Dionysos, an unique God among Hellenic Gods.

Dionysos is a unique deity in the Hellenic pantheon.He is different from the other Gods and unlike the rest, he has several myths about his birth. The Orphics believed that Zagreos was going to be the next king of the Gods until Hera sent the Titans after the kid to devour him. Zeus killed them all with his lightning and from that was mankind born and that mankind carried the stain of that sin forever.

To be honest I found it was difficult for me to connect with Dionysos. I like order more than chaos. I need structure in my life to be able to function, even though it might seem that there isn’t one, there is still a structure. Just a few months ago, I discovered, while I suspected as much, that I’m on the autism spectrum and perhaps that is a reason why the God never really appealed to me because I liked order, structure more than chaos. Down below you can find a small book list where you can find useful books on Dionysos that are highly praised. I own them myself and i’m in the process rereading them. Both are bit academic but contain very useful information. This blogpost is recycled from an earlier blogpost.


Dionysus is the god of fertility, vegetation, epiphany, exctacy and wine, later considered a patron of the arts. He created wine and spread the art of viticulture. He had a dual nature; on one hand, he brought joy and divine ecstasy; or he would bring brutal and blinding rage, thus reflecting the dual nature of wine. Dionysus and his followers could not be bound by fetters.

Dionysus was the son of Zeus and Semele, and he was the only god with a mortal parent. Zeus went to Semele in the night, unseen by human eyes, but could be felt as a divine presence. Semele was pleased to be the lover of a god, even though she did not know which one. Word soon got around and Hera quickly assumed who was responsible. She went to Semele in disguise and convinced her she should see her lover as he really was. When Zeus visited her again, she made him promise to grant her one wish. She went so far as to make him swear on the River Styx that he would grant her request. Zeus was madly in love and agreed. She then asked him to show her his true form. Zeus was unhappy knowing what was about to happen, but bound by his oath, he had no choice. He appeared in his true form and Semele was instantly burnt to a crisp by the sight of his glory. Zeus managed to rescue the fetal Dionysus and stitched him into his thigh until he would be ready to be born. His birth from Zeus conferred immortality upon him.

Hera, still jealous of Zeus’ infidelity and the fact that Dionysus was alive, arranged for the Titans to kill him. The Titans ripped him to pieces; however, Rhea brought him back to life. After this, Zeus arranged for his protection and gave him to the mountain nymphs to be raised. Both Seaford and Otto mention that Semele, the mother of Dionysos was not a mortal, but an Earth Goddess from Phrygia. It wasn’t until a 6th century poet turned Semele into a mortal and daughter of Kadmos that things changed. Changing his mother into a mother also changed things quite drastically for Dionysos’ cult. It meant that next to Herakles, he was not the only one who turned into a God, but unlike Herakles, He was born a God. By turning him mortal first, He was the one who made the transition from mortal to God through dying and than dying again. That is to take into account the Orphic myth where he as Zagreos was torn to shreds by the Titans. This change would make him later a strong competitor with Jesus Christ. Christians turned him into a saint like Saint Dionysios like they did with Demeter or any other cult they couldn’t destroy, they would then absorb them into their religion as a saint, which is basically a demotion. I don’t know why the poet decided to turn his mother into a mortal, maybe because at that time Dionysos was considered already born first mortal, than turned into a God by his cult? Or was it to make him more appealing to the elite that He was already Greek instead of a foreigner? Even though as early as the end of 2nd millennium BC transcriptions of Dionysos was found in Linear B script. No matter what, his Thracian-Phrygian roots were always part of his cult. The Thracian king Lykourgos was the only one who successfully defeated the God, even though Zeus would exact revenge on him.

The Outsider

Because Dionysus was the only Olympian with a mortal mother, because he was raised on the mythical Mount Nysa (which was believed to be either far to the south or the east), and because he wandered Asia before arriving in Greece, Dionysus was seen as an outsider. This was an inherent part of his cult, which often focused on the more subversive elements of his nature. Dionysus was often called Eleutherios, meaning “the liberator,” because his wine, music, and ecstatic dance freed his followers from self-consciousness and the restraints of society.

