DIONYSOS CULT 1
DIONYSOS was the Olympian god of wine and festivity.
He possessed numerous shrines and temples throughout Greece and was widely worshipped as a fertililty god. Phallic processions and contests held in his honour were quite common. His main cult centres were the island of Naxos and Mount Kithairon (Cithaeron) in Boiotia--the famed seat of the Bachic Orgies.
In ancient Greek sculpture Dionysos was depicted in one of two forms. The oldest representations portray him as a mature, bearded god dressed in heavy robes and holding a thyrsos (pine-cone tipped staff). In the Classical and Hellenstic eras, on the other hand, he was usually depicted as a pretty, effeminate youth holding a bunch of grapes. Sometimes he was shown drunk, leaning heavily on a companion. Dionysos was also frequently portrayed him as an infant or child in the arms of Hermes or Seilenos.
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
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 and the phallic procession; he did not exactly unveil the subject taking all its details into consideration, for the teachers who came after him made a fuller revelation; but it was from him that the Greeks learned to bear the phallus along in honor of Dionysos, and they got their present practice from his teaching. I say, then, that Melampos acquired the prophetic art, being a discerning man, and that, 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 [i.e. Osiris] 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. But I believe that Melampos learned the worship of Dionysos chiefly from Kadmos of Tyre and those who came with Kadmos from Phoinikia [modern Lebanon] to the land now called Boiotia."
Herodotus, Histories 2. 52 :
"Formerly, in all their sacrifices, the Pelasgians called upon gods without giving name or appellation to any (I know this, because I was told at Dodona); for as yet they had not heard of such. They called them gods from the fact that, besides setting everything in order, they maintained all the dispositions. Then, after a long while, first they learned the names of the rest of the gods, which came to them from Egypt, and, much later, the name of Dionysos."
Suidas s.v. Athenaion (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Apollonion is short for the temple of Apollon . . . and Dionysion [for Dionysos]."
THE BACCHANALIA (BAKKHANALIA)
See regional entries below for information on the Bakkhanalia (Bacchic revels).
CULT IN ATTICA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I. ATHENS (ATHENAI) Main City of Attica (Attika)
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 2. 5 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"From the gate to the Kerameikos [in Athens] there are porticoes . . . containing shrines of gods, and a gymnasium called that of Hermes. In it is the house of Poulytion . . . [which] in my time it was devoted to the worship of Dionysos. This Dionysos they call Melpomenos (Minstrel) [i.e. of Melpomene, the muse of tragedy], on the same principle as they call Apollon Mousegetes (Leader of the Muses) . . . After the precinct of Apollon is a building that contains earthen ware images, Amphiktyon, king of Athens, Dionysos Hestios (Feasting or Of the Hearth) and other gods. Here also is Pegasos of Eleutherai, who introduced the god [Dionysos] to the Athenians. Herein he was helped by the oracle at Delphoi, which called to mind that the god once dwelt in Athens in the days of Ikarios."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 14. 1 :
"When you have entered the Odeion [i.e. the musical theatre dedicated to Dionysos] at Athens you meet, among other objects, a figure of Dionysos worth seeing."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 20. 2 - 3 :
"A [statue of a] Satyros is in the temple of Dionysos hard by, a boy holding out a cup. The Eros (Love) standing with him and the Dionysos were made by Thymilos. The oldest sanctuary of Dionysos is near the theater. Within the precincts are two temples and two statues of Dionysos, the Eleuthereus (Deliverer) and the one Alkamenes made of ivory and gold. There are paintings here--Dionysos bringing Hephaistos up to heaven . . . Besides this picture there are also represented Pentheus and Lykourgos paying the penalty of their insolence to Dionysos, Ariadne asleep, Theseus putting out to sea, and Dionysos on his arrival to carry off Ariadne."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 21. 1 :
"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 . . . [another] painting 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."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 23. 5 :
"There is also a smallish stone [in Athens], just large enough to serve as a seat to a little man. On it legend says Seilenos rested when Dionysos came to the land [of Athens]."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 29. 2 :
"The Akademia [oustide Athens], once the property of a private individual, but in my time a gymnasium .. there, is a small temple, into which every year on fixed days they carry the image of Dionysus Eleuthereus."
Suidas s.v. Aguiai (after Photius Lexicon & Harpocration 7 .7) (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Agyiai (highways) : Streets, alleys, or long roads . . . Agyieus, a pillar set up in front of the door . . . Some say these pillars belong to Apollon, some to Dionysos, some to both . . . There would be some Attic speakers saying agyieis for the altars in front of the house, as Sophokles says when transferring Athenian customs to Troy : ‘the altar by the door gleams, smoky with fire and drops of myrrh and barbarian perfumes.’"
Suidas s.v. En Limnais Dionysios (after Harpocration s.v.) :
"En Limnais Dionysion (Dionysos-temple in Limnai) : Limnai is a place in Athens, where the [deity] honored [is] Dionysos."
Suidas s.v. Paria lithos :
"Paria lithos (Parian marble) : . . . Aelian [writes] : ‘And to be sure, he broke into the [Athenian] temple and carried off a chariot [sculpted] from Parian marble that had been dedicated to Dionysos, a marvelous work.’"
