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(also known as Bacchus in Roman mythology) The Greek god of wine and fertile crops, the son of Zeus and Semele. Saved from his dead mother, the unborn child was sewed into Zeus ' thigh. After his birth, Dionysus was torn to pieces by the Titans at the jealous Hera's instigation. Revived by Rhea, he was transformed into a kid and raised by nymphs. As a young man, he invented wine and introduced the vine to many lands, accompanied everywhere by a troop of maenads and suitors. Those who opposed his orgiastic rites were driven mad or otherwise destroyed. He married Ariadne, whom Theseus had deserted in the island of Naxos. Later he took the place of Hestia as one of the twelve Olympians and raised his mother from Hades under the name of Thyone.

The important festivals, among them the Eleusinian Mysteries and the Athenian Antestheria, celebrated the cult of Dionysus as the daemon of reviving vegetation in the spring. An influential development of this cult was Orphism, which in turn influenced the philosophies of Pythagoras and Plato. Euripides ' play The Bacchants tells the story of Dionysus ' gory triumph over Pentheus, king of Thebes. It is generally acknowledged that drama, especially tragedy, developed out of the traditional ceremonies performed at Dionysian festivals to celebrate the death and resurrection of the god.

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Publication:Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia, 3rd ed.
Article Type:Reference Source
Date:Jan 1, 1987
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