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This webpage reproduces a portion of
The Library of History

Diodorus Siculus

published in Vol. II
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1935

The text is in the public domain.

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(Vol. II) Diodorus Siculus
Library of History

Book III, 62‑74 (end)

 p285  62 [link to original Greek text] 1 But since we have previously made mention, in connection with our discussion of Egypt, of the birth of Dionysus and of his deeds as they are preserved in the local histories of that country,1 we are of the opinion that it is appropriate in this place to add the myths about this god which are current among the Greeks. 2 But since the early composers of myths and the early poets who have written about Dionysus do not agree with one another and have committed to writing many monstrous tales, it is a difficult undertaking to give a clear account of the birth and deeds of this god. For some have handed down the story that there was but one Dionysus, others that there were three,2 and there are those who state that there was never any birth of him in human form whatsoever, and think that  p287 the word Dionysus means only "the gift of wine" (oinou dosis). 3 For this reason we shall endeavour to run over briefly only the main facts as they are given by each writer.

Those authors, then, who use the phenomena of nature to explain this god and call the fruit of the vine "Dionysus" speak like this: "The earth brought forth of itself the vine at the same time with the other plants and it was not originally planted by some man who discovered it. 4 And they allege as proof of this fact that to this day vines grow wild in many regions and bear fruit quite similar to that of plants which are tended by the experienced hand of man. 5 Furthermore, the early men have given Dionysus the name of "Dimetor,"3 reckoning it as a single and first birth when the plant is set in the ground and begins to grow, and as a second birth when it becomes laden with fruit and ripens its clusters, the god, therefore, being considered as having been born once from the earth and again from the vine. 6 And though the writers of myths have handed down the account of a third birth as well, at which, as they say, the Sons of Gaia4 tore to pieces the god, who was a son of Zeus and Demeter, and boiled him, but his members were brought together again by Demeter and he experienced a new birth as if for the first time, such accounts as this they trace back to certain causes found in nature. 7 For he is considered to be the son of Zeus and Demeter, they hold, by reason of the fact that the vine gets its growth both from the earth and from rains and so bears as its fruit the wine which is pressed out from the clusters of grapes; and the statement that he was torn to pieces, while yet a youth, by the  p289 "earth-born"5 signifies the harvesting of the fruit by the labourers,6 and the boiling of his members has been worked into a myth by reason of the fact that most men boil the wine and then mix it, thereby improving its natural aroma and quality. Again, the account of his members, which the "earth-born" treated with despite, being brought together again and restored to their former natural state, shows forth that the vine, which has been stripped of its fruit and pruned at the yearly seasons, is restored by the earth to the high level of fruitfulness which it had before. For, in general, the ancient poets and writers of myths spoke of Demeter as Gê Meter (Earth Mother). 8 And with these stories the teachings agree which are set forth in the Orphic poems and are introduced into their rites, but it is not lawful to recount them in detail to the uninitiated.

9 In the same manner the account that Dionysus was born of Semelê they trace back to natural beginnings, offering the explanation that Thuonê7 was the name which the ancients gave to the earth, and that this goddess received the appellation Semelê because the worship and honour paid to her was dignified (semnê), and she was called Thuonê because of the sacrifices (thusiai) and burnt offerings (thuelai) which were offered (thuomenai) to her. 10 Furthermore, the tradition that Dionysus was born twice of Zeus arises from the belief that these fruits also perished in common with all other plants in the flood at the time of Deucalion, and that when they  p291 sprang up again after the Deluge it was as if there had been a second epiphany of the god among men, and so the myth was created that the god had been born again from the thigh of Zeus.8 However this may be, those who explain the name Dionysus as signifying the use and importance of the discovery of wine recount such a myth regarding him.

63 [link to original Greek text] 1 Those mythographers,9 however, who represent the god as having a human form ascribe to him, with one accord, the discovery and cultivation of the vine and all the operations of the making of wine, although they disagree on whether there was a single Dionysus or several. 2 Some, for instance, who assert that he who taught how to make wine and to gather "the fruits of the trees,"10 as they are called, he who led an army over all the inhabited world, and he who introduced the mysteries and rites and Bacchic revelries were one and the same person; but there are others, as I have said, who conceive that there were three persons, at separate periods, and to each of these they ascribe deeds which were peculiarly his own.

