DIONYSOS was the great Olympian god of wine, vegetation, pleasure and festivity.
He had a modest number of lovers in mythology, most of which appear only in the ancient genealogies with no accompanying story.
The most celebrated of his consorts was Kretan princess Ariadne. Her relationship with the god is fully described on the Ariadne page.
Of the others, the poet Nonnus gives elaborate accounts of Dionysos' liaisons with the Nymphs Aura and Nikaia, the girl Pallene and the youth Ampelos.
|(1) DIVINE LOVES
|APHRODITE The goddess of love had a brief affair with Dionysos. As punishment for her promiscuity, Hera cursed her with an ugly child, Priapos.
AURA The virgin Titaness of the breeze who was made drunk and raped by the god Dionysos. She bore him twin sons, the first of whom she devoured in her anger. The second, named Iakkhos, was rescued by the gods.
|BEROE The goddess of the city of Beroe (in Lebanon, West Asia) was wooed by the gods Dionysos and Poseidon. Dionysos lost her to his uncle.
|KRONOIS The mother of the younger Kharites by Dionysos. Kronois may simply be an epithet for Hera, who is elsewhere called the mother of the Kharites. [See Family]
|NIKAIA A Nymphe of Bithynia (in Asia Minor) made drunk and raped by the god Dionysos. Their daughter was the nymphe Telete.
|NYMPHE (UNNAMED) An unnamed Mysian Nymphe was the mother of Dionysos' son Priapos (others say he was born of Aphrodite). [See Family]
|(2) MORTAL LOVES (FEMALE)
ALTHAIA A Queen of Aitolia (in Central Greece) loved by the god Dionysos. He seduced her with the full consent of her husband, King Oineus, who had received the gift of the vine. She bore him a daughter, Deianeira.
|ARIADNE A Princess of Krete (in the Greek Aegean) who was discovered and wed by Dionysos on the island of Naxos. She became his immortal wife and bore him a number sons: Eurymedon, Thoas, Staphylos, Oinopion, Peparethos, Phlias, and Keramos.
|ERIGONE An Athenian princess (of Attika, Southern Greece) who was seduced by Dionysos with a bunch of false grapes. She may have been the mother of the Eleusinian god Iakkhos.
PALLENE A Princess of Pallene (in Thrake, North of Greece) whose father had her wrestle those who sought her hand in marriage. All were defeated and slain until Dionysos came along and won the contest.
|PHYSKOA A woman of the town of Orthia in Elis (Southern Greece). She was a votary of the god Dionysos and bore him a son named Narkaios. [See Family}
|(3) MORTAL LOVES (MALE)
|AMPELOS A handsome young Satyr-boy loved by the god Dionysos. He was killed while trying to ride a wild bull, and transformed into the first vine plant and/or the constellation Vindemitor (Grape-Picker) by the mourning god.
POLYMNOS or HYPLIPNOS A man of Argos (in Southern Greece) who showed Dionysos the way to the underworld. In return for his help he asked the god to lie with him. But when the god came back to fulfill the pledge, he found the man had passed away and so instead employed a wooden phallus upon the grave.
DIONYSOS LOVES: APHRODITE
LOCALE: Eastern Mysia (in Anatolia)
Orphic Hymn 57 to Chthonian Hermes (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
"O Bakkheios Hermes [probably Iakkhos], progeny divine of Dionysos, parent of the vine, and of celestial Aphrodite, Paphian queen, dark-eyelashed Goddess, of a lovely mien."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 31. 2 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"By the people of Lampsakos [in Mysia] he [Priapos] is more revered than any other god, being called by them a son of Dionysos and Aphrodite."
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 6. 1 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"Now the ancients record in their myths that Priapos was the son of Dionysos and Aphrodite and they present a plausible argument for this lineage; for men when under the influence of wine find the members of their bodies tense and inclined to the pleasures of love."
Suidas s.v. Priapos (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Priapos: was conceived from Zeus and Aphrodite; but Hera in a jealous rage laid hands by a certain trickery on the belly of Aphrodite and readied a shapeless and ugly and over-meaty babe to be born. His mother flung it onto a mountain; a shepherd raised it up. He had genitals [rising up] above his butt."
DIONYSOS LOVES: ALTHAIA
LOCALE: Aitolia (Central Greece)
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 64 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Oineus ... married Thestios' daughter Althaia, he was the father of ... Deianeira, whose father some say was Dionysos."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 129 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"When Liber [Dionysos] had come as a guest to Oeneus, son of Parthaon, he fell in love with Althaea, daughter of Thestius and wife of Oeneus. When Oeneus realized this, he voluntarily left the city and pretended to be performing sacred rites. But Liber [Dionysos] lay with Althaea, who became mother of Dejanira. To Oeneus, because of his generous hospitality, 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."
Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus 7 (Greek Christian epistles C2nd A.D.) :
"Althaia, who was the wife of Dionysos and daughter of Thestios . . . Deianeira who was the daughter of Dionysos and Althaia, and wife of Herakles."
DIONYSOS LOVES: ERIGONE
LOCALE: Attika (Southern Greece)
Ovid, Metamorphoses 6. 125 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Liber [Dionysos] with bunches of false grapes deceived [and seduced] Erigone."
N.B. She may have been the mother of the Eleusinian demi-god Iakkhos by Dionysos. Cf. Ovid's brief reference to her story with those of Nikaia and Aura below.
DIONYSOS LOVES: NIKAIA
LOCALE: Bithynia (Anatolia)
The story of Dionysos and Nikaia is described in detail by Nonnus. Only a short extract from the poem is currently quoted here.
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 48. 567 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"He [Dionysos] remembered the bed of the Astakid Nymphe [Nikaia, of Lake Astakos] long before, how he had wooed the lovely Nymphe with a cunning potion and made sleep his guide to intoxicated bridals."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 48. 811 ff :
"Nikaia, the leader of the rites of Lyaios . . . spoke thus: ‘Aura, I have suffered as you have [raped by Dionysos], and you too lament you your maidenhood . . . Why did you also drink wine, which robbed me of my girdle? Why did you also drink wine, Aura, until you were with child? You also suffered what I suffered, you enemy of marriage; then you also have to blame a deceitful sleep sent by the Erotes (Loves), who are friends of marriage. One fraud fitted marriage on us both, one husband was Aura’s and made virgin Nikaia the mother of children.’"
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 48. 865 ff :
"Dionysos called Nikaia, his own Kybeleid Nymphe . . . he said: ‘Now at last, Nikaia, you have found consolation for your love. Now again Dionysos has stolen a marriage bed, and ravished another maiden: woodland Aura in the mountains, who shrank once from the very name of love, has seen a marriage the image of yours. Not you alone had sweet sleep as a guide to love, not you alone drank deceitful wine which stole your maiden girdle.’"
For MORE information on this Nymphe see NIKAIA
DIONYSOS LOVES: AURA
LOCALE: Phrygia (Anatolia)
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 48. 240 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"There [in Phrygia] grew Aura the mountain maiden of Rhyndakos, and hunted over the foothills of rocky Dindymon. She was unacquainted with love, a comrade of the Archeress [Artemis]. She kept aloof from the notions of unwarlike maids [but one day offended the goddess with her hubristic boasts] . . .
Argive Adrasteia ([Nemesis] let the whip with its vipers curl round the maiden's girdle, doing pleasure to Artemis and to Dionysos while he was still indignant [at losing his love Beroe to Poseidon]; and although she was herself unacquainted with love, she prepared another love [i.e. Aura for Dionysos] . . .
Eros (Love) drove Dionysos mad for the girl with the delicious wound of his arrow, then curving his wings flew lightly to Olympos.
And the god roamed over the hills scourged with a greater fire. For there was not the smallest comfort for him. He had then no hope of the girl’s love, no physic for his passion; but Eros burnt him more and more with the mindbewitching fire to win mad obstinate Aura at last.
With hard struggles he kept his desire hidden; he used no lover's prattle beside Aura in the woods, for fear she might avoid him. What is more shameless, than when only men crave, and women do not desire? Wandering Bakkhos felt the arrow of love fixt in his heart if the maiden was hunting with her pack of gods in the woods; if he caught a glimpse of a thigh when the loving winds lifted her tunic, he became soft as a woman. At last buffeted by his tumultuous desire for Aura, desperate he cried out in mad tones - ‘I am like lovelorn Pan, when the girl flees me swift as the wind, and wanders, treading the wilderness with boot more agile than Ekho never see! . . . This love is different from all others, for the girl herself has a nature not like the ways of other maidens. What physic is there for my pain? Shall I charm her with lovers' nod and beck? Ah when, ah when is Aura charmed with moving eyelids? . . . What man could charm the mind of Aura proof against all charms? What man could charm her - who will mention marriage, or the cestus which helps love, to this girl with no girdle to her tunic? Who will mention the sweet sting of love or the name of Kyprogeneia [Aphrodite]? I think Athena will listen sooner; and not intrepid Artemis avoids me so much as prudish Aura. If she would only say as much as this with her dear lips - ‘Bakkhos, your desire is vain; seek not for maiden Aura.’
