Who's Who Greek Myth: Dionysos God of Wine
Dionysos was also known as Bacchus (Vakhos in Greek). He was the son of Zeus, offspring of his adulterous affair with Semele, who was burnt up by Zeus' thunderbolt after the jealous Hera made her desire to see Zeus in all his glory. She was pregnant at the time, and the unborn child was rescued by Zeus , who sewed him up in his thigh.
After he was born, Hermes took him far away to be raised by nymphs, and he was disguised as a girl to hide him from the wrath of Hera. (Another version has it that Zeus changed the baby into a goat and sent him with Hermes to the nymphs in that form).
Later, when he was a youth, pirates kidnapped him and he caused ivy and vines to grow over the ship, causing the frightened pirates to dive overboard, upon which they became the first dolphins.
Ivy and vines are the emblems of Dionysos, and at festivals honoring him a little decorated ship was carried about. He is often depicted riding in a chariot pulled by panthers, followed by a band of satrys, sileni and mortals carrying wands topped with pine cones.
The maenads, his female followers, were said to roam the countryside in an state of madness. Other myths relate that Hera drove Dionysos mad during his younger years and that he wandered in Egypt, Syria, Phrygia, and even India, and that during his travels he spread the cultivation of the vine, accompanied by nymphs, satyrs, silenes and maenads.
He was said to have taught viticulture in Attica. The worship of Dionysos began in prehistoric times, his name found on Linear B tablets from Pylos. Dionysiac worships is marked by wine, dancing, and ecstatic celebration. Within the framework of Dionysian festivals the Dithyramb and Tragedy were later developed.