3 This, then, is their account: The most ancient Dionysus was an Indian, and since his country, because of the excellent climate, produced the vine in abundance without cultivation, he was the first to press out the clusters of grapes and to devise the use of wine as a natural product, likewise to give the  p293 proper care to the figs and other fruits which grow upon trees, and, speaking generally, to devise whatever pertains to the harvesting and storing of these fruits. The same Dionysus is, furthermore, said to have worn a long beard, the reason for the report being that it is the custom among the Indians to give great care, until their death, to the raising of a beard. 4 Now this Dionysus visited with an army all the inhabited world and gave instruction both as to the culture of the vine and the crushing of the clusters in the wine-vats (lenoi), which is the reason why the god was named Lenaeus. Likewise, he allowed all people to share in his other discoveries, and when he passed from among men he received immortal honour at the hands of those who had received his benefactions. 5 Furthermore, there are pointed out among the Indians even to this day the place where it came to pass that the god was born, as well as cities which bear his name in the language of the natives;11 and many other notable testimonials to his birth among the Indians still survive, but it would be a long task to write of them.

64 [link to original Greek text] 1 The second Dionysus, the writers of myths relate, was born to Zeus by Persephonê, though some say it was Demeter. He is represented by them as the first man to have yoked oxen to the plough, human beings before that time having prepared the ground by hand. Many other things also, which are useful for agriculture, were skilfully devised by him, whereby the masses were relieved of their great distress; 2 and in return for this those whom he had  p295 benefited accorded to him honours and sacrifices like those offered to the gods, since all men were eager, because of the magnitude of his service to them, to accord to him immortality. And as a special symbol and token the painters and sculptors represented him with horns, at the same time making manifest thereby the other nature of Dionysus and also showing forth the magnitude of the service which he had devised for the farmers by his invention of the plough.

3 The third Dionysus, they say, was born in Boeotian Thebes of Zeus and Semelê, the daughter of Cadmus.12 The myth runs as follows: Zeus had become enamoured of Semelê and often, lured by her beauty, had consorted with her, but Hera, being jealous and anxious to punish the girl, assumed the form of one of the women who was an intimate of Semelê's and led her on to her ruin; 4 for she suggested to her that Zeus should lie with her while having the same majesty and honour in his outward appearance as when he took Hera to his arms. Consequently Zeus, at the request of Semelê that she be shown the same honours as Hera, appeared to her accompanied by thunder and lightning, but Semelê, unable to endure the majesty of his grandeur, died and brought forth the babe before the appointed time. 5 This babe Zeus quickly took and hid in his thigh, and afterwards, when the period which nature prescribed for the child's birth had completed its growth, he brought it to Nysa in Arabia. 6 There the boy was reared by nymphs and was given the name Dionysus after his father (Dios) and after the place (Nysa); and since he grew to be  p297 of unusual beauty he at first spent his time at dances and with bands of women and in every kind of luxury and amusement, and after that, forming the women into an army and arming them with thyrsi,13 he made a campaign over all the inhabited world. 7 He also instructed all men who were pious and cultivated a life of justice in the knowledge of his rites and initiated them into his mysteries, and, furthermore, in every place he held great festive assemblages and celebrated musical contests;14 and, in a word, he composed the quarrels between the nations and cities and created concord and deep peace where there had existed civil strifes and wars.

65 [link to original Greek text] 1 Now since the presence of the god, the myth goes on to say, became noised abroad in every region, and the report spread that he was treating all men honourably and contributing greatly to the refinement of man's social life, the whole populace everywhere thronged to meet him and welcomed him with great joy. 2 There were a few, however, who, out of disdain and impiety, looked down upon him and kept saying that he was leading the Bacchantes about with him because of his incontinence and was introducing the rites and the mysteries that he might thereby seduce the wives of other men, but such persons were punished by him right speedily. 3 For in some cases he made use of the superior power which attended his divine nature and punished the impious, either striking them with madness or causing them while still living to be torn limb from limb by the hands of the women; in other cases he destroyed such as opposed him by a military device which took  p299 them by surprise. For he distributed to the women, instead of the thyrsi, lances whose tips of iron were covered with ivy leaves; consequently, when the kings in their ignorance and for this reason were unprepared, he attacked them when they did not expect it and slew them with the spears. 4 Among those who were punished by him, the most renowned, they say, were Pentheus among the Greeks, Myrrhanus the king of the Indians, and Lycurgus among the Thracians. For the myth relates that when Dionysus was on the point of leading his force over from Asia into Europe, he concluded a treaty of friendship with Lycurgus, who was king of that part of Thrace which lies upon the Hellespont. Now when he had led the first of the Bacchantes over into a friendly land, as he thought, Lycurgus issued orders to his soldiers to fall upon them by night and to slay both Dionysus and all the Maenads, and Dionysus, learning of the plot from a man of the country who was called Charops, was struck with dismay, because his army was on the other side of the Hellespont and only a mere handful of his friends had crossed over with him. 5 Consequently he sailed across secretly to his army, and then Lycurgus, they say, falling upon the Maenads in the city known as Nysium, slew them all, but Dionysus, bringing his forces over, conquered the Thracians in a battle, and taking Lycurgus alive put out his eyes and inflicted upon him every kind of outrage, and then crucified him. 6 Thereupon, out of gratitude to Charops for the aid the man had rendered him, Dionysus made over to him the kingdom of the Thracians and instructed him in the secret rites connected with the initiations; and Oeagrus,  p301 the son of Charops, then took over both the kingdom and the initiatory rites which were handed down in the mysteries, the rites which afterwards Orpheus, the son of Oeagrus, who was the superior of all men in natural gifts and education, learned from his father; Orpheus also made many changes in the practices and for that reason the rites which had been established by Dionysus were also called "Orphic."