So he spoke to the breezes of spring, while walking in a flowery meadow. Beside a fragrant myrtle he stayed his feet for a soothing rest at midday. He leaned against a tree and listened to the west breeze whispering, overcome by fatigue and love; and as he sat there, a Hamadryas Nymphe at home in the clusters of her native tree, a maiden unveiled, peeped out and said, true both to Kypris and to loving Lyaios:
‘Bakkhos can never lead Aura to his bed, unless he bends her first in heavy galling fetters, and winds the bonds of Kypris round hands and feet; or else puts her under the yoke of marriage in sleep, and steals the girl’s maidenhood without brideprice.’ . . .
He [Dionysos] remembered the bed of the Astakid Nymphe [Nikaia] long before, how he had wooed the lovely Nymphe with a cunning potion and made sleep his guide to intoxicated bridals [he made her drunk and then raped her].
While Bakkhos would be preparing a cunning device for her bed, Lelantos's daughter wandered about seeking a fountain, for she was possessed with parching thirst. Dionysos failed not to see how thirsting Aura ran rapidly over the hills. Quickly he leapt up and dug the earth with his wand at the foundation of a rock: the hill parted, and poured out of itself a purple stream of wine from its sweet-scented bosom. The Horai, handmaids of Helios (the Sun), to do grace to Lyaios [Dionysos], painted with flowers the fountain's margin, and fragrant whiffs from the new-growing meadow beat on the balmy air. There were the clustering blooms which have the name Narkissos the fair youth . . . there was the living plant of Amyclain iris; there sang the nightingales over the spring blossoms, flying in troops above the clustering flowers.
And there came running thirsty at midday Aura herself, seeking if anywhere she could find raindrops from Zeus, or some fountain, or the stream of a river pouring from the hills; and Eros cast a mist over her eyelids: but when she saw the deceitful fountain of Bakkhos, Peitho dispersed the shadowy cloud from her eyelids, and called out to Aura like a herald of her marriage - ‘Maiden, come this way! Take into your lips the stream of this nuptial fountain, and into your bosom a lover.’
Gladly the maiden saw it, and throwing herself down before the fountain drew in the liquid of Bakkhos with open lips. When she had drunk, the girl exclaimed: ‘Naiades, what marvel is this? Whence comes this balmy water? Who made this bubbling drink, what heavenly womb gave him birth? Certainly after drinking this I can run no more. No, my feet are heavy, sweet sleep bewitches me, nothing comes from my lips but a soft stammering sound.’
She spoke, and went stumbling on her way. She moved this way and that way with erring motions, her brow shook with throbbing temples, her head leaned and lay on her shoulder, she fell asleep on the ground beside a tallbranching tree and entrusted to the bare earth her maidenhood unguarded.
When fiery Eros beheld Aura stumbling heavyknee, he leapt down from heaven, and smiling with peaceful countenance spoke to Dionysos with full sympathy: ‘Are you for a hunt, Dionysos? Virgin Aura awaits you!’
With these words, he made haste away to Olympos flapping his wings, but first he had inscribed on the spring petals - ‘Bridegroom, complete your marriage while the maiden is still asleep; and let us be silent that sleep may not leave the maiden.’
Then Iobakkhos [Dionysos] seeing her on the bare earth, plucking the Lethaean feather of bridal Sleep, he crept up noiseless, unshod, on tiptoe, and approached Aura where she lay without voice or hearing. With gentle hand he put away the girl’s neat quiver and hid the bow in a hole in the rock, that she might not shake off Sleep’s wing and shoot him. Then he tied the girl’s feet together with indissoluble bonds, and passed a cord round and round her hands that she might not escape him: he laid the maiden down in the dust, a victim heavy with sleep ready for Aphrodite, and stole the bridal fruit from Aura asleep. The husband brought no gift; on the ground that hapless girl heavy with wine, unmoving, was wedded to Dionysos; Hypnos (Sleep) embraced the body of Aura with overshadowing winds, and he was marshal of the wedding for Bakkhos, for he also had experience of love, he is yokefellow of Selene (the Moon), he is companion of the Erotes (Loves) in nightly caresses. So the wedding was like a dream; for the capering dances, the hill skipt and leapt of itself, the Hamadryas half-visible shook her agemate fir - only maiden Ekho did not join in the mountain dance, but shamefast hid herself unapproachable under the foundations of the rock, that she might not behold the wedding of womanmad Dionysos.
When the vinebridegroom had consummated his wedding on that silent bed, he lifted cautious foot and kissed the bride’s lovely lips, loosed the unmoving feet and hands, brought back the quiver and bow from the rock and laid them beside his bride. He left to the winds the bed of Aura still sleeping, and returned to his Satyroi with a breath of the bridal still about him.
