Clement of Alexandria, Book Two of Exhortation to the Greeks
Explore not then too curiously the shrines of impiety, or the mouths of caverns full of monstrosity, or the Thesprotian caldron, or the Cirrhaean tripod, or the Dodonian copper. The Gerandryon, once regarded sacred in the midst of desert sands, and the oracle there gone to decay with the oak itself, consigned to the region of antiquated fables. The fountain of Castalia is silent, and the other fountain of Colophon; and, in like manner, all the rest of the springs of divination are dead, and stripped of their vainglory, although at a late date, are shown with their fabulous legends to have run dry. Recount to us also the useless oracles of that other kind of divination, or rather madness, the Clarian, the Pythian, the Didymaean, that of Amphiaraos, of Apollo, of Amphilochos; and if you will, couple with them the expounders of prodigies, the augurs, and the interpreters of dreams. And bring and place beside the Pythian those that divine by flour, and those that divine by barley, and the ventriloquists still held in honour by many. Let the secret shrines of the Egyptians and the necromancies of the Etruscans be consigned to darkness. Insane devices truly are they all of unbelieving men. Goats, too, have been confederates in this art of soothsaying, trained to divination; and crows taught by men to give oracular responses to men.
And what if I go over the mysteries? I will not divulge them in mockery, as they say Alcibiades did, but I will expose right well by the word of truth the sorcery hidden in them; and those so-called gods of yours, whose are the mystic rites, I shall display, as it were, on the stage of life, to the spectators of truth. The bacchanals hold their orgies in honour of the frenzied Dionysos, celebrating their sacred frenzy by the eating of raw flesh, and go through the distribution of the parts of butchered victims, crowned with snakes, shrieking out the name of that Eva by whom error came into the world. The symbol of the Bacchic orgies. is a consecrated serpent. Moreover, according to the strict interpretation of the Hebrew term, the name Hevia, aspirated, signifies a female serpent.
I think that the derivation of orgies and mysteries ought to be traced, the former to the wrath (orge) of Demeter against Zeus, the latter to the nefarious wickedness (musos) relating to Dionysos; but if from Myus of Attica, who Pollodorus says was killed in hunting–no matter, I don’t grudge your mysteries the glory of funeral honours. You may understand mysteria in another way, as mytheria (hunting fables), the letters of the two words being interchanged; for certainly fables of this sort hunt after the most barbarous of the Thracians, the most senseless of the Phrygians, and the superstitious among the Greeks.
Others say that Melampos the son of Amythaon imported the festivals of Demeter from Egypt into Greece, celebrating her grief in song.
These I would instance as the prime authors of evil, the parents of impious fables and of deadly superstition, who sowed in human life that seed of evil and ruin–the mysteries.
And now, for it is time, I will prove their orgies to be full of imposture and quackery. And if you have been initiated, you will laugh all the more at these fables of yours which have been held in honour. I publish without reserve what has been involved in secrecy, not ashamed to tell what you are not ashamed to worship.
Such rites the Phrygians perform in honour of Attis and Cybele and the Corybantes. And the story goes, that Zeus, having torn away the orchites of a ram, brought them out and cast them at the breasts of Demeter, paying thus a fraudulent penalty for his violent embrace, pretending to have cut out his own. The symbols of initiation into these rites, when set before you in a vacant hour, I know will excite your laughter, although on account of the exposure by no means inclined to laugh. “I have eaten out of the drum, I have drunk out of the cymbal, I have carried the cernos, I have slipped into the bedroom.” Are not these tokens a disgrace? Are not the mysteries absurdity?
What if I add the rest? Demeter becomes a mother, Core is reared up to womanhood. And, in course of time, he who begot her,–this same Zeus has intercourse with his own daughter Pherephatta,–after Demeter, the mother,–forgetting his former abominable wickedness. Zeus is both the father and the seducer of Core, and shamefully courts her in the shape of a dragon; his identity, however, was discovered. The token of the Sabazian mysteries to the initiated is “the god over the breast”; this is a serpent drawn over the breast of the votaries. Proof surely this of the unbridled lust of Zeus. To be sure, we are told by a certain mythological poet that “The bull begets a snake, the snake a bull; on hills the herdsman bears his mystic goad,” the herdman’s goad being, I think, a name for the wand which the Bacchants wreathe.
