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rather to the high value set on the ass by Eastern nations.
It was, in fact, the symbol of his wisdom and his propheti-
cal powers, and not the mere beast of burden which, in
Western myths, staggered along imder the weight of an
unwieldly drunkard.'* Hymn Iv. addressed to the Semi-
tic Aphrodite, Kyprogenes,^ or Kypros-bom, describes her
as * the associate of Bakchos.' Both divinities are alluded
to as personages, and not as mere representatives of Love
and Wine, and the connection is altogether Semitic and
Phoenician.* Hymn Ivi. is addressed to Adonis, the well-
known Phoenician god Adon, the Hebrew Adonai or
Lord. Adonis, be it observed, is with the Hymn-writer
only another name for Dionysos, and so he is Polyonynjos,

* Vide m/. Vm. L u. 316.

» Vide inf.VLi. » V. xv.

• V. i. • Vide Juv. Mun. viii. 14, Aphro*
^ Mylhol. cf the Aryan NaiionSy dite.

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the many-named, * the best of heavenly beings/ as Za-
greus and lao are ' the highest of gods/ So Adonis is
Eubouleus, the Wise-counselling, and Dikeros, the Two-
homed, ' nourisher of all,' i.e. vital power of the world,

* male and female ; ' or, as Shelley says, * a sexless thing it
seemed,' in fact the * two-natured lakchas.' Ever fresh
and vigorous, he is, like Dionysos, both solar and kosmo-

Adonis, ever flourishing and bright ;

At stated periods doomed to set and rise

With splendid lamp, the glory of the skies*

'Tis thine to sink in Tartarus profound.

And shine again thro' heaven's illustrious round.


Dionysos, Adonis, lao, * these three agree in one/ Hymn
Ixxiv. b addressed to Leukothee, daughter of Kadmos,

* a nurturer of Dionysos/ and also called Ino ; and
Hymn Ixxv. to her son Paleimon, ' nurtured with Diony-
sos,* and also called Melikertes.^ It is unnecessary to
enter more fully into the varied detail of these Hymns.
Many points connected with them will be noticed and
illustrated in diflFerent parts of the Work ; and they are
here referred to, not sa being themselves of high anti-
quity, but as having preserved to a considerable extent
the aroma of an archaic period, although mingled with,
and often almost overpowered by, the stupifying incense
of a comparatively modern mysticism.*

Subsection VL — Neo-Platonism.

The learned reader will observe that I have carefully
avoided and shall not, except in this subsection, allude to
the arbitrary mysticism rightly styled Neo-Platonism, that

' Afl to Ino and Melikertes, vide * Vide subsec vi.

inf. VI. i. 2.

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is, something entirely different fix)m the philosophical
ideas of Platon and the Hellenes of the great ages. The
diffusion of the divine truths and doctrines of Christianity
throughout the ancient world naturally stimulated the
learned who remained constant to heathenism to attempt
to discover a corresponding grandeur, and subUmity, and
depth of mystery, in the writings, traditions, and practices
of their own religion. Before the Christian era the
speculations and belief of the wiser heathen, in their
feeling after God and divine reahties, are sufficiently
inteUigible, and their discoveries and errors can alike be
understood and appreciated. But the vain endeavour to
bring to light, from the confused mass of heathen belief,
knowledge, and tradition, a depth of splendour and of
truth corresponding to the revelation of the Deity and his
principles in the sacred books of the Hebrew and the
Christian, only produced a system of the most uncertain
belief and midnight obscurity, mainly founded on unsup-
ported fancy and arbitrary assertion. The chiefs of the
Neo-Platonists were Ammonios, the founder of the School,
who died A.D. 243, and who was the son of Christian
parents ; Longinos, the friend of Zenobia, put to death
by Aurelian ; Plotinos, often considered as the originator
of the system ; Porphyrios, the great anti-Christian con-
troversialist; the Emperor Juhanus ; Saloustios, his friend,
author of an occult treatise About the Gods and the
Kosmoa ; Proklos, the chief luminary of the School, sur-
named Diadochos, the Successor, as being the true repre-
sentative of Platon ; Marinos, his pupil, and who wrote
his life ; Olympiodoros the elder ; and Olympiodoros the
younger, a contemporary of the Emperor Justinianus ;
and Simplikios, who, persecuted by the Christians, took
refuge with six other philosophers at the Court of Kosru
of Persia, and through his assistance obtained from the
Christian Emperor license for the fugitives to return and