7 But some of the poets, one of whom is Antimachus,15 state that Lycurgus was king, not of Thrace, but of Arabia, and that the attack upon Dionysus and the Bacchantes was made at the Nysa which is in Arabia. However this may be, Dionysus, they say, punished the impious but treated all other men honourably, and then made his return journey from India to Thebes upon an elephant. 8 The entire time consumed in the journey was three years, and it is for this reason, they say, that the Greeks hold his festival every other year.a The myth also relates that he gathered a great mass of booty, such as would result from such a campaign, and that he was the first of all men to make his return to his native country in a triumph.

66 [link to original Greek text] 1 Now these accounts of the birth of Dionysus are generally agreed upon by the ancient writers; but rival claims are raised by not a few Greek cities to having been the place of his birth. The peoples of Elis and Naxos, for instance, and the inhabitants of Eleutherae and Teos and several other peoples, state that he was born in their cities. 2 The Teans advance as proof that the god was born among them the fact that, even to this day, at fixed times in their  p303 city a fountain of wine,16 of unusually sweet fragrance, flows of its own accord from the earth; and as for the peoples of the other cities, they in some cases point out a plot of land which is sacred to Dionysus, in other cases shrines and sacred precincts which have been consecrated to him from ancient times. 3 But, speaking generally, since the god has left behind him in many places over the inhabited world evidences of his personal favour and presence, it is not surprising that in each case the people should think that Dionysus had had a peculiar relationship to both their city and country. And testimony to our opinion is also offered by the poet in his Hymns,17 when he speaks of those who lay claim to the birthplace of Dionysus and, in that connection, represents him as being born in the Nysa which is in Arabia:

Some Dracanum, wind-swept Icarus some,

Some Naxos, Zeus-born one, or Alpheius' stream

Deep-eddied, call the spot where Semelê

Bore thee, Eiraphiotes,18 unto Zeus

Who takes delight in thunder; others still

Would place thy birth, O Lord, in Thebes. 'Tis false;

The sire of men and gods brought thee to light,

Unknown to white-armed Hera, far from men.

There is a certain Nysa, mountain high,

With forests thick, in Phoenicê afar,

Close to Aegyptus' streams.

 p305  4 I am not unaware that also those inhabitants of Libya who dwell on the shore of the ocean lay claim to the birthplace of the god, and point out that Nysa and all the stories which the myths record are found among themselves, and many witnesses to this statement, they say, remain in the land down to our own lifetime; and I also know that many of the ancient Greek writers of myths and poets, and not a few of the later historians as well, agree with this in their accounts. 5 Consequently, in order not to omit anything which history records about Dionysus, we shall present in summary what is told by the Libyans and those Greek historians whose writings are in accord with these and with that Dionysius19 who composed an account out of the ancient fabulous tales. 6 For this writer has composed an account of Dionysus and the Amazons, as well as of the Argonauts and the events connected with the Trojan War and many other matters, in which he cites the versions of the ancient writers, both the composers of myths and the poets.

