DIONYSOS was the great Olympian god of wine, vegetation, pleasure and festivity.
This page describes the divine role and functions of the god, including:
1. Dionysos God of Viticulture & Winemaking
2. Dionysos God of Wine-Drinking & Party
3. Dionysos God of Madness & Hallucination
4. Dionysos God of Fruit & Vegetation
5. Dionysos God of Plays
& Choral Song
6. Dionysos God of Homosexuality & Effeminacy
7. Dionysos God of Reincarnation & the Afterlife
8. Identification with Foreign Gods
The information here is best read in conjunction with the Cult of Dionysos and Titles & Epithets pages.
GOD OF VITICULTURE & WINE-MAKING
I) GOD OF VITICULTURE & WINE-MAKING
Hesiod, Works and Days 609 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"When [the stars] Oarion and Seirios are come into mid-heaven, and rosy-fingered Dawn sees Arktouros, then cut off all the grape-clusters, Perses, and bring them home. Show them to the sun ten days and ten nights: then cover them over for five, and on the sixth day draw off into vessels the gifts of joyful Dionysos."
Hesiod, The Shield of Heracles 398 ff :
"When Seirios [the fiery star] scorches the flesh, when the crude grapes which Dionysos gave to men - a joy and a sorrow both - begin to colour."
Euripides, Bacchae 535 ff (trans. Buckley) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"I swear by the cluster-bearing delight of Dionysos' vine."
Euripides, Bacchae 650 ff :
"He [Dionysos] who produces the rich-clustering vine for mortals."
Euripides, Bacchae 770 ff :
"Receive this god [Dionysos] . . . I hear, that he gives to mortals the vine that puts an end to grief."
Euripides, Bacchae 705 ff :
"Another [of the Bakkhai] let her thyrsos strike the ground, and there the god sent forth a fountain of wine."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 191 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Dionysos came to Attika . . . and Ikarios received Dionysos, who gave him a vine-cutting and taught him the art of making wine."
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 3. 62. 5 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"Dionysos was named twice-born (dimetor) by the ancients, counting it as a single and first birth when the plant is set in the ground and begins to grow, and as a second birth when it becomes laden with fruit and ripens its grape-clusters - the god thus being considered as having been born once from the earth and again from the vine."
Plutarch, Life of Lysander 28. 4 (trans. Perrin) (Greek historian C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
"The spring called Kissousa (of the Ivy) [on Mt Kithairon]. Here, as the story goes, his nurses [the Nysiades] bathed the infant Dionysos after his birth for the water has the color and sparkle of wine, is clear, and very pleasant to the taste."
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 1. 26b-c (trans. Gullick) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"Some even assert that the flight of Dionysos into the sea is a hint that the making of wine had long been known. For wine is sweet when sea water is poured into it. Theopompos [of Khios, poet C4th B.C.] says that dark wine originated among the Khians, and that they were the first to learn how to plant and tend vines from Oinopion, son of Dionysos, who also was the founder of that island-state; and they transmitted it to other peoples."
Aelian, Historical Miscellany 3. 41 (trans. Wilson) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"Note that the ancients used the word phlyein (to luxuriate) of an abundant yield of fruit. So they called Dionysos Phleon (the luxuriant), Protrygaios (the first at the vintage), Staphylites (the god of the grape), Omphakites (the god of the unripe grape), and various other epithets."
Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 1. 31 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
"And if you look at the vine-sprays woven together and at the clusters hanging from them and how the grapes stand out one by one, you will certainly hymn Dionysos and speak of the vine as ‘Queenly giver of grapes.’"
Oppian, Cynegetica 4. 230 (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd A.D.) :
"Now was it fated that a land, which before was wild, should cutivate the vine at the instance of Dionysos who delivers from sorrow."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 129 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"When Liber [Dionysos] had come as a guest to Oeneus . . . he gave the vine as a gift, and showed him how to plant it, and decreed that its fruit should be called ‘oinos’ from the name of his host."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 274 :
"Inventors and their inventions . . . A certain man named Cerasus [a disciple of Dionysos] mixed wine with the river Achelous in Aetolia, and from this ‘to mix’ is called ‘kerasai’. Then, too, the ancient men of our race had on the posts of their dining-couches heads of ases [Dionysos' sacred beast] bound with vines to signify that the ass had discovered the sweetness of the vine. The vine, too, which a goat [Dionysos' sacred animal] had nibbled, brought fort more fruit, and from this they invented pruning."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 130 :
"When Father Liber [Dionysos] went out to visit men in order to demonstrate the sweetness and pleasantness of his fruit, he came to the generous hospitality of Icarius and Erigone. To them he gave a skin full of wine as a gift and bade them spread the use of it in all the other lands."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 2 :
"Icarus, to whom, on account of his justice and piety, Father Liber [Dionysos] gave wine, the vine, and the grape , so that he could show men how to plant the vine, what would grow from it, and how to use what was produced. When he had planted the vine, and by careful tending with a pruning-knife had made it flourish."
Virgil, Georgics 1. 6 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman bucolic C1st B.C.) :
"O Liber [Dionysos] and bounteous Ceres [Demeter], if by your grace Earth changed Chaonia’s acorn for the rich corn ear, and blended draughts of Achelous [water] with the newfound grapes."
Virgil, Georgics 2. 1 ff :
"Now you, Bacchus, will I sing, and with you the forest saplings, and the offspring of the slow-growing olive. Hither Lenaean sire! Here all is full of your bounties; for you blossoms the field teeming with the harvest of the vine, and the vintage foams in the brimming vats. Come hither, Lenaean sire, strip off your buskins and with me plunge your naked legs in the new must."
