DIONYSOS was the Olympian god of wine, vegetation, pleasure, festivity, madness and frenzy.
This page describes the benefactions bestowed by the god on men and women in myth. The most famous of these tales include the first vintner Ikarios (Icarius), King Midas of the golden touch, the water-to-wine Oinotrophoi maidens, and the hospitable King Oineus.
(1) FAVOUR GOD OF WINE
BAKKHIDES (Bacchides) The sons of Dionysos and Ariadne received the islands of the north Aegean from their father Dionysos--Thoas received Lemnos, Oinopion Khios, Staphylos Thasos, and Peparethos his namesake island. The god made these regions producers of the most prized wine in ancient Greece. Other sons, such as Phliasos and Eurymedon, received the vineyards of Sikyon, and Keramos founded the wine-vessel making industry of the Athenian Keramaikos.
IKARIOS & ERIGONE (Icarius) A hero of Attika (southern Greece) and his daughter who Dionysos taught the arts of viticulture and winmaking. After their unfortunate deaths, the god placed them in the heavens as the constellationsArcturus and Virgo, and forced the Athenians to institute a festival in their honour.
OINEUS (Oeneus) A king of Kalydon in Aitolia (central Greece) who received the arts of viticulture and winemaking from the god Dionysos.
OINOTROPHOI (Oenotrophi) Three princesses of the island of Delos (Greek Aegean) who Dionysos blessed with a magical touch: giving them the ability to create wine, oil and corn directly from the earth. When Agamemnon kidnapped them to assist the Greeks in their Trojan campaign, the god came to their rescue, transforming them into white doves.
PHOLOS (Pholus) A centaur of Mount Pholoe in Arkadia (southern Greece) who received a gift of the finest wine from Dionysos.
(2) FAVOUR BACCHIC DEVOTEES
AKOETES (Acoetes) The pilot of the Tyrrhenian pirates, who captured Dionysos as he was journeying amongst the islands of the Greek Aegean. He alone recognised the god's divinity and was spared the dolphin-metamorphosis of his companions, and became instead a favoured devotee of the god.
BAKKHANTES THEBAN (Bacchantes) The first of the Theban Bakkhai to celebrate the Orgia of Dionysos on Mount Kithairon in Boiotia (central Greece), were arrested and chained by King Pentheus. The god freed them from their bonds, and at their request were transformed into leopards to avenge themselves and their god upon the sacriligeous king, tearing him apart with their claws on Mt Kithairon.
DIRKE (Dirce) A Theban (central Greece) devotee of the god Dionysos. When the heroes Amphion and Zethos slew her for cruelly mistreating their mother Antiope, the god transformed her into the holy spring of Dirke on Mt Kithairon.
HYADES Five Naxian (Greek Aegean) women or nymph nurses of the god Dionysos. The god rewarded them in their old age by having the witch Medea rejuventate them, and afterwards placed them amongst the stars as the constellation Hyades.
MIDAS A King of Phrygia (Asia Minor) who received his fabled golden touch from Dionysos as a reward for the hospitality he gave to the god's lost companion Seilenos. When he discovered his wish was also a curse--it affected even the food he touched--he begged the god to take it away.
ORPHEUS A Thrakian bard (north of Greece) and devotee of the god Dionysos, who received instruction in his orgia (the so-called Orphic Mysteries). When the Thrakian Bakkhai, enraged that he would not share their beds, tore him to shreds in a Bakkhic frenzy, the god avenged him by turning the foolish women into trees.
(3) FAVOUR APOTHEOSIS (FAMILY)
ARIADNE A princess of the island of Krete (Greek Aegean) and wife of Dionysos. The god placed her crown amongst the stars as the constellation Corona, and brought to Olympos as his immortal wife (perhaps recovering her after death from Hades). [See Dionysus Loves: Ariadne]
ARISTAIOS A prince of the island of Euboia (central Greece) and uncle of Dionysos. He joined the company of the god on Mount Haimos in Thrake (north of Greece), and was made immortal.