Do you wish me to go into the story of Persephatta’s gathering of flowers, her basket, and her seizure by Pluto, and the rent in the earth, and the swine of Eubouleus that were swallowed up with the two goddesses; for which reason, in the Thesmophoria, speaking the Megaric tongue, they thrust out swine? This mythological story the women celebrate variously in different cities in the festivals called Thesmophoria and Scirophoria; dramatizing in many forms the rape of Pherephatta or Persephatta.
The mysteries of Dionysos are wholly inhuman; for while still a child, and the Curetes danced around his cradle clashing their weapons, and the Titans having come upon them by stealth, and having beguiled him with childish toys, these very Titans tore him limb from limb when but a child, as the bard of this mystery, the Thracian Orpheus, says:–
“Cone, and spinning-top, and limb-moving rattles,
And fair golden apples from the clear-toned Hesperides.”
And the useless symbols of this mystic rite it will not be useless to exhibit for condemnation. These are dice, ball, hoop, apples, top, looking-glass, tuft of wool.
Athene, to resume our account, having abstracted the heart of Dionysos received the name Pallas from its palpitating (pallein). And the Titans who had torn him limb from limb, setting a caldron on a tripod, and throwing into it the members of Dionysos, first boiled them down, and then fixing them on spits, “held them over the fire.” But Zeus having appeared, since he was a god, having speedily perceived the savour of the pieces of flesh that were being cooked,–that savour which your gods agree to have assigned to them as their perquisite, assails the Titans with his thunderbolt, and consigns the members of Dionysos to his son Apollo to be interred. And he–for he did not disobey Zeus–bore the dismembered corpse to Parnassus, and there deposited it.
If you wish to inspect the orgies of the Corybantes, then know that, having killed their third brother, they covered the head of the dead body with a purple cloth, crowned it, and carrying it on the point of a spear, buried it under the roots of Olympus. These mysteries are, in short, murders and funerals. And the priests of these rites, who are called kings of the sacred rites by those whose business it is to name them, give additional strangeness to the tragic occurrence, by forbidding parsley with the roots from being placed on the table, for they think that parsley grew from the Corybantic blood that flowed forth; just as the women, in celebrating the Thesmophoria, abstain from eating the seeds of the pomegranate which have fallen on the ground, from the idea that pomegranates sprang from the drops of the blood of Dionysos. Those Corybantes also they call Cabiric; and the ceremony itself they announce as the Cabiric mystery.
For those two identical fratricides, having abstracted the box in which the phallos of Bacchus was deposited, took it to Etruria–dealers in honourable wares truly. They lived there as exiles, employing themselves in communicating the precious teaching of their superstition, and presenting phallic symbols and the box for the Tyrrhenians to worship. And some will have it, not improbably, that for this reason Dionysos was called Attis, because he was mutilated. And what is surprising at the Tyrrhenians, who were barbarians, being thus initiated into these foul indignities, when among the Athenians, and in the whole of Greece–I blush to say it–the shameful legend about Demeter holds its ground?
For Demeter, wandering in quest of her daughter Kore, broke down with fatigue near Eleusis, a place in Attica, and sat down on a well overwhelmed with grief. This is even now prohibited to those who are initiated, lest they should appear to mimic the weeping goddess. The indigenous inhabitants then occupied Eleusis: their names were Baubo, and Dusaules, and Triptolemus; and besides, Eumolpos and Eubouleus. Triptolemos was a herdsman, Eumolpos a shepherd, and Eubouleus a swineherd; from whom came the race of the Eumolpidae and that of the Heralds–a race of Hierophants–who flourished at Athens.
Well, then (for I shall not refrain from the recital), Baubo having received Demeter hospitably, reaches to her a refreshing draught; and on her refusing it, not having any inclination to drink (for she was very sad), and Baubo having become annoyed, thinking herself slighted, uncovered her shame, and exhibited her nudity to the goddess. Demeter is delighted at the sight, and takes, though with difficulty, the draught–pleased, I repeat, at the spectacle. These are the secret mysteries of the Athenians; these Orpheus records. I shall produce the very words of Orpheus, that you may have the great authority on the mysteries himself, as evidence for this piece of turpitude:–
“Having thus spoken, she drew aside her garments,
And showed all that shape of the body which it is improper to name,
And with her own hand Baubo stripped herself under the breasts.
Blandly then the goddess laughed and laughed in her mind,
And received the glancing cup in which was the draught.”
