views updated May 18 2018

Bacchus The Roman god of wine and revelry, Bacchus, seems to have been formed from the hellenization of the native Italian god Liber, patron of viticulture, to become a Roman version of Dionysos. Like Dionysos (see Greeks), Bacchus is associated predominantly with female followers (in Greek, these were known as maenads) and is also traditionally accompanied by goat–man satyrs (see chimera) who are in a state of almost perpetual sexual arousal. The secret rites of Bacchus, the Bacchanalia, were introduced to Rome in the third century bc, and were officially banned from Italy in a famous decree of 186 bc, apparently because of fears that the meetings associated with them were being used for political conspiracies; the authority of the leader of a Bacchic cell over those who belonged to it could be seen as threatening the authority of the family and of the patron–client system which linked members of society through vertical ties.

In art, Bacchus is represented as a curly-haired child drinking wine; as a young man, naked apart from a crown of vine leaves and grapes; or heavily drunk, sometimes being put to bed by nymphs and satyrs.

Helen King


views updated May 14 2018

Bacchus in Greek mythology, another name for Dionysus.


views updated May 21 2018

Bacchus In Roman mythology, the god of wine and fertility, identified with the Greek god Dionysus.