II. PHYLA & MYRRHINUS (MYRRHINOS) Villages in Attica
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 31. 4 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Phlya and Myrrhinos [in Attika] have altars of Apollon Dionysodotos, Artemis Selasphoros (Light-bearer), Dionysus Anthion (Flower-god)."
III. ACHARNAE (AKHARNAI) Village in Attica
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 31. 6 :
"There is a parish [in Attika] called Akharnai, where they worship . . . Dionysos Melpomenos (Singer) [i.e. of Melpomene, the muse of tragedy] and Dionysos Kissos (Ivy), saying that the plant ivy first appeared there."
IV. ELEUTHERAE (ELEUTHERAI) Town in Attica
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 38. 8 :
"In this plain [of Eleutherai in Attika] is a temple of Dionysos, from which the old wooden image was carried off to Athens. The image at Eleutherai at the present day is a copy of the old one."
V. BRAURON Village in AtticaSuidas s.v. Brauron (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Braurôn : A place in Attika, in which the Dionysia used to be held and they drank and snatched up many prostitutes."
FESTIVALS OF DIONYSUS IN ATHENS
I. THE DIONYSIA FESTIVALS
Plato, Republic 475d (trans. Shorey) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"They [certain Athenians] had farmed out their ears to listen to every chorus in the land, they run about to all the Dionysiac festivals, never missing one, either in the towns or in the country-villages." [N.B. In addition to the performances held during the city Dionysia, plays were also performed at the Peiraios and in the demes.]
II. THE CITY DIONYSIA FESTIVAL
Plato, Gorgias 472a (trans. Lamb) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"Nikias, with his brothers, whose tripods are standing in a row in the Dionysion (Temple of Dionysos)." [N.B. These tripods were prizes won by dramatic performances supported as a public service by Nikias and his brothers, and they were placed in the precincts of the temple of Dionysos.]
Plato, Laws 637b :
"The Dionysia (Festival of Dionysos) . . . a revel such as I once upon a time witnessed 'on the wagons' in your country [i.e. Athens]; and at our [the Spartans] colony of Tarenton, too, saw the whole city drunk at the Dionysia. But with us [the Spartans] no such thing is possible." [N.B. At the Feast of Dionysus in Athens it was customary for revellers mounted on wagons to indulge in scurrilous language during the processions.]
Aelian, Historical Miscellany 2. 13 (trans. Wilson) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"Since the Dionysia were being celebrated, a very large number of Greeks came out of interest to watch." [N.B. Foreigners also came to Athens for the festival.]
Suidas s.v. Taurophagon :
"Taurophagon (bull-eating) : Dionysos. Sophokles in Tyros [calls him so]. [Used] instead of bouphagos (cow-eater) because an ox was given to Dionysos by the winners of the dithyrambic [competition]."
III. THE RURAL DIONYSIA FESTIVAL
The second day of the Rural Dionysia was known as the Askolia festival.
Suidas s.v. Askos en pakhnei :
"Askos en pakhnêi (a wine skin in a frost) : . . . A wineskin when heated becomes porous and when inflated it swells, but in the frost it is hardened and frozen . . .
Also wineskin of Ktesiphon [Ktêsiphôntos]; Aristophanes [writes] : ‘According to our customs, at the trumpet signal drink your pitchers; whoever drains his first will win the wineskin of Ktesiphon.’ [Aristophanes, Acarnanians 1000 ff.]
For in the Pitchers [second day of the Anthesteria festival] there was a contest concerning who could drain his pitcher first, and the winner was crowned with a wreath of leaves and got a skin of wine. At a trumpet signal they would drink. Ktesiphon was ridiculed for being fat and paunchy. An inflated wineskin was set forth in the festival of the Pitchers, on which those drinking in the competition would stand. The first one to finish his drink won, and got a wineskin. They drank a certain measure, a khoa, of wine [2.8 litres].
Also to bear a wineskin (askophorein). In the Dionysiac processions, some things were done by the townspeople, but others had been assigned to the metics to do by the lawgivers. Accordingly the metics would put on chitons which had a crimson color and carry troughs;wherefore they were called tray-bearers (skaphêphoroi). The townspeople wore whatever clothing they wanted and carried wineskins on their shoulders, wherefore they were called ‘wineskin-bearers’ (askophoroi).
Also a proverb : to be frightened by a wine skin (askôi mormoluttestêai), [applied] to those who are frightened absurdly and for no good reason.
Also askoliazô (dancing as at the Askolia) ; the Athenians had a festival, the Askolia, in which they would hop on wineskins to the honor of Dionysos [Scholiast on Aristophanes, Plutus 1129]. The creature [goat] appears to be a natural enemy of the vine. In any event an epigram appears addressed to a goat that goes like this : ‘devour me to the root, yet all the same I will bear fruit; enough to pour a libation for you, goat, as you are being sacrificed.’ [ Greek Anthology 9.75]
‘Dance on a wineskin' meaning [to dance] on the other [leg]; strictly askôliazein is to hop on wineskins for sport. In the middle of the theatre they placed wineskins which were inflated and oiled and when they hopped onto these they slipped; just as Euboulos says in Damalia : ‘And in addition to these things, they put wineskins in the middle and hopped and guffawed at those who fell off the track.’"