INO A princess of Thebes in Boiotia (central Greece) who nursed the god Dionysos in his infancy. When Hera drove her husband Athamas into a murderous rage, she fled and leaping to her death in the sea was transformed by Dionysos into a sea-goddess.
MELIKERTES A prince of Thebes in Boiotia (central Greece) and cousin of Dionysos. When his father was driven into a murderous rage by Hera, his mother carried him to the sea-cliffs, and leapt to their deaths in the sea. Dionysos intervened and transformed the pair into sea-gods.
SEMELE A princess of Thebes in Boiotia (central Greece), the mother of Dionysos, who was slain by the fires of the lightnings of Zeus. Dionysos, upon reaching adulthood, recovered her from the underworld and brought her to Olympos as a divine goddess. [See Journey of Dionysus to the Underworld]
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
DIONYSUS FAVOUR : INO & MELICERTES
LOCALE : Thebes & Mt Nysa, Boiotia (Central Greece)
I. INO ESCAPES THE WRATH OF HER HUSBAND
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 4 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Athamas, King in Thessaly, thought that his wife Ino . . . had perished, and so he married Themisto . . . Later he discovered that Ino was on Parnassus, where she had gone for Bacchic revels. He sent someone to bring her home."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 2 :
"He [Phrixos] was led to the altar, wearing fillets of sacrifice, but he servant, out of pity for the youth revealed Ino's plans [an elaborate deception contrived to do away with her stepchildren] to Athamas. The king, informed of the crime, gave over his wife Ino and her son Melicertes to be put to death, but Father Liber [Dionysos] cast mist around her, and saved Ino his nurse."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 3 :
"While Phrixus and Helle [the stepchildren of his nurse Ino] under madness sent by Liber [Dionysos] were wandering in a forest, Nebula [Nephele] their mother is said to have come there bringing a gilded ram . . . She bade her children mount it, and journey to Colchis."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 4. 416 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Bacchus' [Dionysos'] divinity was hymned through all Thebae, and Ino everywhere told of the god's (her nephew's) mighty power. Of all the sisters she alone was spared sorrow except her sorrow for her sake. Her pride was high, pride in her children, pride in Athamas, her husband and the god, her foster-child."
II. THE APOTHEOSIS OF INO & MELIKERTES
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 26-29 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"At the proper time Zeus loosened the stitches and gave birth to Dionysos, whom he entrusted to Hermes. Hermes took him to Ino and Athamas, and persuaded them to bring him up as a girl. Incensed, Hera inflicted madness on them, that Athamas stalked and slew his elder son Learkhos on the conviction that he was a dear, while Ino threw Melikertes into a basin of boiling water, and then, carrying both the basin and the corpse of the boy, she jumped to the bottom of the sea. Now she is called Leukothea, and her son is Palaimon: these names they receive from those who sail, for they help sailors beset by storms. Also, the Isthmian games were established by Sisyphos in honor of Melikertes."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 2 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Later, Athamas, driven mad by Jove [an error, should read Juno, Hera], slew his son Learchus. But Ino, with Melicertes her son, threw herself into the sea. Liber [Dionysos] would have her called Leucothea, and Melicertes, her son the god Palaemon, but we call her Mater Matuta, and him Portunus. In his honour every fifth year gymnastic contests are held, which are called Isthmian."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 224 :
"Mortals who were made immortal . . . Ino, daughter of Cadmus, into Leucothea, whom we call Mater Matuta; Melicertes, son of Athamas, into the god Palaemon."
For other MYTHS of Ino and Dionysos see:
(1) Birth & Nursing of Dionysus (Ino nurses the infant god)
(2) Dionysus Wrath: Pentheus (Ino and her sisters slay Pentheus)
For MORE information on these sea-gods see: LEUKOTHEA & PALAIMON
DIONYSUS FAVOUR : ARISTAEUS
LOCALE : Mt Haimon, Thrake (North of Greece)
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 81. 1 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"Aristaios received especial honour as a god, in particular by those who harvested the fruit of the olive-tree. And finally, as the myths relate, he visited Dionysos in Thrake and was initiated into his secret rites, and during his stay in the company of the god he learned from him much useful knowledge. And after dwelling some time in the neighbourhood of Mount Haimos he never was seen again of men, and became the recipient of immortal honours not only among the barbarians of that region but among the Greeks as well."
