Dionysus (Διόνυσος, 2 Macc. 6:7; 14:33, "Bacchus;" in classical writers sometimes Διώνυσος, of uncertain derivation), also called BACCHUS (Βάκχος, ῎Ιακχος, the noisy god; after the time of Herodotus), was properly the god of wine. He is represented as being the son of Jupiter and Semele. In Homer he appears simply as the "frenzied" god (Il. 6:132), and yet "a joy to mortals" (Il. 14:325); but in later times the most varied attributes were centered in him as the source of the luxuriant fertility of nature, and the god of civilization, gladness, and inspiration. The Eastern wanderings of Dionysus are well known (Strabo, 15:7, page 687), but they do not seem to have left any special trace in Palestine (yet comp. Lucan, de Syria Dea, page 886, ed. Bened.). His worship, however, was greatly modified by the incorporation of Eastern elements, and assumed the twofold form of wild orgies and mystic rites. SEE DIONYSIA. To the Jews Dionysus would necessarily appear as the embodiment of paganism in its most material shape, sanctioning the most tumultuous passions and the worst excesses. Thus Tacitus (Hist. 5:5) rejects the tradition that the Jews worshipped Bacchus (Liberum patrem; compare Plutarch, Quaest. Conv. 4:6), on the ground of the "entire diversity of their principles" (nequaquam congruentibus institutis), though he interprets the difference to their discredit. The consciousness of the fundamental opposition of the God of Israel and Dionysus explains the punishment which Ptolemaeus Philopator inflicted on the Jews (3 Macc. 2:29), "branding them with the ivy-leaf of Dionysus" (this plant being sacred to him, Plutarch, Isid. et Osir. 37; Ovid, Fasti, 3:767), though Dionysus may have been the patron god of the Ptolemies (Grimm on the Macc.). It must have been from the same circumstance that Nicanor is said to have threatened to erect a temple of Dionysus upon the site of the Temple at Jerusalem (2 Macc. 14:33). — Smith, s.v. See Nicolai, De ritu antiquo Bacchanali (in Gronovii Thesaur. 7); Moritz, Mythology of the Gr. and Romans Eng. tr. page 103; Smith, Diet. of Class. Mythol. s.v. Dionysus. Comp. SEE BACCHUS.

Bible concordance for DIONYSIUS.

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