Dionysus and Semele

Sanez Pezeshki
Per.2, English 2
Tuesday, December 24, 1996

Semele was the daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia, king and

queen of Thebes, and the mother of Dionysus, god of wine. Zeus fell madly

in love with her and made an oath to do anything that she asked.

Hera, the jealous wife of Zeus,realized Zeus was in love with Semele and

tricked Semele into asking Zeus to let her see him in his majesty. Bound

by an oath, Zeus appeared before the unfortunate woman in all his

divine glory. (Morford-Lenardon 187) As she looked at him, she was

consumed by the lightening bolts and light that radiated from him. Zeus

was able to rescue her unborn child, Dionysus, and hid him in his side

until it was ready to be born.

Hermes carried Dionysus to be cared for by the nymphs of Nysa-

the loveliest of earth’s valleys.(Hamilton 65) When Dionysus had grown up,

he wandered to many far and strange places. Everywhere he went he taught

men the culture of the vine and mysteries of his worship and everywhere he

had been, he was accepted as a god.
Dionysus went to Thebes to establish his worship, since that was his

mother’s city. He was accompanied by the Maenads. Pentheus, the King of

Thebes, was not happy with the behavior of this group of strangers. He

ordered his soldiers to imprison the visitors, but he had no idea that Dionysus

was a new god.

The soldiers tried to imprison the maidens but said that the doors

unbarred themselves. Pentheus was furious. He ordered his soldiers to

imprison Dionysus but the prison could not hold him. Dionysis tried to show

that the wonders of this new worship of a new and great god was divine but

when Pentheus only heaped insults and threats upon him, Dionysus left him to

his doom.(Hamilton 71)

When Pentheus went to pursue the maidens that had escaped his

prison, many Theban women joined him, and that is when Dionysis made

them mad and they thought Pentheus was a wild beast and tore him apart.That

is when Pentheus realized that he had fought with a god and must now pay

with his life.

Some time during his wanderings, Dionysus came upon the princess of

Crete, Ariadne, when she was utterly desolate, having been abandoned on the

shore of the island of Naxos by the Athenian prince, Theseus, whose life she

had saved. (Hamilton 67) Dionysus rescued her and later fell in love with her.

When she died, Dionysus took her crown and put it among the stars.

His mother, Semele, whom he had never seen, was not forgotten. He

longed for her so much that he went to the lower world, defied the power of

Death and brought her to live on Olympus. Even though she was a mortal, the

gods accepted her as one of themselves since she gave birth to a god.

The Maenads, or the Bacchantes, were women frenzied with wine.

They were the followers of Dionysus. The most important festival, the

Greater Dionysia, was held in Athens for five days each spring.They were

days of pure enjoyment. It was held in a theater, and the ceremony was the

performance of a play. The greatest poetry in Greece was written for him.

Dionysus died with the coming of a cold, but he was always brought

back to life. It was this joyful resurrection celebrated in his festivals.

Category: Mythology