Dionysos (Bacchos in Latin) is the son of Zeus and Semele. He was twice born, and the special circumstances of his birth indicate his unusual nature and the special place he occupies in Greek mythology and religion.
His mother Semele (possibly a goddess of Phrygian origin) was tricked by the jealous goddess Hera into requesting Zeus to appear before her in all his radiance. He reluctantly did so, and she was incinerated by the fire of his lightning. The baby, of 6 months gestation, was rescued from his dying mother’s womb and sewed into Zeus’ thigh to be gestated a further 3 months. When Dionysos was born, he was brought to the mythical Mt. Nysa to be raised by nymphs. This aspect of his history echoes his father Zeus’ early origins. His life threatened by his devouring father Chronos, the infant Zeus was spirited away by his mother to be raised by nymphs on Mt. Ida in Crete.
The Orphic version of Dionysos’ beginnings also includes a “twice born” element. According to this tradition,...
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