Suidas s.v. Skolia :
"Skôlia : [The] Athenians used to celebrate the Skolia [i.e. the Askolia] festival, at which they would hop on wineskins to the honor of Dionysos. See under ‘to be frightened by a wineskin.’"
Suidas s.v. Brauron :
"Braurôn : A place in Attika, in which the Dionysia used to be held and they drank and snatched up many prostitutes. And Aristophanes [writes] : ‘O master, how great a four-year-festival arse she has.’ [This] is said because of the fact that the sacred Dionysiac delegations are sent every four years."
Suidas s.v. Theoinion (after Harpocration s.v.) :
"Theoinion : The Rural Dionysia [festival] used to be called [the] Theoinia, in which the clansmen made their sacrifices. For they used to call Dionysos Theoinos."
IV. THE LENAEA (LENAIA) FESTIVAL
Callimachus, Hecale Fragment 22 (from Stephanus Byzantium s.v. Limnai) (trans. Trypanis) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"And they held choral festivals [the Lenaia] in honour of [Dionysos] Limnaios (God of the Marshes)."
Suidas s.v. Lenaia (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Lênaia : Name of a festival in Athens."
Suidas s.v. Lenaia :
"Lenaia (Of the Wine Vat) : Name of a festival [of Dionysos] in Athens."
Suidas s.v. Lenaios :
"Lênaios : A name of Dionysos."
Suidas s.v. Linaios :
"Linaios : [A title of] Dionysos."
Suidas s.v. Lenobatai :
"Lenobatai (Treaders of the wine vat) : The priests [of the Lenaia festival of Dionysos]."
Suidas s.v. Geraia (after Harpokration s.v.) :
"Geraia (Venerable woman) : An old woman. Also [the] Venerable Women, those women consecrated to Dionysos."
V. THE ANTHESTERIA FESTIVAL
Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 4. 21 (trans. Conybeare) (Greek biography C1st to 2nd A.D.) :
"And he [Apollonius of Tyana, a prophet, C1st A.D.] is said to have rebuked the Athenians for their conduct of the Dionysia (Festival of Dionysos), which they hold at the season of the month Anthesterion. For when he saw them flocking to the theatre he imagined that they were going to listen to solos and compositions in the way of processional and rhythmic hymns, such as are sung in comedies and tragedies; but when he heard them dancing lascivious jigs to the rondos of a flute, and in the midst of the solemn and sacred music of Orpheus striking attitudes as the Horai (Seasons), or as Nymphai, or as Bakkhai, he set himself to rebuke their proceedings, and said : ‘Stop dancing away the reputations [of your forefathers] . . . it is a soft dance and one of effeminate tendency, what am I to say . . . And what do you mean by your saffron robes and your purple and scarlet raiment?’"
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 130 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"She [Erigone] killed herself by hanging in a tree over the body of her father [murdered by Athenian peasants]. Because of this, Father Liber [Dionysos] afflicted the daughters of the Athenians with alike punishment. They asked an oracular response from Apollo concerning this, and he told them they had neglected he deaths of Icarius and Erigone. At this reply they exacted punishment from the shepherds, and in honour of Erigone instituted a festival day of swinging [i.e. the Aiora, third day of the Anthesteria] because of the affliction, decreeing that through the grape-harvest they should pour libations to Icarius and Erigone."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 2 :
"The district of the Athenians many girls without cause committed suicide by hanging, because Erigone [mythical devotee of Dionysos], in dying, had prayed that Athenian girls should meet the same kind of death she was to suffer if the Athenians did not investigate the death of Icarus and avenge it. And so when these things happened as described, Apollo gave oracular response to them when they consulted him, saying that they should appease Erigone if they wanted to be free from the affliction. So since she hanged herself, they instituted a practice of swinging themselves on ropes with bars of wood attached, so that the one hanging could be moved by the wind. They instituted this as a solemn ceremony [i.e. the Aiora on the third day of the Anthesteria], and they perform it both privately and publicly, and call it alétis, aptly terming her mendicant who, unknown and lonely, sought for her father with the god. The Greeks call such people alétides."
Suidas s.v. Anthesterion (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Anthesterion : 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."
Suidas s.v. Khoes :
"Khoes (Pitchers) : It was a particular festival amongst Athenians, celebrated on the twelfth [day] of [the] month Anthesterion. But Apollodoros says that Anthesteria is the name for the festival as a whole, celebrated in honour of Dionysos, with its component parts Pithoigia (Jar-Opening), Khoai (Pitchers), Khytroi (Pots).
And again : Orestes arrived in Athens after the murder--it was a festival of Dionysos Lenaios, and since, having murdered his mother, he might not be able to drink with them, something along the following lines was contrived. Having set up pitchers of wine for each of the celebrants he ordered them to drink from it, with no common sharing between them; thus Orestes would not drink from the same bowl [as anyone else] but neither would be be vexed by drinking alone. Hence the origin of the Athenian festival of the Pitchers."
Suidas s.v. Pithoigia :
"Pithoigia (Jar-opening) : The opening of the jar."
