Dionysus in Early Greek Sources
Iliad 6. Diomedes and Glaukos
Diomedes in his bloodlust during the Trojan war encounters Glaukos. Glaukos stops him, and
tells him a story of his lineage in which he reveals that his and Diomedes’grandfathers were
guest-friends of each other. Thus they cannot kill one another and instead swap armor as a token
Diomedes says he will not fight against any god and gives the example of Lycurgus who opposes
Dionysus and is severely punished for that.
Iliad 14. Zeus to Hera about his past loves
Lists Semele as his past lover, who was mother to Dionysus
Hera had tricked Semele to ask Zeus to show himself in his true form. She is burnt to a crisp. He
sews Dionysus into his thigh and later “gives birth” to him.
Odyssey 11. Odysseus recounting the women we saw in the Underworld
Dionysus takesAriadne has his lover and turns her crown into a star, immortalizing her
But in this version it predisposes that Dionysus andAriadne already had an affair and then she
left for Theseus, and Dionysus has her killed.
Odyssey 24. Agamemnon’s shade to Achilles, describing the latter’s funeral
Mixing bones in a krater?
Theogony 940-49 in the catalogue of Zeus’consorts
Semele bore Zeus Dionysus who was immortal
Dionysus tookAriadne to be his wife and made her immortal and ageless
Works and Days 609-14 Describing what the farmer must do in September
Wine as the gift of Dionysus
Fr.. 239 (Hesiod)
Dionysus as the breaker of chains - the epithet Lyaios
Does this through wine which loosens
Hymns are a praise song for divinities
Encomium is a praise song for mortals
Typical features of a hymn are a list of epithets, the origin of the god, and how he got his honors
(his deeds for which he received various time (p.timai) (honor), and is written heavily in the
second-person singular (Du-Stil)
Hymn 1, fragment
Describes the birth of Dionysus, and mentions various versions of the story. This hymn offers the
Was born on Nysa (same mountain mentioned in Lycurgus myth)
Dionysus is a beautiful youth (eromenos) - always presented as a young androgynous man.
Dionysus is erotically attractive and that is important! Etruscan pirates kidnap him for the
purpose of selling him off as a love-slave Dionysus cannot be bound - he is the loosener. One person realizes it is a bad idea to kidnap him,
but the pirates do not listen to him. Dionysus caused wine and vines to overtake the ship. Then a
lion attacks the sailors, who leap form the ship and are turned into dolphins.
Representations of Dionysus
The Birth of Dionysus. Bell Crater by Altamura Painter. Ca. 460 BC
Dionysus is holding a Kantharos (identified by the ear-like handles). The vessel this is painted on
is a Krater, which was used to mix wine and water
White-ground Kylix Crater by Phiale Painter Ca. 440-35 BC
Zeus brings Dionysus to Papposilenus. Silenus is part of Dionysus retinue.AKylix is a drinking
Dinos by Sophilos, 580 BC
Dinos is another vessel for mixing or storing. This is the first piece of pottery that has a signed
artists. Important because it is the first representation of Dionysus. The uppermost layer
represents wedding of Peleus and Thetis. Dionysus is identified by holding a vine.
Francois Vase by Kleitias Ca. 570 BC
Represents various stories. In this one we find Dionysus carrying a wine jar on his way to the
wedding of Peleus and Thetis.Another very old representation of him.
Another scene shows Hephaistos who was lead back to Olympus in the accompaniment of
Dionysus. Hephaistos led back on a donkey with a group of Silenoi. Satyrs are portrayed with
huge erect phalloi. The word for representing with erect penis is ithyphallic. Older
representations tend to show satyrs with hooves, and the youngers show them more human. They
are half horse! Not goat! Whaaaaaaaaaaat.
Apuleius is a later RomeAuthor, writer of the Golden Ass. Aguy witnesses a witch transforming
herself into an owl. He wants to the same so he steals some of her magic but he is transformed
into a donkey. The narrator then is in the form of an ass. He observes the follies of men (they
think he’s just a stupid donkey). His whole story revolves around trying to transform himself
back - he needs to find roses. In his travels he is taken in by a bunch of actors who want him to
copulate with a condemned woman, meanwhile another woman is in love with him due to his
Black figure Kylix by Exekias 540-35 BC.
The scene of Dionysus and the pirates - the vines and wine overwhelming the ship and the crew
as dolphins. The ship itself also has a shape of the fish. The ancients often thought the
symposium as a sea-voyage - a widespread metaphor. You can have a nice journey or have a
shipwreck. Basically the cups are a bit of a mystery until you drink all your wine. Surprise!
Stamnos from British Museum. Ca. 450 BC
Dionysus is ripping apart a large cat. There is a technical term for the ripping apart of animals or
humans: sparagmos.Agave partakes in this with her son (whom she thinks is a mountain-lion).
Neck Amphora by Amasis painter. Ca. 540-30 BC.
Maenads presenting offerings that they hunted to Dionysus. He holds a Kantharos.
Dionysus in skins while holding Kantharos
Skyphos from Chiusi Dionysus holding a thyrsos and kantharos.
Krater by Gottingen painter. 490 BC.
Pederastic relationship in drunken revelry
Stamnos by Dinos painter. 420 BC
Mise en abyme - a picture within a picture. This term was in narratology and comes from
heraldic symbols. In narrative you have a larger story, and within it is another story which reflect
Kylix by Makron ca. 480 BC
Maenads worshipping Dionysus. On his garment are dolphins, evoking the story of the pirates.
Neckamphora ca. 420
Representation of a mask of Dionysus. He is the god of theatre and masks are used in drama.
Dionysus as the God of Drama
2 festivals in the year which feature dramatic contests. 1) City Dionysia - spri