Classical Greek Mythology

The Greek Mystery Cults and Hero Sagas

What are the origins of Dionysos?

Dionysos was a late addition to the Olympians and is sometimes not included among the twelve. He was worshipped as early as Minoan times, however, and is listed among the gods in the Linear B tablets. As a dying god he has mythological companions and perhaps ancestors in the Egyptians’ Osiris, the Sumerians’ Tammuz and Inanna, and in a Phoenician version of Adonis. Dionysian-type “mystery” ceremonies involving intoxicants and ecstatic freedom of action existed in Greece and probably had sources in similar ceremonies tied to the dying gods Attis in Phrygia and Osiris in Egypt. Like the Eleusinian mysteries associated with the goddess Demeter, the Dionysian mysteries involved a kind of mysticism—even spiritualism—unlike anything else connected with the Olympian religion.

A Roman bust of the god Dionysos, one of the dying gods whose life represented the seasonal cycles of agriculture.


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