VI. THE APATURIA (APATOURIA) FESTIVAL
Suidas s.v. Apatouria (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"The Athenians had a [historical] war on against the Boiotians over Kelainai, which was a place in their borderlands. Xanthios, a Boiotian, challenged the Athenian king, Thymoites [to a fight]. When he did not accept, Melanthos, an expatriate Messenian from the stock of Periklymenos the son of Neleus, stood up to fight for the kingdom. While they were engaged in single combat, someone wearing a black goat-skin aigis appeared to Melanthos from behind Xanthios [assumed to be the god]. So [Melanthos] said that it was not right to come two against one. [Xanthios] turned round. [Melanthos] smote him and killed him. And from this was generated both the festival Apatouria and 'of the Black Aigis' as an epithet of Dionysos."
Suidas s.v. Melanaigis Dionysos :
"Melanaigis Dionysos : Dionysos of the Black Aigis (Goat-skin)."
VII. THE PHELLUS (PHELLOS) FESTIVAL
Suidas s.v. Phellea (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Phellea (Rockies) : Stony places suitable for grazing goats, as Isaios [says] . . . Phelleus [was] a rough place, of this name, in Attika. Goats tend towards the rougher and more mountainous [terrain] . . . And [there is] a certain festival of Dionysos called Phellos."
CULT IN MEGARIS (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I. MEGARA Main Town of Megaris
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 40. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"After the precinct of Zeus [in Megara] . . . you see a temple of Dionysus Nyktelios (Nocturnal), a sanctuary built to Aphrodite Epistrophia (She who turns men to love), an oracle called that of Nyx (Night)."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 43. 5 :
"Polyidos [a mythical king of Megara] also built the sanctuary of Dionysos, and dedicated a wooden image that in our day is covered up except the face, which alone is exposed. By the side of it is a Satyros of Parian marble made by Praxiteles. This Dionysos they call Patroios (Paternal); but the image of another, that they surname Dasyllios, they say was dedicated by Eukhenor, son of Koiranos, son of Polyidos."
CULT IN AEGINA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I. AEGINA (AIGINA) Main Town of Aegina
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 30. 1 :
"There are three temples close together [in Aigina], one of Apollon, one of Artemis, and a third of Dionysos."
CULT IN CORINTHIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I. CORINTH (KORINTHOS) Main City of Corinthia (Korinthia)
Strabo, Geography 8. 6. 23 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Polybios, who speaks in a tone of pity of the events connected with the capture of Korinthos [by the Romans], goes on to speak of the disregard shown by the army for the works of art and votive offerings; for he says that he was present and saw paintings that had been flung to the ground and saw the soldiers playing dice on these. Among the paintings he names that of Dionysos by Aristeides, to which, according to some writers, the saying, ‘Nothing in comparison with the Dionysos,’ referred; and also the painting of Herakles in torture in the robe of Deianeira. Now I have not seen the latter, but I saw the Dionysos, a most beautiful work, on the walls of the temple of Demeter [Ceres] in Rome; but when recently the temple was burned, the painting perished with it."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 2. 6 - 7 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"On the market-place [of Korinthos], where most of the sanctuaries are, stand . . . wooden images of Dionysus, which are covered with gold with the exception of their faces; these are ornamented with red paint. They are called Lysios (Releasing) and Bakkheios, and I too give the story told about them. They say that Pentheus [mythical king of Thebes] treated Dionysos despitefully, his crowning outrage being that he went to Kithairon, to spy upon the women, and climbing up a tree beheld what was done. When the women detected Pentheus, they immediately dragged him down, and joined in tearing him, living as he was, limb from limb. Afterwards, as the Korinthians say, the Pythian priestess commanded them by an oracle to discover that tree and to worship it equally with the god. For this reason they have made these images from the tree."
CULT IN SICYONIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I. SICYON (SIKYON) Main Town of Sicyonia (Sikyonia)
Herodotus, Histories 5. 67 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"Besides other honors paid to [their mythical king] Adrastos by the Sikyonians, they celebrated his lamentable fate with tragic choruses in honor not of Dionysos but of Adrastos. Kleisthenes [tyrant C6th B.C.] however, gave the choruses back to Dionysos [as the god of tragedy choruses]."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 7. 5 - 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"After the theater [below the citadel of Sikyon] is a temple of Dionysos. The god is of gold and ivory, and by his side are Bakkhanales of white marble. These women they say are sacred to Dionysus and maddened by his inspiration. The Sikyonians have also some images which are kept secret. These one night in each year they carry to the temple of Dionysos from what they call the Kosmeterion (Tiring-room), and they do so with lighted torches and native hymns.
The first is the one named Bakkheios, set up by [the mythical king] Androdamas, the son of Phlias [son of Dionysos], and this is followed by the one called Lysios (Deliverer), brought from Thebes by the Theban Phanes at the command of the Pythian priestess."
II. Near SICYON Main Town of Sicyonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 11. 3 :
"On the direct road from Sikyon to Phlios . . . [is] the temple called Nymphon for the purposes of the festival [of Hera and Persephone]. In the Nymphon are images of Dionysos, Demeter, and Kore [Persephone], with only their faces exposed."
