Dionysus Miscellanea

Statue of Dionysus of the "Madrid-Varese ...

Statue of Dionysus of the "Madrid-Varese type". Roman artwork based on a late Hellenistic original (ca. 125–100 BC). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hey, folks, it’s the end of the semester.  While I’m buy writing papers for the next few days, I may not get another chance to post.  In the meantime, check out some of the fun facts I that my research turned up but which I couldn’t work into my paper on the cult of Dionysus in Hellenistic Greece and the Roman Republic:

* Although most often described as the son of the mortal princess Semele, Dionysos is also said to be the son of Persephone, a relationship which explains his cthonic attributes (Burkert 1985.294)  Those familiar with Orphic mythology already know this.

* The thyrsos wand, associated with Bacchic worship, may—according to Burkert—draw its name from association “with a god attested in Ugarit, tirsu, intoxicating drink, or alternatively with the Late Hittite tuwarsa, vine…”, and that the very name Bacchus may be drawn from a Semitic word for wailing, drawing a parallel with the wailing over the death of the Mesopotamian god Tammuz. (Burkert 1985 p.163)

* Dionysus shares the thyrsos wand with Artemis—the only other deity to use the wand in their rites. (Burkert 1985 p.223)

* Dionysus may have been depicted on herms, either as himself or synchretised with Hermes (Burkert 1985 p.222)

* Prefiguring later synchretisms, the worship of Dionysus was influenced by the cult of Osiris as early as 660 BCE (Burkert 1985 p.163), an association later affirmed by both Herodotus and Plutarch, the latter of whom also equated Dionysus with Serapis. (Martin 1987.91)


Burkert, Walter. Greek Religion. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985.

Martin, Luther H. Hellenistic Religions: An Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.


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