When Europa disappeared on the back of the Bull, Agenor sent out
his sons in search of her, ordering them not to return until
they had found their sister.
king of Sidon (or Tyre, in Phoenicia), himself the son of
Poseidon whose wife is Libya, a descendant of Zeus and Io.
Cilix, Europa's brother went out in his search and ended up in
Cilicia in Asia Minor, a region called after him, where he
became king after giving up the search.
Another brother, Thasus, having sailed from
Tyre in his search of Europa, gave up and settled in an island
off Thrace and founded a city, Thasus, called after himself.
Meanwhile, another brother, Phoenix set out for Africa, and
( Johann Wilhelm Baur,
Edition 1703) Ovid, Met. III, 90-94
Cadmus, another of Europa's brothers, went with his mother
Telephassa to Thrace and stayed there for some time, before
coming to Boeotia, where he founded the city of Cadmea, which
was later called Thebes. For when Telephassa died Cadmus went to
Delphi to inquire about Europa, and the Oracle told him not to
worry about her sister, but instead, following a cow, found a
city wherever the animal would lay down to rest.
In order to cleanse the cow before offering it in sacrifice to Athena,
Cadmus sent some of his companions draw water from a neighboring
spring of Ares. When they didn't return, he sent more men, and
then more again, until he ran out of followers. Then, since he
still needed water to purify the animal, he went himself. At the
spring he found a dragon, an offspring of Ares, sluggish from
its unusually full meal.
Enraged Cadmus slew the dragon and
Athena, appearing to him, suggested that he sow the teeth of the
dead animal. As soon as he had done this, armed warriors sprang
from the earth. Feeling threatened by these men, Cadmus threw
stones in the middle of them. Not knowing where the stones came
from, the "sowed men" (the Spartoi, as they became called)
killed each other, except for five of them, one of whom, Echion,
later married Agave, a daughter of Cadmus.
( Johann Wilhelm Baur,
Edition 1703) Ovid, Met. III, 118-126
To expiate the murder
of the dragon, Cadmus had to serve Ares for eight years, and
after that, with the help of Athena, he became king of Thebes
and Zeus gave him Harmonia, the daughter of Ares and Aphrodite,
All the gods attended the wedding of Cadmus
and Harmonia, and they brought gifts to the bride, including a
wonderful dress weaved by the Graces (Charites in Greek),
daughters of Zeus, and a golden necklace made by Hephaistus
which would later provoke much tragedy for those who sought to
possess these treasures. Even the Muses sang -- a rare treat for
Cadmus and his Phoenician companions
with introducing many new techniques in Greece, including the
alphabet (and indeed, the Greek alphabet is derived from the
Phoenician alphabet, which is the first known alphabet, that is,
a writing system based on letters representing elementary sounds
rather than ideograms, like the Egyptian hieroglyphs, or
syllables, like the Cretan Linear A and B writing systems that
preceeded it ; this alphabet was invented by the Phoenicians
around 1100 B. C. and introduced in Greece probably around the
end of the IXth century B. C
Cadmus and Harmonia had several children :
Polydorus, a son, and four daughters, Autonoe, Ino, Agave and
DIONYSUS IS CONCEIVED
"Zeus stretched out on Semele's bed in the
form of a bull with human limbs. Then he was
a panther. Then a young man with vine shoots
in his curls. Finally he settled into that
most perfect of shapes: the serpent. Zeus
prolonged their union like some story
without end, a rehearsal of the life of the
god about to be generated. The snake
slithered over Semele's trembling body and
gently licked her neck. Then, gripping her
bust in one of his coils, wrapping her
breasts in a scaly sash, he sprinkled her not
with poison but with liquid honey. The snake
was pressing his mouth against Semele's
mouth, a dribble of nectar trickling down
onto her lips intoxicated her, and all the
while vine leaves were sprouting up on the
bed and there was a sound of drums beating
in the darkness. The earth laughed. Dionysus
was conceived just as Zeus shouted the name
with which for centuries he was to be
[The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony by
Roberto Calasso. , pg 47]
|"But Hera, his
legitimate spouse and queen of Olympus, is not a Goddess to overlook
such an affront. In turn, she assumes a human form, that of Semele's
nurse, in order to talk to the young woman. "Really, you believed that
handsome lover who pretends he's a God? You're very naive, my dear, and
now you're pregnant. The next time he visits you, ask him for some
proof. If he's really the all powerful Zeus, let him show himself in all
his splendor!" Thinking her wise old nurse is speaking to her, Semele
begins to suspect that she has been deceived by an ordinary man.
