Bacchus, Dionysus and Other Ancient Gods Who Liked to Party

Surprising to none, wine is not a new fad. Sure, Cleopatra and Abraham Lincoln probably weren’t sipping rosé with their baes or arguing with their squads about which Red Blend is the Napa Valley Red Blend, but wine has been around for thousands of years. We know that the average wino isn’t necessarily a history buff. We’ve taken one for the team and compiled some fun facts about the O.G. Winos to help you impress your friends at your next group tasting.

Dionysus: God of the Grape Harvest
Also known as: God of Winemaking, God of Wine, God of Ritual Madness, God of Ecstasy

Dionysus Statue

Owner of some pretty impressive titles, Dionysus was one bourgeois bro. In the good old days (he was worshipped from 1500-1100 B.C. by Mycenaean Greeks), he was often pictured in a chariot being pulled by lions or tigers. Dionysus is said to have been “the protector of those who do not belong in conventional society.” (Source 2)

Along with being the savior of these pariahs, he’s a symbol of chaos, danger and the unanticipated. Basically, our dude Dionysus was meant to make sense of all things that escape human reason. Therefore, he sheds light on what can only be explained by the unpredictable actions of the almighty gods and goddesses.

Like many other gods of Roman mythology, Dionysus is often pictured with a posse, consisting of a blend of real and mythical creatures. For example, imagery of Dionysus shows him being followed by a squad of females and bearded satyrs, because #satyrslovesyrah.

Fun fact: Have you heard of the “Midas Touch?” Well, Dionysus was the god who gave King Midas the ability to turn everything to gold. When King Midas found Dionysus’ favorite mentor drunk (on Dionysus’s wine) and wandering around his kingdom, King Midas took care of the man for 10 days. Dionysus was super thankful that the king didn’t murder his pal for trespassing, which was kind of the big thing to do at the time. To show King Midas his appreciation, Dionysus offered to grant him one wish. Midas wished for the ability to turn anything he touched into gold. Dionysus was like, “Wow, not world peace? Kind of selfish but whatevs,” and granted the wish. You know how that ends up for Midas…not awesome. So Dionysus said, “I told you so!” and then helped the king reverse the curse.

Bacchus Statue

Bacchus: God of Agriculture and Wine
Similar to Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, we have Bacchus, the Roman god of wine.  So right now you’re probably thinking, “What’s the difference between Roman and Greek mythology?” I have no idea. I just like wine and thought it would be a good article idea and now I’m in way over my head. I suggest Wikipedia for these hard-hitting questions.

Bacchus was, essentially, a Roman copycat of the Greeks’ Dionysus. The stories of their births, travels and accomplishments are strikingly similar, but there’s definitely some differences between the mythologies.

Both Bacchus and Dionysus were born demigods. This means that one of their parents was a god, and the other was mortal. If you’re looking for more information on the god and demigod hierarchy, watch Hercules. Zero to Hero is arguably one of the catchiest songs from the late 1990s Disney collection. Pro tip: it also pairs well with a nice Chardonnay.

Because Bacchus was a demigod, he spent his childhood on earth with the mortals. Bacchus trained under Silenus, a great lover of wine. Silenus was essentially the O.G. Master Sommelier in Roman Mythology, and he taught Bacchus the tricks of the wine trade. Bacchus, being a loving god who cared for the well-being of the mortals, then traveled the world to teach others about wine and the vinification process.

Imagine being a lowly Roman just chilling in your village, and then a bro like Bacchus rolls up and gives you some magic grape juice. That would be pretty life-changing, right? Hence, why everyone began to idolize him and he was able to retire to his place on Mount Olympus with all of the other Roman gods.

So, the main differences between Dionysus and Bacchus are the ways in which they are depicted in their respective mythologies. Dionysus has always been represented as much more sophisticated, delicate and even feminine. While he’s sometimes pictured with grapevines draped across his body, his go-to outfit was a luxurious fox-skin, meant to represent new life. Somehow, wine drinking evolved from people drinking wine on chariots while wearing fox-skin, to drinking wine on couches while wearing yoga pants. This is upsetting to me.

On the other hand, Bacchus is described as having an aura more consistent with that of a middle-aged man. He’s a little more muscular and never wears a shirt (we ain’t mad about it). He is blessed with a full head of curly hair and a long beard, which we picture as always being stained with wine. Atop his luscious locks he normally shows off a crown of grapes and vines. He’s also always carrying a glass of wine, to constantly remind people that he bestowed one of the world’s greatest beverages upon them.

Dionysus vs Bacchus

We’re not super clear on which God of Wine was the original God of Wine, since their stories are basically identical. Two things we do know for sure, though:

  1. Bacchus and Dionysus are likely the coolest guys in Roman and Greek mythology. Much more useful to us than Achilles. That heel really screwed us over.
  2. By reading this article you officially have more ancient mythology knowledge than the rest of your Wine Wednesday crew. Show off your newfound wisdom by randomly dropping facts. Or, share the fun by planning a Greek god themed wine night. Designated driver for your chariot is required.

 

Sources: Mythology.net (1), Crystal Links, Mythology.net (2)

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Bright Cellars

Our staff is full of winos with a passion for vino. With our amazing wine director at the helm, we’ve been schooled on all things wine. We came together to write this article, in hopes of spreading a little wine-ducation with you.

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