Olympos: Dionysus, the God of Transgression

304px-Dionysos_Louvre_Ma87_n2Studio Tablinum: writing about the God Dionysus is like going into a world of transgression and mystical delirium. A god who looks more like a young girl, with his curvy body and his curled and perfumed hair. Son of Zeus and the princess of Thebes Semele. His birth is even more unusual than the birth of the Goddess Athena, born from the head of his father Zeus: Dionysus indeed was born from his father’s thigh.

When Hera discovered her husband’s affair with a mortal woman, Semele, furious for the new husband’s adultery, she thought about how to eliminate his lover. Let us say that does not predicted anything good for Semele and her child.

Hera took on the appearance of the old nurse Beroe, and beginning to creep into the mind of the princes bad thoughts about Zeus. She began to suggest that Zeus did not love her honestly: he had never shown himself to his mistress, but ony embraced her before vanishing, into the darkness of the lamps. He began to suggest that Zeus did not love her honestly: he had never shown himself to his mistress, but he embraced her into the darkness of the lamps and before vanishing. Semele decided that would never be granted to the Father of the Gods if he did not appear in his true nature.

jupiter-semele-della-vecchiaZeus tried to explain to his young lover that this was not possible, for his safety, but the young woman would not listen to reason and, struck by the true aspect of Zeus, the young woman dies electrocuted.

Zeus was just in time to snatch the little Dyonisus from the body incinerated of Semele and he decided to carry the pregnancy to term alone. So he putted the little Dionysus in his thigh and then he sewed the wound. After ninth month Zeus took the infant Dionysus from his thigh, and introduced him to the world as his son. In fact the name Dionysus means “twice-born”.

dioniso e silenoBut the little Dionysus was not still there safely by Hera and then was hidden by his father Zeus in a country called Nisa, a country without a precise location, some are in Asia, others in Africa. Hera unleashed on his trail the relentless Titans who found him intent on playing near a source.

The Titans are trying to attack Dionysus but although very young Dionysus defended himself using his main talent: the metamorphosis.

First, he turned himself into a lion and after in a bull and got the better of the attackers.

Hera, furious with his emissaries that they could not kill the little Dionysus, slammed the doors of Olympus so vigorously that the noise spread throughout the universe and also spreading on the ground stunned Dionysus, then the Titans ripped him in and he cooked the pieces in a cauldron.

When the father Zeus learns of this cruel wickedness flashed instantly the Titans and recomposing the body of his son gave back life.

dioniso e chironeAccording to the story the Centaur Chiron was his first mentor of Dyonisus and he taught to his pupil the arts of dance, song and the rules of future initiatory rites of Bacchus. After the time spent with Chiron, Dionysus, decided to undertake several expeditions around the world and his presence did not pass unnoticed. Unlike the God Hermes, like him a God wanderer, usually move with fleetingness, unnoticed and plush just like you would expect from the God of Thieves, it was impossible not to notice its passage.

The epiphany of Dionysus is always a shocking event and the people who come into direct contact with him will never be the same.

piratiAs happens to a pirate crew that sail the Aegean Sea looking for prey. Suddenly a sailor saw the figure of a beautiful young man who was standing on a promontory of the island, this young man was Dionysus. Landed on the island the pirates decided to capture the young man and to request a sumptuous ransom to the family; so the pirates dragged him on board and tried to chain him to the mast of the ship, but they were unable to take him prisoner: but, somehow, the nodes and chains were loosed and the young man freed himself and smiled at his tormentors in a mysterious way.

At that point the helmsman of the ship, seeing the scene, shuddered and began to scream to his fellow leave free the young because he recognized him as a god and exhorted his comrades to not hurt him.

But his companions began taunting the helmsman, but suddenly happened the first miracle. The sailors heard a fascinating scent given off from the deck of the ship, and they realized that he was spouting a source of pure wine. Then the wonder and terror seized the crew, but it was too late: an ivy growing up and clung to the mast, and the oarlocks.

Dionysus, amused by what was he doing, decided to become a lion and pushed the crew, except the helmsman towards the stern of the ship, forcing the pirates overboard. But here is the second miracle, one by one were transformed into dolphins. The only survivor was the steersman who was awarded by the God of Transgression as a reward for being the only one to understand its true nature.

prosimno e dionisoWell known was his journey to Hades to try to bring back to life his mother Semele; was at that moment that he knew Prosymnus who suggested to the god as a guide in the world of the dead, took Dionysus, to his mother near Lerna.