Indeed, as the “twice-born” god, Dionysus had crossed the boundary between life and death, and he was often portrayed as the god who crossed the boundary between the civilized and uncivilized and the known and unknown. He was represented as a god of chaos and the protector of misfits. He was also considered the outsider because of his Thracian and Phrygian roots as mentioned earlier. He was considered the outsider because of his cult, that He was different from the other Gods. His cult wasn’t the norm for the ancient Greeks, even for the Romans. The Roman republic even went to so far as to banish the cult of Bacchus-Dionysos because they found it so disruptive. Later they reversed this policy when they also imported the cult of Kybele into the republic. What made his cult so different was that they wanted their followers to be possessed sort of speak, induce madness, let all inhibitions go during their rituals. The story of Pentheus showed that when king Pentheus outlawed his cult and when he tried to take a sneak peak at their rituals, he was torn to sheds by a group of women, including his own mother. So its suffice to say that his cult evolved over time, like most religions did anyway. All religions evolve. The religion of Dionysos challenged social norm as, similar to what Christianity would do later. A fellow polytheist states that according to him there isn’t 1 Dionysos but many. His various names and epithets. Considering that he is a Dionysian, I don’t agree with him but do find that take interesting. For me, they are aspects of the God, not different Gods altogether. I wonder how he came to that conclusion? I have been thinking and studying Aidoneos for many years now and for me the other names of Him are aspects of Him, not different Gods. The exception being Thanatos. By the fifth century Aidoneos had absorbed Thanatos but to me, these two are very distinct deities. Even though Dionysos was also thought to be the Lord of the Underworld. Due to this khthonic connections, some thought that He was also the God of the underworld. Sometimes they seem to represent Him that way or along with Hades & Persephone. That He has khthonic connections is not uncommon. He has died and came back. He crossed the boundary that all mortals have to cross and unlike all mortals, He came back from it. He is among the few who could do that. Many Gods could not cross that boundary unless they have strong khthonic connections like Hermes, Iris have, but also Zeus.

God of prophecies and ecstasy 

As a God of prophecies and ecstasy, Dionysos can be terrifying, more than any other God because He is not above to let to get to know you with your real self. something that can be terrifying for most. Dionysos get rids of all layers of walls that you have build up over the years and he tears them all down until only the real you remains. The civilized part, he shreds it to pieces and shows you the real you. That can be terrifying for some. Not everyone can handle such a thing. I think that is one of the reasons why his cult was forbidden for a time in Ancient Rome. polytheistic societies as a while rarely outlaw a cult of a deity except when it threatens the status quo and that is exactly what the cult of Dionysos/Bacchus did in Ancient Rome when it was outlawed. It threaten the very fabric of society. But the ban was uplifted years later.


Dionysos had several festivals dedicated to him like the Lena, the rural and city Dionysia, the Anthesteria festival. He also played a role in the Eleusinian mysteries as wel. He also played a large role in Orphism as well and was known as Zagreos, Sabazios and Bacchus and Liber.


Acratophorus, Ἀκρατοφόρος (“giver of unmixed wine”), at Phigaleia in Arcadia.

Aisymnetes, Αἰσυμνήτης (insensitive) who rules the faith (μοίρα).

Acroreites at Sicyon.

Adoneus, a rare archaism in Roman literature, a Latinised form of Adonis, used as epithet for Bacchus.

Aegobolus Αἰγοβόλος (“goat-shooter”) at Potniae, in Boeotia.

Aesymnetes Αἰσυμνήτης (“ruler” or “lord”) at Aroë and Patrae in Achaea.

Agrios Ἄγριος (“wild”), in Macedonia.

Androgynos Ἀνδρόγυνος (androgynous in intercourse) referring to the god in sexual intercourse, doing both the active Male role and the passive Female one.

Anthroporraistes, Ἀνθρωπορραίστης (“man-destroyer”), a title of Dionysus at Tenedos.

Bassareus, Βασσαρεύς a Thracian name for Dionysus, which derives from bassaris or “fox-skin”, which item was worn by his cultists in their mysteries.

Bougenes, Βουγενής or Βοηγενής (“borne by a cow”), in the Mysteries of Lerna.

Braetes, Βραίτης (“related to beer”) at Thrace.

Briseus Βρῑσεὐς (“he who prevails”) in Smyrna.

