The god of ecstasy and wine was worshipped throughout the Roman Empire by all classes. Professor Bettany Hughes traces his origin and legacy throughout the ancient world.
Dionysius, God of Wine (05:24)
Dionysius, the child of Zeus and a mortal woman, was raised on a faraway mountain by nymphs. He represented a duality among the gods and was often depicted as androgynous. Festival days for him were often parties that drew large crowds.
Dionysius, God of Theater (04:14)
Celebrations for Dionysius often involved singing, dancing, cross-dressing, and theater. Greek theater is thought to have developed out of rituals for Dionysius. Euripides play "The Bacchae" showed Dionysius' personality and the power he had over people.
Worship of Dionysius (06:20)
Hughes travels to the island of Skyros, where Dionysius is still honored as part of an annual festival. Archaeological evidence shows that Dionysius has been worshipped and thanked for creating wine since the Bronze Age.
Wine and Worship (05:52)
Archaeologists in the country of Georgia found evidence that communal wine drinking has been part of human society since the Stone Age. Pottery fragments show that wine was used for ritual worship and a way to bond people together.
Dionysius and Creative Thinking (03:56)
Dionysius' connection to the arts showed how Ancient Greeks viewed wine as a tool to enhance creativity. Symposiums were places where Greek intellectuals would meet, share ideas, and drink wine. Greeks often watered-down wine, understanding the dangers of excessive drinking.
Bacchus in Rome (03:45)
Dionysius was incorporated in Roman society as Bacchus. Many Roman men found the worship of him, especially by women, threatening and it was eventually banned by the senate.
Bacchus and Roman Rule (02:38)
Roman leaders politicized the worship of Bacchus and promoted excessive wine drinking as a way to control newly conquered subjects. Temples to Bacchus were built in the farthest corners of the Roman Empire, like Britannia.
Bacchus and Christianity (05:42)
Worship of Bacchus faded as Rome converted to Christianity and it was eventually outlawed. Hughes explains the similarities between Bacchus and Jesus Christ and why it was important for early Christians to end Bacchus' popularity.
Bacchus' Resurgence (05:10)
During the Age of Enlightenment, many people rediscovered the ancient world and its gods. Bacchus was a popular figure but was treated in a more refined manner to coincide with 17th century society.
Bacchus and India (04:03)
The story of Bacchus conquering India became more popular in Great Britain during the 18th Century. The British East India Company played up its connection to Bacchus and the god's similarity to Hindu gods.
Bacchus in Modern Philosophy (08:14)
Friedrich Nietzsche wrote that Bacchus showed how ancient societies understood disorder and chaos better than modern societies. The counter-culture movement sparked a revival of Euripides' "The Bacchae." Ayn Rand compared the hippie movement to the worshipers of Dionysius.
Credits: Bacchus Uncovered (00:36)
Credits: Bacchus Uncovered
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