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Changed in shape from God to man ~ Euripides

In ancient Greek religion and myth, Dionysus (Ancient Greek: Διόνυσος Dionysos) is the god of wine-making, orchards and fruit, vegetation, fertility, festivity, insanity, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, and theatre. He was also known as Bacchus (Βάκχος Bacchos) by the Greeks (a name later adopted by the Romans) for a frenzy he is said to induce called baccheia.


  • ‘Be of good courage, blest companion mine;
    Bacchus am I, the roaring God of Wine;
    And well shall this day be, for thee and thine.’
  • For were it not Dionysus to whom they institute a procession and sing songs in honor of the pudenda, it would be the most shameful action. But Dionysus, in whose honor they rave in bacchic frenzy, and Hades are the same.
  • Dionysus mingles in the wine new powers,
    Sending high adventure to the thoughts of men;
    • Bacchylides, fragment "For Alexander son of Amyntas", from a 1st century papyrus; C. M. Bowra, transl. "Fecundi calices" in The Oxford Book of Greek Verse in Translation (1938), p. 347
  • Bacchus, as Dionysus, is of Indian origin. Cicero mentions him as a son of Thyone and Nisus. Dionusos means the god Dis from Mount Nys in India. Bacchus, crowned with ivy, or kissos, is Christna, one of whose names was Kissen. Dionysus is preeminently the deity on whom were centred all the hopes for future life; in short, he was the god who was expected to liberate the souls of men from their prisons of flesh. Orpheus, the poet-Argonaut, is also said to have come on earth to purify the religion of its gross, and terrestrial anthropomorphism, he abolished human sacrifice and instituted a mystic theology based on pure spirituality. Cicero calls Orpheus a son of Bacchus. It is strange that both seem to have originally come from India. At least, as Dionysus Zagreus, Bacchus is of undoubted Hindu origin. Some writers deriving a curious analogy between the name of Orpheus and an old Greek term, orphos, dark or tawny-colored, make him Hindu by connecting the term with his dusky Hindu complexion.
  • Behold, God's Son is come unto this land
    Of Thebes, even I, Dionysus, whom the brand
    Of heaven's hot splendour lit to life, when she
    Who bore me, Cadmus' daughter Semele,
    Died here. So, changed in shape from God to man,
    I walk again by Dirce's streams and scan
    Ismenus' shore. There by the castle side
    I see her place, the Tomb of the Lightning's Bride,
    The wreck of smouldering chambers, and the great
    Faint wreaths of fire undying—as the hate
    Dies not, that Hera held for Semele.
    • Spoken by Dionysus in Euripides, Bacchae, 1–9; Gilbert Murray, transl., The Bacchae of Euripides, 2nd ed. (1906), p. 8
  • Chorus:
    Him a sad mother, in compulsive woe,
      Untimely gave to birth,
    Then perished mid the lightning’s dazzling glow,
      And mid the thunder’s mirth.
    The Babe, to his bright chamber in the sky
      Did Zeus immediate bear,
    Enclosed with golden cinctures in his thigh,
      And hid from Here there.
    And when the destined months had past away,
      He gave him to the light,
    An antlered God, more beautiful than Day,
      More marvellously bright.
    With braided serpents were his brows entwin’d,
      And thence the Mænads fair,
    The thyrsus-bearing Bacchanals still bind
      Wreathed serpents in their hair.
    • Euripides, Bacchae, Choral Ode to Bacchus (Murray, transl.)
  • Frogs and Dionysus:
    Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax.
    Go, hang yourselves; for what care I?
    All the same we'll shout and cry,
    Stretching all our throats with song,
    Shouting, crying, all day long,
    Frogs and Dionysus:
    Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax.
    In this you'll never, never win.
    This you shall not beat us in.
    No, nor ye prevail o’er me.
    Never! never! I'll my song
    Shout, if need be, all day long,
    Until I’ve learned to master your ko-ax.
    Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax.
    I thought I’d put a stop to your ko-ax.
    • Aristophanes, Frogs, 252–277; B. B. Rogers, transl., Aristophanes, Vol. 2 (1924), p. 321
  • The divine madness was subdivided into four kinds, prophetic, initiatory, poetic, erotic, having four gods presiding over them; the first was the inspiration of Apollo, the second that of Dionysus, the third that of the Muses, the fourth that of Aphrodite and Eros.
  • To the grape-giver Bacchants shout all hail;
  • When Dionysus leads his jocund quire,
    And wingèd songsters tune their various lay,
    And bees go labouring on and never tire,
    Why shall the singer only not be gay?
    • Meleager, Anthologia Palatina, IX, 363 (Beeching, transl.)
  • O Lord with whom playeth Love the subduer and the dark-eyed Nymphs and rosy Aphrodite as thou wanderest the tops of the lofty hills, to thee I kneel; do thou come unto me kind and lending ear unto a prayer that is acceptable, and give Cleobulus good counsel, O Dionysus, to receive my love.
    • Anacreon, Fragment "To Dionysus", quoted by Dio Chrysostom, Declamations, II, 62; J. M. Edmonds, transl., Lyra Graeca, Vol. 2 (1922), p. 138
  • The olive-trees belong to Pallas and the vines round them to Dionysus.
    • Cometas Chartularius, Anthologia Palatina, IX, 586; W. R. Paton, transl., Greek Anthology, Vol. 3 (1915), p. 326
  • Crowne ye God Bacchus with a coronall,
  • So faire a church as this, had Venus none,
    The wals were of discoloured jasper stone,
    Wherein was Proteus carvèd, and o’rehead,
    A livelie vine of greene sea agget spread;
    Where by one hand, light headed Bacchus hoong,
    And with the other, wine from grapes out wroong.
  • I dreamt this mortal part of mine
    Was metamorphos’d to a vine;
    Which crawling one and every way
    Enthrall’d my dainty Lucia.
    Methought, her long small legs and thighs
    I with my tendrils did surprise;
    Her belly, buttocks, and her waist
    By my soft nerv’lets were embrac’d.
    About her head I writhing hung,
    And with rich clusters, hid among
    The leaves, her temples I behung:
    So that my Lucia seem’d to me
    Young Bacchus ravish’d by his tree.
  • Wild I am now with heat:
      O Bacchus, cool thy rays!
    Or frantic I shall eat
      Thy thyrse and bite the bays.
    • Herrick, "To Live Merrily and to Trust to Good Verses", Hesperides (1648)
  • Fondling forbear, ’tis Heresy to think
    There is a Mistress equal to thy Drink;
    Or if in love with any, ’t must be rather
    With that plump Girl that does call Bacchus Father.
  • Bacchus must now his power resign—
    I am the only God of Wine!
    It is not fit the wretch should be
    In competition set with me,
    Who can drink ten times more than he.
    Make a new world, ye powers divine!
    Stock’d with nothing else but Wine:
    Let Wine its only product be,
    Let Wine be earth, and air, and sea—
    And let that Wine be all for me!
    • Henry Carey, "A Drinking Song"; reported in The Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250–1900 (1931) [1900], p. 511

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