Virgil, Georgics 2. 111 ff :
"Bacchus [the grape-vine] loves open hills, and the yew tree [over which vines were grown] the cold of the North Wind."
Virgil, Georgics 2. 189 ff :
"This land will some day yield you the hardiest of vines, streaming with the rich flood of Bacchus; this is fruitful in the grape, and in the juice we offer from bowls of fold, when the sleek Etruscan has blown his ivory horn beside the altar, and on bellied platters we present the steaming meat of sacrifice."
Suidas s.v. s.v. Dragmata (quoting Greek Anthology 6. 44. 2-4) (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Dragmata: First fruits. ‘Heronax consecrated [to Dionysos and the Satyroi] as the first fruits of his planting these triple casks from triple vineyards.’"
II) GOD OF WINE TYPES & REGIONS
Strabo, Geography 13. 4. 11 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"The Katakekaumene (Burnt Up) country [in Lydia or Mysia] . . . is without trees except the vine that produces the Katakekaumenite wine, which in quality is inferior to none of the notable wines. The surface of the plain is covered with ashes, and the mountainous and rocky country is black, as though from conflagration . . . That such soil should be well adapted to the vine one might assume from the land of Katana, which was heaped with ashes and now produces excellent wine in great plenty. Some writers, judging from places like this, wittily remark that there is good reason for calling Dionysus Pyrigenes (Fire-Born)."
Strabo, Geography 13. 1. 12 :
"The inhabitants [of the town of Priapos in Mysia] felt an impulse to worship the god [Priapos] because he was called the son of Dionysos and a Nymphe; for their country is abundantly supplied with the vine, both theirs and the countries which border next upon it, I mean those of the Parianoi and the Lampsakenoi."
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 1. 29e (trans. Gullick) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"Hermippos [Greek iambic poet C3rd B.C.], I believe, makes Dionysos mention several varieties [of wine]: ‘Because of Mendaian the gods actually wet their soft beds. As for Magnesia's sweet bounty, and Thasian, over which floats the smell of apples, I judge is far the best of all wines excepting Khian, irreproachable and healthy. But there is a wine which they call "the mellow", and out of the mouth of the opening jars of it there comes the smell of violets, the smell of roses, the smell of hyacinth. A sacred odour pervades the high-roofed dwelling, ambrosia and nectar in one. That is nectar; and of that my friends shall drink in the bountiful feast; but my enemies shall have Peparethan [a strong overpowering wine].’"
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 1. 26b-c :
"Theopompos [of Khios, poet C4th B.C.] says that dark wine originated among the Khians, and that they were the first to learn how to plant and tend vines from Oinopion, son of Dionysos, who also was the founder of that island-state."
Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 2. 6-10 (trans. Conybeare) (Greek biography C1st to 2nd A.D.) :
"The mountain of Nysa [in India] rises covered to its very top with plantations, like the mountain of Tmolos in Lydia."
Pliny the Elder, Natural History 4. 67 (trans. Rackham) (Roman encyclopedia C1st A.D.) :
"Eighteen miles from Delos is Naxos with its town, which was called Strongyle and then Dia and afterwards Dionysiada because of the fertility of its vineyards."
Suidas s.v. Enekheis (quoting Aristophanes, Plutus 1020) (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Enekheis (you poured in): You mixed. Aristophanes [writes]: ‘Certainly, by Zeus, if you poured in Thasian.’ On the basis of Thasian wine being sweet-smelling. For Staphylos, the beloved of Dionysos, lived on Thasos; and because of this Thasian wine is distinctive."
Suidas s.v. Ganos (quoting Greek Anthology 6. 158. 4) :
"Ganos (Refreshment): Wine. ‘Pan [increase his] herd; the Nymphai his fountain; Bakkhos his refreshment.’ Also ganos ampelou (refreshment of the vine), wine, 'toil-ending spiral of the grape cluster."
III) GOD OF WINE-MERCHANTS & COMMERCE
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 1. 27e (trans. Gullick) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"Hermippos [Greek iambic poet C3rd B.C.] recounts thus: ‘Tell me now, ye Mousai that dwell in Olympian mansion, all the blessings, since the time when Dionysos voyaged over the wine-coloured sea, which he [the merchant] hath brought hither to men in his black ship.’"
Pliny the Elder, Natural History 7. 191 (trans. Rackham) (Roman encyclopedia C1st A.D.) :
"It seems suitable to point out the various discoveries of different persons. Father Liber [Dionysos] instituted buying and selling, and also invented the emblem of royalty, the crown, and the triumphal procession."
OF THE GRAPES
GOD OF WINE-DRINKING, PLEASURE & PARTY
I) GOD OF WINE-DRINKING (FOR PLEASURE)
Anacreon, Fragment 12 (from Palatine Antholog, on Anacreon) (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric II) (C6th B.C.) :
"For all your live, old man, was poured out as an offering to these three - the Mousai (Muses), Dionysos and Eros (Love) [he indulged solely in music, wine and love]."
Anacreon, Fragment 346 :
"I owe many thanks, Dionysos [Wine], for having escaped Eros' (Love's) bonds completely, bonds made harsh by Aphrodite."
Anacreon, Fragment 357 :
"Lord [Dionysos], with whom Eros the subduer and the blue-eyed Nymphai, and radiant Aphrodite play, as you haunt the lofty mountain peaks."