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practise their religion undisturbed. The last, and possibly
not the least of the School, was the late Thomas Taylor,
translator and commentator on the Orphik Hymns, Platon,
lamblichos, Pausanias, Plotinos, Proklos, Julianus, and
others, and Author of a Dissertation on the Eleusinian
and Bacchic Mysteries} He speaks of Proklos as being
' incomparable,* which he probably was, and as ' the man
that imfolded the theology and philosophy of the Greeks
in the most consummate perfection.' The ' ancient
fables,' he tells us, * are replete with the most philoso-
phical and mystic information,' and at once * scientific
and sublime;' and that, thanks to Proklos and the
younger Olympiodoros, we can have them explained at
our pleasure. He then proceeds to pass a severe censure
on Euemerism, and praises the Baconian method of deal-
ing with the myths,^ remarking that Bacon *has doue all
in attempting to unfold them that great genius without
the assistance of genuine philosophy is able to effect/
The anxious enquirer may now perhaps coogratulate
himself on having met with a sage who, apparently, has
thoroughly fathomed the whole subject, and sounded all
its depths and shoals. A few illustrations of what Neo-
Platonism can bring up de profundis will suflSce. Bakchos
is, that is, represents, ' the mimdane intellect.' What is
that ? — and why does he represent it ? — ^may perhaps be
asked. The first question I am altogether unable to
answer, but the reply to the second is. Because Proklos
says so. Similarly the talons of the Sphinx, according to
Lord Bacon, represent 'the axioms and arguments of
science.' This, again, is of course quite arbitrary and
unphilosophical, although perhaps more intelligible;
and, as Dr. Tylor well observes, ' any of us may practise
this simple art, each according to his own fancy. If, for

» Recently edited by Dr. Wilder. • Of. MytJid. of the Aryan Natum,
New York Bouton. 1876. . 28.

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instance, political economy happens for the moment to
lie uppermost in our mind, we may with due gravity
expound the story of Perseus as an allegory of trade :
Perseus himself is Labour, and he finds Androineda, who
is Profit, chained and ready to be devoured by the mon-
ster Capital. But when it comes to sober investigation
of the processes of mythology, the attempt to penetrate
to the foundation of an old fancy will scarcely be helped
by burying it yet deeper underneath the new one.'^ For
farther information about Neo-Platonism I would respect-
faUy refer enquirers to the great originals, and conclude
this notice with the wise remark of a living sage : ' Sim-
ple and credulous persons are, perhaps fortimately, more
common than philosophers ; and it is of the highest im-
portance that you should take innocent testimony as it
was meant, and not efface, under the graceful explanation
which your cultivated ingenuity may suggest, the evidence
their story may contain of an event having really taken

Subsection VIL — Eikon of the Orphik Dionysos.

The Homerik portrait of Dionysos chiefly consists of
detail, the Orphik of general features, amongst which the
primary and leading characteristic is a kosmogonico-solar
phase. Dionysos the Demiurge fills and sustains the
universe of matter; he is Phanes the Apparent, and
Erikepaios' the Growth-Power of the world, not yet

^ Primitive CuUurej i. 251. The aU-generating powers and genial

* Ruskin, Queen of the Air, i. 3. heat

The third pmod of Hellenik PluloBo- Of Nature^ when she strikes thro'
phy, comprising the (1) Hehreo- the thick blood

Alexandrian, (2) Neo-Pythagorean, Of cattle, and light is large, and
and (3) Neo-Platonik, is ably sum- lambs are glad.

by Ueberweg, HuAory cf Nosing the mother s udder, and the
PkUMaphy, L 222-59. bud

3 ' I take Makes his heart voice amid the blaze

That popular name of time to shadow of flowers.'

forUi Tennyson, Lucretiui.

