Roman name: Bacchus
Parents: Zeus and Semele
Dionysus had an unusual birth. Zeus, his father, disguised himself to get Semele to fall in love with him. She became pregnant with Zeus’s child. Hera wanted revenge when she found out about the affair. She disguised herself as a mortal and became Semele’s maidservant. She convinced Semele to ask Zeus to reveal his glory and prove that he really was a god. So Semele asked for one wish of Zeus. He promised to grant it. She asked for him to reveal his glory to her, and he was bound to comply knowing it would be disastrous for his mortal lover. When he revealed himself, Semele was consumed by his radiance. Zeus ordered Hermes to save the baby and had it put into his own thigh. Three months later, Dionysus was born.
To hide Dionysus from Hera, Zeus had Ino, Semele’s sister, and her husband Athamas dress Dionysus in girl’s clothing. Hera was not fooled for long however. She caused Ino and Athamas to go mad. Zeus saved his son by turning him into a goat. He had some nymphs raise the boy. This disguise worked and Dionysus was raised in the form of a goat this until he was a young man. Once he was transformed back to his original state, Hera found him and drove him to madness. He wandered the world for several years, until he came across the earth goddess Cybele, who cured him of his madness.
Dionysus married Ariodne the daughter of King Minos (king of Crete). He had several children with her including Phanus and Staphylus who became Argonauts with the legendary Jason. Another son Denopion, became King of Chios and the fourth son Thoas, became king of Lemnos.
Dionysus spent most of his time roaming the earth. Eventually he decided to join the other gods and goddess Olympus. Before returning to Mount Olympus, he went down to the underworld and made a bargin with Hades to bring his mother back from the underworld so she could join him on Mount Olympus. Hades agreed to the deal. Early on in Greece, Dionysus was not part of the Olympians, but later Dionysus sometimes replaces Artemis in the list of the twelve Olympians.
Dionysus was also involved in the story of King Midas. Dionysus’s companion Silenus was captured by King Midas’s men. When it came to the kings attention, Midas released him and treated him with enormous hospitality for many days. When Silenus returned and told Dionysus of the Midas’s generosity. Dionysus decided to reward the king. He told King Midas that he would grant him a wish. Midas decided he wanted everything he touched to turn to gold. Dionysus granted his wish. At first, Midas was thrilled at the gift. He then realized that food and water also were turned to gold. This caused him to starve. Midas asked Dionysus to take back the wish, but Dionysus could not. Instead he sent Midas to the River of Pactlus to wash away the gift.
Bacchus by Michelangelo, Buonarroti - Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence
Major Gods and Goddesses
Introduction | Creation Story | Olympians VS. Titans | Creation of Man | Revolt of Giants
Abduction of Persephone | The Underworld | Visitors to Underworld | Amzon Warriors
Ares vs. Athena | Daedalus and Icarus | Echo and Narcissus | Judgement of Paris
Perseus and Andromeda | Trojan War
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