The Anacreontea, Fragment 38 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric II) (Greek Lyric B.C.) :
"Let us be merry and drink wine and sing of Bakkhos [Dionysos], the inventor of the choral dance, the lover of all songs, leading the same life as the Erotes (Loves), the darling of Kythere [Aphrodite as goddess of pleasure]; thanks to him Methe (Drunkeness) was brought forth, the Kharis (Grace) was born, Lupa (Pain) takes rest and Ania (Trouble) goes to sleep."
The Anacreontea, Fragment 4 :
"Put vines on it for me [a drinking cup crafted in silver by Hephaistos] with bunches of grapes on them . . . [and images of the gods of pleasure:] the Satyroi laughing, Erotes (Loves) all in gold, Kythere [Aphrodite] laughing together with handsome Lyaios [Dionysos], Eros and Aphrodite."
Euenus, Fragment 2 (trans. Gerber, Vol. Greek Elegiac) (Greek elegy C5th B.C.) :
"[Dionysos, Wine] delights in being mixed as the fourth with three Nymphai [three parts water]; then he's most ready for the bedroom."
Euripides, Bacchae 275 ff (trans. Buckley) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"The goddess Demeter - she is the earth (ge), but call her whatever name you wish; she nourishes mortals with dry food; but he who came afterwards, the offspring of Semele, discovered a match to it, the liquid drink of the grape, and introduced it to mortals. It releases wretched mortals from grief, whenever they are filled with the stream of the vine, and gives them sleep, a means of forgetting their daily troubles, nor is there another cure for hardships. He who is a god is poured out in offerings to the gods, so that by his means men may have good things."
Euripides, Bacchae 375 ff :
"Bromios [Dionysos], the child of Semele, the first deity of the gods at the banquets where guests wear beautiful garlands? He holds this office, to join in dances, to laugh with the flute, and to bring an end to cares, whenever the delight of the grape comes at the feasts of the gods, and in ivy-bearing banquets the goblet sheds sleep over men."
Euripides, Bacchae 420 ff :
"The god [Dionysos], the son of Zeus, delights in banquets, and loves Eirene (Peace), giver of riches (olbodotes), goddess who nourishes youths (thea kourotrophos). To the blessed and to the less fortunate, he gives an equal pleasure from wine that banishes grief."
Euripides, Bacchae 770 ff :
"Receive this god [Dionysos] . . . For he is great in other respects, and they say this too of him, as I hear, that he gives to mortals the vine that puts an end to grief. Without wine there is no longer Kypris [Aphrodite, as goddess joy and pleasure] or any other pleasant thing for men."
Euripides, Bacchae 863 ff :
"Dionysos, who is in fact a god, the most terrible and yet most mild to men."
Orphic Hymn 50 to Lysius Lenaeus (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
"Blest Bakkhos, god of wine . . . Fertile and nourishing, whose liberal care augments the fruit that banishes despair. Sounding, magnanimous, Lenaios power, of various-formed, medicinal, holy flower: mortals in thee repose from labour find, delightful charm, desired by all mankind."
Plato, Cratylus 400d & 406b (trans. Lamb) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"[Plato constructs philosophical etymologies for the names of the gods:]
Sokrates: Let us inquire what thought men had in giving them [the gods] their names . . . The first men who gave names [to the gods] were no ordinary persons, but high thinkers and great talkers . . .
Hermogenes: What of Dionysos and Aphrodite?
Sokrates: You ask great things of me . . . You see there is both a serious and a facetious account of the form of the name of these deities. You will have to ask others for the serious one; but there is nothing to hinder my giving you the facetious account, for the gods also have a sense of humor. Dionysos, the giver (didous) of wine (oinos), might be called in jest Didoinysos, and wine, because it makes most drinkers think (oiesthai) they have wit (nous) when they have not, might very justly be called Oionos (oionous)."
Plato, Laws 653d :
"The gods, in pity for the human race thus born to misery, have ordained the feasts of thanksgiving as periods of respite from their troubles; and they have granted them as companions in their feasts the Mousai (Muses) and Apollon the master of music, and Dionysos."
Plato, Laws 665b :
"[In the ideal city proposed by Plato:] We shall rule that the young man under thirty may take wine in moderation, but that he must entirely abstain from intoxication and heavy drinking. But when a man has reached the age of forty, he may join in the convivial gatherings and invoke Dionysos, above all other gods, inviting his presence at the rite (which is also the recreation) of the elders, which he bestowed on mankind as a medicine potent against the crabbedness of old age, that thereby we men may renew our youth, and that, through forgetfulness of care, the temper of our souls may lose its hardness and become softer and more ductile, even as iron when it has been forged in the fire."
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 2. 38c-d (trans. Gullick) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"Philokhoros [Greek historian C3rd B.C.] has this: ‘Amphiktyon, king of Athens, learned from Dionysos the art of mixing wine, and was the first to mix it. So it was that men came to stand upright, drinking wine mixed, whereas before they were bent double by the use of unmixed. Hence he founded an altar of Dionysos Orthos (Upright) in the shrine of the Horai (Seasons); for these make ripe the fruit of the vine. Near it he also built an altar to the [water] Nymphai to remind devotees of the mixing; for the Nymphai [Naiade, fresh-water nymphs] are said to be the nurses of Dionysos. He also instituted the cutom of taking just a sip of unmixed wine after meat, as a proof of the power of the Good God (Agathos Theos), but after that he might drink mixed wine, as much as each man chose. They were also to repeat over this cup the name of Zeus Soter (Saviour) as a warning and reminder to drinkers that only when they drank in this fashion would they surely be safe.’"