For MORE information on this god see ARISTAIOS
DIONYSUS FAVOUR : THE HYADES
LOCALE : Mt Nysa, Boiotia (Central Greece) OR Naxos (Greek Aegean)
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 29 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Hermes took him [the infant Dionysos] to the Nymphai of Asian Nysa, whom Zeus in later times places among the stars and named the Hyades."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 182 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"The Nymphae which are called Dodonides (others call them Naides) . . . On Mount Nysa these obtained a boon from their foster-son [Dionysos], who made petition to Medea. Putting off old age, they were changed to young girls, and later, consecrated among the stars, they are called Hyades (rainy ones)."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 192 :
"Atlas by Pleione or an Oceanid had twelve daughters, and a son Hyas . . . The five of them first put among the stars have their place between the horns of the bull - Phaesyla, Ambrosia, Coronis, Eudora, Polyxo - and are called from their brother's name, Hyades ... There are those who think they are among the stars because they were the nurses of Father Liber [Dionysos] whom Lycurgus drove out from the island of Naxos."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 21 :
"The stars which outline the face [of the constellation Taurus] are called Hyades. These, Pherecydes the Athenian [mythographer C5th BC] says, are the nurses of Liber [Dionysos], seven in number, who earlier were nymphae called Dodonidae. Their names are as follows: Ambrosia, Eudora, Pedile, Coronis, Polyxo, Phyto, and Thyone . . . According to Pherecydes, they brought Liber [Dionysos] to Thebes and delivered him to Ino, and for this reason Jove [Zeus] expressed his thanks to them by putting them among the constellations."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 7. 294 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Liber [Dionysos] had seen from heaven this miracle [the witch Medea's magical rejuvenation of Aeson], so marvellous, and, learning that his own Nurses could have their youth restored, obtained that boon and blessing from the Colchian."
Suidas s.v. Apepsesamen (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Apepsêsas, having made boiled. Or meaning having begun anew. Aristophanes [writes] : ‘I have boiled down Demos for you and made him beautiful instead of ugly.’ Meaning I have recreated [him]. Just like Medeia is said to have boiled down the nursemaids of Dionysos to become young again."
For MORE information on these nymphs see HYADES
DIONYSUS FAVOUR : BOEOTIAN BACCHANTES
LOCALE : Mount Kithairon, Boiotia (Central Greece)
Oppian, Cynegetica 3. 78 (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd A.D.) :
"Minstrels celebrate this race of beasts [the leopards] as having been aforetime the nurses of Bakkhos, giver of the grape; wherefore even now they greatly exult in wine and receive in their mouths the great gift of Dionysos [wild leopards had a taste for wine]. What matter it was that changed glorious women from the race of mortals into this wild race of Pardales (panthers) I shall hereafter sing."
Oppian, Cynegetica 4. 230 :
"Leopards are overcome also by the gifts of Dionysos, when crafty hunters pour for them the crafty drought, shunning not the anger of holy Dionysos. Leopards are now a race of wild beasts, but aforetime they were not fierce wild beasts but bright-eyed women, wine-drinking, carriers of the vine branch, celebrators of the triennial festival, flower-crowned, nurses of frenzied Bakkhos [Dionysos] who rouses the dance [the story of the nursing of Dionysos follows, see The Birth of Dionysos for this section of Oppian] . . .
Late and last he [the adult Dionysos and his followers] set foot in Thebes, and all the daughters of Kadmos came to meet the son of fire. But rash Pentheus bound the hands of Dionysos that should not be bound and threatened with his own murderous hands to rend the god . . . And the heart of the women worshippers was chilled, and they cast on the ground all the garlands from their temples and the holy emblems of their hands, and the cheeks of all the worshippers of Bromios flowed with tears. And straightway they cried : ‘Io! Blessed one, O Dionysos, kindle thou the flaming lightning of thy father and shake the earth and give us speedy vengeance on the evil tyrant. And, O son of fire, make Pentheus a bull upon the hills, make Pentheus of evil name a bull and make us ravenous wild beasts, armed with deadly claws, that, O Dionysos, we may rend him in our mouths.’