And the following is the token of the Eleusinian mysteries: I have fasted, I have drunk the cup; I have received from the box; having done, I put it into the basket, and out of the basket into the chest. Fine sights truly, and becoming a goddess; mysteries worthy of the night, and flame, and the magnanimous or rather silly people of the Erechthidae, and the other Greeks besides, “whom a fate they hope not for awaits after death.” And in truth against these Heraclitus the Ephesian prophesies, as “the night-walkers, the magi, the bacchanals, the Lenaean revellers, the initiated.” These he threatens with what will follow death, and predicts for them fire. For what are regarded among men as mysteries, they celebrate sacrilegiously. Law, then, and opinion, are nugatory. And the mysteries of the dragon are an imposture, which celebrates religiously mysteries that are no mysteries at all, and observes with a spurious piety profane rites. What are these mystic chests?–for I must expose their sacred things, and divulge things not fit for speech. Are they not sesame cakes, and pyramidal cakes, and globular and flat cakes, embossed all over, and lumps of salt, and a serpent the symbol of Dionysos Bassareus? And besides these, are they not pomegranates, and branches, and rods, and ivy leaves? and besides, round cakes and poppy seeds? And further, there are the unmentionable symbols of Themis, marjoram, a lamp, a sword, a woman’s comb, which is a euphemism and mystic expression for the muliebria.
O unblushing shamelessness! Once on a time night was silent, a veil for the pleasure of temperate men; but now for the initiated, the holy night is the tell-tale of the rites of licentiousness; and the glare of torches reveals vicious indulgences. Quench the flame, O Hierophant; reverence, O Torch-bearer, the torches. That light exposes Iacchus; let thy mysteries be honoured, and command the orgies to be hidden in night and darkness.
The fire dissembles not; it exposes and punishes what it is bidden.
All honour to that king of the Scythians, whoever Anacharsis was, who shot with an arrow one of his subjects who imitated among the Scythians the mystery of the Mother of the gods, as practised by the inhabitants of Cyzicus, beating a drum and sounding a cymbal strung from his neck like a priest of Cybele, condemning him as having become effeminate among the Greeks, and a teacher of the disease of effeminacy to the rest of the Scythians.
But to you a poet of your own, Empedocles of Agrigentum, comes and says:–
“Wherefore, distracted with grievous evils,
You will never ease your soul of its miserable woes.”
You walk in pride and madness,
And leaving the right and straight path, you have gone away
Through thorns and briars. Why do ye wander?
Cease, foolish men, from mortals;
Leave the darkness of night, and lay hold on the light.”
But those contests and phalloi consecrated to Dionysos were a world’s shame, pervading life with their deadly influence. For Dionysos, eagerly desiring to descend to Hades, did not know the way; a man, by name Prosymnus, offers to tell him, not without reward. The reward was a disgraceful one, though not so in the opinion of Dionysos: it was an Aphrodisian favour that was asked of Dionysos as a reward. The god was not reluctant to grant the request made to him, and promises to fulfil it should he return, and confirms his promise with an oath. Having learned the way, he departed and again returned: he did not find Prosymnus, for he had died. In order to acquit himself of his promise to his lover, he rushes to his tomb, and burns with unnatural lust. Cutting a fig-branch that came to his hand, he shaped the phallos, and so performed his promise to the dead man. As a mystic memorial of this incident, phalloi are raised aloft in honour of Dionysos through the various cities. “For did they not make a procession in honour of Dionysos, and sing most shameless songs in honour of the pudenda, all would go wrong,” says Heraclitus. This is that Pluto and Dionysos in whose honour they give themselves up to frenzy, and play the bacchanal,–not so much, in my opinion, for the sake of intoxication, as for the sake of the shameless ceremonial practised. With reason, therefore, such as have become slaves of their passions are your gods!
Do not the Argives sacrifice to Aphrodite Peribaso (the protectress), and the Athenians to Aphrodite Hetsera (the courtesan), and the Syracusans to Aphrodite Kallipygos, whom Nicander has somewhere called Kalliglutos (with beautiful rump). I pass over in silence just now Dionysos Choiropsales (the one who touches the vulva). The Sicyonians reverence this deity, whom they have constituted the god of the muliebria–the patron of filthiness–and religiously honour as the author of licentiousness.
