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Dionysus 2 brought the gift of wine. 6910: Dionysus, restored in the 18th century. Marmorbyst föreställande guden Dionysos. Skulpturen har sammanfogats av antika och 'moderna' delar från 1700-talet. Medelhavsmuseet, Stockholm.

"... Praise wine that is old, but praise the flowers of songs that are new." (Pindar, Olympian Odes 9.49).

"Shall we not pass a law that, in the first place, no children under eighteen may touch wine at all, teaching that it is wrong to pour fire upon fire either in body or in soul ... and thus guarding against the excitable disposition of the young? And next, we shall rule that the young man under thirty may take wine in moderation, but that he must entirely abstain from intoxication and heavy drinking. But when a man has reached the age of forty, he may join in the convivial gatherings and invoke Dionysus, above all other gods, inviting his presence at the rite (which is also the recreation) of the elders, which he bestowed on mankind as a medicine potent against the crabbedness of Old Age, that thereby we men may renew our youth, and that, through forgetfulness of care, the temper of our souls may lose its hardness and become softer and more ductile ..." (Plato, Laws 666b).

"I am also sending twelve jars of sweet wine for the children and two of honey." (Plato, Letters 361b).

"So then, good sir (for you have a proper measure of sweet drink), go to your wedded wife and let your companions rest. For I fear, when that third sweet round is quaffed, that Violence may excite wrath in your heart and crown a goodly entertainment with an evil end." (Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 36d).

"All, I tell you, who try to go to sleep when in drink seem to themselves to be rushed up on to the roof, and then to be dashed down under the ground, and to fall into a whirl, as they say happened to Ixion." (King Phraotes to Apollonius. Flavius Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 2.35).

Wine is a divine beverage.

Blessing or Vengeance

Some have said that Dionysus 2 was robbed of his soul's judgment by his stepmother Hera, who acted out of jealousy against the child of her husband Zeus and Semele. In vengeance therefore, Dionysus 2 brought in the Bacchic rites and all its frenzy, and with the same aim he also brought the gift of wine. On the other hand, it has been said that wine was devised as a remedy for the dissipation of care. For as it changes the impressions that fill the brain, wine helps the humble to feel proud, the coward to feel bold, and the weak to feel brave.

Poet and Philosopher agree

But whereas some declare that wine is like a medicine securing the health and strength of the body, and banishing pain by cheering the soul, others think that wine was bestowed on men as a punishment, to make them mad, which means that wine is seen as bringing both wisdom and folly to mortals. In any case, as wine is known to alter the spirit, inclining to illusion, says Bacchylides:

"A sweet compelling impulse issues from the cups and warms the heart; and hope of love fulfilled speeds through the brain when mingled with the gifts of Dionysus, sending the thoughts of men to topmost heights. Soon it breaks down even the battlements of cities, and every man dreams of being a monarch. With gold, yes, and with ivory, his house glitters ... Thus does the drinker's heart leap with fancies." (Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 2.39f).

And the philosopher agrees with the poet; for he says something quite similar:

"[Wine] makes the person who drinks it more jovial than he was before, and the more he imbibes it, the more he becomes filled with high hopes and a sense of power, till finally, puffed up with conceit, he abounds in every kind of licence of speech and action and every kind of audacity, without a scruple as to what he says or what he does." (Plato, Laws 649a).

The Ten Bowls of Wine

Because of this divine beverage's power, experience has established that wine, which may provide strength in both mind and body, is a blessing only to those who use it with measure, and that is why Dionysus 2 has been called "health-giver". Yet some say that the god himself defined the limits, mixing only 3 bowls of wine: the 1st to Health, the 2nd to Love and pleasure, and the 3rd to Sleep. The 4th bowl, they say, belongs to Violence; the 5th to Uproar, the 6th to Drunken Revel, and the 7th to Black Eyes. The 8th, they proceed, belongs to the Police, the 9th to Biliousness, and the 10th to Madness and hurling the furniture. All this is well known; for wine in reasonable quantities is fine, but too much drinking is followed by mockery, which is followed by filthy insult, which is followed by law-suit, which is followed by verdict, which is followed by chains and a fine, which leads us back to "wine is fine".