So spake they praying and the lord of Nysa speedily hearkened to their prayer. Pentheus he made a bull of deadly eye and arched his neck and made the horns spring from his forehead. But to the women he gave the grey eyes of a wild beast and armed their jaws and on their backs put a spotted hide like that of fawns and made them a savage race. And, by the devising of the god having changed their fair flesh, in the form of Leopards they rent Pentheus among the rocks. Such things let us sing, such tings let us believe in our hearts!"
For the MYTH of the death of Pentheus see Dionysus Wrath: Pentheus
DIONYSUS FAVOUR : DIRCE
LOCALE : Mt Kithairon, Boiotia (Central Greece)
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 7 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Lycus [regent of Thebes] married Dirce. She, suspecting that her husband had secretly lain with Antiopa, ordered her servants to keep her bound in darkness . . .
When the sons [of Antiope, Amphion and Zethos] found out who their mother was, they put Dirce to death by binding her to an untamed bull; by the kindness of Liber [Dionysos], whose votary she was, on Mount Cithaeron a spring was formed from her body, which was called Dirce."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 8 :
"Antiopa had been given over to Dirce, Lycus' wife, for punishment. When opportunity presented itself, she fled, and came to her sons. But Zetus, thinking her a runaway, did not accept her. Dirce, in the revels of Liber [Dionysos], was brought to the same place. There she found Antiopa and was dragging her to death. But the youths, informed by the shepherd who had reared them that she was their mother, quickly pursued and rescued their mother, but slew Dirce, binding her by the hair to a bull." [N.B. This version of the story may be derived from a play by Euripides.]
DIONYSUS FAVOUR : ICARIUS & ERIGONE
LOCALE : Athens, Attika (Southern Greece)
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 191-192 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Pandion became king [of Athens]. It was during his reign that Demeter and Dionysos came to Attika. Keleus welcomed Demeter to Eleusis, and Ikarios received Dionysos, who gave him a vine-cutting and taught him the art of making wine. Ikarios was eager to share the god's kindness with mankind, so he went to some shepherds, who, when they had tasted the drink and then delightedly and recklessly gulped it down undiluted, thought they had been poisoned and slew Ikarios. But in the daylight they regained their senses and buried him. As his daughter was looking for him, a dog named Maira, who had been Ikarios' faithful companion, unearthed the corpse; and Erigone, in the act of mourning her father, hanged herself."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 2. 5 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Pegasos of Eleutherai, 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."
Aelian, On Animals 7. 28 (trans. Schofield) (Greek natural history C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"When Ikarios was slain by the relatives of those who, after drinking wine for the first time, fell asleep (for as yet they did not know that what had happened was not death but a drunken stupor), the people of Attika suffered from disease, Dionysos thereby (as I think) avenging the first and the most elderly man who cultivated his plants. At any rate the Pythian oracle declared that if they wanted to be restored to health they must offer sacrifice to Ikarios and to Erigone his daughter and to her hound which was celebrated for having in its excessive love for its mistress declined to outlive her."
Pseudo-Plutarch, Greek and Roman Parallel Stories 9 (trans. Babbitt) (Greek historian C2nd A.D.) :
"The story of Ikarios who entertained Dionysos: [is told by] Eratosthenes in his Erigone."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 130 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"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. Loading a wagon, Icarius with his daughter Erigone and a dog Maera came to shepherds in the land of Attica, and showed them the kind of sweetness wine had. The shepherds, made drunk by drinking immoderately, collapsed, and thinking that Icarius had given them some bad medicine, killed him with clubs. The dog Maera, howling over the body of the slain Icarius, showed Erigone where her father lay unburied. When she came there, she killed herself by hanging in a tree over the body of her father. 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 because of the affliction, decreeing that through the grape-harvest they should pour libations to Icarius and Erigone. By the will of the gods they were put among the stars. Erigone is the sign Virgo whom we call Justice; Icarius is called Arcturus among the stars, and the dog Maera is Canicula."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 224 :
"Mortals who were made immortal . . . Icarus and Erigone, his daughter, placed among the stars - Icarus as Arcturus, Erigone ast he sign Virgo."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 2 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Bear Watcher [Constellation Bootes]. Some have said that he is Icarus, father of Erigone, 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, a goat is said to have broken into the vineyard, and nibbled the tenderest leaves he saw there. Icarus, angered by this, took him and killed him and from his skin made a sack, and blowing it up, bound it tight, and cast it among his friends, directing them to dance around it. And so Eratosthenes says : ‘Around the goat of Icarus they first danced.’
