Bacchus In Greek and Roman mythology, a title for Dionysus, son of Zeus and Semele, who was a daughter of Cadmus; also called Liber. Numerous art and music works identify the god Dionysus as Bacchus, such as The Young Bacchus by Caravaggio, which portrays one of the artist’s male lovers; Titian’s great Bacchus and Ariadne, depicting the god jumping from his chariot; and Roussel’s two-act ballet, Bacchus et Ariane (1930). Ovid’s Fasti (book 3) supplied most of the imagery for the paintings.


Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow– Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante

The Bacchants (Bacchantes, Bacchae) were in GrecoRoman cult, women who followed the god Dionysus, who was also called Bacchus. His followers, also called Maenads, were said to become mad with frenzy, to tear human flesh, and even eat their own children. The cult was banned as the source of a political conspiracy by the Roman Senate in 186 b.c.e. Euripides’ play The Bacchae deals with the cult. Numerous paintings depict the Bacchanalia, the festival held in honor of the god. Among the most famous are those by Rubens and Poussin. Picasso “repainted” the Poussin work.

The poet Keats wrote of the Bacchants:

We follow Bacchus! Bacchus on the wing, A conquering! Bacchus, young Bacchus! good or ill betide, We dance before him through kingdoms wide.

In “Drinking Song” Longfellow wrote:

Round about him fair Bacchantes, Bearing Cymbals, flutes, and thyrses.

See Also : Bacchanalia