After these caresses, the bride started up; she shook off limbloosing sleep, the witness of the unpublished nuptials, saw with surprise her breasts bare of the modest bodice, the cleft of her thighs uncovered, her dress marked with the drops of wedlock that told of a maidenhood ravished without bridegift. She was maddened by what she saw. She fitted the bodice again about her chest, and bound the maiden girdle again over her round breast - too late! She shrieked in distress, held in the throes of madness; she chased the countrymen, slew shepherds beside the leafy slopes, to punish her treacherous husband with avenging justice - still more she killed the oxherds with implacable steel … still more she killed the goatherds, killed their whole flocks of goats . . . Workmen of Bakkhos about the vintage she killed, because they are servants of Lyaios who squeeze out the intoxicating juice of his liquor, heavy with wine, dangerous lovers. For she had not yet learnt the cunning heart of Dionysos, and the seductive potion of heady love, but she made empty the huts of the mountainranging herdsmen drenched the hills with red blood. . .
And Aura, hapless maiden, having within her the fruitful seed of Bakkhos the begetter, carried a double weight [twins]: the wife maddened uncontrollably cursed the burden of the seed, hapless maiden Aura lamented the loss of her maidenhood; she knew not whether she had conceived of herself, or by some man, or a scheming god . . .
Then Artemis saw her big with new children, and came near with a laugh on her face and teased the poor creature, saying with pitiless voice: ‘I saw Sleep, the Paphian's chamberlain! I saw the deceiving stream of the yellow fountain at your loving bridal! The fountain where young girls get a treacherous potion, and loosen the girdle they have worn all their lives . . . I saw your husband clearly enough; you were in the bed, your body heavy with sleep, you did not move when Dionysos wedded you.
‘Come then, leave your bow, renounce your quiver; serve in the secret rites of your womanmad Bakkos; carry your tambour and your tootling pipes of horn. I beseech you, in the name of that bed on the ground where the marriage was consummated, what bridegifts did Dionysos your husband bring? Did he give you a fawnskin, enough to be news of your marriage-bed? Did he give you brazen rattles for your children to play with? I think he gave you a thyrsos to shoot lions; perhaps he gave cymbals, which nurses shake to console the howling pains of the little children.’
So spoke the goddess in mockery . . . Yet
Artemis spoke the word that shot out the delivery, the womb of Aura was loosened, and twin children came forth of themselves; therefore from these twins (didymoi) the highpeaked mountain of Rheia was called Dindymon . . .
Then Dionysos called Nikaia, his own Kybeleid Nymphe, and smiling pointed to Aura still unbraiding her childbed; proud of his late union with the lonely girl, he said: ‘Now at last, Nikaia, you have found consolation for your love. Now again Dionysos has stolen a marriage bed, and ravished another maiden: woodland Aura in the mountains, who shrank once from the very name of love, has seen a marriage the image of yours. Not you alone had sweet sleep as a guide to love, not you alone drank deceitful wine which stole your maiden girdle; but once more a fountain of nuptial wine has burst from a new opening rock unrecognised, and Aura drank. You who have learnt the throes of childbirth in hard necessity, by Telete your danceweaving daughter I beseech you, hasten to lift up my son, that my desperate Aura may not destroy him with daring hands - for I know she will kill one of the two baby boys in her intolerable frenzy, but do you help Iakkhos: guard the better boy, that your Telete may be the servant of son and father both.’
With this appeal Bakkhos departed, triumphant and proud of his two Phrygian marriages, with the elder wife and the younger bride . . .
She [Aura] took the babes and laid them in the den of a lioness for her dinner. But a panther with understanding mind licked their bodies with her ravening lips, and nursed the beautiful boys of Dionysos with intelligent breast; wondering serpents with poisonspitting mouth surrounded the birthplace, for Aura's bridegroom had made even the ravening beasts gentle to guard his newborn children.
Then Lelantos’s daughter sprang up with wandering foot in the wild temper of a shaggycrested lioness, tore one child from the wild beast’s jaws and hurled it like a flash into the stormy air: the newborn child fell from the air headlong into the whirling dust upon the ground, and she caught him up and gave him a tomb in her own maw - a family dinner indeed! The maiden Archeress [Artemis] was terrified at this heartless mother, and seized the other child of Aura, then she hastened away through the wood; holding the boy, an unfamiliar burden in her nursing arm.
After the bed of Bromios, after the delirium of childbirth, huntress Aura would escape the reproach of her wedding, for she still held in reverence the modesty of her maiden state. So she went to the banks of Sangarios, threw into the water her backbending bow and her neglected quiver, and leapt headlong into the deep stream, refusing in shame to let her eyes look on the light of days. The waves of the river covered her up, and Kronion [Zeus] turned her into a fountain . . .