Others say that Icarus, when he had received the wine from Father Liber [Dionysos], straightway put full wineskins on a wagon. For this he was called Boötes. When he showed it to the shepherds on going round through the Attic country, some of them, greedy and attracted by the new kind of drink, became stupefied, and sprawling here and there, as if half-dead, kept uttering unseemly things. The others, thinking poison had been given the shepherds by Icarus, so that he could drive their flocks into his own territory, killed him, and threw him into a well, or, as others say, buried him near a certain tree. However, when those who had fallen asleep, woke up, saying that hey had never rested better, and kept asking for Icarus in order to reward him, his murderers, stirred by conscience, at once took to flight and came to the island of the Ceans. Received there as guests, they established homes for themselves.
But when Erigone, the daughter of Icarus, moved by longing for her father, saw he did not return and was on the point of going out to hunt for him, the dog of Icarus, Maera by name, returned to her, howling as if lamenting the death of its master. It gave her no slight suspicion of murder, for the timid girl would naturally suspect her father had been killed since he had been gone so many months and days. But the dog, taking hold of her dress with its teeth, led her to the body. As soon as the girl saw it, abandoning hope, and overcome with loneliness and poverty, with many tearful lamentations she brought death on herself by hanging from the very tree beneath which her father was buried. And the dog made atonement for her death by its own life. Some say that it cast itself into the well, Anigrus by name. For this reason they repeat the story that no one afterward drank from that well. Jupiter [Zeus], pitying their misfortune, represented their forms among the stars. And so many have called Icarus, Boötes, and Erigone, the Virgin, about whom we shall speak later. The dog, however, from its own name and likeness, they have called Canicula. It is called Procyon by the Greeks, because it rises before the greater Dog. Others say these were pictured among the stars by Father Liber [Dionysos].
In the meantime in the district of the Athenians many girls without cause committed suicide by hanging, because Erigone, 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 festival], 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."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 25 :
"Virgin [Constellation Virgo]. Some have called her Erigone, daughter of Icarus, whom we have spoken of before."
For another MYTH of Dionysos and Erigone see Dionysus Loves: Erigone
DIONYSUS FAVOUR : OENEUS
LOCALE : Kalydon, Aitolia (Central Greece)
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."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 274 :
"Inventors and their inventions . . . A certain man named Cerasus mixed wine with the river Achelous in Aetolia, and from this ‘to mix’ is called kerasai." [N.B. Kerasos wwas probably connected with, if not the same as, King Oineus.]
For the MYTH of Dionysos' love for Oineus wife Althaia see Dionysus Loves: Althaea
DIONYSUS FAVOUR : ACOETES
LOCALE : Near Naxos (Greek Aegean)
Tyrrhenian pirates captured Dionysos as he was travelling through the Aegean Islands and threatened to violate him. Alone amongst their company, the ship's pilot, Akoetes, stood up in defence of the god. For this service, he alone was spared when Dionysos transformed his shipmates into dolphins. He then became a favoured acolyte of the god.
