Geta AE21 of Nicaea, Bithynia. Infant Dionysos in cradle right, thyrsus behind.

Ancient Coins - Geta AE21 of Nicaea, Bithynia.  Infant Dionysos in cradle right, thyrsus behind.
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Geta AE21 of Nicaea, Bithynia. P CEPTI GETAC KAI, bare head right / NIKAEWN, infant Dionysos in cradle right, thyrsus behind. nicaea AE21 Varbanov 2782. No.1944. nVF and Rare, with a smooth green patina.

Dionysus
or
Bacchus
God of wine, grapes, ritual madness and ecstasy
2nd century Roman statue of Dionysus  leaning on a herme, after a Hellenistic model (Spanish royal collection, Prado, Madrid).
2nd century Roman statue of Dionysus leaning on a herme, after a Hellenistic model (Spanish royal collection, Prado, Madrid).

In classical mythology, Dionysus or Dionysos (in Greek, Διόνυσος or Διώνυσος; IPA: /ˌdaɪəˈnaɪsəs/), is the god of wine, the inspirer of ritual madness and ecstasy, and a major figure of Greek mythology, and one of the twelve Olympians, among whom Greek mythology treated Dionysus as a late arrival. The geographical origins of his cult were unknown, but almost all myths depicted him as having "foreign" (i.e. non-Greek) origins.[1]

He was also known as Bacchus[2] and the frenzy he induces, bakkheia. He is the patron deity of agriculture and the theatre. He was also known as the Liberator (Eleutherios), freeing one from one's normal self, by madness, ecstasy, or wine.[3] The divine mission of Dionysus was to mingle the music of the aulos and to bring an end to care and worry.[4] Scholars have discussed Dionysus' relationship to the "cult of the souls" and his ability to preside over communication between the living and the dead.[5]

In Greek mythology, Dionysus is made to be a son of Zeus and Semele; other versions of the myth contend that he is a son of Zeus and Persephone. He is described as being womanly or "man-womanish".[6]

The name Dionysos is of uncertain significance; its -nysos element may well be non-Greek in origin, but its dio- element has been associated since antiquity with Zeus (genitive Dios). Nysa, for Greek writers, is either the nymph who nursed him, or the mountain where he was attended by several nymphs (the Nysiads), who fed him and made him immortal as directed by Hermes.[7]

The retinue of Dionysus was called the Thiasus and comprised chiefly Maenads.

Birth

Dionysus had a strange birth[citation needed] that evokes the difficulty in fitting him into the Olympian pantheon. His mother was a mortal woman. Semele, the daughter of king Cadmus of Thebes, and his father Zeus, the king of the gods. Zeus' wife, Hera, a jealous and prudish goddess, discovered the affair while Semele was pregnant. Appearing as an old crone (in other stories a nurse), Hera befriended Semele, who confided in her that Zeus was the actual father of the baby in her womb. Hera pretended not to believe her, and planted seeds of doubt in Semele's mind. Curious, Semele demanded of Zeus that he reveal himself in all his glory as proof of his godhood. Though Zeus begged her not to ask this, she persisted and he agreed. Therefore he came to her wreathed in bolts of lightning; mortals, however, could not look upon an undisguised god without dying, and she perished in the ensuing blaze. Zeus rescued the foetal Dionysus by sewing him into his thigh. A few months later, Dionysus was born on Mount Pramnos in the island of Ikaria, where Zeus went to release the now-fully-grown baby from his thigh. In this version, Dionysus is borne by two "mothers" (Semele and Zeus) before his birth, hence the epithet dimētōr (of two mothers) associated with his being "twice-born".

In the Cretan version of the same story, which Diodorus Siculus follows,[16] Dionysus was the son of Zeus and Persephone, the queen of the Greek underworld. Diodorus' sources equivocally identified the mother as Demeter.[17] 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 Athena, Rhea, or Demeter. Zeus used the heart to recreate him in the womb of Semele, hence he was again "the twice-born". Other versions claim that Zeus gave Semele the heart to eat to impregnate her.

The rebirth in both versions of the story is the primary reason why Dionysus was worshipped in mystery religions, as his death and rebirth were events of mystical reverence. This narrative was apparently used in several Greek and Roman cults, and variants of it are found in Callimachus and Nonnus, who refer to this Dionysus with the title Zagreus, and also in several fragmentary poems attributed to Orpheus.[citation needed]

Price SKU: 1944
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