Then [Artemis] the Archeress stilled her anger. She went about the forest seeking for traces of Lyaios in his beloved mountains, while she held Aura’s newborn babe [Iakkhos], carrying in her arms another’s burden, until shamefast she delivered his boy to Dionysos her brother . . . They honoured him as a god next after the son of Persephoneia [Zagreus], and after Semele’s son [Dionysos]; they established sacrifices for Dionysos lateborn and Dionysos first born, and third they chanted a new hymn for Iakkhos. In these three celebrations Athens held high revel; in the dance lately made, the Athenians beat the step in honour of Zagreus and Bromios and Iakkhos all together."
For MORE information on this Titaness see AURA
DIONYSOS LOVES: ARIADNE
LOCALE: Naxos (Greek Aegean)
DIONYSOS LOVES: PALLENE
LOCALE: Sithonia and Pallene, Thrake (North of Greece)
Dionysos won Pallene in a wrestling match. The story is told in Nonnus' Dionysiaca, not currently quoted here.
DIONYSOS LOVES: BEROE
LOCALE: Beruit, Phoinikia (West Asia)
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 42. 1 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Near the Assyrian rock he [Eros, god of love,] united from fiery arrows on one string, to bring two wooers into like desire for the love of a maid [Beroe], rivals for one bride, the vinegod [Dionysos] and the ruler of the sea [Poseidon] .. . One came from the deep waters of the sea-neighbouring roadstead, and one left the land of Tyre, and among the mountains of Lebanon the two met in one place . . .
Then Eros came quickly up to the maiden [Beroe] hard by, and struck both divinities with two arrows. He maddened Dionysos to offer his treasures to the bride, life's merry heart and the ruddy vintage of the grape; he goaded to love the lord of the trident, that he might bring the sea-neighbouring maid a double lovegift, seafaring battle on the water and varied dishes for the table. He set Bakkhos more in a flame, since wine excites the mind for desire, and wine finds unbridled youth much more obedient to the rein when it is charmed with the prick of unreason; so he shot Bakkhos and drove the whole shaft into his heart, and Bakkhos burnt, as much as he was charmed by the trickling honey of persuasion. Thus he maddened them both; and in the counterfeit shape of a bird circling his tracks in the airy road as swift as the rapid winds, he rose with paddling feet, and cried these taunting words: ‘If Dionysos confounds men with wine, I excite Bakkhos with fire!'
The vinegod turned his eye to look, and scanned the tender body of the longhaired maiden, full of admiration the conduit of desire; his eye led the way and ferried the newborn love. Dionysos wandered in that heartrejoicing wood, secretly fixing his careful gaze on Beroe, and followed the girl's path a little behind. He could not have anough of his gazing; for the more he beheld the maid standing there, the more he wanted to watch.
He called to Helios (the Sun), reminding the chief of the stars of his love for Klymene, and prayed him to hold back his car and check the stalled horses with the heavenly bit, that he might prolong the sweet light, that he might go slow to his setting and with sparing whip increase the day to shine again. Pressing measured step by step in Beroe’s tracks the god passed round her as if noticing nothing; while Earthshaker [Poseidon] stole from Lebanon with lingering feet, and departed with steps slow to obey, turning again and again, his mind shifting like the sea and rippling with billows of ever-murmuring care.
Unsated, in the delicious forests of Lebanon, Dionysos was left along beside the lonely girl. Dionysos was left alone! Tell me, Oreaid Nymphai, what could he wish for more lovely than to see the maiden’s flesh, alone, and free from lovesick Earthshaker? He kissed with a million kisses the place where she set her foot, creeping up secretly, and kissed the dust where the maiden had trod making it bright with her shoes of roses. Bakkhos watched the girl’s sweet neck, her ankles as she walked, beauty which nature had given her, the beauty which nature had made: for no ruddy ornament for the skin had Beroe smeared on her round rosy face, no meretricious rouge put a false blush on her cheeks. She consulted no shining mirror of bronze with its reflection a witness to her looks, she laughed at no lifeless form of a mimic face to estimate her beauty, she was not for ever arranging the curls over her brows, and setting in place some stray wandering lock of hair by her eyebrows with cunning touch. But the natural beauties of a face confound the desperate lover with a sharp sting, and the untidy tresses of an unbedizened head are all the more dainty, when they stray unbraided down the sides of a snow-white face.
Sometimes athirst when beaten by the heat of the fiery Dog of heaven [the star Sirios], the girl sought out a neighbouring spring with parched lips; the girl bent down her curving neck and stooped her head, dipping a hand again and again and scooping the water of her own country to her mouth, until she had enough and left the rills.