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degraded into a Priapps, he is also a solar divinity,
Pyropos the Fiery-eyed, and Antauges the Sparkler ; and
so becomes, on the one hand, naturally but erroneously
connected with Aryan sun-gods, and, on the other, is
properly linked with such Semitic personages as Sabazios,
lao, and Adon. So, again, he is Eubouleous the Wise-
counselling, like Helios who ' sees and hears all things,'
and thus becomes the possessor of mystic wisdom.
Again, he is a chthonian divinity, or connected with the
Under-world, in his kosmogonic phase, as being the con-
cealed earth-power ; and in his solar, as sinking at close
of day into the chambers of Persephone,^ from which he
rises as her son in renewed splendour. Unanthropomor-
phic in shape, horned and bovine, and nursed by the
Ocean Nymphs, he is the tauriform god from the lands
of the morning. Like the great earth-goddess Demeter,
he is Thesmophoros, the Law-giver, who r^ulates reli-
gious ritual, civil relationship, and the general order of
things. He is connected locally with Krete, Kypros,
Phrygia, Syria, and the Semitic East generally, and with
the Kypros-born Aphrodite. He is a Kadmeion, and
son of Semele. His vast and vaguely defined power and
sway place him almost, if not quite, on a level with the
highest of gods. By the side of Zeus and lao he stands
as a brother deity, * every inch a king.' His stem and
savage aspect is not prominent here, as in the case of the
Homerik Dionysos, for the Poems are the productions of
his humble worshippers, to whom he is ever graceftd and
kindly, written in his honour, and not to record his early
struggles in Aryan regions. Lord of the vine is he, but
this phase is not a very prominent one. All these concepts
and connections of the god are separate and distinct from
the Neo-Platonik mysticism which has twined itself
around them, and are also in perfect harmony with the

> Cf. Od, X. 509 with Hymn liii.

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Dionysos of Homeros and of Hesiodos. Each new
detail adds a fresh touch to the portrait, and, while ex-
plaining or expanding, is in uniformity with previous
outlines, and assists us in obtaining a juster concept of
this gigantic and mysterious divinity. The choric voices
of the three Theologers, in different tones, raise a harmo-
nious song in honour of the Zeus of Nysa. Homeros
shows him as in youth, at once strong and weak, he
leaped Protesilaos-like upon the hostile shore. Hesiodos,
while preserving the traditions of his birth, shows him as
he became when estabhshed on the banks of the Asopos
and Bisos ; the Orphik Poet reveals his solar and kosmo-
gonic character, which previously had been but indirectly
apparent, and displays the towering stature to which he
attained in an earlier home.

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Subsection L — DionysoSy son of Semele.

The writiogs of the prince of Hellenik lyric poets have
been hardly dealt with by Time ; we know them but in
fragments, for the Epinikia or Triumphal Odes^ although
complete in themselves, form but a detached group in the
original starry cluster of the Muse of Pindaros. The
ffymnSy the Choric Songs^ thQ ZHthyrambSythe Processional
OdeSj the Lays of the Virgins^ the Hyporchemes or Pan-
tomimic Dancing Ditties^ the Banquet Melodies^ the
Panegyrics^ the Dirges; combining in the whole a perfect
cycle of lyrics, domestic, festive, reUgious, survive only
in unconnected fragments ; and since we can but deal
with existing material, it is as impossible to fully realise
the complete Pindarik concept of Dionysos as it is to
thoroughly estimate the genius of the Theban bard

