If you love wine then you may have heard of Bacchus. He was the Roman god of agriculture, wine and fertility as derived from the Greek god Dionysus. Bacchus was the last god to join the 12 gods of Mount Olympus. He was represented by ivy and vines. He was a merry god and during his festivals, wild women would dance in his honour. This is why he also the god most associated with having a good time!
Bacchus was the son of Jupiter and Semele. Semele was a human who was tricked into seeing Jupiter who he really was and was burned to death by the sight of him in his divine form. According to the myth, Jupiter took the infant Bacchus and sewed him into his thigh, to give birth to him nine months later.
When Bacchus was a child, he had a tutor called Silenus, who was very fond of a tipple. So much so that he often had to be transported on the back of a donkey! Before joining the other in Olympus, Bacchus wandered the globe for many years and it is said he traveled as far as India, teaching people how to grow vines. So we have Bacchus to thank for all those wonderful vineyards today. For Online wine merchants in Northern Ireland, visit http://thewinecompanyni.com/
Dionysus, the Greek equivalent, was worshipped between 1500 – 1100 BC by Mycenaean Greeks. He was also known as the god of frenzy and ecstasy, giving people the ability to liberate themselves from normal behaviour and act without inhibition, preferably with the use of wine. I think we can all appreciate having had a few nights like that! His divine mission was to bring music and laughter and an escape from worries and fears.
Other symbols of the god include the bull, the serpent and centaurs. He is often depicted riding a leopard or on a chariot drawn by panthers. Besides ivy and the grapevine, the fig was also important to him. He appears on many wine vessels from classical Greece and is often portrayed in the nude, as gods so often are. Later, Bacchus came to be recognised as a patron of the arts. He is a complicated character as on one side he represents carefree joy, but on the other, chaos and misery. Presumably reflecting a good night out, followed by a considerable hangover! Festivals called Dionysia were held in his honour in the spring as this was the time the leaves began to appear again on the vines. He is also said to be responsible for the beginnings of Greek theatre.
The Greeks and Romans were certainly not the only civilisations to have their very own gods of alcohol. The ancient Sumerian culture had Ninkasi, the goddess of brewing and beer. She was the head brewer to the gods themselves and her name means ‘the lady who fills the mouth’. Early Sumerian writings include a ‘hymn to Ninkasi’ which essentially contains a recipe for beer. Early brewers in this culture were mostly women in fact as it was considered a woman’s job.