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 2. 39b :
"No man who is fond of drinking is base. For the twice-mothered Bromios [Dionysos] delights not in the company of wicked men or untutored ways,’ says Alexis; and he adds that wine ‘makes all fond of talk who drink it too freely."
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 2. 35d :
"Dilphios the comic poet says: ‘O Dionysos, dearest and wisest in the eyes of men of sense, how kind art thou! Thou alone makest the humble to feel proud, and persuadest the scowler to laugh, the weak to be brave, the cowardly to be bold.’"
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 2. 37f -38a :
"Philokhoros [Greek historian C3rd B.C.] says that drinkers not only reveal what they are, but also disclose the secrets of everybody else in their outspokenness. Hence the saying, ‘wine is truth also,’ and ‘wine revealeth the heart of man.’ Hence also the tripod as prize of victory in the Dionysia (Festival of Dionysos). For of those who speak the truth we say that they ‘speak from the tripod,’ and it must be understood that the mixing-bowl is Dionysos's tripod . . . In these they used to mix their wine, and this is ‘the veritable tripod truth.’ Wherefore the tripod is proper to Apollon because of its prophetic truth, while to Dionysos it is proper because of the truth of wine."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 13. 631 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Entering the palace, they partook of Bacchus' [Dionysos'] boon [wine] and Ceres' [Demeter's] gifts [bread], couched on high coverlets."
Seneca, Oedipus 409 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"Bright glory of the sky [Dionysos] . . . Hither turn with favour thy virginal face; with thy star-bright countenance drive away the clouds, the grim threats of Erebus, and greedy fate [i.e. ease all our cares]."
Seneca, Phaedra 443 ff :
"Remember thy youth and relax thy spirit; go out o' nights, raising the festal torch; let Bacchus [Dionysos] unburden thy weighty cares."
Suidas s.v. s.v. Abromios (quoting Greek Anthology 6. 291. 3-5) (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Abromios (Bromios-less, Bromius-less): Without wine. ‘If I escape through the wave of destructive fire, I tell you I will drink for one hundred suns from dewy streams, Bromios-less and wine-less.’ In the Epigrams."
Suidas s.v. s.v. Agathou Daimonos :
"Agathou Daimonos (Of the Good Spirit): The ancients had a custom after dinner of drinking ‘of the Good Spirit’, by taking an extra quaff of unmixed wine; and they call this ‘of the Good Spirit’, but when they are ready to depart, ‘of Zeus the Savior’. And this is what they called the second of the month. But there was also in Thebes a hero-shrine of the Good Spirit. Others say that the first drinking vessel was called this."
Suidas s.v. s.v. Dionysos :
"Dionysos: The son of Semele. [So named] from accomplishing (dianuein) for each of those who live the wild life; or from providing (dianoein) everything for those who live the wild life." [N.B. This is an unusual etymology.]
Suidas s.v. s.v. Amphiphorea (quoting Greek Anthology 6. 257) :
"Amphiphorêa (two-handled wine jug): Vessel. ‘Who filled me - a two-handled jug fashioned for Dionysos, the wine-vessel for holding Adriatic nectar - with Demeter's stuff? Was it envy of Bakkhos towards me or a lack of a suitable jar for corn-ears? He shamed both: Bakkhos has been robbed, and Demeter does not accept drunkenness as a companion.’"
II) GOD OF WINE-DRINKING (FOR GOOD HEALTH)
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 1. 22e (trans. Gullick) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"The Pythian oracle recorded by Khamaileon: ‘Twenty days before the Dog-star rises and twenty thereafter, make Dionysos your physician within the shadows of your house.’ Mnesitheus of Athens, also, says that the Pythian priestess dreicted the Athenians to honour Dionysos as Latros (Physician)."
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 2. 63a-b :
"Mnesitheus [a Greek physician] said that the gods had revealed wine to mortals, to be the greatest blessing for those who use it aright, but for those who use it without measure, the reverse. For it gives food to them that take it, and strength in mind and body. In medicine it is most beneficial; it can be mixed with liquid drugs and it brings aid to the wounded. In daily intercourse, to those who mix and drink it moderately, it gives good cheer; but if you overstep the bounds, it brings violence. Mix it half and half, and you get madness; unmixed, bodily collapse. Wherefore Dionysos is everywhere called Latros (Physician).’
The Delphic priestess, too, has directed certain persons to call Dionysos Hygiates (Health-Giver). Euboulos makes Dionysos say: ‘Three bowls only do I mix for the temperate – one toe health, which they empty first, the second to love and pleasure, the third to sleep. When this is drunk up wise guests go home. The fourth bowl is our no longer, but belongs to violence the fifth to uproar, the sixth to drunken revel, the seventh to black eyes. The eight is the policeman's, the ninth belongs to biliousness, and the tenth to madness and hurling the furniture. Too much wine, poured into one little vessel, easily knocks the legs from under the drinkers.’"
III) GOD OF DRUNKENNESS
Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragment 87 (from Athenaeus 10. 428) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"Such gifts as Dionysos gave to men, a joy and a sorrow both. Who ever drinks to fullness, in him wine becomes violent and binds together his hands and feet, his tongue also and his wits with fetters unspeakable: and soft sleep embraces him."