There are only three direct allusions to Dionysos in
the Epinikia. In the second Olympik Ode the Poet shows
how the woes of the daughters of Kadmos redoimded to
their advantage ; how — for Pindaros constantly uses lan-
guage and hues of thought of striking similarity with
those of our own Sacred Books — they were made perfect

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through suffering. 'There lives amongst the Olympians,
Semele with-the-flowing-locks, who died in the roar of
the thunder.^ But Pallas loves her ever and Father
Zeus much, and her child Kissophoros [the ivy-bearer]^
loves her/ Here we have the Phoenician parentage of
Dionysos as in the Theologers, with a notice of the death
and deification of Semele, who finally appears as the
Pambasileia or Universal Queen.® Semele, according to
Professor Euskin, * is the cloud with the strength of the
vine in its bosom, consumed by the light which matures
the fi^uit ; the melting away of the cloud into the clear
air at the fringe of its edges being exquisitely rendered
by Pindar's epithet for her, " Semele with-the-stretched-
out-hair." ' * This is elegantly imaginative, and may be
accepted as being true as far as it goes ; but it is only a
mikrokosmic view of the subject. According to a some-
what wider concept, we find that * the myth of Koronis
precisely corresponds with the legend of Semele.
Like Dionysos, Asklepios is bom amongst and rescued
from the flames ; in other words, the hght and heat of
the sun which ripen the fruits of the earth, scorch and
consunae the clouds and the dew, or banish away the
hvely tints of early morning.'^ Semele here becomes a
kind of impersonation of the more dehcate phenomena
of morning, dawnlight, clouds, and dew, and generally
of the firail yet material supports of the infant earth-
vigour of her son. But our concept of the daughter of
KadmoB, the Man-of-the-East, the Ogygian, or Man-of-
Andent-Times, and of Harmonia, who appears in the
mjrth ' dressed in a robe studded with stars and wearing
a necklace representing the universe,*^ our idea of the
mother of the mighty Dionysos must be far wider even

» Of. Soph. Antig, 1139; Eur. * Queen of the Air, I SO,

Bippol. B5S : Bak. 3. * Mythd, of tJie Aryan NationSy

^ Vide inf. Alll. ii. Jvv. n. 34.

• Orphtk Hymn, xliv. 1. • Bunaen, Egy^B Places iv. 231.

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than this. It will include these, as the greater does the
less, but they are in themselves quite inexhaustive of the
meaning of the ancient legend. The cycle of Dionysiak
myths, as noticed,^ appears to have had a peculiar fasci-
nation for Diodoros, who made great but futile eflForts to
unravel them. After having rightly explained that De-
meter was usually used by the ancient poets and mytho-
logists as a name for Mother-Earth, and having alluded to
the sacred rites, ' which it is not lawful for any ordinary
person to treat of,' he continues, ' And hkewise they refer
the birth of Dionysos from Semele to the beginnings of
nature^ having shown that the earth was named Thyone
by the ancients ; and the reason of the nomenclature,
Semele from being splendidly worshipped (semn6), and
Thyone from the sacrifices (thyomendn) and offerings
made to her.'^ Declining these etymologies, but accept-
ing the view of the ancients on the matter, we find that
the concept of Semele has greatly enlarged. She is not
now merely the more delicate phenomena and accom-
paniments of morning that assist in expanding the
strength of the grape-god ; but the earth itself, and as
such is an equivalent of Demeter. We have no diffi-
culty, therefore, in understanding how Demeter herself
appears in some legends as the mother of Dionysos. But
we have even yet hardly reached the root idea of Semele,
for Demeter, again, is a derivative concept, representing
the earth in a state of order and civilisation, and as such
she is Thesmophoros, the Law-giver, the establisher of
agriculture, marriage, and the arts of life. But over her
is flung the vast shadow of the huge and unanthropo-
morphic Gaia, the Earth without form and void, colossal
and chaotic, as it seemed to the Hebrew prophet when he
exclaimed, ' I went down to the bottoms of the moun-
tains ; the earth with her bars was about me/ At the

* Sup. I. a Diodoros, iil 62.

