Collected Stories
Collected Stories

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Dionysus Conceived
Orphic Theogeny
The Conquerer

More recently the imagery of the abduction of Europa has been used on the Greek two Euro coin
"For most of human history we have searched for our place in the cosmos. Who are we? What are we? We find that we inhabit an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people. We make our world significant by the courage of our questions, and by the depth of our answers."
Carl Sagan
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
---- T.S. Eliot
Soul has an insatiable hunger to imbibe the full spectrum of life in all its tragedy and glory.

Maureen B. Roberts, PhD

"The mythical gesture is a wave which, as it breaks, assumes a shape, the way dice form a number when we toss them. But, as the wave withdraws, the unvanquished complications swell in the undertow, and likewise the muddle from which the next mythical gesture will be formed. So myth allows of no system. Indeed, when it first came into being, system itself was no more than a flap on a god?s cloak, a minor bequest of Apollo". p.281
The myths and the gods are not dead. They continue to live on in us, and know them  deeper is to retell the stories from beginning to end
Thebes was also one of the prominent cities during classical period, where it enjoyed a brief supremacy in Greece during the 4th century, under military leadership of Epaminondas and Pelopidas, where they defeated the Spartan armies in Leuctra (371 BC) and Mantinea (362 BC). The best known writer from Thebes was the lyric poet Pindar, who wrote the odes to Olympic and Pythian Games (early 5th century BC).

The Theban line includes Oedipus, Antigone, Actaeon, Dionysus, Semele and Pentheus.



richly illustrated by famous artists in European history
In the Orphic version of the story, Dionysus was the son of Zeus and Persephone, the queen of the underworld. A jealous Hera again attempted to kill the child, this time by sending Titans to rip Dionysus to pieces after luring the baby with toys. Zeus drove the Titans away with his thunderbolts, but only after the Titans ate everything but the heart, which was saved, variously, by Demeter (Athena & Rhea in some versions of the story). Zeus used the heart to recreate Dionysus and implant him in the womb of Semele, hence he was again "the twice-born". This death and rebirth were events of mystical reverence featured  in certain Greek and Roman mystery religions.
Both myths make the point that Dionysos is the god of rebirth and eternal renewal

Bacchus & Ariadne
[1487 - 1576]

John Keats was said to have been fond of this painting  exhibited at the British Institution in 1816.

Keats was born on Halloween, 1795 died during Carnival season in 1825 in Italy.


'But how did it all begin?'
Ovid's Metamorphoses tells us of Europa,  the beautiful daughter of the Phoenician king of Tyre, Agenor. Zeus, the King of the gods according to Greek mythology, saw Europa as she was gathering flowers by the sea and immediately fell in love with her.  Appearing to her as a tame magnificent white bull, Zeus gently entices Europa onto his back and then suddenly carries her into the sea, abducting her to the island of Crete. There, Zeus cast off the shape of the white bull, and back into his human form, made Europa his lover beneath a simple cypress tree. Europa became the first queen of Crete and had by Zeus three sons: King Minos of Crete, King Rhadamanthus of the Cyclades Islands, and, according to some legends, Prince Sarpedon of Lycia.

The Rape of Europa [ pl. 21 from the series Ovid*s Metamorphoses, 17th century Etching] Antonio Tempesta, artist Italian, 1555 - 1630 Iupiter tauri imagine Europam rapit

 She later married the king of Crete, who adopted her sons, and she was worshiped under the name of Hellotis in Crete.

 At last, Zeus reproduced the shape of the white bull, used by Zeus to seduce Europa, in the stars. Even today we can recognize its shape in the constellation Taurus.


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
Download had found their sister.

Agenor, 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 remained there.

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.

in guttura ferrum pressit.
( Johann Wilhelm Baur, Edition 1703) Ovid, Met. III, 90-94

 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.

cadunt fratres.
( 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, for wife.

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 mortal ears.

 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 Semele.


"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 evoked: 'Evoe!'"
[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 fetus to 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."

[Pagan Grace by Ginette Paris ]

This Orphic theogony which differs substantially from the more well-known cosmogony of Homer and Hesiod:
Dionysus appears 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 rageDownload she drove the aunt and uncle mad.

Silenus with the infant Dionysos, IIIrd century B. C.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 Silenus page]

When Dionysus grew up he discovered the culture of the vine and the mode of extracting its precious juice; but Hera struck him withDownload 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 the world.

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 partner. Download

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

'Whence 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.'

[John Keats (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 initiatory rites

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 dangerous rites.

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' Bacch?).

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  here
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 silence.

The Abduction Of Europa by
Survey of art in museums with links

The Hero Thesues
Having overcome all the perils of the road, Theseus at length reached Athens, where new dangers awaited him. Medea, the sorceress, who had fled from Corinth after her separation from Jason, had become the wife of AEgeus, the father of Theseus. Knowing by her arts who he was, and fearing the loss of her influence with her husband if Theseus should be acknowledged as his son, she filled the mind of AEgeus with suspicions of the young stranger, and induced him to present him a cup of poison; but at the moment when Theseus stepped forward to take it, the sight of the sword which he wore discovered to his father who he was, and prevented the fatal draught. Medea, detected in her arts, fled once more from deserved punishment, and arrived in Asia, where the country afterwards called Media, received its name from her. Theseus was acknowledged by his father, and declared his successor.

The Athenians were at that time in deep affliction, on account of the tribute which they were forced to pay to Minos, king of Crete. This tribute consisted of seven youths and seven maidens, who were sent every year to be devoured by the Minotaur, a monster with a bull's body and a human head [image:16K]. It was exceedingly strong and fierce, and was kept in a labyrinth constructed by Daedalus, so artfully contrived that whoever was enclosed in it could by no means find his way out unassisted. Here the Minotaur roamed, and was fed with human victims.

 Theseus resolved to deliver his countrymen from this calamity, or to die in the attempt. Accordingly, when the time of sending off the Theseus slays the Minotaur tribute came, and the youths and maidens were, according to custom, drawn by lot to be sent, he offered himself as one of the victims, in spite of the entreaties of his father. The ship departed under blackDownload sails, as usual, which Theseus promised his father to change for white, in case of his returning victorious. When they arrived in Crete, the youths and maidens were exhibited before Minos; and Ariadne, the daughter of the king, being present, became deeply enamoured of Theseus, by whom her love was readily returned. She furnished him with a sword, with which to encounter the Minotaur, and with a clue of thread by which he might find his way out of the labyrinth. He was successful, slew the Minotaur, escaped from the labyrinth, and taking Ariadne as the companion of his way, with his rescued companions sailed for Athens. On their way they stopped at the island of Naxos, where Theseus abandoned Ariadne, leaving her asleep. His excuse for this ungrateful treatment of his benefactress was that Athena (Minerva) appeared to him in a dream and commanded him to do so.

 On approaching the coast of Attica, Theseus forgot the signal appointed by his father, and neglected to raise the white sails, and the old king, thinking his son had perished, put an end to his own life. Theseus thus became king of Athens.

One of the most celebrated of the adventures of Theseus is his expedition against the Amazons. He assailed them before they had recovered from the attack of Hercules, and carried off their queen Antiope. The Amazons in their turn invaded the country of Athens and penetrated into the city itself; and the final battle in which Theseus overcame them was fought in the very midst of the city

From heaven, Dionysus came back to Naxos, where Theseus had just abandoned Ariadne who had helped him out of the Labyrinth. They fell in love and Dionysus took her with him to the Olympus


 and married her.

 The island where Ariadne was left was the favourite island of Bacchus, the same that he wished the Tyrrhenian mariners to carry him to, when they so treacherously attempted to make prize of him. As Ariadne sat lamenting her fate, Bacchus found her, consoled her, and made her his wife. As a marriage present he gave her a golden crown, enriched with gems, and when she died, he took her crown and threw it up into the sky. As it mounted the gems grew brighter and were turned into stars, and preserving its form Ariadne's crown remains fixed in the heavens as a constellation, between the kneeling Hercules and the man who holds the serpent.

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