The Legend of How Dionysus Became God of Wine


Dionysus God of Wine is the only god who had a mortal parent, Semele. His father was Zeus. Though there are several stories about who his mother is and how he became twice born, one thing is certain, people revere him as the god for the fruit of the vine.

Biography of Dionysus God of Wine

Mother Semele

Dionysus has several stories associated with his birth. The first story is about his mother Semele and father Zeus. Semele was a mortal woman who found out she was pregnant with Zeus's child. Hera, Zeus's wife, found out about the relationship and used her wiles to convince Semele that she should ask Zeus to reveal himself in his true form. Semele didn't know what would happen when he did. Zeus tried to talk her out of it, but she insisted. Zeus had made a promise that he would reveal himself and true to his word, he did. Zeus revealed himself as a brilliant light with lightning bolts around his head, burning Semele to death. Zeus removed the baby from Semele's stomach and sewed him into his own thigh. Several months later, Zeus removed a fully-grown Dionysus from his thigh, which explains how he was twice born.

Mother Persephone

An alternate story about Dionysus is that his mother was Persephone. In this story, Persephone, queen of the underworld, gives birth to Dionysus. Hera, learning of Zeus's relationship with Persephone, decides to kill Dionysus by luring him with some toys when he is a baby. She enlists the help of the Titans who lure the child, ripping him to bits and eating him, all except for his heart. Zeus learns of the deception and takes the heart and remakes his child, then implants it in Semele. He is then born of Semele, thus being twice born in this story also.

Dionysus as an Adult

Dionysus, having survived his childhood, discovers grapes and how to turn the juice into wine. Unfortunately, Hera once again enters his life and drives him mad. He begins wandering the earth until the goddess Cybele (Rhea) finds him and cures him of the madness. Dionysus begins traveling and teaching people about grapes and wine. He has many followers, including the Maenads, who worship him and enjoy what is described as divine ecstasy, wild parties and of course, consumption of wine. Dionysus never forgot his mother, Semele. He went into the underworld to locate her and faced down Thanatos. Semele was then able to go with her son to Mount Olympus to live with the gods.

Festival for Dionysus

The festival for Dionysus takes place in the spring when the leaves reappear on the grapevines. One of the main aspects of the festival is the theatre. Many of the Greek plays were written in order to be performed during this spring festival. Those who wrote or participated in the plays were considered sacred servants of Dionysus. It is reported that everyone enjoyed wine during this festival, including men, women and their children.

Symbols of Dionysus

There are many symbols associated with the Greek god Dionysus.

  • Snake - Zeus gave Dionysus a crown of snakes when he emerged from his thigh. Dionysus and the maenads are often depicted with a snake around their heads.
  • Grape Vine - Often depicted around the head of Dionysus.
  • Grapes - Dionysus is usually depicted holding grapes or having them on the vines around his head.
  • Panther - The favorite animal of Dionysus. He is sometimes depicted as riding one or having a panther hide wrapped around his shoulders.

Dionysus the god of wine is still recognized today, mainly through the many artifacts that exist from Greece. You'll find his image on many ceramic vessels and statues, especially those from the Hellenistic era. Even today, crafters make many plaques and miniature statues with Dionysus' image on them. Original statues of this god can be seen in art museums around the world including in the British Museum, Corfu Museum and the Museo Palazzo Massimo Alle Terme in Rome, Italy.

The Legend of How Dionysus Became God of Wine