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bottoms of the mountains, at the very basis and root of
material phenomena, in Hhe beginnings of nature,* to use
the expression of Diodoros, and in the very place where
we should expect to find the mother of the kosmogonic
Dionysos and daughter of the universe Harmonia, clad
in her starry robe,^ we discover Semele or Themele, the-
methlon, that which is first laid or placed, the foundation,*
i.e. the foundation of materiaUty ; the expanding might
of which, as it

Warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze,
Glows in the stars, and blossoms in the trees,

bounds in the dance, boils in the blood, flows in the song,
echoes in the shout, is her son Dionysos, the kosmic
spirit of the world.® She is the vital centre of that
growth-power of which her son Dionysos, Karpios or
Erikepaios, is the personified incarnation ; and so when
Zagreus, mystic son of Zeus and Persephone, Queen of the
Under-world, another, phase of Semele the Foundation-of-
things, is at the instigation of the jealous Here slain by
the Titanes, his heart is given to Semele; that is, the
Earth receives from Zeus the principle of vitality, the
seeds of being, and Zagreus who was dead becomes alive
again in the person of Dionysos.* That Pindaros really
entertained this view of the kosmic nature of Dionysos is
made absolutely certain by a very valuable passage in
Ploutarchos, who wrote with the Theban Bard's Works
before him. He observes, ' That the Hellenes consider
Dionysos as the lord and first cause not only of wine but

^ If^. X. ii. HeeychioB in voc. Semele, Vide also

' 'lliere is also t^ legend which remarks on the Hebrew Semelf inf,

■ays that Dionysos was l»m of Zeus VII. ii.)

and G^ (Earth) ; from Earth called » Of. Welcker, QoUerlehre, i. 686 j

Themele, because all things are so to Donaldson^ Theatre of the Cfreeks,

•peak placed in it as a foundation, 20.

which by the change of one letter, the * Of. Grote, History of Greece, i.

S, the poets call Semele.* (Apollod. 19 ; Mythology of the Aryan Nations,

Frag. xxix. apud loan. Lyd. Cf. ii. 294 j inf IX. vi. Zagreus,

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of the whole humid nature,^ Pindaros is an excellent
witness when he says, "Dionysos, the much -cheering,*
increases the nourishment of trees,' the holy splendour
of the later summer." ' * It is unknown from what Work
of the Poet the quotation is taken,^ but the whole pas-
sage is peculiarly valuable as showing the general view of
the earlier writers on the subject ; and, in so doing, as
absolutely disproving the theory which regards Dionysos
as a simple wine-god. Ploutarchos speaks of the fact as
well known, and could evidently with equal facility have
quoted a dozen passages to illustrate it. Truly, says
D'Hancarville, that amongst the Hellenes Dionysos was
quite as much *god of water' as *god of wine.'* But
how and why does Semele, the foundation of materiality,
*die in the thunder's roar?' Is her fate merely the
scorching of clouds and dew by the rays of the morning
sun? This view, although perhaps true in itself, yet
seems quite inadequate as a full explanation of the myth.
Zeus, the Most High, draws near to Semele the Founda-
tion-of-things ; and amid thimders and convulsions is
born Dionysos, the Spirit-of-the-material-world. This is
the gist of the myth ; the jealousy of Here, and the
stratagem by which she procures her rival's death,^ are
mere afterthoughts springing from the introduction of the
Semeleian myth in anthropic form into Aryan regions.
There appears to be an occult reference in the legend to
a state of pristine chaos from which was produced the
form, beauty, and order of the material world, itself a
combination of Semele and Dionysos, for the injury to
Semele is merely temporary. She becomes immortal,
and as Thyone the Inspired, mother of Dionysos Thyo-
neus, is conducted by her son to heaven.® The following

» Vide inf, VHI. L PWum. » Bergk. Toet. Ly. Grae. I 340.