It was then that the guide asked his reward and it was really strange: Dionysus would have to give herself to Prosymnus, as a woman: Dionysus accept it, but asked him to return to the world of the living to get out of that place of death the mother Semele Prosymnus consent and telling him that he would wait for his return.

Occurred, however, that the pastor Prosymnus died before the return of Dionysus. However Dionysus, back near Lerna in order to fulfill the promise, he decided to “satisfy” at least the shadow of the shepherd.

When he arrived in front to the tomb of Prosymnus created with an olive wood a kind of foul and sat on it, and just like a woman enjoyed this practice. Finally eternally grateful to the pastor, he placed among the stars of the sky the figure of his guide.

trionfo di dionisoWhen Dionysus became adult received by Hera an unpleasant gift: he became crazy and began to wander in different parts of Greece and Asia followed by his tutor Silenus, and a group of satyrs and maenads.

The God of Transgression, head of this unique expeditions, fought against the Titans, in Egypt, returning his scepter to the God Amun. Later he went to Syria where he defeated and deposed the king of Damascus, flaying him as punishment for trying to resist him, a God. They say that Dionysus with its procession came to India and along the way he introduced the cult and founded the city.

After the last venture, when he defeated the Kings Indian Deriade, he decided to return to Greece. But on his return opposed him the proud people of the Amazon, daughter of Ares. In this last battle Dionysus did not participate actively but he was a spectator of the fight between the Amazons and maenads devoted to him. Finally, the Maenads won the fierce rivals and the procession could start over again for Greece.

PenteoThe revenge against the King of Thebes, Pentheus and women of the city who did not believe the claims of their princess Semele who claimed to have slept with Zeus was dreadful.
Then Dionysus punished with madness the women of Thebes and pushed to keep the orgiastic rites in his favor in the woods surrounding the city, and infused into the mind of the King Pentheus the “enthousiasmos” *. It was so that women become maenads, worshipers of Dionysus. When they discovered on top of a tree the curious King Pentheus who, driven by Dionysus, tried to to spy the women, they captured the poor Pentheus and devoured alive; Among the cannibals was also present Agave, the mother of the King, who recognized her son just too late. Back in themselves sank into eternal desolation.
As a result of their deeds were banished from Thebes, and only then Dionysus was satisfied with their revenge.

dioniso e ariannaWhile the vicissitudes that saw the God reaching Nasso is much more benign.
The God found poor Arianna on the beach wandering disconsolately, after being seduced and abandoned by the hero Theseus.
Dionysus moved by love for a girl decided to take away from that island poor Arianna and later decided to marry her.

The bride Ariadne, took certanly part in the famous triumph of Dionysus, she was in a chariot pulled by goats, while Dionysus was on chariot drawn by panthers, in a jubilation of happiness and shouting, dancing between satyrs and Sileni. The maenads accompanied the wedding procession with the music of tambourines and syringes, while Silenus, the old guardian of Dionysus, with difficulty was riding his donkey.

As you understand Dionysus was worshiped everywhere is unlike the other gods could bring that sentiment that not all the Olympians were able to offer: the ekstasis *.

But woe to abuse, Dionysus demanded special rituals and much devotion, otherwise the abyss of madness was always open for the transgressors. We can say that the power of the God of Transgression knew no bounds.

Next month we will treat the events of the Goddess of Nature, Demeter.

Alessandro Cerioli


* Enthousiasmos literally means “to have a God within themselves,” us today we obtained just a positive condition: enthusiasm.

** Ekstasis literally mean “get out of themselves”, today we speak of ecstasy when something interferes with the human soul.

Olympos: Apollo, handsome and cruel

296px-Roman_Statue_of_ApolloStudio Tablinum: He was the most handsome god of the Olympus. Amongst the Olympian deities, Apollo had harmony and grace, he knew how to play music and the Muses, goddesses of song and poetry, belonged to him. He could also be violent and his vengeances were very cruel.

Son of Zeus and Leto, he was born when his mother, tired of escaping from Hera, jealous of her husband’s umpteenth fling, sought refuge in Ortygia. As a gesture of gratitude, Apollo placed the island at the centre of the Ancient Greek world and renamed it Delos. He and his sister Artemis, goddess of hunt, were brought forth under a palm and the father Zeus received them with splendid gifts.

The Sun itself was his symbol and other animals such as the swan, the raven, the cicada, the snake and the wolf were also sacred to him. He also had an incredible talent for archery.