When she was gone, Dionysos would bend his knee to the lovely spring, and hollow his palms in mimicry of the beloved girl: then he drank water sweeter than selfpoured nectar . . . The god grudging at Poseidon ruler of the waves felt fear and jealousy, since the maiden drank water and not wine. He uttered his voice to the unhearing air, as if the girl were there to hear and obey: ‘Maiden, accept the nectar - leave this water that maidens love! Avoid the water of the spring, lest Seabluehair steal your maidenhood in the water - for a mad lover and a crafty one he is! You know the love of Thessalian Tyro and her wedding in the waters; then you too take care of the crafty flood, lest the deceiver loose your girdle just as the wedding-thief Enipeus did. O that I also might become a flood, like Earthshaker, and murmuring might embrace my own Tyro of Lebanon, thirsty and careless beside the lovestricken spring!’
So the god spoke; and changing his form for another [that of a hunter] he plunged into the shady thicket where the maiden was, Euios wholly like a hunter . . . with cautious countenance and stolen glances he watched the girl so close to him, lest she should turn and run away; for beauty and the eyes of a girl of his own age have little consolation to a lad who gazes at her for the loves which the Kyprian sends.
He came near to Beroe and would have spoken a word, but fear held him fast [shyness in the presence of the maiden] . . . He spoke, and hardly then, when he burst the chain of shame from his lips - it came from his heart and crept back to his heart again, but the bittersweet fear held it in shamefast silence, and drew back the voice, as it tried to issue into the light. Too late he spoke, and hardly then, when he burst the chain of shame from his lips and undid the procrastinating silence, and asked Beroe in a voice of pretence, ‘Artemis, where are your arrows? Who has stolen your quiver? [he praises her by comparing her to various goddesses] . . .’
So he spoke, feigning astonishment, and the maiden smiled in her heart; she lifted a proud neck in unsuspicious pleasure, rejoicing in her youthful freshness, because she, a mortal woman, was likened to a goddess in beauty, and did not see the trick of mindconfusing Dionysos. But Bakkhos was yet more affected, because the girl in her childish simplicity knew not desire; he wished she might learn his own overpowering passion, since when the girl knows, there is always hope for the lad that love will come at last, but when women do not notice, man’s desire is only a fruitless anxiety.
Thus day after day, midday and afternoon, morning and evening, the god lingered in the pinewood, waiting for the girl and ever willing to wait; for men can have enough of all things, of sweet sleep and melodious song, and when one turns in the moving dance - but only the man mad for love never has enough of his longing . . .
Dionysos put on a serious look, the trickster! And questioned the maiden about her father Adonis, as a friend of his, as a fellow-hunter among the hills. She stood still, he brought a longing hand near her breast, and stoked her belt as if not thinking what he did: but touching her breast, the lovesick god's right hand grew numb. Once in her childlike way, the girl asked the son of Zeus beside her who he was and who was his father . . . and in the cunning of his mind, he made as if he were a farm-labourer . . .
Eiraphiotes [Dionysos] thought of trick after trick. He took the hunting-net from Beroe’s hands and pretended to admire the clever work, shaking it round and round for some time and asking the girl many questions - ‘What god made this gear, what heavenly art? Who made it? Indeed I cannot believe that Hephaistos mad with jealousy made hunting-gear for Adonis!’
So he tried to bewilder the wits of the girl who would not be so charmed. Once it happened that he lay sound asleep on a bed of anemone leaves; and he saw the girl in a dream decked out in bridal array . . .
In company with Beroe's father [Adonis], the son of Myrrha, he showed his hunting-skill. He cast his thyrsus, and wrapt himself in the dappled skins of the newslain fawns, ever with his eye secretly on Beroe; as he stood, the maiden covered her bright cheeks with her robe, to escape the wandering eye of Dionysos. She made him burn all the more, since the servants of love watch shamefast women more closely, and desire more strongly the covered countenance.