* Polygathes, sup. H. ii. 1. • Arts de la Qrkce, i. 223.

* Vide m/. VIU. L Dendrites. ^ Ovid. Metam. iii. Fab. 4, 6.

* Peri Is. XXXV. ' ApoUod. iii. 4, 6.

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extract from the Phoenician Kosmogony of Sanchounia-
thon, may perhaps to some extent illustrate this very
obscure myth ^: —

' When the air began to send forth rays of splendour,
through the fiery influence both on sea and land, there
were winds and clouds and mighty Sowings and torrents
of heavenly waters. And when they were separated and
carried out of their proper place by the fiery influence of
the sun and all met again in the air and were dashed
together, thunders and lightnings ensued.'^

The soimd arouses certain mysterious intelligent ex-
istencies named Zophasemim or ' the sentinels of heaven,'
*as the great constellations or Decans of the Chaldees
were called,** and the orderly procession of material
phenomena commences. The external creative force
(Zeus) shoots fiery splendour on sea and land, themselves
emerging into form firom the pristine Mot, Mokh, or Mud,
the foundation of things (Semele), which has been per-
sonified as a Phoenician sage Mochos.* Strange chaotic
convulsions follow, and amidst the roar of their thunder
and the lightning flashes of the enkindling power the
earth, temporarily echpsed in a transition period of Tohu-
and-Bohu, passes through it into a state of augmented
splendour, a resurrection vitahty also typified by the
changes of the seasons ; and Semele in restored beauty
stands forth, the All-mother, the All-queen, combination of
Demeter and Persephone, Thyone the Inspired;^ breath-
ing of the Invisible God, and an early impersonation and
concept of that Kingdom- of-the-Heavens spoken of by
Apostles and Evangelists, and which appeared to the Seer
of Patmos in its developed splendour as ' a woman
clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet,' the

* As to the authenticity of Philon, • Biinsen, EgypSi Place, iv. 182.

cf. Bunsen, Bgyp^* Place, iv. 162 et * Of. ibid. 176.
teq. • Horn. Hymn, xxvi. 21; Pind.

» Sanchou. I 2. Pt/th, iii. 176.

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time of night, darkness, chaos, and confusion passed, and
on her head a starry crown ; a feature which leads to the
mention of another Pindarik epithet of Semele, namely,
Helikampyx,^ Curling-hair-circlet-girt. Both this name
and Tanuetheira have special reference to her flowing
locks. And why ? Because the hair, the glory of the
woman-earth, is, like the Samsonian locks, the sign and
symbol of the force and vigour of vitality ; and as such
is dedicated to the Eiver-gods as representatives ' of the
strength and daily flow of human life,'* and Semele is
thus fitly the mother of Dionysos Eurychaites,* the
Flowing-tressed; not the unshorn tresses of Apollon
Akersekomes, but the earth-vigour of the telluric spirit
of the world Kallietheiros,* Adorned-with-lovely-locks.
Such appears to be the root idea of the myth of Semele,
but since Hesiodos and Pindaros pictured her as a mortal
maiden, daughter of the Phoenician Kadmos, it may
easily be perceived how the elements of the myth came
to appear in their present form. Zeus has already an
Aryan consort. Here, who naturally resents his preference
for another and plots her destruction. The kosmical
chaos becomes in the anthropomorphic concept the death
of Semele, its restoration to order and ever-renewing
beauty her resurrection and investiture with immortal
life ; and, being immortal, she naturally joins her fellow-
deities in the etherial abodes of Olympos through the
instrumentality of her son, the favourite of Zeus and
youthful member of the Aryan Pantheon. These cir-
cumstances are easily embellished by the arbitrary and
meaningless imaginations of later writers ; Ovidius can

Online LibraryRobert BrownThe great Dionysiak myth → online text (page 7 of 38)