Apollo was worshipped in different parts of Ancient Greece, particularly in Delphi. Another epithet was Phoebus which literally means “bright”.        


pizia delfiSince he was young, Apollo had a combative and intense life, one of his most heroic adventures was the killing of the dragon Piton who had tried to rape Leto, while she was already pregnant. Apollo found the dragon in his cave, near Delphi, where the god was worshipped and it is no coincidence that the priestess of his cult, Pythia, was also called Pythoness.      


manfredi_bartolomeo_511_apollo_e_marsiaSatyr Marsyas was the victim of one of the most cruel among Apollo’s revenges. Marsyas boasted about his musical skill on the aulos, claiming that his ability was far superior to that of Apollo on his lyre. He challenged the god to a musical contest: the Muses were the judges and the terms stated that the winner had the right to treat the losing rival any way he pleased. The contest started and then ended in a tie. Apollo could not accept such a result and invited the Satyr to play his instrument upside down, Apollo’s lyre was perfect to be played but Marsyas was not able to blow into his flute and lost the competition. Apollo’s punishment did not take a long time to happen: Marsyas was pinned to a tree and flung alive.    


niobeAnother terrible action involved the queen of Thebes, Niobe, who bragging about her seven daughters and seven sons dared to mock the mother of the sun-god, claiming that she had only a son and a daughter.

The divine children were skilful archers and used the arch that Zeus had given to Apollo to slaughter Niobe’s offspring; only two were spared and Leto’s honour was saved.



During the ten-year battle under the walls of Ilium, Apollo was always on the Trojan side. An episode risked to compromise the Greek conquest of Ilium: as they first landed on Trojan shores, the Greek imprisoned the beautiful Chryseis, daughter of the soothsayer Chryses. When the father  attempted to ransom her, king Agamemnon refused, mocking and chasing him away. The heart-broken priest prayed to Apollo in order to make the Greek king change his mind. The angered god accepted Chryses’ prayer and fling a rain of darts on the Achaeans’ camp. Only when Chryseis was returned to his father, the darted rain ceased.


morte di achilleTo be honest, it was not the only time that the god interfered in the warriors’ adventures: Achilles himself died as Apollo diverted the arrow that the Trojan prince Paris had thrown against the hero’s only point of weakness, his heel.


Apollo undoubtedly was a violent god, but his nature urged him to compensate such brutality with gestures of great magnanimity: it was not rare to see him forgiving men who had committed murders; he acquitted even Orestes who had killed his own mother Clytemnestra.

He was a deity who could cause the most terrible plagues and halted them at once.


asclepioOne of his most eminent sons was Asclepius, the god of medicine, he was the son of Apollo and a mortal woman, Coronis. He was a peerless healer in the Classical world, but unfortunately, his knowledge originated from a tragic event: when Apollo became aware of Coronis’ unfaithfulness, he killed her cutting the baby she was carrying from her womb and gave him to the wise centaur Chiron. It was Chiron who instructed Asclepius in the art of medicine. Throughout his life, the god became so proficient to the point that not only could he heal people, but he could also bring them back to life, breaking the laws of Fate and Cosmos.

Zeus resorted thus to kill Asclepius with one of his thunderbolts. He was remembered as a healer as well as a benefactor, and at Epidaurus a sanctuary in his memory was erected.


driopeTaking after his father Zeus, never were Apollo’s loves trivial. He turned himself into a turtle in order to seduce the nymph Dryope, and he chased her into the wood where she was accustomed to play with her friends. The curious Dryope put the animal on her lap which turned again into the god and raped her.


apollo e dafneNymph Daphne was luckier, whilst escaping from Apollo, she prayed the gods for being transformed into something less attractive to the sun-god’s eyes. The gods granted her wish turning her into a plant that we still admire for its beauty, the laurel.


Princess Marpessa loved the brave Idas and was loved in return, but Apollo himself was intrigued by the girl’s beauty. After a long and merciless duel, the two rivals were still even. Zeus intervened giving Marpessa the possibility of choosing between her mortal lover and the god. Marpessa chose Idas, reasoning that the god would not have stayed by her side for rest of her life, and would have vanished as soon as the first wrinkles had appeared on her face.


???????? ??????????? ????????? ? ????????-????? Gallerix.ruOne of the most passionate loves of Apollo ended tragically. Hyacinth and the god were inseparable, both handsome and athletic, they loved throwing the discus. During a challenge, the sun-god threw the discus and accidentally hit his lover on the neck. Hyacinth fell to the ground and died. The god never forgave himself and from the youth’s blood, a bright crimson flower bloomed, the hyacinth.