Once he caught sight of the unyoked girl of Adonis alone, and came near, and changed his human form and stood as a god before her. He told her his name and family, the slaughter of the Indians, how he found out for man the vine-dance and the sweet juice of wine to drink; then in loving passion he mingled audacity with a boldness far from modesty, and his flattering voice uttered this ingratiating speech: ‘Maiden, for your love I have even renounced my home in heaven. The caves of your fathers are better than Olympos. I love your country more than the sky; I desire not the sceptre of my father Zeus as much as Beroe for my wife. Your beauty is above ambrosia; indeed, heavenly nectar breathes fragrant from your dress! Maiden, when I hear that your mother is Kypris, my only wonder is that her cestus has left you uncharmed. How is it you alone have Eros (Love for a brother, and yet know not the sting of love . . . Girl, you have the blood of Kypris - then why do you flee from the secrets of Kypris? Do not shame your mother’s race. If you really have in you the blood of Assyrian Adonis the charming, learn the tender rules of your sire whose blessing is upon marriage, obey the cestus girdle born with the Paphian, save yourself from the dangerous wrath of the bridal Erotes (Loves)! Harsh are the Erotes when there’s need, when they extract from women the penalty for love unfulfilled . . . Beware of the god’s horrid anger, lest hot Love should afflict you in heavy wrath. Spare not your girdle, but attend Bakkhos both as comrade and bedfellow. I myself will carry the nets of your father Adonis, I will the bed of my sister Aphrodite.
‘What worthy gifts will Earthshaker [Poseidon] bring? Will he choose his salt water for a bridegift, and lay sealskins breathing the filthy stink of the deep, as Poseidon's coverlets from the sea? Do not accept his sealskins. I will provide you with Bakkhantes to wait upon your bridechamber, and Satyroi for your chamberlains. Accept from me as bridegift my grape-vintage too. If you want a wild spear also as daughter of Adonis, you have my thyrsus for a lance - away with the trident’s tooth! Flee, my dear, from the ugly noise of the neversilent sea, flee the madness of Poseidon’s dangerous love! . . . ‘I, distressed for your beauty as I stand here, what have I for you, what gifts shall I offer? The daughter of golden Aphrodite needs no gold. Shall I bring you heaps of treasure from Alybe? Silverarm cares not for silver! Shall I bring you gleaming gifts [amber] from brilliant Eridanos? Your beauty, your blushing whiteness, puts to shame all the wealth of the Heliades; the neck of Beroe is like the gleams of Dawn, it shines like amber, outshines a sparkling jewel; your fair shape makes precious marble cheap. I would not bring you the lampstone blazing like a lamp, for light comes from your eyes. I would not give you roses, shooting up from the flowercups of a rosy cluster, for roses are in your cheeks.’
Such was his address; and the girl pressed the fingers of her two hands into her ears to keep the words away from hearing, lest she might hear another speech concerned with love, and she hated the works of marriage. So she made trouble upon trouble for lovestricken Lyaios . . .
So he was flogged by the maddening cestus of desire; and he kept away from the girl, but full of bittersweet pangs, he sent his mind to wander a-hunting with the girl with ungirt tunic.
Then out from the sea came Poseidon, moving his wet footsteps in search of the girl over the thirsty hills, a foreign land to him, and sprinkling the unwatered earth with watery foot . . . He espied Beroe, and from head to foot he scanned her divine young freshness while she stood . . . Then mad with passion Earthshaker lord of the brine appealed in his trouble to Kythereia of the brine, and tried with flattering words to make friends with the maiden . . .
Paphia [Aphrodite] was anxious, for she feared both wooers of her muchwooed girl. When she saw equal desire and ardour of love in both, she announced that the rivals must fight for the bride, a war for a wedding, a battle of love. Kypris arrayed her daughter in woman’s finery, and placed her upon the fortress of her country, a maiden to be fought for as the dainty prize of contest. Then she addressed both gods in the same words: ‘I could wish had I two daughters, to wed one as is justly due to Earthshaker, and one to Lyaios; but since my child was not twins, and the undefiled laws of marriage do not allow us to join one girl to a pair of husbands together change and change about, let battle be chamberlain for one single bride, for without hard labour there is no marriage with Beroe. Then if you would wed the maid, first fight it out together; let the winner lead away Beroe without brideprice. Both must agree to an oath, since I fear for the girl’s neighbouring city where I am known as Cityholder, that because of Beroe’s beauty I may lose Beroe’s home. Make treaty before the marriage, that seagod Earthshaker if he lose the victory shall not in his grief lay waste the land with his trident’s tooth; and that Dionysos shall not be angry about Amymone’s wedding and destroy the vineyards of the city. And you must be friends after the battle: both be rivals in singlehearted affection, and in one contract of goodwill adorn the city of the bride with still more brilliant beauty.’
The wooers agreed to this proposal. Both took a binding oath . . . From heaven came all the dwellers on Olympos, with Zeus, and stayed to watch the combat upon the rocks of Lebanon . . .
For King of Satyroi and Ruler of the Sea, a maiden was the prize. She stood silent, but reluctant to have a foreign wedding with a wooer from the sea; she feared the watery bower of love in the deep waves, and preferred Bakkhos . . .