III. TITANE Village in Sicyonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 11. 8 :
"In the portico [of the temple of Asklepios at Titane, Sikyonia] are dedicated images of Dionysos and Hekate, with Aphrodite."
IV. PHLIUS (PHLIOUS) Town in Sicyonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 13. 7 :
"Farther on from the Omphalos [in Phlious, Sikyonia] they have an old sanctuary of Dionysos . . . the image of Dionysos is visible to all."
CULT IN ARGOLIS (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I. ARGOS Main City of Argolis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 20. 4 :
"The tomb [in the city of Argos] they call that of the maenad Khorea, saying that she was one of the women who joined Dionysos in his expedition against Argos, and that Perseus, being victorious in the battle, put most of the women to the sword. To the rest they gave a common grave, but to Khorea they gave burial apart because of her high rank."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 22. 1 :
"Before [the temple of Hera in Argos] it is a grave of women. They were killed in a battle against the Argives under Perseus, having come from the Aegean Islands to help Dionysos in war; for which reason they are surnamed Haliai (Women of the Sea )."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 23. 1 :
"As you go from here [leaving the city of Argos] along a road called Hollow there is on the right a temple of Dionysos; the image, they say, is from Euboia. For when the Greeks, as they were returning from Troy, met with the shipwreck at Kaphereus, those of the Argives who were able to escape to land suffered from cold and hunger. Having prayed that someone of the gods should prove himself a saviour in their present distress, straightway as they advanced they came upon a cave of Dionysos; in the cave was an image of the god, and on this occasion wild she-goats had gathered there to escape from the storm. These the Argives killed, using the flesh as food and the skins as raiment. When the storm was over and the Argives, having refitted their ships, were returning home, they took with them the wooden image from the cave, and continue to honor it to the present day."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 23. 7 - 8 :
"The Argives [of Argos city] have other things worth seeing; for instance ... [including] a temple of Dionysos Kres (of Krete). For they say that the god, having made war on Perseus, afterwards laid aside his enmity, and received great honors at the hands of the Argives, including this precinct set specially apart for himself. It was afterwards called the precinct of Kres (the Kretan), because, when Ariadne died, Dionysos buried her here. But Lykeas says that when the temple was being rebuilt an earthenware coffin was found, and that it was Ariadne's. He also said that both he himself and other Argives had seen it."
II. ERASINUS R. (ERASINOS) River in Argolis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 24. 6 :
"At the places where the Erasinos [river in Argolis near the border with Arkadia] gushes forth from the mountain they sacrifice to Dionysos and to Pan, and to Dionysos they also hold a festival called Tyrbe (Throng)."
III. EPIDAURUS (EPIDAUROS) Town in Argolis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 29. 1 :
"There is also in the city [of Epidauros, Argolis] a temple of Dionysos."
IV. TROEZEN (TROIZENOS) Town in Argolis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 31. 2 :
"In this temple [of Artemis at Troizenos, Argolis] are altars to the gods said to rule under the earth (theoi khthonioi). It is here that they say Semele was brought out of Haides by Dionysos, and that Herakles dragged up the Hound of Hell. But I cannot bring myself to believe even that Semele died at all, seeing that she was the wife of Zeus."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 31. 5 :
"Not far from [the temple of] Artemis Lykeia [in Troizenos, Argolis] are altars close to one another. The first of them is to Dionysos, surnamed, in accordance with an oracle, Saotes (Saviour)"
V. HERMIONE Town in Argolis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 35. 1 :
"[In Hermione, Argolis] is a temple of Dionysos Melanaigis (of the Black Goatskin). In his honor every year they hold a competition in music, and they offer prizes for swimming-races and boat-races."
VI. MT. POTINUS (POTINOS) Mountain in Argolis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 37. 2 :
"At this mountain [Mount Pontinos in Argolis] begins the grove, which consists chiefly of plane trees, and reaches down to the sea . . . [within which are various temples including] another temple [within which] is a seated wooden image of Dionysos Saotes (Savior)."
VII. LAKE ALCYONIA (ALKYONIA) Lake near Amymone in Argolis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 37. 5 :
"I saw also what is called . . . the Alkyonian Lake [near Amymone, Argolis], through which the Argives say Dionysos went down to Hell to bring up Semele, adding that the descent here was shown him by Palymnos. There is no limit to the depth of the Alkyonian Lake, and I know of nobody who by any contrivance has been able to reach the bottom of it since not even Nero, who had ropes made several stades long and fastened them together, tying lead to them, and omitting nothing that might help his experiment, was able to discover any limit to its depth. This, too, I heard. The water of the lake is, to all appearance, calm and quiet but, although it is such to look at, every swimmer who ventures to cross it is dragged down, sucked into the depths, and swept away. The circumference of the lake is not great, being about one-third of a stade. Upon its banks grow grass and rushes. The nocturnal rites performed every year in honor of Dionysos I must not divulge to the world at large."
CULT IN LACEDAEMONIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I. SPARTA Main City of Lacedaemonia (Lakedaimonia)
Plato, Laws 637b (trans. Lamb) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"The Dionysia (Festival of Dionysos) . . . a revel such as I once upon a time witnessed . . . at our [the Spartans] colony of Tarenton, too, saw the whole city drunk at the Dionysia. But with us [the Spartans] no such thing is possible [i.e. the Spartan festival is more restrained]."