Bromios Βρόμιος (“roaring”, as of the wind, primarily relating to the central death/resurrection element of the myth,but also the god’s transformations into lion and bull, and the boisterousness of those who drink alcohol. Also cognate with the “roar of thunder”, which refers to Dionysus’ father, Zeus “the thunderer”.)

Choiropsalas χοιροψάλας (“pig-plucker”: Greek χοῖρος = “pig”, also used as a slang term for the female genitalia). A reference to Dionysus’s role as a fertility deity.

Chthonios Χθόνιος (“the subterranean”)

Cittophorus Κιστοφόρος (“basket-bearer, ivy-bearer”), Alludes To baskets being sacred to the god.

Dimetor Διμήτωρ (“twice-born”) Refers to Dionysus’s two births.

Dendrites Δενδρίτης (“he of the trees”), as a fertility god.

Dithyrambos, Διθύραμβος used at his festivals, referring to his premature birth.

Eleutherios Ἐλευθέριος (“the liberator”), an epithet shared with Eros.

Endendros (“he in the tree”).

Enorches (“with balls”), with reference to his fertility, or “in the testicles” in reference to Zeus’ sewing the baby Dionysus “into his thigh”, understood to mean his testicles).used in Samos and Lesbos.

Eridromos (“good-running”), in Nonnus’ Dionysiaca.

Erikryptos Ἐρίκρυπτος (“completely hidden”), in Macedonia.

Euaster (Εὐαστήρ), from the cry “euae”.

Euius (Euios), from the cry “euae” in lyric passages, and in Euripides’ play, The Bacchae.

Iacchus, Ἴακχος a possible epithet of Dionysus, associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries. In Eleusis, he is known as a son of Zeus and Demeter. The name “Iacchus” may come from the Ιακχος (Iakchos), a hymn sung in honor of Dionysus Indoletes, Ἰνδολέτης, meaning slayer/killer of Indians. Due to his campaign against the Indians.

Kemilius, Κεμήλιος (kemas: “young deer, pricket”).

Liknites (“he of the winnowing fan”), as a fertility god connected with mystery religions. A winnowing fan was used to separate the chaff from the grain.

Lenaius, Ληναίος (“god of the wine-press”) 

Lyaeus, or Lyaios (Λυαῖος, “deliverer”, literally “loosener”), one who releases from care and anxiety.

Lysius, Λύσιος (“delivering, releasing”). At Thebes there was a temple of Dionysus Lysius.

Melanaigis Μελάναιγις (“of the black goatskin”) at the Apaturia festival.

Morychus Μόρυχος (“smeared”); in Sicily, because his icon was smeared with wine lees at the vintage.

Mystes Μύστης (“of the mysteries”) at Tegea in Arcadia.

Nysian Nύσιος, according to Philostratus, he was called like this by the ancient Indians.Most probably, because according to legend he founded the city of Nysa.

Oeneus, Οἰνεύς (“wine-dark”) as god of the wine press.

Omadios (“flesh-eater”), Eusebius writes in Preparation for the Gospel that, Euelpis of Carystus states that, in Chios and Tenedos they did human sacrifice to Dionysus Omadios.

Phallen , (Φαλλήν) (probably “related to the phallus”), at Lesbos.

Phleus (“related to the bloοm of a plant”).

Pseudanor Ψευδάνωρ (literally “false man”, referring to his feminine qualities), in Macedonia.

Perikionius, Περικιόνιος (“climbing the column (ivy)”, a name of Dionysus at Thebes.

Semeleios (Semeleius or Semeleus),an obscure epithet meaning ‘He of the Earth’, ‘son of Semele’.Also appears in the expression Semeleios Iakchus plutodotas (“Son of Semele, Iakchus, wealth-giver”).

Skyllitas, Σκυλλίτας (“related to the vine-branch”) at Kos.[

Sykites, Συκίτης (“related to figs”), at Laconia.

Taurophagus, Ταυροφάγος (“bull eating”).

Tauros Ταῦρος (“a bull”), occurs as a surname of Dionysus.

Theoinus, Θέοινος (wine-god of a festival in Attica).

Τhyiοn, Θυίων (“from the festival of Dionysus ‘Thyia’ (Θυῐα) at Elis”).

Thyllophorus, Θυλλοφόρος (“bearing leaves”), at Kos.[

Suggested reading list:

Dionysos: myth and cult by Walter F. Otto.

Dionysos by Richard Seaford

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