Heaven unclouded by its own spinning whirl trumpeted the call to war; and Seabluehair armed himself with his Assyrian trident, shaking his maritime pike and pouring a hideous din from a mad throat. Dionysos threatening the sea danced into the fray with vineleaves and thyrsus, seated in the [lion-drawn] chariot of his [foster] mother mountainranging Rheia . . . [Dionysos and his sylvan gods battle Poseidon and his sea gods in a contest for Beroe's hand in marriage] . . .
He [Zeus breaking up the contest] granted the hand of Beroe to Earthshaker [Poseidon], and pacified the rivals' quarrel. For from heaven to check the bridebattle yet undecided came threatening thunderbolts round about Dionysos. The vinegod wounded by the arrow of love still craved the maiden; but Zeus the Father on high stayed him by playing a tune of thunder, and the sound from his father held back the desire for strife. With lingering feet he departed, with heavy pace, turning back for a last gloomy look at the girl; jealous, with shamed ears, he heard the bridal songs of Amymone in the sea."
For MORE information on this goddess nymph see BEROE
DIONYSOS LOVES: AMPELOS
LOCALE: Kikonia, Thrake (North of Greece)
Ovid, Fasti 3. 407 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[The constellation] Grape-Gatherer (Vindemitor) . . . Its cause, too, takes a moment to teach. Beardless Ampelos, they say, a Nympha’s and a Satyrus’s son, was loved by Bacchus [Dionysos] on Ismarian hills [in Thrake]. He trusted him with a vine hanging from the leaves of an elm; it is now named for the boy. The reckless youth fell picking gaudy grapes on a branch. Liber [Dionysos] lifted the lost boy to the stars."
The story of Dionysos' love for Ampelos is recounted in great detail in Nonnus' Dionysiaca, not currently quoted here.
For MORE information on this satyr boy see AMPELOS
DIONYSOS LOVES: POLYMNOS OR HYPLIPNOS
LOCALE: Argos (Southern Greece)
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 37. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The Alkyonian Lake [near Nemea, Argos], through which the Argives say Dionysos went down to Haides to bring up Semele, adding that the descent here was shown him by Polymnos . . . The nocturnal rites performed every year in honor of Dionysus I must not divulge to the world at large."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 5 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Those who wrote the Argolica [say] . . . When Liber [Dionysos] received permission from his father [Zeus] to bring back his mother Semele from the Lower World, and in seeking a place of descent had come to the land of the Argives, a certain Hyplipnus met him, a man worthy of that generation, who was to show the entrance to Liber in answer to his request. However, when Hypolipnus saw him, a mere boy in years, excelling all others in remarkable beauty of form, he asked from him the reward that could be given without loss. Liber, however, eager for his mother, swore that if he brought her back, he would do as he wished, on terms, though, that a god could swear to a shameless man. At this, Hypolipnus showed the entrance. So then, when Liber came to that place and was about to descend, he left the crown, which he had received as a gift from Venus [Aphrodite], at that place which in consequence is called Stephanos (Crown)."
Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks 2. 30 (trans. Butterworth) (Greek Christian rhetoric C2nd A.D.) :
[N.B. The following passage is from an early Christian writer's critique of the pagan gods.]
"Phalloi are consecrated to Dionysos . . .
This is the origin of these phalloi. Dionysos was anxious to descend into Haides, but did not know the way. Thereupon a certain man, Prosymnos by name, promises to tell him; though not without reward. The rewards was not a seemly one, though to Dionysos it was seemly enough. It was a favour of lust, this reward which Dionysos was asked for. The god is willing to grant the request; and so he promises, in the event of his return, to fulfil the wish of Prosymnos, confirming the promise with an oath. Having learnt the way he set out, and came back again. He does not find Prosymnos, for he was dead. In fulfilment of the vow to his lover Dionysos hastens to the tomb and indulges his unnatural lust. Cutting off a branch from a fig-tree which was at hand, he shaped it into the likeness of a phallus, and then made a show of fulfilling his promise to the dead man. As a mystic memorial of this passion phalloi are set up to Dionysos in cities. ‘For if it were not to Dionysos that hey held solemn procession and sang the phallic hymn, they would be acting most shamefully,’ says Herakleitos."
- Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd BC
- The Orphic Hymns - Greek Hymns BC
- Pausanias, Guide to Greece - Greek Geography C2nd AD
- Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History - Greek History C1st BC
- Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd AD
- Hyginus, Astronomica - Latin Mythography C2nd AD
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st BC - C1st AD
- Ovid, Fasti - Latin Epic C1st BC - C1st AD
- Clement, Exhortation to the Greeks - Chrisitan Scholar C2nd AD
- Theophilus, To Autolycus - Chrisitan Scholar C2nd AD
- Nonnos, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th AD
- Suidas - Byzantine Lexicographer C10th AD