Dionysus is the last of the gods to enter Olympos and the son of Zeus and the Theban princess Semele. Semele was the unluckiest of women whom Zeus fell in love with. The biggest reason for this was Hera, the jealous wife of Zeus. But that’s it, Zeus had fallen madly in love with Semele and had sworn to do whatever Semele said. Hera, on the other hand, made a treacherous plan to separate them out of jealousy. An old woman appeared before Semele and said to her:
“Wish Zeus show you your divine side!”
The Union of Semele and Zeus and the Birth of the God of Wine
Semele wished to see Zeus in all his radiance as a god… But Semele was a mortal, and Zeus was the God of Heaven and Lightning… That’s why it would be very risky for Semele to see Zeus in all his nakedness, with his divine radiance, and it did happen. Zeus had sworn once and there was no going back. He appeared before Semele, the woman he fell in love with, in all his divine radiance. When Semele saw Zeus in all his radiance, he could not stand his burning brilliance and died there.
Meanwhile, Semele’s baby, who was seven months pregnant, fell out of her belly, but luckily a dense leafy ivy prevented the baby from dying. As soon as Zeus realized this, he took the beautiful baby and kept it in his calf until Hera was born, so that Hera would not harm him. After Dionysus was born, Hera did not want him and ordered the Titans urgently.
Thereupon, the Titans captured Dionysus, cut him to pieces and cooked him in a cauldron. But Rhea, mother of Zeus, was very upset by what happened to Dionysus, and with the help of Athena, she saved him, put his pieces together and gave him life again. Thus, Dionysus 2. once came to life.
But Hera was not going to leave Dionysus alone, so Zeus sent Dionysus to the Nysa valley, near the nymphs, to protect him from his jealous wife. Nymphs are said to be from the Hyads, the Hyad’s greatest ability is to make rain. For this reason, Dionysus came into existence from fire and was raised by rain. The warmth that makes the grapes and the water that makes the vines grow…
Dionysus and Some Events That Happened
After Dionysus grew up, he traveled far and foreign countries. During this time he toured, he taught these mortal people how to make wine and how to worship him. One day, according to a legend, pirates came ashore and saw him, he must have been the son of a king, this strong and handsome boy in stature… If they kidnapped him, what fortunes would his father offer them to get his son back.
With these thoughts, they went ashore and caught Dionysus. They prepared to bring him to their ships and tie him with ropes. When they wanted to tie it, the scene they faced was this: All the ropes entangled in Dionysus’ hands and feet were breaking on their own. Despite all the efforts, the pirates were unable to tie this handsome and beautiful young man.
Thinking that he might be a great man, perhaps even a god, the helmsman said to his friends, “We must put him back and get away from here now!” But neither the pirates nor the captain of the ship took what the helmsman said seriously. They set sail quickly. Although the weather was quite suitable for sailing, the ship did not move from its place. Then, all of a sudden, amazing things started to happen. Wine flooded the deck; A vine suddenly appeared on his sail.
The pirates were horrified and decided to release the helmsman who opened his cursed mouth to the shore. At that very moment, all the captives on the ship turned into huge lions and attempted to attack the pirates. The pirates were afraid of what to do and thought that they had no other choice but to jump into the sea, and they hurried to the blue waters.
But as soon as their feet touched the water, they all turned into dolphins. The great god was only sorry for the helmsman, who was a kind-hearted person. He warned him not to be afraid, because before him was the god of Wine. The great Dionysus, son of Zeus and Semele…
Other Travels and General Character of Dionysus
Once, Dionysus was passing through Thrace. King Lykurgos uttered insulting words to him and stated that he would never worship Dionysus. He arrested everyone who was with Dionysus. Dionysus escaped from there and hid in the blue depths of the sea. After a certain time, he emerged from the depths of the sea and punished the king.
Dionysus could not get his mother out of his mind, whom he could never see or even smell. The sense of longing he felt even though he hadn’t seen her had become immense. For this reason, he made up his mind to go down to the underworld to find his mother. When he found his mother there, he challenged Death and defeated Death. So he took his mother, Semele, from there and took him to Olympos.
Semele was a mortal, but her son was the great Dionysus… For this reason, the immortals agreed to take him to Olympos. The god of wine was a kindhearted person, but could be worse than anyone else if he wanted to. He could give happiness and freedom to those who believed in him, or brutal destruction.
Dionysus often drove people crazy… He would release the Mainads, also known as the Bakkhas, into the woodlands. These women, whom we call bakkhas, would go crazy with the wine, run screaming and savagely drink the blood of the animals they caught. Nothing could ever stop them. The gods of Olympus wanted order in ceremonies and offerings. Everything was done in order.
However, these women did not have a place that could be called sacred. They lived in the wildest hills, in the bottomless forests. They slept on lush-leaved trees and beautiful grass, and when they woke up, they bathed in the stream, worshiping the sky in this wild beauty. Then they would feed on the blackberry and goat milk that Dionysus gave them, and they would go on bloody hunts.
Dionysus and Final Words
The contrast in these stories shows us that Dionysus both pleases and hurts. Just like wine, Dionysus… Like wine, it makes you happy and gives peace; but if it is exaggerated, it can also make you drunk. The Greeks knew Dionysus with these two aspects. Those who drank wine from his wine glass would be brave and fear nothing.
That wine that would give hope to the poor, that there would be peace and life, that all their troubles would vanish… For all these reasons, people loved and cared more about Dionysus than other gods. Not only wine drinkers but also non-wine drinkers believed in him.
The ceremonies for Dionysus were unlike any in Greece. These festivities would begin with the spring, when the vines were green. There would be an open-air theater and the people there would watch this theater with pleasure. The most unique Greek poems were written for Dionysus.
These festivals, which they call “vintage” with a sacredness, are very important for theater history and literature. Tragedies and comedies were played in these theatres. But tragedy always outnumbered comedies. There is a mythological reason why the tragedies are too numerous.
In fact, Dionysus is also an immortal, writhing in pain just like Demeter. But this pain is not because of others, but directly related to Dionysus himself. The vine is very pruned, bare in winter, alone… Dionysus dies in winter, when spring comes, its branches bloom and come to life.
Then the seasons would change, he would be naked again, hanging off the branches, and he would die again. While celebrating his re-existence in the theater, they also remember that he died every year. With this side of him, Dionysus would reveal that death never ends. People who believed in him also believed that there was a life after death. Dionysus was never a resurrected dead. It was a dying life.
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