Bacchus, the Greek god Dionysus, was credited with introducing to mankind

the cultivation of the vine and was worshipped as the god of wine and

ecstasy. True to the nature of wine, Bacchus could bring joy and soothe

anxiety through intoxication, but his worship also held the possibility of

excessive behavior once inhibitions were removed. Bacchus is usually

pictured with attributes of the vine and is often accompanied by his

votaries (satyrs, sileni, Bacchantes) dancing around him in intoxication or ecstacy.


The Bacchantes, Bacchus' female worshipers, are portrayed clothed in the

skins of fawns or panthers, wearing wreaths of ivy, and carrying the thyrsus

(a wand wreathed in ivy and vine leaves and tipped with a pine cone). The

Bacchantes roamed the mountains or the uninhabited countryside, where, freed

from the conventions of "civilized" behavior, they were rumored to perform

such "savage" feats as uprooting trees, tearing wild animals apart, and eating these animals'

raw flesh. The Bacchanalia, the Latin name for the rites of Dionysus, apparently

led to such wild excesses that in 186 B.C.E. the Senate banned the rites

except as private devotions.

Head of Dionysus (mosaic, long load)

Dionysus on a panther