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 2. 36d (trans. Gullick) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"Panyasis, the epic poet [C5th B.C.], ascribes the first toast [of wine from a large Greek drinking cup] to the Kharites (Graces), the Horai (Seasons), and Dionysos, the second to Aphrodite (Love) and Dionysos again, the third, however, to Hybris (Violence) and Ate (Folly, Ruin). He says: ‘The first portion fell to the lot of the Kharites (Graces) and the merry Horai (Seasons), and to noisy Dionysos, the very gods who inspired the first round [of drinking]. For the next following Kyprogeneia [Aphrodite] and Dionysos drew the lot. Here men great the greatest good from drinking wine. If a man, content with that, goes back home from the still pleasant feast, he can never meet with nay harm. But if he persist to the full measure of the third round and drink to excess, there rises the bitter doom of Hybris (Violence) and Ate (Ruin), with evils (kakoi) to men in their train . . . According to Euripides, ‘the revel brings blows, insult, and outrage,’ whence some declare that Dionysos and Hybris (Violence) were born at the same time."
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 2. 38e :
"From the condition produced by wine they liken Dionysos to a bull of panther, because they who have indulged too freely are prone to violence . . . There are some drinkers who become full of rage like a bull . . . Some, also, become like wild beasts in their desire to fight, whence the likeness to a panther."
Virgil, Georgics 2. 454 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman bucolic C1st B.C.) :
"What boon of equal note have the gifts of Bacchus [Dionysos] yielded? Bacchus has even given occasion for offence. It was he who quelled in death the maddened Centaurs, Rhoetus, and Pholus, and Hylaeus, as he aimed his massive flagon at the Lapiths [i.e. they were killed because of their drunkenness]."
GOD OF MADNESS, PHANTOMS & HALLUCINATION
Ovid, Metamorphoses 3. 572 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Bacchus [Dionysos] himself, grape-bunches garlanding his brow, brandished a spear that vine-leaves twined, and at his feet fierce spotted panthers lay, tigers and lynxes too, in phantom forms."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 4. 389 ff :
"[Dionysos makes phantoms appear:] the crash of unseen drums clamoured, and fifes and jingling brass resounded, and the air was sweet with scents or myrrh and saffron, and - beyond belief! - the weaving all turned green, the hanging cloth grew leaves of ivy, part became a vine, what had been threads formed tendrils, form the warp broad leaves unfurled, bunches of grapes were seen, matching the purple with their coloured sheen. And now the day was spent, the hour stole on when one would doubt if it were light or dark, some lingering light at night's vague borderlands. Suddenly the whole house began to shake, the lamps flared up, and all the rooms were bright with flashing crimson fires, and phantom forms of savage beasts of prey howled all around."
GOD OF FRUIT & VEGETATION
Seneca, Oedipus 413 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"Thee [Dionysos] it becomes to circle thy locks with flowers of the springtime ... or thy smooth brow to wreathe with the ivy’s clustering berries."
I) GOD OF FRUIT (IN GENERAL)
Orphic Hymn 53 to Amphietus (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
"Khthonion (Earthly) Dionysos, hear my prayer . . . make prolific the holy fruits thy care."
Suidas s.v. Bromios (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Bromios: Dionysos, the birth-maker of fruits. From bora (food) comes borimos, and by metathesis bromios."
Suidas s.v. Anthesterion (from Harpocration s.v.) :
"Anthestêriôn: It is the eighth month amongst the Athenians, sacred to Dionysos. It is so called because most things bloom (anthein) from the earth at that time."
II) GOD OF GRAPES
III) GOD OF OTHER SPECIFIC FRUITS (FIGS, APPLES, ET AL)
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 3. 78a (trans. Gullick) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"Sosibos the Lakedaimonian, by way of proving that the fig-tree is a discovery of Dionysos, says that for that reason the Lakedaimonians even worship Dionysos Sykites (of the Fig). And the Naxians, according to Andriskos and again Aglaosthenes, record that Dionysos is called Meilikhios (Gentle) because he bestowed the fruit of the fig. For this reason, also, among the Naxians the face of the god called Dionysos Bakkheos is made of the vine, whereas that of Dionysos Meilikhios is of fig-wood. For, they say, figs are called meilikha (mild fruit)."
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 3. 82d :
"That Dionysos is also the discoverer of the apple is attested by Theokritos of Syrakousa [poet C3rdB.C.], in words something like these: ‘Storing the apples of Dionysos in the folds at my bosom, and wearing on my head white poplar, sacred bough of Herakles.’ And Neoptolemos the Parian, in the Dionysiad, records on his own authority that apples as well as all other fruits were discovered by Dionysos."
GOD OF PLAYS & CHORAL SONG
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 4. 3 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"They say also that when he [Dionysos] went abroad he was accompanied by the Mousai (Muses), who were maidens that had received an unusually excellent education, and that by their songs and dancing and other talents in which they had been instructed these maidens delighted the heart of the god."
Suidas s.v. Ouden pros ton Dionyson (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Formerly, when writing in honour of Dionysos they competed with these [compositions], which also used to be called satyrika. But later on, having progressed to writing tragedies, they turned gradually to myths and historical subjects, no longer with Dionysos in mind. Hence they also exclaimed this [the proverb ‘nothing to do with Dionysos’]. And Khamaileon] in On Thespis relates similar things."
I) TRAGEDY PLAYS
Tragedy plays were performed at the Dionysian festival.
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 21. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"There is a legend that after the death of Sophokles the Lakedaemonians invaded Attika, and their commander saw in a vision Dionysos, who bade him honor, with all the customary honors of the dead, the new Seiren. He interpreted the dream as referring to Sophokles and his poetry, and down to the present day men are wont to liken to a Seiren whatever is charming in both poetry and prose. The likeness of Aiskhylos is, I think, much later than his death and than the painting which depicts the action at Marathon Aiskhylos himself said that when a youth he slept while watching grapes in a field, and that Dionysos appeared and bade him write tragedy. When day came, in obedience to the vision, he made an attempt and hereafter found composing quite easy."