Strabo, Geography 8. 5. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"The site of Sparta is in a rather hollow district, although it includes mountains within its limits; yet no part of it is marshy, though in olden times the suburban part was marshy, and this part they called Limnai; and the temple of Dionysos in Limnai stood on wet ground."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 11. 11 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"There is also [in Sparta a statue of] Hermes of the Market-place carrying Dionysus as a child."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 13. 7 :
"[In Sparta] is what is called Kolona (the Knoll), with a temple of Dionysos Kolonates (of the Knoll), by which is a precinct of the hero who they say guided Dionysos on the way to Sparta. To this hero sacrifices are offered before they are offered to the god by the daughters of Dionysos and the daughters of Leukippos. For the other eleven ladies who are named daughters of Dionysos there is held a footrace; this custom came to Sparta from Delphoi."
II. AMYCLAE (AMYKLAI) Town of Lacedaemonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 19. 6 :
"The natives [of Amyklai, Lakedaimonia] worship the Amyklaian god [Apollon] and Dionysos, surnaming the latter, quite correctly I think, Psilax. For psila is Doric for wings, and wine uplifts men and lightens their spirit no less than wings do birds."
III. BRYSIAE (BRYSIAI) Village in Lacedaemonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 20. 3 :
"[In] the city Brysiai [in Lakedaimonia] there still remains a temple of Dionysos with an image in the open. But the image in the temple women only may see, for women by themselves perform in secret the sacrificial rites."
IV. CYTHIUM (KYTHION) Village in Lacedaemonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 21. 8 :
"In the market-place [of Kythion, Lakedaimonia] they have images of Apollon and of Herakles, and a Dionysos stands near them."
V. MT. LARYSIUM (LARYSION) Mountain in Lacedaemonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 22. 2 :
"Above Migonion [in Lakedaimonia] is a mountain called Larysion sacred to Dionysos, and at the beginning of spring they hold a festival in honor of Dionysos, and among the things they say about the ritual is that they find here a ripe bunch of grapes."
VI. BRASIAE (BRASIAI) Village in Lacedaemonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 24. 3 - 4 :
"The inhabitants [of Brasiai in Lakedaimonia] have a story, found nowhere else in Greece, that Semele, after giving birth to her son by Zeus, was discovered by Kadmus and put with Dionysos into a chest, which was washed up by the waves in their country. Semele, who was no longer alive when found, received a splendid funeral, but they brought up Dionysos. For this reason the name of their city, hitherto called Oreiatae, was changed to Brasiai after the washing up of the chest to land; so too in our time the common word used of the waves casting things ashore is ekbrazein. The people of Brasiae add that Ino in the course of her wanderings came to the country, and agreed to become the nurse of Dionysos. They show the cave where Ino nursed him, and call the plain the garden of Dionysos."
VII. MT. ILIUS (ILIOS) Mountain in Lacedaemonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 24. 8 :
"On Mount Ilios [near Las, Lakedaimonia] is a temple of Dionysos."
VIII. ALAGONIA Village in Lacedaemonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 26. 11 :
"Worth seeing here [in Alagonia, Lakedaimonia] are temples of Dionysos and of Artemis."
IX. TAYGETUS MTS. (TAYGETOS) Mountains in Lacedaemonia
Virgil, Georgics 2. 487 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman bucolic C1st B.C.) :
"Taygetus, where Spartan girls hold Bacchic rites!"
CULT IN MESSENIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I. CORONE (KORONE) Village in Messenia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 4. 34. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The gods who have temples here [in Korone, Messenia] are Artemis, called the Nurse of Children, Dionysos and Asklepios. The statues of Asklepios and Dionysos are of stone."
II. CYPARISSIAE (KYPARISSIAI) Village in Messenia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 4. 36. 7 :
"When Kyparissiai is reached from Pylos [in Messenia], there is a spring below the city near the sea, the water of which they say gushed forth for Dionysos when he struck he ground with a thyrsus. For this reason they call the spring Dionysias."
CULT IN ELIS (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I. ELIS Main Town of Elis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 6. 21. 5 :
"[In Elis] is a sanctuary of Dionysos Leukyanites, whereby flows a river Leukyanias. This river too is a tributary of the Alpheios; it descends from Mount Pholoe."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 6. 26. 1 - 2 :
"Between the market-place and the Menios [in the city of Elis] is an old theater and a shrine of Dionysos. The image is the work of Praxiteles. Of the gods the Eleans worship Dionysos with the greatest reverence, and they assert that the god attends their festival, the Thyia. The place where they hold the festival they name the Thyia is about eight stades from the city. Three pots are brought into the building by the priests and set down empty in the presence of the citizens and of any strangers who may chance to be in the country. The doors of the building are sealed by the priests themselves and by any others who may be so inclined. On the morrow they are allowed to examine the seals, and on going into the building they find the pots filled with wine. I did not myself arrive at the time of the festival, but the most respected Elean citizens, and with them strangers also, swore that what I have said is the truth."