Guido Reni, L'aurora, Casino dell'Aurora, Palazzo Rospigliosi, RomaGreek loved and feared Apollo, particularly for his ambiguity, handsome and cruel as he was, capable of great gestures as well as despicableness. However, on his chariot of fiery horses, he carries the sun giving light to the world every single dawn.


Next month we will be dealing with the adventures of the goddess of hunt, Apollo’s sister, Artemis.                    



Alessandro Cerioli 

Traduzione di Elisa Campana







Olympos: Apollo, il Dio del Sole

296px-Roman_Statue_of_ApolloStudio Tablinum: sicuramente il più bel Dio dell’Olimpo, fra tutti gli Olimpi Apollo aveva armonia e grazia, conosceva la musica e le Muse, signore del canto e della poesia, gli appartenevano, ma a contraddistinguerlo era anche la violenza, le sue vendette erano fra le più cruente. Figlio di Zeus e Latona nacque dopo che la madre, stanca di scappare da Hera, ebbe trovato rifugio sull’isola di Ortigia, un’isola che fu poi posta da Apollo, in segno di riconoscenza, al centro del mondo greco, dandole un nuovo nome, Delo.

Vide i natali sotto una palma, con la sorella Artemide, Dea della Caccia, e subito vennero accolti dal padre Zeus che portò loro splendidi doni. Il simbolo di Apollo era il Sole ed era venerato in diverse parti delle Grecia, soprattutto a Delfi, i suoi animali sacri erano il cigno, il corvo, la cicala, il serpente ed il lupo. Si cimentava anche con il tiro con l’arco, regalo fattogli dal Padre degli Dei alla sua nascita.

Altro epiteto di Apollo era Febo, letteralmente “lucente”, “splendente”.

pizia delfiSin dall’infanzia Apollo ebbe una vita combattiva ed intensa, la vicenda che lo vide uccidere il drago Pitone è fra le più eroiche. Pitone cerco abusare della madre Latona, già incinta del Dio. Il Dio Apollo lo scovò all’interno del suo antro, nei pressi di Delfi, località dove sarebbe stato venerato, e lo uccise.

Non a caso la sacerdotessa del suo culto, la Pizia, era definita la Pitonessa.

manfredi_bartolomeo_511_apollo_e_marsiaUna delle azioni più crudeli del Dio Apollo ebbe come vittima il povero Satiro Marsia.

Marsia, deciso a competere in abilità con il Dio, indisse una sorta di gara musicale, e chiamate come giudici le Muse, al vincitore sarebbe stato concesso il diritto di fare ciò che più aggradava allo sconfitto. La gara iniziò e si concluse con una sorta di pareggio, ad Apollo naturalmente il pareggio non soddisfaceva e allora invitò il Satiro a rovesciare il proprio strumento e a suonarlo: la meccanica dello strumento portò Apollo ad essere il vincitore della sfida, essendo la cetra uno strumento versatile, riuscì a suonarla perfettamente anche al rovescio, mentre  il povero Marsia non riuscì a fare lo stesso con il flauto. La punizione che Apollo aveva in serbo per Marsia non si fece attendere: legò il Satiro ad un albero e lo scuoiò vivo.

niobeUn’altra azione terribile vide come protagonista la regina di Tebe, Niobe, che ebbe l’ardire di deridere la madre del Dio del Sole, vantandosi di aver avuto quattordici figli, mentre Latona solo due.

I due figli divini, essendo due abilissimi arcieri, utilizzarono il terribile arco regalato dal padre Zeus, per colpire i figli di Niobe che caddero uno dopo l’altro, solo due rimasero in vita, pareggiando il conto e salvando l’onore della madre Latona.

criseideDurante le decennale battaglia sotto le mura di Ilio, Apollo parteggiò sempre per i troiani. Ci fu un episodio che rischiò di far cessare la conquista di Ilio da parte dei Greci, sul nascere. Durante il loro approdo sulle spiagge troiane i Greci preso come prigioniera la bella Crisedie, figlia dell’indovino Crise; il padre a quel punto andò dal re dei re Agamennone a chiederne la restituzione, il re dei re lo derise e lo scacciò in malo modo, costui ritirandosi con il dolore nel cuore per la perdita della figlia si fermò dinnanzi al mare e prego il Dio Apollo affinché facesse cambiare idea al re Agamennone.