67 [link to original Greek text] 1 This, then, is the account of Dionysius: Among the Greeks Linus was the first to discover the different rhythms and song, and when Cadmus brought from Phoenicia the letters, as they are called, Linus was again the first to transfer them into the Greek language, to give a name to each character, and to fix its shape. Now the letters, as a group, are called "Phoenician" because they were brought to the Greeks from the Phoenicians, but as single letters the Pelasgians were the first to make use of the transferred characters and so they were called  p307 "Pelasgic."20 2 Linus also, who was admired because of his poetry and singing, had many pupils and three of greatest renown, Heracles, Thamyras, and Orpheus. Of these three Heracles, who was learning to play the lyre, was unable to appreciate what was taught him because of his sluggishness of soul, and once when he had been punished with rods by Linus he became violently angry and killed his teacher with a blow of the lyre. 3 Thamyras, however, who possessed unusual natural ability, perfected the art of music and claimed that in the excellence of song his voice was more beautiful than the voices of the Muses. Whereupon the goddesses, angered at him, took from him his gift of music and maimed the man, even as Homer also bears witness when he writes:21

There met the Muses Thamyris of Thrace

And made an end of his song;

and again:

But him, enraged, they maimed, and from him took

The gift of song divine and made him quite

Forget his harping.

4 About Orpheus, the third pupil, we shall give a detailed account when we come to treat of his deeds.22

 p309  Now Linus, they say, composed an account in the Pelasgic letters of the deeds of the first Dionysus and of the other mythical legends and left them among his memoirs. 5 And in the same manner use was made of these Pelasgic letters by Orpheus and Pronapides who was the teacher of Homer and a gifted writer of songs; and also by Thymoetes, the son of Thymoetes, the son of Laomedon, who lived at the same time as Orpheus, wandered over many regions of the inhabited world, and penetrated to the western part of Libya as far as the ocean. He also visited Nysa, where the ancient natives of the city relate that Dionysus was reared there,º and, after he had learned from the Nysaeans of the deeds of this god one and all, he composed the "Phrygian poem," as it is called, wherein he made use of the archaic manner both of speech and of letters.

68 [link to original Greek text] 1 Dionysius, then,23 continues his account as follows: Ammon, the king of that part of Libya, married a daughter of Uranus who was called Rhea and was a sister of Cronus and the other Titans. And once when Ammon was going about his kingdom, near the Ceraunian Mountains, as they are called, he came upon a maiden of unusual beauty whose name was Amaltheia. 2 And becoming enamoured of her he lay with the maiden and begat a son of marvellous beauty as well as bodily vigour, and Amaltheia herself he appointed mistress of all the region round about, which was shaped like the horn of a bull and for this reason was known as  p311 Hesperoukeras;24 and the region, because of the excellent quality of the land, abounds in every variety of the vine and all other trees which bear cultivated fruits. 3 When the woman whom we have just mentioned took over the supreme power the country was named after her Amaltheias Keras;25 consequently the men of later times, for the reason which we have just given, likewise call any especially fertile bit of ground which abounds in fruits of every kind "Amaltheia's Horn."

4 Now Ammon, fearing the jealousy of Rhea, concealed the affair and brought the boy secretly to a certain city called Nysa, which was at a great distance from those parts. 5 This city lies on a certain island which is surrounded by the river Triton and is precipitous on all sides save at one place where there is a narrow pass which bears the name "Nysaean Gates." The land of the island is rich, is traversed at intervals by pleasant meadows and watered by abundant streams from springs, and possesses every kind of fruit-bearing tree and the wild vine in abundance, which for the most part grows up trees. 6 The whole region, moreover, has a fresh and pure air and is furthermore exceedingly healthful; and for this reason its inhabitants are the longest lived of any in those parts. The entrance into the island is like a glen at its beginning, being thickly shaded by lofty trees growing close together, so that the sun never shines at all through the close-set branches but only the radiance of its light may be seen.

69 [link to original Greek text] 1 Everywhere along the lanes, the account continues,  p313 springs of water gush forth of exceeding sweetness, making the place most pleasant to those who desire to tarry there. Further in there is a cave, circular in shape and of marvellous size and beauty. For above and all about it rises a crag of immense height, formed of rocks of different colours; for the rocks lie in bands and send forth a bright gleam, some like that purple which comes from the sea,26 some bluish and others like every other kind of brilliant hue, the result being that there is not a colour to be seen among men which is not visible in that place. 2 Before the entrance grow marvellous trees, some fruit-bearing, others evergreen, and all of them fashioned by nature for no other end than to delight the eye; and in them nest every kind of bird of pleasing colour and most charming song. Consequently the whole place is meet for a god, not merely in its aspect but in its sound as well, since the sweet tones which nature teaches are always superior to the song which is devised by art. 3 When one has passed the entrance the cave is seen to widen out and to be lighted all about by the rays of the sun, and all kinds of flowering plants grow there, especially the cassia and every other kind which has the power to preserve its fragrance throughout the year; and in it are also to be seen several couches of nymphs, formed of every manner of flower, made not by hand but by the light touch of Nature herself, in manner meet for a god. 4 Moreover, throughout the whole place round about not a flower or leaf is to be seen which has fallen. Consequently those who gaze upon this spot find not only its aspect delightful but also its fragrance most pleasant.