II) COMEDY PLAYS
Comedy plays were also produced for the Dionysian festivals.
III) CHORAL SONG (DITHYRAMBS) & DANCE
Choral dance and song (dithyrambs) were performed by the choruses of the Dionysian plays.
The Anacreontea, Fragment 38 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric II) (Greek lyric B.C.) :
"Let us be merry and drink wine and sing of Bakkhos [Dionysos], the inventor of the choral dance, the lover of all songs."
Plato, Laws 664b (trans. Lamb) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"The gods, in pity for us, have granted to us as fellow-choristers and choir-leaders Apollon and the Mousai (Muses),--besides whom we mentioned, if we recollect, a third, Dionysos."
Plato, Laws 672b :
"There was implanted in us men the sense of rhythm and harmony, and that the joint authors thereof were Apollon and the Mousai (Muses) and the god Dionysos."
Plato, Laws 700b :
"One class of song was that of prayers to the gods, which bore the name of hymns (hymnai); contrasted with this was another class, best called ‘dirges’; ‘paeans’ formed another; and yet another was the ‘dithyramb’, named, I fancy, after Dionysos." [N.B. Dithyrambs were choral odes to Dionysos.]
Statius, Silvae 2. 7. 6 (trans. Mozley) (Roman poetry C1st A.D.) :
"Ye who have the privilege of song in your keeping, Arkadian discoverer of the vocal lyre [Hermes], and thou, Euhan [Dionysos], whirler of thy Bassarides, and Paean [Apollon] and the Hyantian Sisters [Mousai, Muses], joyfully deck yourselves anew with purple fillets, make your tresses trim and let fresh ivy enwreathe your shining raiment."
Suidas s.v. Dithyrambos (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Dithyrambos (Dithyramb): A hymn to Dionysos."
GOD OF HOMOSEXUALITY & EFFEMINACY
I) GOD OF CROSS-DRESSING & EFFEMINACY
Euripides, Bacchae 350 ff (trans. Buckley) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"[Pentheus:] ‘This effeminate stranger [Dionysos].’"
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 28 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Hermes took him [the newborn infant Dionysos] to Ino and Athamas, and persuaded them to bring him up as a girl."
Seneca, Oedipus 418 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"Fearing thy stepdame's [Hera's] wrath, thou [Dionysos] didst grow to manhood with false-seeming limbs, a pretended maiden with golden ringlets, with saffron girdle binding thy garments. So thereafter this soft vesture has pleased thee, folds loose hanging and the long-trailing mantle."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 14. 143 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[The infant] Dionysos was hidden from every eye . . . a clever babe. He would mimic a newborn kid; hiding in the fold . . . Or he would show himself like a young girl in saffron robes and take on the feigned shape of a woman; to mislead the mind of spiteful Hera, he moulded his lips to speak in a girlish voice, tied a scented veil on his hair. He put on all a woman's manycoloured garments: fastened a maiden’s vest about his chest and the firm circle of his bosom, and fitted a purple girdle over his hips like a band of maidenhood."
II) GOD OF HOMOSEXUALITY & EFFEMINACY
Seneca, Hercules Furens 472 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"But dainty Bacchus [Dionysos] does not blush to sprinkle with perfume his flowing locks, nor in his soft hand to brandish the slender thrysus, when with mincing gait he trails his robe gay with barbaric gold."
Suidas s.v. Androgynos (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Androgynos (androgynous): [A word applied to] Dionysos, as one doing both active, male things and passive, female ones [in sexual intercourse].
Alternatively ‘effeminate’ (anandros), and hermaphroditic (hermaphroditos) [also men who have lost their virility including eunuchs]. Also [in the genitive plural, meaning those who are] weak and have the hearts of women."
Suidas s.v. Appapai (quoting Aristophanes, Frogs 57) :
"Appapai (Oh god!): An expression of affirmation. For when Herakles asks [Dionysos] ‘Were you loved [physically] by a man?’, this is his response."
Suidas s.v. Kybele :
"Kybele: Rhea. [So named] from the Kybela mountains . . . But he used the phrase ‘O [Kybele] mother of Kleokritos' . . . He treated him comically as a gay (kindaidos) and a foreigner and of low birth and the son of Kybele because effeminates are present in the mysteries of Rhea . . . Therefore the proverb was said of gays (kindaidoi)." [N.B. Dionysos was also nursed by Kybele, and so was also effeminate.]
GOD OF REINCARNATION & THE AFTERLIFE
Herodotus, Histories 2. 123 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"The Egyptians say that Demeter [Isis] and Dionysos [Osiris] are the rulers of the lower world. The Egyptians were the first who maintained the following doctrine, too, that the human soul is immortal, and at the death of the body enters into some other living thing then coming to birth; and after passing through all creatures of land, sea, and air, it enters once more into a human body at birth, a cycle which it completes in three thousand years. There are Greeks who have used this doctrine [the Orphics], some earlier and some later, as if it were their own; I know their names, but do not record them."
Oppian, Cynegetica 4. 230 (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd A.D.) :
"He [Dionysos in his boyhood] rent rams, skins and all, and clove them piecemeal and cast the dead bodies on the ground; and again with his hands he neatly put their limbs together, and immediately they were alive and browsed on the green pasture."
IDENTIFIED WITH FOREIGN GODS
Dionysos was identified with the Thraco-Phrygian god Sabazios, Egyptian Osiris, Phoenician Tammuz and the Roman god Liber, amongst others.
Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3. 21- 23 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"We [the peoples of the Roman Empire] have a number of Dionysi [gods identified with Dionysos]. The first [the Orphic god Zagreus] is the son of Jupiter [Zeus] and Proserpine [Persephone]; the second [the Egyptian god Osiris] of Nile--he is the fabled slayer of Nysa. The father of the third [Phrygian Sabazios] is Cabirus; it is stated that he was king over Asia, and the Sabazia were instituted in his honour. The fourth [the Thraco-Orphic god Sabazios] is the son of Jupiter [Thrakian sky-god] and Luna [Bendis]; the Orphic rites are believed to be celebrated in his honour. The fifth [the Theban Dionysos] is the son of Nisus [Zeus] and Thyone [Semele], and is believed to have established the Trieterid festival."
I) SABAZIOS (THRACO-PHRYGIAN GOD)
Herodotus, Histories 5. 7 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"They [the Thrakians] worship no gods but Ares, Dionysos [Sabazios], and Artemis [Bendis]. Their princes, however, unlike the rest of their countrymen, worship Hermes [Zalmoxis] above all gods and swear only by him, claiming him for their ancestor."
Herodotus, Histories 7. 111 :
"The Satrai [tribe of Thrake] . . . alone of the Thrakians have continued living in freedom to this day; they dwell on high mountains covered with forests of all kinds and snow, and they are excellent warriors. It is they who possess the place of divination sacred to Dionysos [Sabazios]. This place is in their highest mountains; the Bessoi, a clan of the Satrai, are the prophets of the shrine; there is a priestess who utters the oracle, as at Delphoi; it is no more complicated here than there."
Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3. 21- 23 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"The [god identified with Dionysos] father of the third [Phrygian Sabazios] is Cabirus; it is stated that he was king over Asia, and the Sabazia were instituted in his honour. The fourth [the Thraco-Orphic god Sabazios] is the son of Jupiter [Thrakian sky-god] and Luna [Bendis]; the Orphic rites are believed to be celebrated in his honour."
Suidas s.v. Sabazios (from Scholiast on Aristophanes, Birds 874) (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Sabazios: He is the same [god] as Dionysos. He acquired this form of address from the rite pertaining to him; for the barbarians call the bakkhic cry sabazein. Hence some of the Greeks too follow suit and call the cry sabasmos; thereby Dionysos [becomes] Sabazios. They also used to call saboi those places that had been dedicated to him and his Bakkhoi."
Suidas s.v. Saboi (from Harpocration s.v., quoting Demosthenes 18. 260) :
"Saboi: Demosthenes [in the speech] On Behalf of Ktesiphon [mentions them]. Some say that Saboi is the term for those who are dedicated to Sabazios, that is to Dionysos, just as those [dedicated] to Bakkhos [are] Bakkhoi. They say that Sabazios and Dionysos are the same. Thus some also say that the Greeks call the Bakkhoi Saboi. But Mnaseas of Patrai [C3rd B.C.] says that Sabazios is the son of Dionysos."
Suidas s.v. Euoi (from Harpocration s.v.; quoting Demosthenes 18. 260) :
"Euoi, saboi . . . ‘Euoi, Saboi’ are mystic cries. They say that those who celebrate the mysteries reveal them in the Phrygian language; from which it comes that Sabazios is Dionysos."
II) PRIAPOS (MYSIAN GOD)
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 1. 30b (trans. Gullick) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"Among the people of Lampsakos [in Mysia], Priepos who is the same as Dionysos, is held in honour and has the by-name Dionysos as well as Thriambos and Dithyrambos."
Suidas s.v. Priapos" (quoting Greek Anthology 6. 22. 5-6 & 6. 33. 1-2) (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Priapos: The same as Dionysos. In the Epigrams: ‘The guardian of the fruit made a tree-sacrifice to this rustic monolithic Priapos.’ And again: ‘Shore-haunting Priapos, the fishermen gave gifts [to you].’"
For MORE information on this god see PRIAPOS
III) OSIRIS (EGYPTIAN GOD)
Herodotus, Histories 2. 42 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"No gods are worshipped by all Egyptians in common except Isis and Osiris, who they say is Dionysos; these are worshipped by all alike."
Herodotus, Histories 2. 144 :
"Before men, they said, the rulers of Egypt were gods . . . the last of them to rule the country was Osiris' son Horus, whom the Greeks call Apollon; he deposed Typhon [Set], and was the last divine king of Egypt. Osiris is, in the Greek language, Dionysos."
Herodotus, Histories 2. 156 :
"Apollon [Horus] and Artemis [Bastet] were (they say) children of Dionysus [Osiris] and Isis, and Leto [Buto]was made their nurse and preserver; in Egyptian, Apollon is Horus, Demeter Isis, Artemis Bubastis."
Herodotus, Histories 2. 123 :
"The Egyptians say that Demeter [Isis] and Dionysos [Osiris] are the rulers of the lower world. The Egyptians were the first who maintained the following doctrine, too, that the human soul is immortal, and at the death of the body enters into some other living thing . . . There are Greeks who have used this doctrine [the Orphics]."
Herodotus, Histories 2. 145 :
"In Egypt . . . Dionysos [Osiris] belongs to the third generation of gods, which came after the twelve. How many years there were between . . . Dionysos [Osiris] and Amasis [the last true Egyptian pharaoh] are the fewest, and they are reckoned by the Egyptians at fifteen thousand. The Egyptians claim to be sure of all this, since they have reckoned the years and chronicled them in writing."