For the MYTH of Akoetes see Dionysus Wrath: Tyrrhenian Pirates
DIONYSUS FAVOUR : MIDAS
LOCALE : Phrygia (Anatolia)
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 181 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Midas, Mygdonian king, [was a] son of the the Mother goddess from Timolus [Kybele] . . . At the time when Father Liber [Dionysos] was leading his army into India, Silenus wandered away; Midas entertained him generously, and gave him a guide to conduct him to Liber's [Dionysos'] company. Because of this favour, Father Liber gave Midas the privilege of asking him for whatever he wanted. Midas asked that whatever he touched should become gold. When he had been granted the wish, and came to his palace, whatever he touched became gold. When now he was being tortured with hunger, he begged Liber [Dionysos] to take away the splendid gift. Liber [Dionysos] bade him bathe in the River Pactolus, and when his body touched the water it became a golden colour. The river in Lydia is now called Chrysorrhoas."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 11. 86 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[Dionysos] made for the slopes and vineyards of his own beloved Tmolus and Pactolus' banks, though at that time the river did not flow golden nor envied for its precious sands. Around him thronged his usual company, Satyri and Bacchae, but Silenus was missing. For the peasants of Phryges had caught the old man, tottering along muddled with wine and years, and crowned his head with country flowers and brought him to their king, Midas, whom Orpheus Thracius and Eumolpus Cecropius once had taught the Bacchic rites. He recognised his old companion of the Mysteries, and for his guest made merry in a feast for ten great days on end and nights to match; then on the eleventh morning Lucifer [Hesperos] marshalled the starry host to leave the sky, and Midas came to Lydia, light at heart, bringing Silenus back to his young ward.
Liber [Dionysos], rejoicing in the safe return of old Silenus (once his guardian), granted the king to choose his heart's desire, a choice that seemed a boon, but proved a bane. So Midas chose, a sorry choice : ‘Ordain that everything I touch shall turn to gold.’
The god indulged his wish, gave the reward, dire as it was, and mourned a choice so bad. The king departed, happy with his bane, and tried its truth by touching this and that, and, scarce believing, from a low oak branch broke a green twig; the twig was changed to gold. He stooped and grasped a stone; at once the stone shone with a golden sheen. He touched a clod; his magic touch made it a lump of gold. He picked ripe heads of wheat and his hand he held a golden crop. He plucked an apple; it seemed the gift of the Hesperides. And if he laid his fingers on the pillars of his high palace, lo! The pillars gleamed. When he but rinsed his hands in running water the water might have cheated Danae. His heart could hardly hold his golden hopes when everything was gold.
As he rejoiced, his serving-men arrayed a sumptuous feast and there were splendid wheaten loaves. But then, ah, then! When Midas reached his hand and touched kind Ceres' [Demeter's] gift, that gift grew hard and stiff; and when with watering mouth he tried to bite the tempting food, he bit but golden flakes; when wine, when water filled his glass, behold between his lips there flowed a stream of gold! Aghast at his grotesque calamity, so rich, so wretched, he would fain escape his wealth and hates what was but now his hope. No plenty can relieve his hunger; thirst burns in his throat; justly the loathsome gold tortures him and, with hands upraised, he cries, ‘Grant pardon, Bacchus [Dionysos], father, I have sinned! Have mercy, I beseech thee! Hear my prayer and save me from the curse that gleams so fair!’
The gods are kind. Bacchus [Dionysos], the sin confessed, restored him and discharged the pact and pledge. ‘And lest,’ he said, ‘you stay bedaubled with gold--your foolish choice--betake you to that river that girdles mighty Sardis and ascend the Lydian hills against the tumbling stream up to its source and, where with fullest flood it issues foaming, plunge your head and body, and in its waters wash your crime away.’
The king obeyed and plunged beneath the flow, and in the foam, passing from man to river, the golden power dissolved and tinged the stream; and still today, washed by that ancient vein, the water-meadows gleam with seeds of gold. Then loathing riches, Midas gave his heart to fields and forests and the countryside."
Suidas s.v. Midas (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Midas : A personal name. The lover of gold . . . And Midas, a name for a very lucky [throw of a] die . . . It is said that the river Paktolos ran gold for him, and that he prayed that everything he touched should turn to gold . . . Some say that because he once gave a judgment against Dionysos, Midas was changed into an ass; or because he wronged the companions of Dionysos, Dionysos in anger forced him to have ass's ears."