At her lover's next visit, Semele asks Zeus if he
would grant her a favor. "Sure, anything! I give you my word I will
grant you any favor!" says Zeus. "Then, drop your human disguise and
show yourself all-powerful,: says Semele. Zeus warns her of the danger,
but to no avail. Since he has given his word, he grants her wish. But
Semele is not a Goddess, and so she cannot bear the intensity of light
that emanates from her divine partner; she falls, stuck down by light.
The child she carries is threatened, and to allow the
continue its growth, Zeus hastens to graft it into his thigh
which he then closes with golden clamps. When the gestation period is
over, Illythia, the Goddess of childbirth, help Zeus to open the clamps
and give birth to the infant Dionysos, the twice-born."
by Ginette Paris ]
theogony which differs substantially from the more
well-known cosmogony of Homer and Hesiod:
successively in three forms: Phan?s-Dionysus, the
bisexual god of Light, burst from the silver egg of the
cosmos (the so-called Orphic Egg is sometimes depicted
as an egg girt with a serpent) at the beginning of time.
Phan?s was also known by the names of Protogonos,
Ericapaeus, Eros and M?tis ( a name previously applied
to the Titaness who presided over the planet Mercury).
Alone, Phan?s created a daughter, Nyx (Night), with whom
he begot G? or Gaia (Earth) and Ouranos or Uranus
(Heaven). These begot the Fates, the Centimani, the
Cycl?pes (who built the world), and the Titans, with
their leader Cronus (Saturn).
In the revolt of the Titans against Uranus, Cronus
became ruler of the World, and begat the gods. The
leader of the gods, Zeus, wrested rulership of the world
from Cronus by eucharistically swallowing his
great-grandfather Phanes (Metis), assimilating his
power. Zeus then took the form of a serpent and begot
the second Dionysus, Dionysus-Zagreus, the Horned Child,
upon his daughter Persephon?.
Zeus bequeathed rulership of the world
and the underworld upon his son while he was still a
child, even setting him upon the great throne and
letting him hold the lightening-bolt scepter. This
aroused the envy of the Titans and of his wife, H?ra.
H?ra bribed the guards whom Zeus had entrusted to
protect the child (the Kour?tes), and distracted
the child with toys and a looking glass. While Zagreus
was beholding his own face in the looking glass, the
Titans, ceremonially smeared with white gypsum, entered
and attacked him, tearing him to pieces and devouring
him. Enraged, Zeus destroyed the Titans with his
thunderbolt, and from their ashes, commingled with those
of Dionysus-Zagreus, arose the human race. Humans are
therefore of a dual nature: the Dionysian divine nature
imprisoned in the Titanic material nature.
Athena, goddess of Wisdom, had
witnessed the murder of Dionysus-Zagreus and had even
managed to save his heart from the rage of the Titans.
She brought it, still beating, to her father Zeus. Zeus
consumed the heart, as he had previously consumed the
Serpent-entwined Egg of Light of his great-grandfather
Phan?s. He then came to Semel?, daughter of Cadmus (Semel?
was the Thracian word for "Earth") and begot upon her
the third Dionysus, known as Dionysus-Lyseus or Bakkhos,
or simply as Dionysus. [Another version of the legend
has Athena preserving the heart of Zagreus within a
small figure she fashioned from the gypsum of the
Titans, into which she breathed life.] Dionysus was born
on the winter solstice in a cavern in Mount Nusa (one
theory of the origin of the name Dionysus derives the
name from words meaning "God of Nusa"). Having been born
twice, once as Zagreus and once as Lyseus, Dionysus is
known as Dithyrambos, the "twice-born."
The child is first entrusted to his aunt Ino,
another of Cadmos' daughters, and wife of King Athamas. But Hera
strikes them both with such severe
mania that they kill their own children. On Mount Nysa in
Thrace Dionysus is brought up by local
nymphs and by the old man Silenus
|But the goddess was not deceived, and in her rage she drove
the aunt and uncle mad.
Zeus acted quickly. He ordered Hermes, the divine messenger,
to transform Dionysus
temporarily into a young goat and bring him to the beautiful
Mount Nysa. [Chapter continued on
When Dionysus grew up he discovered the
culture of the vine and the mode of extracting its precious
juice; but Hera struck him with madness, and drove him forth a
wanderer through various parts of the earth. In Phrygia, he was
cured of his madness by the Great Mother Goddess, his
grandmother Rhea (also known as Cybele, Bona Dea and Magna
Mater), who initiated him into her mysteries. He then set out to
teach viticulture and to establish his cult among the peoples of
He marched through Syria, Lebanon, Caucasian
Iberia (modern Georgia), India, Egypt and Libya accompanied by a
retinue of his votaries, dancing ecstatically and shouting the
mystic word "euoi" (Latinized as the familiar "evoe"). His
votaries included the female maenads or bacchantes, tattooed,
clad in fox-skins and playing frame-drums or cymbals; the male
satyrs, clad in panther-skins and bearing thyrsi and
Silenus, his fat, aged, drunken companion and keeper, riding on
an ass. Despite his slovenly appearance and his perpetual
drunkenness, Silenus possessed immense knowledge and wisdom, and
was greatly respected by the votaries of Dionysus.