 p315  70 [link to original Greek text] 1 Now to this cave, the account runs, Ammon came and brought the child and gave him into the care of Nysa, one of the daughters of Aristaeus; and he appointed Aristaeus to be the guardian of the child, he being a man who excelled in understanding, and in self-control, and in all learning. 2 The duty of protecting the boy against the plottings of his stepmother Rhea he assigned to Athena, who a short while before had been born of the earth and had been found beside the river Triton, from which she had been called Tritonis.27 3 And according to the myth this goddess, choosing to spend all her days in maidenhood, excelled in virtue and invented most of the crafts, since she was exceedingly ready of wit; she cultivated also the arts of war, and since she excelled in courage and in bodily strength she performed many other deeds worthy of memory and slew the Aegis, as it was called, a certain frightful monster which was a difficult antagonist to overcome. 4 For it was sprung from the earth and in accordance with its nature breathed forth terrible flames of fire from its mouth, and its first appearance it made about Phrygia and burned up the land, which to this day is called "Burned Phrygia";28 and after that it ravaged unceasingly the lands about the Taurus mountains and burned up the forests extending from that region as far as India. Thereupon, returning again towards the sea round about Phoenicia, it sent up in flames the forests on Mt. Lebanon, and making its way through Egypt it passed over Libya to the regions of the west and at the end of its wanderings  p317 fell upon the forests about Ceraunia. 5 And since the country round about was going up in flames and the inhabitants in some cases were being destroyed and in others were leaving their native countries in their terror and removing to distant regions, Athena, they say, overcoming the monster partly through her intelligence and partly through her courage and bodily strength, slew it, and covering her breast with its hide bore this about with her, both as a covering and protection for her body against later dangers, and as a memorial of her valour and of her well-merited fame. 6 Gê (Earth), however, the mother of the monster, was enraged and sent up the Giants, as they are called, to fight against the gods; but they were destroyed at a later time by Zeus, Athena and Dionysus and the rest of the gods taking part in the conflict on the side of Zeus.

7 Dionysus, however, being reared according to the account in Nysa and instructed in the best pursuits, became not only conspicuous for his beauty and bodily strength, but skilful also in the arts and quick to make every useful invention. 8 For while still a boy he discovered both the nature and use of wine, in that he pressed out the clusters of grapes of the vine while it still grew wild, and such ripe fruits as could be dried and stored away to advantage, and how each one of them should be planted and cared for was likewise a discovery of his; also it was his desire to share the discoveries which he had made with the race of men, in the hope that by reason of the magnitude of his benefactions he would be accorded immortal honours.