Herodotus, Histories 2. 29 :
"A great city called Meroe is said to be the capital of all Aithiopia. The people of the place worship no other gods but Zeus [Egyptian Ammon] and Dionysos [Egyptian Osiris]; these they greatly honor, and they have a place of divination sacred to Zeus; they send out armies whenever and wherever this god through his oracle commands them."
Herodotus, Histories 3. 97 :
"The Aithiopians nearest to Egypt, whom Kambyses [the Persian general] conquered in his march towards the long-lived Aithiopians; and also those who dwell about the holy Nysa [probably Barkal in Upper Nubia, identified by Herodotus he legendary Mt Nysa], where Dionysos [Osiris] is the god of their festivals."
Herodotus, Histories 2. 49 :
"Melampos [a mythical seer] was the one who taught the Greeks the name of Dionysos and the way of sacrificing to him . . . besides many other things which he learned from Egypt, he also taught the Greeks things concerning Dionysos, altering few of them; for I will not say that what is done in Egypt in connection with the god [Osiris identified with Dionysos] and what is done among the Greeks originated independently: for they would then be of an Hellenic character and not recently introduced. Nor again will I say that the Egyptians took either this or any other custom from the Greeks."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 29. 4 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Both the Greeks and the Egyptians have many legends about Dionysos [i.e. Osiris for the Egyptians]."
Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3. 21- 23 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"The second [god identified with Dionysos] of the Nile - he [the Egyptian Osiris] is the fabled slayer of Nysa."
Suidas s.v. Osiris (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Osiris: Some say he was Dionysos, others say another; who was dismembered by the daimon Typhon [Set] and became a great sorrow for the Egyptians, and they kept the memory of his dismemberment for all time."
IV) OROTALT (ARABIAN GOD)
Herodotus, Histories 3. 8 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"They [the Arabians] believe in no other gods except Dionysos [Arabian Orotalt] and Aphrodite Ourania [Arabian Alilat]; and they say that they wear their hair as Dionysos does his, cutting it round the head and shaving the temples. They call Dionysus, Orotalt; and Aphrodite, Alilat."
V) TAMMUZ (PHOENICIAN GOD)
Herodotus, Histories 2. 49 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"Melampos [a mythical seer] was the one who taught the Greeks the name of Dionysos and the way of sacrificing to him . . . I [Herodotus] believe that Melampos learned the worship of Dionysos chiefly from Kadmos of Tyre [the mythical Phoenician grandfather of Dionysos] and those who came with Kadmos from Phoinikia to the land now called Boiotia."
VI) UNKNOWN (INDIAN GOD)
Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 2. 2 (trans. Conybeare) (Greek biography C1st to 2nd A.D.) :
"Dionysos is called Nysios (Nysian) by the Indians and by all the Oriental races from Nysa in India."
Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 2. 6 - 10 :
"They [The legendary prophet Apollonios of Tyana C1st A.D. and his companions] were now in land subject to the king [of India], in which the mountain of Nysa rises covered to its very top with plantations, like the mountain of Tmolos in Lydia; and you can ascend it, because paths have been made by the cultivators. They say then that when they had ascended it, they found the shrine of Dionysos, which it is said Dionysos founded in honour of himself, planting round it a circle of laurel trees which encloses just as much ground as suffices to contain a moderate sized temple. He also surrounded the laurels with a border of ivy and vines; and he had set up inside an image of himself knowing that in time the trees would grow together and make themselves into a kind of roof; and this had now formed itself, so that neither rain can wet nor wind blow upon the shrine. And there were scythes and baskets and wine-presses and their furniture dedicated to Dionysos, as if to one who gathers grapes, all made of gold and silver. And the image resembled a youthful Indian, and was carved out of polished white stone. And when Dionysos celebrates his orgies and shakes Nysa, the cities underneath the mountain hear the noise and exult in sympathy.
Now the Hellenes disagree with the Indians, and the Indians among themselves, concerning this Dionysos. For we declare that the Theban Dionysos made an expedition to India in the role of soldier and reveller, and we base our arguments, among other things, on the offering at Delphoi, which is preserved in the treasuries there. And it is a disc of Indian silver bearing the inscription: ‘Dionysos the son of Semele and of Zeus, from the men of India to the Apollon of Delphoi.’ But the Indians who dwell in the Kaukasos [Mountains] and along the river Kophena say that he was an Assyrian visitor when he came to them, who understood the affairs of the Theban. But those who inhabit the district between the Indos and the Hydroates [Hydapses] and the continental region beyond which ends at the river Ganges, declare that Dionysos was son of the River Indos, and that the Dionysos of Thebes having become his disciple took to the thyrsos and introduced it in the orgies; that this Dionysos declared that he was the son of Zeus and had lived safe inside his father's thigh until he was born, and that he found a mountain called Meros or ‘Thigh’ on which Nysa borders, and planted Nysa in honour of Dionysos with the vine of which he had brought the suckers from Thebes; and that it was there that Alexandros [the Great] held his orgies. But the inhabitants of Nysa deny that Alexandros ever went up the mountain, although he was eager to do so, being an ambitious person and fond of old-world things; but he was afraid lest his Makedonians, I they got among the vines, which they had not seen for a long time, would fall into a fit of homesickness or recover their taste for wine, after they had already become accustomed to water only. So they say he passed by Nysa, making his vow to Dionysos, and sacrificing at the foot of the mountain. Well I know that some people will take amiss what I write, because the companions of Alexandros on his campaigns did not write the truth in reporting this . . . [when they said] that he ascended the mountain and held a revel there."
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