Eros and Dionysus in Greek mythology

Eros and Dionysus

Nonnus’ Dionysiaca 48. 470 ff – a Greek epic of the 5th century AD

Eros and Dionysus are both important figures in Greek mythology, representing different aspects of love, desire, and pleasure.

Eros, the god of love, is typically depicted as a handsome youth or an infant child. He is associated with passionate and romantic love, as well as desire and attraction. Eros is often depicted wielding a bow and arrow, which he uses to make people fall in love.

Dionysus (also known as Bacchus), on the other hand, is the god of wine, fertility, and ecstasy. The son of Zeus and Semele, Dionysus is associated with pleasure and indulgence, and is often depicted as a jovial figure, surrounded by revelers and wine cups. Dionysus is also associated with rebirth and the cycle of life, and is often portrayed as a god of transformation and change.

Despite their different roles and associations, Eros and Dionysus are sometimes linked in Greek mythology, particularly in regards to the transformative power of love and desire. Some myths suggest that Dionysus was the son of Eros and Aphrodite, highlighting the connection between love and pleasure.

In some depictions of Dionysus, he is shown with Eros or surrounded by Erotes, emphasizing the connection between love, pleasure, and fertility. Together, Eros and Dionysus represent the full spectrum of human experience, from passionate love to ecstatic pleasure, and continue to be celebrated in art, literature, and culture to this day.

How Eros made Dionysus fall in love with Aura

There are two myths in Greek mythology that involve Eros and Dionysus. In the first myth, Eros caused Hymnus, a young shepherd, to fall in love with the Naiad Nicaea. Sadly, the beautiful naiad never returned Hymnus’ affection. A heartbroken Hymnus pleaded with Nicaea to take his life, to which Nicaea humbly obliged.

In an act of disgust, Eros shot Dionysus with a love arrow, causing him to fall in love with Nicaea. Once again, the naiad rejected love, resulting in Dionysus filling the spring that Nicaea used to drink from with wine. In her intoxicated state, Nicaea fell into a deep sleep, and Dionysus forced himself upon Nicaea. She searched every nook and cranny, seeking revenge, but never found the Greek god of wine.

In the second myth, one of Artemis‘ nymphs named Aura boasted of having a better body than Artemis, causing Artemis to question her virginity. Artemis asked Nemesis, the Greek goddess of vengeance, to avenge her. Nemesis ordered Eros to make Dionysus fall in love with Aura. As in the previous myth, Dionysus gets Aura drunk and forces himself on the maiden nymph.

The Dionysiaca

The above myth is found in the Dionysiaca, an epic poem in 48 books by the late antique poet Nonnus. The poet was born in Panopolis, a city in the Sohag Governorate of Upper Egypt. The 5th-century AD work recounts the life and adventures of the god Dionysus, his battles with the giants, and his triumphant conquest of the world.

In Book 7 of the Dionysiaca, Eros strikes Zeus with his love arrow, making the king of the gods fall in love with Semele, the youngest daughter of Harmonia (goddess of harmony) and Cadmus. Zeus proceeds to bed with Semele, and the latter gives birth to god Dionysus. A very envious Hera, the wife/sister of Zeus, seeks to punish Semele. Disguised as an old woman, the queen of the Olympians ask Semele to convince Zeus to reveal himself in his true form to her. Semele obliges, and no sooner did Zeus reveal himself in his full glory than did Semele burst into flames. Zeus then proceeds to immortalize Semele.

Zeus was able to save the life of the fetus (i.e. Dionysus) that Semele was carrying. It’s believed he sewed the fetus to his thigh, nurturing it until it is born. At that point, Zeus placed the baby Dionysus in the care of the daughters of Lamos, a group of river nymphs. Ultimately, Dionysus ended up being raised by Mystis, an attendant to Princess Ino of Thebes.

In some versions of the myth, Hera discovers the location of Dionysus, but Hermes intervenes and takes him to the care of the goddess Rhea, mother of Zeus. Dionysus grows up in the mountains of Lydia, where he learns hunting and the art of taming wild beasts. His mother Semele is proud of his early feats.

The Dionysiaca draws heavily on earlier works of Greek mythology and is notable for its vivid descriptions, rich imagery, and ornate language. The Dionysiaca was well received in its time and had a significant influence on later works of literature and art. It remains a valuable source of information about ancient Greek mythology and religion.