II. OLYMPIA Village & Sanctuary in Elis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 14. 10 :
"By the sacred enclosure of Pelops [in Olympia, Elis] is an altar of Dionysos and the Kharites (Graces) in common."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 15. 4 :
"Outside the Altis [in Olympia, Elis] . . . and before what is called the Front Seats stands an altar of Apollon surnamed Pythios, and after it one of Dionysos. The last altar is said to be not old, and to have been dedicated by private individuals."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 16. 7 :
"Physkoa they say came [to Olympia] from Elis in the Hollow, and the name of the parish where she lived was Orthia. She mated they say with Dionysos, and bore him a son called Narkaios. When he grew up he made war against the neighboring folk, and rose to great power, setting up moreover a sanctuary of Athena surnamed Narkaia. They say too that Narkaios and Physkoa were the first to pay worship to Dionysos [in Elis]."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 17. 3 :
"At a later date other images were dedicated in the Heraion [temple of Hera in Olympia, Elis], including a marble Hermes carrying the baby Dionysos, a work of Praxiteles."
[N.B. The original statue is still extant, see Image S11.1.]
Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 26. 3 :
"[Dedicated by the people of Mykythos at Olympia, Elis] are [statues of] Dionysos, Orpheus the Thracian, and an image of Zeus . . . They are the works of Dionysios of Argos. They say that Mikythos set up other offerings also in addition to these."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 6. 19. 10 :
"The treasury of the Libyans of Kyrene [at Olympia, Elis] : . . . there stands in it an image of Dionysos with face, feet and hands of ivory."
III. ALPHEUS R. (ALPHEIOS) River in Elis
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 2. 34a (trans. Gullick) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"Theopompos of Khios [Greek historian, C4th B.C.] relates that the vine was discovered in Olympia, on the banks of the Alpheios; and that there is a district in Elis a mile away, in which at the Dionysia (festival of Dionysos), the inhabitants shut up and seal three empty cauldrons in the presence of visitors; later, they open the cauldrons and find them full of wine."
CULT IN ACHAEA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I. PATRAE (PATRAI) Main Town of Achaea (Akhaia)
Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 19. 6 - 20. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"When Troy was captured, and the Greeks divided the spoils, Eurypylos the son of Euaimon got a chest. In it was an image of Dionysos, the work, so they say, of Hephaistos, and given as a gift by Zeus to Dardanos. But there are two other accounts of it. One is that this chest was left by Aeneas when he fled; the other that it was thrown away by Kassandra to be a curse to the Greek who found it. Be this as it may, Eurypylos opened the chest, saw the image [of Dionysos], and forthwith on seeing it went mad. He continued to be insane for the greater part of the time, with rare lucid intervals. Being in this condition he did not proceed on his voyage to Thessalia, but made for the town and gulf of Kirrha. Going up to Delphoi he inquired of the oracle about his illness. They say that the oracle given him was to the effect that where he should come across a people offering a strange sacrifice, there he was to set down the chest and make his home. Now the ships of Eurypylos were carried down by the wind to the sea off Aroe. On landing he came across a youth and a maiden who had been brought to the altar of [Artemis] Triklaria [at Patrai, in Akhaia]. So Eurypylos found it easy to understand about the sacrifice, while the people of the place remembered their oracle seeing a king whom they had never seen before, they also suspected that the chest had some god inside it. And so the malady of Eurypylos and the sacrifice of these people came to an end, and the river was given its present name Meilikhos (Soothing). Certain writers have said that the events I have related happened not to the Thessalian Eurypylos, but to Eurypylos the son of Dexamenos who was king in Olenos, holding that this man joined Herakles in his campaign against Troy and received the chest from Herakles. The rest of their story is the same as mine. But I cannot bring myself to believe that Herakles did not know the facts about the chest, if they were as described, nor, if he were aware of them, do I think that he would ever have given it to an ally as a gift. Further, the people of Patrai have no tradition of a Eurypylos save the son of Euaimon, and to him every year they sacrifice as to a hero, when they celebrate the festival in honor of Dionysos.
The surname of the god inside the chest is Aisymnetes (Dictator), and his chief attendants are nine men, elected by the people from all the citizens for their reputation, and women equal in number to the men. On one night of the festival the priest carries the chest outside. Now this is a privilege that this night has received, and there go down to the river Meilikhos a certain number of the native children, wearing on their heads garlands of corn-ears. It was in this way that they used to array of old those whom they led to be sacrificed to Artemis."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 21. 1 :
"[In Patrai, Akhaia] is also a sanctuary of Dionysos surnamed Kalydonios (of Kalydon), for the image of Dionysos too was brought from Kalydon."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 21. 6 :
"Near to the theater [of Patrai, in Akhaia] there is a precinct sacred to a native lady. Here are images of Dionysos, equal in number to the ancient cities, and named after them Mesateus, Antheus and Aroeus. These images at the festival of Dionysos they bring into the sanctuary of the Aisymnetes (Dictator). This sanctuary is on the right of the road from the market-place to the sea-quarter of the city. As you go lower down from Aisymnetes (the Dictator) there is another sanctuary with an image of stone. It is called the sanctuary of Soteiros (Recovery), and the story is that it was originally founded by Eurypylos on being cured of his madness."
