his family. When he foolishly followed them to the mountain where religious dance rituals where held. The worship of Dionysus took place at various rural festivals throughout the year corresponding to the viticulture calendar, in December – January, when the vines were pruned. He was worshipped together with Demetra. In January – February, the Lenea were held. Towards the end of February, they held the flower festivals, the spring fertility festivals, which were celebrated with profligate consummation of wine. The best of all the festivals, the Dionysia, was held towards the end of March, during which several theatrical performances were held. The Eleusinian mysteries were held between the end of September and the beginning of October and rural rituals with various elements of Dionysian worship, where by the hallucinatory experiences brought of by drunkenness were reenacted. 



There are many versions on the myth about the love between Dionysos and Ariadne. One of there (immortalised by Plutarch) says that on his way back from Crete, Theseas was shipwrecked onto the coast of Cyprus. He managed to haul the pregnant Ariadne onto the shore at Amathus, but was then swept off into the open sea. Ariadne remained on the island alone where she died of misery. She gave birth to two sons, Staphylos and Oinopionas.

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