Daring more

Orpheus, some assert, died because of the wine that was drunk by the women who killed him; for they, who hated him for having persuaded their husbands to accompany him in his wanderings, had not dared to perform the deed without it . But as wine takes inhibitions away, this women, having drunk heavily, dared to murder him. Hereafter, their men adopted the custom to march to battle drunk; yet others have observed that those who abstain from wine are seen to be victorious in battle, and as a matter of fact Thrace never became a world power.

Wine store in Roman times. 5809: Boutique de marchand de vin. Museo della civiltà romana, Rome. Cette maquette réalisée pour la "Mostra Augustea della Romanità" en 1937.


The mere possession of wine may cause a dispute; for when Heracles 1 visited the centaur Pholus 1, they, by opening a jar belonging to the CENTAURS in common, caused these, who scented the smell of wine, to arrive at the cave of Pholus 1, armed with rocks and purposing to get their wine. The same CENTAURS, always ignoring how to drink, got intoxicated at Pirithous' wedding, and being out of their minds, attempted to violate the bride Hippodamia 4, causing a bloody battle in which Pirithous, helped by Theseus, killed many CENTAURS. And it has also been reported that on one occasion, while certain Boeotians were sacrificing to Dionysus 2, they grew so violent with wine that they killed the priest.

Wine and Blood

Wine mixes fine with blood, both inside and outside the body, as proved by Mastusius (see CONSTELLATIONS), who killed the king's daughters, and mixing their blood with wine in a bowl, bade it be given as a drink to the king. The Carmanians, who lived in the Asian regions south of the Caspian Sea bending towards the Persian Gulf, opened the veins of the forehead and mixed the blood with their wine, believing that tasting each other's blood mixed with the wine, was the highest proof of friendship. Great worshippers of Ares (for no one married before he had cut off the head of an enemy and brought it to the king), the Carmanians were forced to use asses in war because of the scarcity of horses. In return, an excellent vine with large grapes grew in their country, from wich they produced the "Carmanian" wine.

Drunken Triton

The women of Tanagra, a Boeotian city east of Thebes, tell that they went to the sea to wash themselves where they were attacked by a Triton as they were swimming. As it was just before the festival of Dionysus 2, they prayed that the god would come to their aid, and they affirm he did, overcoming the Triton in the fight. But another account, which some deem more credible, says that the Triton used to lift all the cattle that were driven to the sea, and that he also attacked small vessels. The people of Tanagra then set out for him a bowl of wine, and he, attracted by the smell, came and drank the wine, falling asleep on the shore. Then a man of Tanagra struck him on the neck with an axe and chopped off his head, and because the Triton was thus caught drunk, they said that Dionysus 2 killed him (see TRITONS at BESTIARY).

Wealthy winegrowers

Those who produce wine are much sought after for the rich profit that there is in them, as shown by Agamemnon, who, when engaged in his campaign against Troy, kidnapped the WINEGROWERS Elais, Oeno, and Spermo, whom Dionysus 2 had granted the power of producing oil, wine, and corn from anything they touched, keeping them and forcing them to feed the Achaean army.

One killed and two blinded

Carelessness is often wine's companion, as the tale of Oedipus shows. Although the Oracle at Delphi had warned King Laius 1 of Thebes not to beget a son, for the son would kill his father, he, flushed with wine, had intercourse with his wife, and as a result Oedipus was born, who later killed him. Likewise, wine was a bane for the Cyclops Polyphemus 2; for Odysseus, who was a prisoner in the Cyclops' cave, invited him to wash down his meal with it. But when Polyphemus 2 found it delicious he asked for another bowl, and then a third. And when the Cyclops' wits had been fuddled by the wine, and overcome by too much drinking he fell asleep, Odysseus and his comrades drove a pole into his single eye, blinding him. Also Orion was blinded because of wine; for he, when his passions were excited by this beverage, tried to rape Merope 3, daughter of King Oenopion 1 of Chios, and for this the king blinded him and cast him out of the island.

Silenus' best companion

And since some lose themselves completely because of wine, King Midas (himself once caught by gold) mixed with wine the water of a spring in order to capture Silenus, whose most cherished companion was Drunkenness.

Bad in war

Also the Trojans paid their tribute to too much wine:

"... at night when they slept, overcome by sport and wine, the Achaeans came out of the horse which had been opened by Sinon, killed the guards at the gates, and at a given signal admitted their friends. Thus they gained possession of Troy." (Hyginus, Fabulae 108).

