The Dionysus Associations

A number of Greek mythological characters, including Icarius, Midas, Ariadne, Lycurgus, and Orpheus, are connected to The Dionysis Associations. The connection is explained below:

Dionysus and Icarius

Icarius was a saint of Athens whom Dionysus visited while in Attica. Icarius invited the god to visit and learned the craft of wine production. Anxious to share his new art, Icarius gave the art of winemaking to his shepherds. One day the shepherds consumed a tremendous amount of alcohol all at once, and in their drunk state killed the blameless Icarius.

The shepherds recovered, realized their error, and buried Icarius. He[1] was later found by his daughter, Erigone with the assistance of her canine, Maera. Driven by sorrow, Erigone hung herself over her father’s grave. When Dionysus knew about the incident, he rebuffed Athens with a dry season and a plague, causing madness to every unmarried lady, who hung themselves as Erigone did.

The frantic Athenians moved toward Apollo and Dionysus and begged him to lift his revile. As repentance, Athenians chose to respect the passings of Icarius and Erigone every year.

Dionysus and Midas

Silenus was the instructor of Dionysus. He was a father-like figure to him. When Silenus disappeared and strayed into an alcoholic state in Phrygia, the realm of Midas, he accidentally fell into a whirlpool and suffocated, but King Midas rescued him. Midas treated him with kindness, sending him to Dionysus, who was worried about his instructor.

A cheerful Dionysus granted Midas a wish as an award for caring for his mentor. Midas’ wish was to turn everything he touched into gold. Dionysus agreed, and a thrilled Midas rushed to test his recently divine power. Cheering, he got back and requested his workers set his table to eat, but all his food and drink were transformed into gold with his touch.

Later, when he embraced his wife and she too transformed into gold, Midas understood the results of his error and voracity. Frantic and humble, he implored Dionysus to return him to his previous state. Finally, Dionysus accepted his supplications, and the wish was reversed. 

Dionysus’ Association with Ariadne

King Minos of Crete demanded seven young men and women from Athens in exchange for not attacking the city.  These young men and women were sent at regular intervals into the maze of Knossos, where they were at last eaten by Minotaur (an animal that was half man and half bull).

One of these young men was the Athenian legend, Theseus. King Minos’ daughter, Ariadne fell in love with Theseus. When it was time for him to enter the maze she gave him a brilliant string to traverse the Minotaur labyrinth. Ariadne then helped Theseus kill the Minotaur and together they escaped Crete.

Before Ariadne helped Theseus escape he had promised to marry her. However, he abandoned Ariadne on the island of Naxos while she was asleep. Later, Dionysus found her and carried her to Olympus, where the two were married.

In certain varieties of the legend, it was Dionysus who trained Theseus for the killing as he was fascinated by Ariadne. Later, Ariadne was killed and stoned by King Perseus. However, Dionysus slid into the underworld, Hades to save her and carried her back to Olympus. Ariadne proceeded to have a few off-springs with Dionysus, with the most noted being Oenopion (Lord of Chios), Staphylus, and Theas (Ruler of Lemnos).

Dionysus’ Association with Lycurgus

Dionysus’ association with Lycurgus was tragic. Lycurgus was a protector of Edones in Thrace. According to Homeric fantasy, Lycurgus assaulted Dionysus and his admirers on the hallowed pile of Nysa. As Dionysus ran away from the area by bouncing into the ocean, he was saved by the ocean sprite Thetis (Nereid).

Also read: A Glimpse Into the History of Roman Wine

Zeus assaulted Lycurgus and blinded him as revenge for his actions against Zeus’ son, Dionysus. In another version, when Lycurgus drove away Dionysus from his realm and detained the maenads, Dionysus cursed his property with a dry spell and him with franticness.

Having gone crazy, Lycurgus confused his child with a full-grown trunk of ivy (ivy was sacred to Dionysus) and killed him with a hatchet.

Did You Know: Dionysus drove Lycurgus insane. In his madness, Lycurgus mistook his son for a mature trunk of ivy, which is holy to Dionysus, and killed him, pruning away his nose and ears, fingers and toes.

After returning to normal, Lycurgus observed his kingdom’s barrenness. He went to the oracle to find out how could save his land, and the oracle announced that the country would regain its glory only if Lycurgus was killed. The ruler was subsequently tied by his own kin and killed.

Dionysus And Orpheus

As per Greek mythology, Dionysus had a strong association with Orpheus, a fantastic artist and diviner who was the originator[2] and prophet of the supposed “Obscure” secrets. Orpheus was so gifted that he could fascinate every living thing and even stones with his music.

As narrated in a rundown of Aeschylus’ lost play, Bassarids, as Orpheus became older, he turned into an ardent admirer of Apollo (God of insight). Once, he was visiting Dionysus at Mount Pangaion and giving his praise to Apollo. The act angered Dionysus, and Thracian Maenads killed him for not praising Dionysus.

However, the alternate version tells that Orpheus turned into a devotee of Dionysus. In this version, it is said that Orpheus was later destroyed by the ladies of Thrace for his mindlessness.

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On This Day

  • 13th Century BCE: Dionysus’s name appeared on Linear B. It showed that people during the time of Mycenaean worshipped him.
  • 186 BCE: During this time, people in Italy prohibited the celebration of a festival called ‘Bacchanalia.’
  • 520 BC: Dionysus ventured into Hades and brought his mother, Semele back. She also became immortal.
  • Late 6th Century BCE: At this point, people built a temple of Zeus in Athens. Zeus was the father of Dionysus.
  • 327 to 325 BCE: Alexander departed the region after making a campaign alongside the Indus River. He never returned.
  • 5th Century CE: Nonnus of Panopolis wrote the Dionysus, an epic poem describing the deity Dionysus’ voyage to India.
  • 1300 BC: Mycenaean Greece has the first recorded accounts of Dionysus worship.
  • 570 BC: The oldest picture of the Greek God Dionysus to have been discovered is believed to be from this time. 

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