Dionysus encountered the Amazon Queens of the
Nile Delta to join with him and do battle against the Titans,
restoring King Ammon to his rightful kingdom.
|Hippolyta is the daughter of the
war-god Ares and Otrera, a daughter of Zeus. Raised in
the arts of warfare, she and her sisters became ruthless
in ancient times for attacking and destroying the
villages of Ancient Greece, killing men and abducting
female children to indoctrinate into their order. Called
Amazons (Latin for "breastless" as it was rumored they
cut off their right breasts to be more proficient in the
bow and arrow), they once protected the ancient
cow-goddess Io to receive the honors of Zeus.
Twelve generations later they graciously
received the Argonauts as Hercules came to collect
Hippolyta's girdle on his Ninth Labor. Hera, however,
incited the Amazons into bloodshed by claiming that
Hercules had come to kill Hippolyta. The Argonauts ended
up killing or abducting many of the Amazons as wives or
mistresses. To protect Hippolyta, her sister Antiope
masqueraded as her as she was carried off by Theseus as
his bride, eventually giving birth to Hippolytus.
|Dionysus got involved
in the war between the gods and the Titans. Led by his
braying asses, satyrs, seleni and Hephaestus, Dionysus
rushed upon the Titans but was turned back by the
monster Typhon, and flew to Egypt. He and the other gods
took refuge there disguising themselves as various
animals. Dionysus took the form of a goat.
While he and his army or followers were in Egypt they
were lost and without water in the desert. Someone spied
a stray ram and followed it. It vanished but on the spot
where it was they spied a spring. To commemorate this
event, Dionysus established a shrine of the ram-headed
god Ammon and also placed the ram in the stars as the
constellation aries. Dionysus and his followers returned
to Olympus after Zeus had thrown the island of Sicily on
top of the monster Typhon, who had been chasing them.
The hero of this epic battle of the Gods was
Hercules, Dionysus half brother and sometime drinking
India was next. The King of Damascus opposed Dionysus and was
thus flayed alive as punishment. Building a bridge made of ivy
and vine across the river Euphrates he moved on, and a tiger
sent by Zeus helped him cross the river Tigris. After
encountering much resistance, he reached India and soon
conquered the entire country, introducing the art of viniculture
and founding great cities.
Now upon their return from India, with Indian
elephants as mounts, they met opposing Amazons waiting to
pounce. Although once asked to fight on the side of the gods by
Dionysus, this time there was no such alliance.
The amazons suffered a massive defeat after a hard-fought battle
with the god and his followers. The remains retreated and
Dionysus troops chased them as far as Ephesus, just past his
boyhood home at Nysa.
Battle of the Amazons by Rubens.
[Click Pic to enlarge]
Many retreated into the Temple of
Artemis at Ephesus (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient
World) where many more amazons lost their lives and others were
chased onto the island of Samos off the coast, where they were
killed. The battlefield, for its bloodiness, was thereafter
known as Panhaema.
Some survivors of the Dionysan war became priestesses of Artemis
at the temple; others returned to Libya where they were later
wiped from existence by the labor-eager Hercules, who had come
to the outer realms of Libya to set up his famous pillars. On
their march home, they buried Myrine at Troy and the Greeks
later declared her an ancestor to the Trojans.
Descriptions of a battle waged by the Libyan Amazons in their
home territory, in which 30,000 soldiers and 3,000 cavalry
fought, is believed to be the earliest record in the world of
troops riding horses into battle. Traditionally then and now,
these Amazons of Libya are believed to be the first to capture
and tame horses for military purpose.
Returning in triumph Dionysus undertook to
introduce his worship into Greece, but was opposed by some
princes who dreaded its introduction on account of the disorders
and madness it brought with it.
Bacchus, on his march from India,
challenges the Maenads & satyrs
came ye, merry Damsels! Whence came ye!
So many and so many, and such glee?
Why have ye left your bowers desolate,
Your lutes, and gentler fate?'