Dry laws

Yet the carelessness and disregard which comes from forbidding wine is also a bane, as it is proved by the fate of King Pentheus 1, who defied the wine-giver god Dionysus 2. And among those who have tried to eradicate the vine is King Lycurgus 1, the son of Dryas 3. He denied the divinity of Dionysus 2, and having drunk wine in excess, he tried to violate his own mother; so when Lycurgus 1 came to his senses, he went again into extremes, and tried to cut down the vines, saying that wine was bad and that it affected the mind, which was accurate in his own case.

Wine introduced in Attica causes amazement and murder

When after the rule of Cecrops 1 wine was introduced in Attica, it had fatal consequences. For when Icarius 2 showed his wagon full of wine to some shepherds, they, having drunk the wine in large quantities, were intoxicated. And other shepherds, witnessing the unseemly behavior that the excess of wine had caused in their comrades, thought that Icarius 2 had given them poison. Now, because of this suspicion they killed him and threw his body into a well, or buried it near a certain tree. However, when the drunken party woke up, they said that they never had rested better and asked for Icarius 2, wishing to offer him a reward; but the murderers, having understood their mistake, at once took to flight.

The Toasts

According to some poets, the first toast goes to the CHARITES, the HORAE, and Dionysus 2, the second to Aphrodite and again to Dionysus 2; but the third, they say, goes to Violence and Ruin. That is why they believe that a man should be content with the two first toasts, and return home from a still pleasant feast, thus avoiding all harm. However, if he instead persisted drinking in excess, then Violence and Ruin come upon him with many other evils in their train. For Violence excites Wrath in the hearts of men and leads entertainment to an evil end, bringing blows, insults, and outrages. Some believe that it is because of the qualities of wine that Dionysus 2 has been likened to a bull or a leopard; for those who indulge in it are prone to violence, as these animals are.

All joys die without it

Water into wine

Yet wine, drunk in due measure, is considered to be a defender from evil and a consolation to every pain; for every song, every dance, goes with wine, which drives all sorrows away. And without wine, they say, Love lives not, and all the joys of mortals die.


It is believed that drinkers reveal not only themselves, but also the secrets of everyone else; for wine is followed by outspokenness. This is why it is said that "wine is also truth" or "in vino veritas"; for those who drink too much wine babble too much as well. As Aeneas' father Anchises 1, who told his companions over the wine that Aphrodite was his lover, being for this boast struck by Zeus' thunderbolt.

Moderate Alexis

And taking this into account, some have said that one may hide all things, except that he is drinking wine, and that he has fallen in love. For both the eyes and the words of those possessed by Love or wine betray them, so that the more these things are denied, the more they are made plain. And he who drinks moderately, some believe, becomes full of ideas, but he who drinks continually loses thought altogether. That is why Alexis said:

"I have drunk not to the clouding of my reason, but just so much that I can still surely distinguish the syllables with my tongue." (Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 2.40c).

How to turn water into wine (and vice versa)

The amphora of Heron of Alexandria (fl. AD 62), the mathematician and inventor called o mechanikós, allows to pour either water or wine from the same vessel. The amphora is divided into two compartments by a vertical partition wall, while an opening leads the liquid from each compartment to a common spout at the foot. Inside the neck there is a round wall with small holes, like a sieve; and, at the top of each half, air holes have been made near the handles. If when the spout at the bottom is shut, wine is poured into the neck of the amphora, it can only fill the half whose air hole is open. Later the other half may be filled with water, using the same procedure. When the neck has been closed, either water or wine can be poured from the same spout, if the right air hole is obstructed with a finger.

Related sections Dionysus 2, MAENADS, Pentheus 1, SATYRS, Silenus, WINEGROWERS 

Apd.2.5.4; Apd.Ep.1.21, 3.10; Ath.2.36, 2.45ff.; Hyg.Ast.2.29, 2.34, 2.40; Hyg.Fab.94; Pau.9.8.2, 9.20.4, 9.30.5; Pla.Laws 638d, 672b; Strab.15.2.14. See also A. G. Drachman: Antikkens teknik (P. Haase & Søn, Copenhague, 1963).