71 [link to original Greek text] 1 When the valour and fame of Dionysus became spread abroad, Rhea, it is said, angered at Ammon,  p319 strongly desired to get Dionysus into her power; but being unable to carry out her design she forsook Ammon and, departing to her brothers, the Titans, married Cronus her brother. 2 Cronus, then, upon the solicitation of Rhea, made war with the aid of the Titans upon Ammon, and in the pitched battle which followed Cronus gained the upper hand, whereas Ammon, who was hard pressed by lack of supplies, fled to Crete, and marrying there Cretê, the daughter of one of the Curetes who were the kings at that time, gained the sovereignty over those regions, and to the island, which before that time had been called Idaea, he gave the name Crete after his wife. 3 As for Cronus, the myth relates, after his victory he ruled harshly over these regions which had formerly been Ammon's, and set out with a great force against Nysa and Dionysus. Now Dionysus, on learning both of the reverses suffered by his father and of the uprising of the Titans against himself, gathered soldiers from Nysa, two hundred of whom were foster-brothers of his and were distinguished for their courage and their loyalty to him; and to these he added from neighbouring peoples both the Libyans and the Amazons, regarding the latter of whom we have already observedb that it is reputed that they were distinguished for their courage and first of all campaigned beyond the borders of their country and subdued with arms a large part of the inhabited world. 4 These women, they say, were urged on to the alliance especially by Athena, because their zeal for their ideal of life was like her own, seeing that the Amazons clung tenaciously to manly courage and virginity. The force was divided into two parts,  p321 the men having Dionysus as their general and the women being under the command of Athena, and coming with their army upon the Titans they joined battle. The struggle having proved sharp and many having fallen on both sides, Cronus finally was wounded and victory lay with Dionysus, who had distinguished himself in the battle. 5 Thereupon the Titans fled to the regions which had once been possessed by Ammon, and Dionysus gathered up a multitude of captives and returned to Nysa. Here, drawing up his force in arms about the prisoners, he brought a formal accusation against the Titans and gave them every reason to suspect that he was going to execute the captives. But when he got them free from the charges and allowed them to make their choice either to join him in his campaign or to go scot free, they all chose to join him, and because their lives had been spared contrary to their expectation they venerated him like a god. 6 Dionysus, then, taking the captives singly and giving them a libation (spondê) of wine, required of all of them an oath that they would join in the campaign without treachery and fight manfully until death; consequently, these captives being the first to be designated as "freed under a truce" (hypospondoi), men of later times, imitating the ceremony which had been performed at that time, speak of the truces in wars as spondai.

72 [link to original Greek text] 1 Now when Dionysus was on the point of setting out against Cronus and his force was already passing out of Nysa, his guardian Aristaeus, the myth relates, offered a sacrifice and so was the first man to sacrifice to him as to a god. And companions of his on the campaign, they say, were also the most nobly born  p323 of the Nysaeans, those, namely, who bear the name Seileni. 2 For the first man of all, they say, to be king of Nysa was Seilenus, but his ancestry was unknown to all men because of its antiquity. This man had a tail at the lower part of his back and his descendants also regularly carried this distinguishing mark because of their participation in his nature.

Dionysus, then, set out with his army, and after passing through a great extent of waterless land, no small portion of which was desert and infested with wild beasts, he encamped beside a city of Libya named Zabirna. 3 Near this city an earth-born monster called Campê, which was destroying many of the natives, was slain by him, whereby he won great fame among the natives for valour. Over the monster which he had killed he also erected an enormous mound, wishing to leave behind him an immortal memorial of his personal bravery, and this mound remained until comparatively recent times. 4 Then Dionysus advanced against the Titans, maintaining strict discipline on his journeyings, treating all the inhabitants kindly, and, in a word, making it clear that his campaign was for the purpose of punishing the impious and of conferring benefits upon the entire human race. The Libyans, admiring his strict discipline and high-mindedness, provided his followers with supplies in abundance and joined in the campaign with the greatest eagerness.

5 As the army approached the city of the Ammonians, Cronus, who had been defeated in a pitched  p325 battle before the walls, set fire to the city in the night, intending to destroy utterly the ancestral palace of Dionysus, and himself taking with him his wife Rhea and some of his friends who had aided him in the struggle, he stole unobserved out of the city. Dionysus, however, showed no such a temper as this; for though he took both Cronus and Rhea captive, not only did he waive the charges against them because of his kinship to them, but he entreated them for the future to maintain both the good-will and the position of parents towards him and to live in a common home with him, held in honour above all others. 6 Rhea, accordingly, loved him like a son for all the rest of her life, but the good-will of Cronus was a pretence. And about this time there was born to both of these a son who was called Zeus, and he was honoured greatly by Dionysus and at a later time, because of his high achievements, was made king over all.

73 [link to original Greek text] 1 Since the Libyans had said to Dionysus before the battle that, at the time when Ammon had been driven from the kingdom, he had prophesied to the inhabitants that at an appointed time his son Dionysus would come, and that he would recover his father's kingdom and, after becoming master of all the inhabited world, would be looked upon as a god, Dionysus, believing him to have been a true prophet, established there the oracle of his father,29 rebuilt the city and ordained honours to him as to a god, and appointed men to have charge of the oracle. Tradition also has recorded that the head of Ammon was shaped like that of a ram, since as his device he  p327 had worn a helmet of that form in his campaigns. 2 But there are some writers of myths who recount that in very truth there were little horns on both sides of his temples and that therefore Dionysus also, being Ammon's son, had the same aspect as his father and so the tradition has been handed down to succeeding generations of mankind that this god had horns.