'We follow Bacchus! good or ill betide,
We dance before him thorough kingdoms wide:
Come hither, lady fair, and joined be
To our wild minstrelsy!'
'Whence came ye jolly Satyrs! Whence came ye!
So many, and so many, and such glee?
Why have ye left your forest haunts, why left
Your nuts in oak-tree cleft?'
'For wine, for wine we left our kernel tree;
For wine we left our heath, and yellow brooms,
And cold mushrooms;
For wine we follow Bacchus through the earth;
Great God of breathless cups and chirping mirth!
Come hither, lady fair, and joined be
To our mad minstrelsy!'
'Over wide streams and mountains great we went,
And save when Bacchus kept his ivy tent,
Onward the tiger and the leopard pants,
With Asian elephants:
Onward these myriads--with song and dance,
With zebras striped, and sleek Arabians' prance,
Web-footed alligators, crocodiles,
Bearing upon their scaly backs, in files,
Plump infant laughers mimicking the coil
Of seamen, and stout galley-rowers' toil:
With toying oars and silken sails they glide,
Nor care for wind and tide.'
(Oct 31, 1795 ? Feb 23, 1821)]
Then, he went to Thrace near to the land of
the Edonians, who lived beside the river Strymon where the local king, Lycurgus refused to let him pass through his kingdom and
tried to capture him becoming the first king to insult,
persecute and expel the wine god. Some have said that Charops,
the grandfather of Orpheus, warned
Dionysus of Lycurgus's plot against him. Dionysus took refuge in the sea near the
Nereid Thetis. Lycurgus, who had managed to capture Bacch?
accompanying Dionysus, was struck with madness while the Bacch?
were miraculously freed.
Dionysus then sent a drought and the people
revolted. Dionysus made King Lycurgus insane, and he sliced his own son
into pieces with an axe, thinking he was a patch of ivy, a plant
holy to Dionysus. Lycurgus recovered his reason
but his country had become sterile.
An oracle then claimed that the land would stay dry and barren
as long as Lycurgus was alive, so his people had him killed. With Lycurgus dead, Dionysus lifted the curse.
Charops became king in Thrace; for Dionysus , out
of gratitude for his aid, handed over the kingdom to him, and
instructed him in the secret rites of the initiations. Later the
son of Charops , Oeagrus, took over both the kingdom and the
From Thracia, Dionysus moved to India, that he conquered, before
coming back to Thebes, the native land of his mother, where
Pentheus, the son of his mother's sister Agave and of Echion,
one of the few surviving "sowed men" born from the teeth of the
dragon, was now king. There, he introduced Bacchanalia,
orgiastic festivals in his honor, but Pentheus opposed such
When King Lycurgus of Thrace heard that Dionysus was in his kingdom, he
imprisoned all the followers of Dionysus, the Maenads. Dionysus fled,
taking refuge with Thetis.
In retaliation against him and against his
mother Agave, who wouldn't believe that her sister Semele had
been loved by Zeus, but claimed she had had an affair with a
mortal and had been punished by Zeus for putting the blame on
him, Dionysus managed to have Agave kill her own son Pentheus
during one of these festivals, mistaking him for a wild beast
(this episode is the theme of Euripides'
Dionysus then went to Argos, where he
similarly struck with madness the daughters of Proetus and the
women of Argolis, so that they roamed the country pretending to
be cows, forcing Proetus to call upon the seer Melampous to heal them.
This act , cost Proteus two-thirds of his kingdom as fee
to Melampous' and his brother Bias.
Next, Dionysus tried to reach the island of
Naxos with the help of pirates.
Dionysos turns the pirates into dolphins. Bullfinch
tells the full story with using the name of Bacchus
Homer, who all in all, had little to say about Dionysus,
gives us this epic version
of this myth
But when he saw that the pirates were trying
to bring him to Asia to sell him there as a slave, he changed
their oars into snakes, grew ivy in their boats, played
invisible flutes and paralyzed their boats in vine, so
that the pirates, become mad, jumped into the sea where they
were changed into dolphins.
Dionysus was also one of the very few that was
able to bring a dead person out of the underworld. Even though
he had never seen Semele, he was concerned for her. Eventually
he journeyed into the Underworld to find her. He bribed
Persephone, Queen of the Underworld, with a gift of myrtle to
release his mother, faced down Thanatos (Death) and brought
Semele back to Mount Olympus. Still, just so other ghosts did
not become jealous, Dionysus changed his mother's name to Thyone
('raging queen') and that's how he introduced her to the other
Olympians. Zeus provided an apartment for her and Hera wasn't at
all happy with this arrangement, but she kept a resigned