Importance of Dionysos/Bacchus in Orphism

  • How did Dionysus/Bacchus become the central figure of Orphism, given the relatively modest importance he has in classical Greek and Roman mythology?

    From a semi-god of Wine in the latter, he becomes in the former the central character of a metempsychosis-centered, mystical cult prescribing an "ascetic"(!) way of life.

    In Ovid's Metamorphosis he is even depicted as quite a powerful and vengeful god.
    There seems to be quite a mismatch between both visions of the supposedly same character: is it possible the Orphic cult was in fact worshiping another imported character, foreign to the Greek/Roman pantheon, that was later assimilated to Dionysus?

  • James

    James Correct answer

    7 years ago

    Dionysus was a mortal that was raised to divinity. While he is most well known for wine and revelry, his portfolio also grew to include:

    • festivals
    • fertility
    • the wilds
    • crops
    • sanity

    These are centrally important to the daily lives of average citizens for the time. Sure Zeus is the king, and sure Poseidon is incredibly powerful, but I need my crops to grow, sons to help me run the farm and carry on my name and lets face it an opportunity to drown my sorrows once in a while.

    Orphism espouses the idea of an immortal soul and in a similar fashion to Hindu reincarnation the goal of the follower is to exit a cyclical pattern of death and rebirth in human bodies to become one with the gods.

    Who better to worship and lead such a 'religion' than a man who became a god himself.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM