Nectar of the Gods in Classical Mythology

Bacchus on a Throne - Nymphs Offering Bacchus Wine and Fruit  | Caesar Boetius van Everdingen, ca. 1660 - Gemaldegalerie, Dresde, Germany | From Divine to Sacred |  Wine and Painting | The Virtual Wine Museum

BACCHUS ON A THRONE − NYMPHS OFFERING BACCHUS WINE AND FRUIT (detail)

Caesar Boetius van Everdingen (1617-1678)

ca. 1660

Gemäldegalerie, Dresde, Germany

Greco-Latin mythology has long been the basis of much of mankind’s cultural heritage. Painters have drawn inspiration from its stories, creating numerous works which, as well as being masterpieces, represent our great founding myths. Since the earliest days of Antiquity, wine and religion have been closely connected. Wine has been, and remains, an important element of ritual and sacrificial practices. In Ancient Greece, it was both the object of a cult and a symbol of culture. The famous ‘Mysteries’, celebrated in honor of Dionysus, gave birth to theater. Rome had a more troubled relationship with Bacchus and bacchanals. In Rome, when Dionysus was not assimilated with Liber, the object of an official cult, he was often referred to as Bacchus – another of his Greek names – and the private sanctuaries in which his cult was practiced were called bacchanalia. The bacchanals remain associated with the scandal and repression recounted by Livy. But the cult of the bacchantes was to flourish once again under the Empire.

 

The gods and goddesses Soma (Vedic), Spendaramet (Armenian), Sabazios (Thrace and Phrygian), Moloch (Syrian), Ammon (Libyan), Oratal (Arab), as well as the Indian Shiva, the Egyptian Osiris, the Babylonian Gilgamesh, the Greek Dionysus, the Etruscan Fufluns, the Italian Liber Pater, Sucellus (Latinised to Silvanus) in Gaul – who the Romans replaced with Bacchus – bear witness to the quest for resurrection and immortality that only divine drunkenness could satisfy. In this way, the cult of the wine god survived into the 17th century.

BACCHUS, VENUS AND ARIADNE
Tintoreto (Jacopo Robusti, 1518-1594)  
1576
Palazzo Ducale, Sala dell'Anticollegio, Venice

  

Originating from the island of Naxos, Bacchus consoled and then married Ariadne, abandoned by Thesius, and gave her a gold crown, Vulcan’s masterpiece: ‘“I am she to whom you used to promise the heavens. Ah me, what a reward I suffer instead of heaven!” She spoke: Liber had been listening a long while to her complaint, since he chanced to follow closely. He embraced her, and dried her tears with kisses, and said: “Together, let us seek the depths of the sky! You’ll share my name just as you’ve shared my bed, since, transmuted, you will be called Libera: and there’ll be a memory of your crown beside you, the crown Vulcan gave to Venus, and she to you.” He did as he said, and changed the nine jewels to fire: Now the golden crown glitters with nine stars.’ (Ovid, Fasti, 3, 505-516)

 

 Find out more: Gallery Dionysus, God of Wine  >>

TRIUMPHAL PROCESSION OF BACCHUS 
Maerten van Heemskerck (1462-1522)
1537-1538
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

  

Pursued by his wife, Zeus takes Dionysus far from Greece, to the land of Nisa. He leaves him to be raised by nymphs. As an adult, Dionysus discovers vines, but is found and driven mad by Hera. He wanders through Egypt, Syria and Asia before reaching Phrygia, where the goddess Cymbeline welcomes, teaches and heals him. Upon Dionysus’s arrival in Thrace, the reigning king Lycurgus tries to take him prisoner. Dionysus is protected by Thetis (a Nereid, or sea nymph) who offers to shelter him in the sea. Lycurgus, meanwhile, captures the Bacchantes in Dionysus’ entourage; they too manage to escape and the king is stricken with madness. Delusional, he cuts off his own leg and attacks his son with an axe, believing him to be Dionysus’s sacred vine. When Lycurgus comes to his senses, he realises what he has done; his land has also become infertile. An Oracle reveals that only his own death...

 

 Find out more: Gallery The Followers of Dionysus >>

BACCHANAL OF THE ANDRIANS
Titian (ca. 1488-1576)
1523-1526
Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

  

In this work by Titian, the inhabitants of the island of Andros (known as ‘Andrians’) celebrate receiving a gift from Dionysius: a river of wine. This was one of the ‘miracles’ popularly attributed to the god, soon to be venerated as the god of the vine. In his play The Bacchae, Euripides gives an account of the miracle: “One of [the Bacchants] hit the rock with her thyrsus and water spurted out of it; when the other brought down her narthex to the ground, the god sent forth a spring of wine. Those who desired a white drink scratched the earth with their fingernails and had streams of milk. The ivy on the thyrsus dripped with honey... Ah! have you seen?” For their part, the inhabitants of Teos in Ionia were proud of their wine source, which sprang to life on a particular day each year. They claimed that this proved that this was the god’s birthplace (see Diodorus of Sicily and Pliny the Elder)...

 

 Find out more: Gallery Bacchanals and Bacchanalian Scenes >>

COLLECTION FROM DIVINE TO SACRED

Galleries Nectar of the Gods in Classical Mythology
Galleries The Blood of the Grapes in the Old Testament
Galleries The Blood of Christ in the New Testament
En voir plus

THE VIRTUAL WINE MUSEUM'S COLLECTIONS

From Divine to Sacred
Fr. Drinking to Savoir-boire
From Vineyard to Port
Décrivez votre image
In Still Life
In Illumination
Décrivez votre image
En voir plus

©  2020   Le Musée Virtuel du Vin - The Virtual Wine Museum                            Sitemap   |   Terms and Privacy

  • Twitter | Virtual Wine Museum
  • Wine Drinkers | YouTube | Virtual Wine Museum

Contact us

Wine Museum on Internet

Non-profit and academic information website

Alcohol abuse endangers your health, drink only in moderation.