3 However this may be, after Dionysus had built the city and established the oracle he first of all, they say, inquired of the god with regard to his expedition, and he received from his father the reply that, if he showed himself a benefactor of mankind, he would receive the reward of immortality. 4 Consequently, elated in spirit at this prophecy, he first of all directed his campaign against Egypt and as king of the country he set up Zeus, the son of Cronus and Rhea, though he was still but a boy in years. And at his side as guardian he placed Olympus, by whom Zeus had been instructed and after whom he came to be called "Olympian," when he had attained pre-eminence in high achievements. 5 As for Dionysus, he taught the Egyptians, it is said, both the cultivation of the vine and how to use and to store both wine and the fruits which are gathered from trees, as well as all others. And since a good report of him was spread abroad everywhere, no man opposed him as if he were an enemy, but all rendered him eager obedience and honoured him like a god with panegyrics and sacrifices. 6 In like manner as in Egypt, they say, he visited the inhabited world, bringing the land under cultivation by means of the plantings which he made and conferring benefactions upon the people for all time by bestowing upon them great and valuable gifts. For this reason it comes  p329 about that, although not all men are of one belief with one another concerning the honours which they accord to the other gods, in the case of Dionysus alone we may almost say that they are in complete agreement in testifying to his immortality; for there is no man among Greeks or barbarians who does not share in the gift and favour which this god dispenses, nay, even those who possess a country which has become a wilderness or altogether unsuited to the cultivation of the vine learned from him how to prepared from barley a drink which is little inferior to wine in aroma.30

7 Now Dionysus, they say, as he was marching out of India to the sea,31 learned that all the Titans had assembled their united forces together and had crossed over to Crete to attack Ammon. Already Zeus had passed over from Egypt to the aid of Ammon and a great war had arisen on the island, and forthwith Dionysus and Athena and certain others who had been considered to be gods rushed over in a body to Crete. 8 In a great battle which followed Dionysus was victorious and slew all the Titans. And when after this Ammon and Dionysus exchanged their mortal nature for immortality, Zeus, they say, became king of the entire world, since the Titans had been punished and there was no one whose impiety would make him bold enough to dispute with him for the supreme power.

74 [link to original Greek text] 1 As for the first Dionysus, the son of Ammon and Amaltheia, these, then, are the deeds he accomplished as the Libyans recount the history of them; the second Dionysus, as men say, who was born to Zeus by Io, the daughter of Inachus, became  p331 king of Egypt and appointed the initiatory rites of that land; and the third and last was sprung from Zeus and Semelê and became, among the Greeks, the rival of the first two. 2 Imitating the principles of both the others he led an army over all the inhabited world and left behind him not a few pillars to mark the bounds of his campaign; the land he also brought under cultivation by means of the plantings which he made, and he selected women to be his soldiers, as the ancient Dionysus had done in the case of the Amazons. He went beyond the others in developing the orgiastic practices, and as regards the rites of initiation, he improved some of them, and others he introduced for the first time. 3 But since in the long passage of time the former discoverers had become unknown to the majority of men, this last Dionysus fell heir to both the plan of life and the fame of his predecessors of the same name. And this Dionysus is not the only one to whom has happened that which we have related, but in later times Heracles likewise experienced the same fortune. 4 For there had been two persons of an earlier period who had borne the same name, the most ancient Heracles who, according to the myths, had been born in Egypt, had subdued with arms a large part of the inhabited world, and had set up the pillar which is in Libya, and the second, who was one of the Idaean Dactyls of Crete and a wizard with some knowledge of generalship, was the founder of the Olympic Games; but third and last, who was born of Alcmenê and Zeus a short time before the Trojan War, visited a large part of the inhabited world while he was serving Eurystheus and carrying out his commands. 5 And after he had successfully completed all the Labours  p333 he also set up the pillar which is in Europe, but because he bore the same name as the other two and pursued the same plan of life as did they, in the course of time and upon his death he inherited the exploits of the more ancient persons of the name, as if there had been in all the previous ages but one Heracles.

6 To support the view that there were several of the name Dionysus the effort is made to cite, along with the other proofs, the battle waged against the Titans. For since all men agree that Dionysus fought on the side of Zeus in his war against the Titans, it will not do at all, they argue, to date the generations of the Titans in the time when Semelê lived or to declare that Cadmus, the son of Agenor, was older than the gods of Olympus.

Such, then, is the myth which the Libyans recount concerning Dionysus; but for our part, now that we have brought to an end the plan32 which we announced at the beginning, we shall close the third Book at this point.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Cp. Book 1.23.