DIONYSUS FAVOUR : THE OENOTROPHI
LOCALE : Delos (Greek Aegean)
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca E3. 10 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"The daughters of Apollon's son Anios, whose names were Elais, Spermo, and Oino, were called Oinotrophoi. Dionysos bestowed on them the function of producing oil, grain, and wine from the earth."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 13. 631 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"City Apollinea [of Apollo i.e. Delos] . . . there Anius served Phoebus [Apollon] as priest and men as monarch . . . good Anchises spoke : ‘Your reverence, Apollo's chosen priest, am I mistaken, or had you not, when I last saw these walls, four daughters and a son as I recall?’
Shaking his head beneath its snow-white bands, in sorrow Anius replied : ‘My lord, most noble hero, you make no mistake. You saw me father of five children, now (such is the fickleness of fate) you see me almost childless. For what help to me is my son far away on Andros isle (named after him) where in his father's stead he reigns? Delius [Apollon] gave him power of prophecy and Liber [Dionysos] gave my girls gifts greater than their prayers of their belief. For at my daughters' touch all things were turned to corn or wine or oil of Minerva's [Athena's] tree. Rich was that role of theirs!
‘When it was know to Atrides [Agamemnon], plunderer of Troia . . . with force of arms he stole my girls, protesting, from their father's arms and bade them victual with that gift divine the fleet of Greece. They fled, each as she could, two to Euboea, two to their brother's isle, Andros. A force arrived and threatened war, were they not given up. Fear overcame his love and he gave up his kith and kin to punishment. And one could well forgive their frightened brother . . .
‘Now fetters were made ready to secure the captured sisters' arms : their arms still free the captives raised to heaven, crying "Help! Help, father Bacchus [Dionysos]!" and the god who gave their gift brought help, if help it can be called in some strange way to lose one's nature. How they lost it, that I never learnt, nor could I tell you now. The bitter end's well known. With wings and feathers, birds your consort [Aphrodite] loves, my daughters were transformed to snow-white doves.’"
DIONYSUS FAMILY FAVOUR : THE BACCHIDES
LOCALE : Thasos, Lemnos, Peparethos & Khios (Greek Aegean), Attika & Sikyonia (Southern Greece)
The sons of Dionysos and Ariadne received from their father the best wine-producing regions of Greece: Oinopion (the Wine-Maker) was blessed with the vineyards of Khios producing the famed Khian wine; Staphylos (Grape-Bunch) with Thasos and the treasured Thasian; Peparethos and Phanos received his name-sake island and its powerful wine; Thoas Lemnos and its vineyards; Phliasos and Eurymedon the vines the Sikyon. The last son Keramos (Wine Storage-jug) founded the pottery works of the Athenian Keramaikos, producing the bulk of the storage vessels used in the ancient wine-trade.
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 1. 26b-c (trans. Gullick) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"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."
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."
DIONYSUS FAVOUR : PHOLUS
LOCALE : Mt Pholoe, Arkadia (Southern Greece)
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 12. 3 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"Pholos was a Kentauros (centaur) . . . [who] received Herakles with the courtesies due to a guest and opened for him a jar of wine which had been buried in the earth. This jar, the writers of myths relate, had of old been left with a certain Kentauros by Dionysos, who had given him orders only to open it when Herakles should come to that place. And so, four generations after that time, when Herakles was being entertained as a guest, Pholos recalled the orders of Dionysos. Now when the jar had been opened the sweet odour of the wine, because of its great age and strength, came to the Kentauroi (centaurs) dwelling near there, it came to pass that they were driven mad; consequently they rushed in a body to the dwelling of Pholos and set about plundering him of the wine in a terrifying manner."
For MORE information on this centaur see PHOLOS
- Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History - Greek History C1st B.C.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
- Plutarch, Parallel Stories - Greek Historian C1st - 2nd A.D.
- Aelian, On Animals - Greek Natural History C2nd - 3rd A.D.
- Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae - Greek Rhetoric C3rd A.D.
- Oppian, Cynegetica - Greek Poetry C3rd A.D.
- Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Hyginus, Astronomica - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Suidas, The Suda - Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.
A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.