Greek and Roman Myths in Art
 

 

 



Bacchus

 

 

 


see also:

The Odyssey of Homer


illustrations by John Flaxman

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Greek and Roman Myths in Art

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see also EXPLORATION (in Russian):

Homer  "Iliad "and "Odyssey"

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Apuleius "The Golden Asse"

illustrations by Jean de Bosschere and Martin Van Maele

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Longus

"The Pastorals, or the Loves of Daphnis and Chloe"

illustrations by Marc Chagall

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Greek and Roman Myths in Art
 

 




Bacchus
 


Dionysus

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Greek mythology

also called Bacchus (in Rome)

in Greco-Roman religion, a nature god of fruitfulness and vegetation, especially known as a god of wine and ecstasy. The occurrence of his name on a Linear B tablet (13th century bc) shows that he was already worshipped in the Mycenaean period, although it is not known where his cult originated. In all the legends of his cult he is depicted as having foreign origins.

He was the son of Zeus and Semele, a daughter of Cadmus (king of Thebes). Out of jealousy, Hera, the wife of Zeus, persuaded the pregnant Semele to prove her lover’s divinity by requesting that he appear in his real person. Zeus complied, but his power was too great for the mortal Semele, who was blasted with thunderbolts. However, Zeus saved his son by sewing him up in his thigh and keeping him there until he reached maturity, so that he was twice born. Dionysus was then conveyed by the god Hermes to be brought up by the bacchantes (maenads, or thyiads) of Nysa, a purely imaginary spot.

As Dionysus apparently represented the sap, juice, or lifeblood element in nature, lavish festal orgia (rites) in his honour were widely instituted. These Dionysia (Bacchanalia) quickly won converts among women. Men, however, met them with hostility. In Thrace Dionysus was opposed by Lycurgus, who ended up blind and mad. In Thebes Dionysus was opposed by Pentheus, his cousin, who was torn to pieces by the bacchantes when he attempted to spy on their activities. The Athenians were punished with impotence for dishonouring the god’s cult. Their husbands’ resistance notwithstanding, women took to the hills, wearing fawn skins and crowns of ivy and shouting the ritual cry, “Euoi!” Forming thyai (holy bands) and waving thyrsoi (singular: thyrsus; fennel wands bound with grapevine and tipped with ivy), they danced by torchlight to the rhythm of the aulos (double pipe) and the tympanon (handheld drum). While they were under the god’s inspiration, the bacchantes were believed to possess occult powers and the ability to charm snakes and suckle animals, as well as preternatural strength that enabled them to tear living victims to pieces before indulging in a ritual feast (ōmophagia). The bacchantes hailed the god by his titles of Bromios (“Thunderer”), Taurokeros (“Bull-Horned”), or Tauroprosopos (“Bull-Faced”), in the belief that he incarnated the sacrificial beast.

In Orphic legend (i.e., based on the stories of Orpheus) Dionysus—under the name Zagreus—was the son of Zeus by his daughter Persephone. At the direction of Hera, the infant Zagreus/Dionysus was torn to pieces, cooked, and eaten by the evil Titans. But his heart was saved by Athena, and he (now Dionysus) was resurrected by Zeus through Semele. Zeus struck the Titans with lightning, and they were consumed by fire. From their ashes came the first men, who thus possessed both the evil nature of the Titans and the divine nature of the gods.

Dionysus had the power to inspire and to create ecstasy, and his cult had special importance for art and literature. Performances of tragedy and comedy in Athens were part of two festivals of Dionysus, the Lenaea and the Great (or City) Dionysia. He was also honoured in lyric poems called dithyrambs. In Roman literature his nature is often misunderstood, and he is simplistically portrayed as the jolly Bacchus who is invoked at drinking parties. In 186 bc the celebration of Bacchanalia was prohibited in Italy.

The followers of Dionysus included spirits of fertility, such as the satyrs and sileni, and in his rituals the phallus was prominent. He often took on a bestial shape and was associated with various animals. His personal attributes were an ivy wreath, the thyrsus, and the kantharos, a large two-handled goblet. In early art he was represented as a bearded man, but later he was portrayed as youthful and effeminate. Bacchic revels were a favourite subject of vase painters.

 


Nicolas Poussin
1594-1665
France
Midas and Bacchus.

 

Giovanni
Bellini
1434-1516
Italy

Young Bacchus.
1514
National Gallery of Art, Washington

 


Sebastien
Bourdon
1616-1671
France
Bacchus and Ceres with Nymphs and Satyrs.
1640
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

 


Adolphe-William Bouguereau 
1825-1905
France
The Youth of Bacchus.
1884

 

Caravaggio
1571-1610
Italy

Bacchus.
1597

 

Caravaggio
1571-1610
Italy

Sick Bacchus.
1593
Galleria Borghese, Rome

 


Jacob
Jordaens
1593-1678
Netherlands   
  Bacchus.

 

Giambattista
Pittoni
1678-1767
Italy

Bacchus and Ariadne.

 

Giambattista
Pittoni
1678-1767
Italy

Bacchus and Ariadne.

 


Nicolas Poussin
1594-1665
France
The Nurture of Bacchus.

 


Nicolas Poussin
1594-1665
France
Midas and Bacchus.

 

Guido
Reni
1575-1642
Italy
Drinking Bacchus.

 

Peter
Paul
Rubens
1577-1640
Belgium

Bacchus.

 

Annibale
Carracci
1560-1609
Italy

Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne.
1595-1605
Fresco
Palazzo Farnese, Rome

 

Annibale
Carracci
1560-1609
Italy

Bacchus.

 

Luca
Giordano
1632-1705
Italy

Bacchus and Ariadne.

 

Luca
Giordano
1632-1705
Italy
Bacchus and Ariadne.

 


Maerten
van
Heemskerck
 1498-1574
Netherlands
Victory Parade of Bacchus.

 

Guido
Reni
1575-1642
Italy
 The Boy Bacchus.

 

Titian
1488-1576
Italy

Bacchus and Ariadne.

 

Diego
Velazquez
1599-1660
Spain

Bacchus.

 


Cornelis de Vos
1584-1651
Netherlands
The Triumph of Bacchus.

 

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