2 Cicero (On the Nature of the Gods, 3.58) said there had been five.

3 "Twice-born."

4 i.e. the Titans, or "sons of earth."

5 An epithet of the Giants, who were the sons of Gaia ("Earth").

6 Literally, the "workers of the earth." Here the MSS. interpolate the explanation "because men consider the earth to be Demeter"; cp. Book 1.12.4.

7 Thyonê was the name which was given Semelê after she was received into the circle of the gods (cp. Book 4.25.4).

8 Cp. Book 2.38.4, and chap. 62 below.º The story of the birth of Dionysus from the thigh of Zeus is partly etymological, Dio- from Dios, the genitive form of the nominative Zeus.

9 The "mythographi" appeared in Greek literature towards the close of the fourth century B.C. By that time the myths tended to drop out of sober historical writing and to become the subject of separate treatises, the writers of such works being called by the Greeks "mythographi."

10 This was a vernacular term used to include wine, fruit, olive-oil, etc., as opposed to cereals ("dry fruit").

11 Cp. Book 1.19.7.

12 Cp. the other account of this Semelê in Book 1.23.4 f.

13 Wands wreathed in ivy and vine-leaves with a pine-cone at the top.

Thayer's Note: For further details, see the article Thyrsus in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

14 e.g. the "Dionysia."

Thayer's Note: See the article Dionysia in Smith's Dictionary.

15 Antimachus of Colophon lived in the latter part of the fifth century B.C. in the period of the Peloponnesian War.

16 Archaeological evidence that a miraculous flow of wine was caused by the priests of a temple (of Dionysus?) of the fifth century B.C. in Corinth is presented by Campbell Bonner, "A Dionysiac Miracle at Corinth," Am. Journal of Archaeology, 33 (1929), 368‑75.

17 Homeric Hymns, 1.1‑9.

18 Of the seven explanations offered in antiquity for the origin of this name for Dionysus the most probable is that which derives it from the Greek word eriphos ("kid"), on the basis of the myth that Zeus changed the infant Dionysus into a kid which Hermes took to Nysa and turned over to the nymphs.

19 Cp. p246, n2.

20 As our knowledge of the history of the development of the Greek letters has increased in recent years and as early Phoenician and Semitic inscriptions have come to light, all the evidence confirms the Greek tradition that their alphabet was derived from the Phoenician. The question now is, How early did the Phoenician letters appear on the Greek mainland? The "palace" of Cadmus, if Cadmus is an historical figure, has been discovered in Thebes, and may be roughly dated around 1400‑1200 B.C.; and "letters" were found in it, but they were not of Semitic origin. See Rhys Carpenter, "Letters of Cadmus," Am. Journ. of Philology, 56 (1935), 5‑13. The present evidence appears to indicate that the Greeks took over the Phoenician letters around 800 B.C. Arguments for this view, an excellent brief discussion of the more recent literature, and two Tables showing the forms of Semitic letters between the thirteenth and eighth centuries B.C. and of the earliest Greek letters, are given by John Day, in The Classical Weekly, 28 (1934), 65‑9 (Dec. 10), 73‑80 (Dec. 17).

21 Iliad 2.594‑5, and 599‑600 below.

22 Cp. Book 4.25.

23 The narrative of Dionysus is apparently resumed from the end of chapter 61.

24 "Horn of Hesperus."

25 "Horn of Amaltheia."

26 i.e. the purple derived from the mollusc Murex brandaris.

27 Cp. Book 1.12.8 for the explanation of the name "Tritogeneia" for Athena.

28 Strabo (12.8.18‑19) says that this area of Phrygia was occupied by the Lydians and Mysians, and that the cause of the name was the frequent earthquakes.

29 The great oracle of Ammon; cp. Book 17.49 ff. for the famous visit of Alexander to this shrine.

30 Cp. Book 1.20.4.

31 The Mediterranean.

32 Cp. chap. 1.3.

Thayer's Notes:

a The apparent non sequitur is an artifact of the English translation; in the Greek text, the figures are parallel. The festival was held in alternate years (τριετηρίδας), and the journey took "three years" (τριετοῦς), counting inclusively: starting in Year 1, Year 2, ending in Year 3. See the Loeb editor's own notes (8 and 9) to IV.3.1‑2; and for examples in other Greek and Latin authors, Mair's note to Oppian, Cyneg. I.24.

b II.44.2, III.53.6.

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