II. AEGIUM (AIGION) Town in Achaea
Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 23. 9 :
"Near the theater [at Aigion in Akhaia] they have a sanctuary of Dionysos with an image of the god as a beardless youth."
III. BURA (BOURA) Village in Achaea
Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 25. 9 :
"[In Boura, Akhaia] there is a temple here of Demeter, one of Aphrodite and Dionysos, and a third of Eileithyia. The images are of Pentelic marble, and were made by Eukleides of Athens."
IV. PHELLOE Village in Achaea
Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 26. 11 :
"[In Phelloe, Akhaia] there are sanctuaries of Dionysos and of Artemis . . . The image of Dionysus is painted with vermilion."
V. PELLENE Town in Achaea
Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 27. 3 :
"[In Pellene, Akhaia] is a sanctuary of Dionysus surnamed Lampteros (Torch). In his honor they celebrate a festival called the Lampteria (Feast of Torches), when they bring by night firebrands into the sanctuary, and set up bowls of wine throughout the whole city."
CULT IN ARCADIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I. MEGALOPOLIS Main City of Arcadia (Arkadia)
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 31. 4 :
"Within the precinct is a temple of Zeus Friendly [in Megalopolis, Arkadia] Polykleitos of Argos made the image; it is like Dionysos in having buskins as footwear and in holding a beaker in one hand and a thyrsos in the other, but an eagle sitting on the thyrsos does not fit in with the received accounts of Dionysos."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 32. 3 :
"[In Megalopolis, Arkadia] is built also a race-course, extending on one side to the theater (and here they have a spring, held sacred to Dionysos), while at the other end of the race-course a temple of Dionysos was said to have been struck by lightning two generations before my time, and a few ruins of it were still there when I saw it."
II. MANTINEIA Town in Arcadia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 6. 5 :
"About seven stades distant from Mantineia [in Arkadia], there is a well called the Well of the Meliasts. These Meliasts celebrate the orgies of Dionysos. Near the well is a hall of Dionysos."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 9. 8 :
"Antinous [a favourite of the Roman Emperor Hadrian] too was deified by them [the people of Mantineia, Arkadia]; his temple is the newest in Mantineia . . . the Emperor established his worship in Mantineia also; mystic rites are celebrated in his honor each year, and games every four years . . . the portraits of Antinous, who is made to look just like Dionysos."
III. CYNATHEA (KYNATHEA) Village in Arcadia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 19. 2 :
"The most notable things here [at Kynathea, Arkadia] include a sanctuary of Dionysos, to whom they hold a feast in the winter, at which men smeared with grease take up from a herd of cattle a bull, whichever one the god suggest to them, and carry it to the sanctuary. This is the manner of their sacrifice."
IV. ALEA Village in Arcadia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 23. 1 :
"[In Alea, Arkadia] there is a temple of Dionysos with an image. In honor of Dionysos they celebrate every other year a festival called Skiereia, and at this festival, in obedience to a response from Delphoi, women are flogged."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 46. 5 :
"In the gardens of the emperor [in Alea, Arkadia is] a sanctuary of Dionysos."
V. Near THELPUSA (THELPOUSA) Village in Arcadia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 25. 3 :
"This sanctuary [of Demeter] is on the borders of Thelpousa [in Arkadia]. In it are images, each no less than seven feet high, of Demeter, her daughter [Persephone], and Dionysos, all alike of stone."
VI. HERAEA (HERAIA) Village in Arcadia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 26. 1 :
"Walks have been made along the river [Alpheios in the city of Heraia, Arkadia], separated by myrtles and other cultivated trees; the baths are there, as are also two temples to Dionysos. One is to the god named Polites (Citizen), the other to Auxites (the Giver of Increase), and they have a building there where they celebrate their mysteries in honor of Dionysos."
VII. PHIGALIA Town in Arcadia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 39. 6 :
"A temple also of Dionysus is here [in Phigalia, Arkadia], who by the inhabitants is surnamed Akratophoros, but the lower part of the image cannot be seen for laurel-leaves and ivy. As much of it as can be seen is painted."
VIII. TEGEA Town in Arcadia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 53. 7 :
"There is also at Tegea [in Arkadia] . . . two sanctuaries of Dionysos."
IX. Near TEGEA Town in Arcadia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 54. 5 :
"On the road from Tegea [in Arkadia] to Argos . . . is a sanctuary, that of Dionysos Mystes (Mystic)."
- Herodotus, Histories - Greek History C5th B.C.
- Plato, Gorgias - Greek Philosophy C4th B.C.
- Plato, Laws - Greek Philosophy C4th B.C.
- Plato, Republic - Greek Philosophy C4th B.C.
- Callimachus, Hymns - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C.
- Strabo, Geography - Greek Geography C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
- Aelian, Historical Miscellany - Greek Rhetoric C2nd - 3rd A.D.
- Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae - Greek Rhetoric C3rd A.D.
- Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana - Greek Biography C2nd A.D.
- Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Hyginus, Astronomica - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Virgil, Georgics - Latin Bucolic C1st B.C.
- Suidas, The Suda - Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.
A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.