Apollo accolse le sue preghiere e sceso dalla vetta dell’Olimpo con il cuore gonfio d’ira si mise a scagliare contro gli Achei una pioggia di dardi con il suo infallibile arco. Soltanto quando il re Agamennone acconsentì alla restituzione di Criseide la pioggia di dardi cessò.

morte di achilleIn verità non fu l’unica volta che il Dio si intromise nelle vicende dei combattenti, lo stesso Achille morì perché il Dio deviò la freccia scagliata dal principe troiano Paride contro il suo unico punto vulnerabile, il tallone.

Apollo era sì un Dio violento ma la sua natura lo portava a compensare questa violenza con gesti di assoluta magnanimità, non era raro che assolvesse uomini rei di aver compiuto omicidi, assolse anche Oreste dopo aver ucciso la madre Clitennestra.

Era una divinità che poteva scatenare le più terribili pestilenze e anche farle cessare.

asclepioUno dei suoi illustri figli fu infatti il Dio della Medicina, Asclepio.

Asclepio figlio di una mortale, Coronide e di Apollo, fu un guaritore che non ebbe eguali nel mondo classico.

Questa sua conoscenza fu frutto di un episodio tragico nella vita del Dio della Medicina: Apollo, accortosi del tradimento di Coronide con un uomo mortale, uccise la madre strappandole il bimbo che aveva in grembo e consegnandolo alle cure del saggio Centauro Chirone, Asclepio apprese così l’arte medica dal Centauro e nel corso della sua vita compi importanti prodigi, sino a quando non si mise non solo a guarire le persone ma anche a resuscitarle, entrando così in contrasto con le leggi del Fato e del Cosmo, Intervenne a quel punto Zeus che, adirato, folgorò Asclepio con una delle sue folgori.

Rimase tuttavia nel ricordo degli uomini come guaritore e benefattore, a Epidauro fu edificato un santuario in sua memoria.

driopeAnche gli amori di Apollo non furono mai banali e in questo era molto simile al padre Zeus: per sedurre la Ninfa Driope si tramutò in una tartaruga e si avvicinò al bosco nella quale la Ninfa stava giocando con le sue amiche, incuriosita Driope prese in braccio l’animale che subito riprese le sembianze del Dio del Sole e le usò violenza.

Più fortunata ebbe la Ninfa Dafne che inseguita dal Dio pregò gli Dei perché la tramutassero in qualcosa di non così attrattivo per il Dio del Sole, fu accontentata e tramutata in una pianta che ancora oggi ammiriamo per la sua bellezza, l’alloro.

apollo e dafneDecisamente meglio andò alla principessa Marpessa che grazie all’amore del suo spasimante, il coraggioso Ida, fu libera di scegliere fra quest’ultimo ed Apollo, una scelta per una donna nel mondo classico non era affatto trascurabile; scelse il mortale Ida, dopo un duello fra i due contendenti che non vedeva il prevalere di nessuno. Lo stesso Zeus intervenne dando alla principessa la libertà di scelta, in verità fu la sua motivazione che lasciò di stucco Apollo, convinto che la scelta ricadesse su di lui, essendo immortale; Marpessa voleva invecchiare con il suo compagno e non essere lasciata ai primi cenni di vecchiaia sul suo volto.

???????? ??????????? ????????? ? ????????-????? Gallerix.ruTragicamente finì anche uno degli amori più intensi di Apollo, quello per il giovane Giacinto. I due era inseparabili, ambedue belli ed atletici e fu quest’ultima disciplina sportiva a  essere fatale a Giacinto. Durante una sfida di lancio del disco il Dio del Sole, lancio e colpì l’amato al collo, uccidendolo all’istante. Grande fu la disperazione del Dio che non si dette mai pace. Dal sangue del poveretto, Apollo fece sbocciare un fiore di un cremisi acceso, che prese il nome di Giacinto.

Guido Reni, L'aurora, Casino dell'Aurora, Palazzo Rospigliosi, RomaI greci adoravano e temevano Apollo, soprattutto per la sua ambiguità, bellissimo e crudele era capace di grandi slanci e nel contempo di grandi bassezze. Ma se il sole sorge tutti i giorni lo dobbiamo a lui e al suo carro che porta con sé il nostro astro.

Il prossimo mese tratteremo le vicende della Dea della Caccia, nonché sorella di Apollo, Artemide.

Alessandro Cerioli