Heraclides, in his work, Regarding the Building of Temples in Acarnania, says that, at the place where the promontory of Actium is, and the temple of Apollo of Actium, they offer to the flies the sacrifice of an ox.
Dosidas said that Lesbians offered men in sacrifice to Dionysos.
Damascius, Commentary on the Phaedo 1.7
Three punishments of the Titans are handed down in the tradition – lightning, shackles, descents into various lower regions. This last one is thus in the nature of a retribution, exacerbating their divisive nature and making use of their shattered remains for the constitution of individual entities, particuarly humans. The middle one is coercive, holding back their divisive powers. The first is purificatory, bringing them to unity through participation. It is necessary, however, to regard all three as imposed upon each, even if the myth divides them up.
Damascius, Commentary on the Phaedo 1.9
The titanic mode of life is the irrational mode, by which rational life is torn asunder: It is better to acknowledge its existence everywhere, since in any case at its source there are gods, the Titans; then also on the plane of rational life, this apparent self-determination, which seems to aim at belonging to itself alone and neither to the superior nor to the inferior, is wrought in us by the Titans; through it we tear asunder the Dionysos in ourselves, breaking up the natural continuity of our being and our partnership, so to speak, with the superior and inferior. While in this condition, we are Titans; but when we recover that lost unity, we become Dionysoi and we attain what can truly be called completeness.
Damascius, Philosophical History 19
It is a sacrilege not to preserve the immortality of the soul, raising it to the level of the holy and uniting it to the divine with bonds which cannot be broken or loosened, but by contrast to pull and drag downwards the divine which is within us, confining it in the earthly, sinful and Giant- or Titan-like prison.
Dio Chrysostom, Oration 30, 10-11
All mankind, we are all from the blood of the Titans. Thus, because they were the enemies of the gods and fought against them, we are not beloved by the gods either, but we are punished by them and we are born into retribution, being in custody in this life for a certain time as long as we each live … This harsh and foul-aired prison, which we call the cosmos, has been prepared by the gods.
Diodoros Sikeliotes, Library of History 3.71.4-6
The struggle having proved sharp and many having fallen on both sides, Kronos finally was wounded and victory lay with Dionysos, who had distinguished himself in the battle. Thereupon the Titans fled to the regions which had once been possessed by Ammon, and Dionysos 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. Dionysos, then, taking the captives singly and giving them a libation of wine, required of all of them an oath that they would join in the campaign without treachery and fight manfully until death.
Diodoros Sikeliotes, Library of History 3.72.2-6
Dionysos, 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. 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. Then Dionysos 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.
As the army approached the city of the Ammonians, Kronos, who had been defeated in a pitched battle before the walls, set fire to the city in the night, intending to destroy utterly the ancestral palace of Dionysos, and himself taking with him his wife Rheia and some of his friends who had aided him in the struggle, he stole unobserved out of the city. Dionysos, however, showed no such a temper as this; for though he took both Kronos and Rheia 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. Rhea, accordingly, loved him like a son for all the rest of her life.
Diodoros Sikeliotes, Library of History 4.6.1
But the Egyptians in their myths about Priapos say that in ancient times the Titanes formed a conspiracy against Osiris and slew him, and then, taking his body and dividing it into equal parts among themselves, they slipped them secretly out of the house, but this organ alone they threw into the river, since no one of them was willing to take it with him. But Isis tracked down the murderer of her husband, and after slaying the Titanes and fashioning the several pieces of his body into the shape of a human figure, she gave them to the priests with orders that they pay Osiris the honors of a god, but since the only member she was unable to recover was the organ of sex she commanded them to pay to it the honors of a god and set it up in their temples in an erect position. Now this is the myth about the birth of Priapos and the honors paid to him, as it is given by the ancient Egyptians.
Diodoros Sikeliotes, Library of History 5.75.4
This god was born in Crete, men say, of Zeus and Persephone, and Orpheus has handed down the tradition in the initiatory rites that he was torn in pieces by the Titanes.
Hesiod, Theogony 147-187
Then the son from his ambush stretched forth his left hand and in his right took the great long sickle with jagged teeth, and swiftly lopped off his own father’s members and cast them away to fall behind him. And not vainly did they fall from his hand; for all the bloody drops that gushed forth Gaia received, and as the seasons moved round she bare the strong Erinyes and the great Gigantes with gleaming armour, holding long spears in their hands and the Nymphai whom they call Meliai all over the boundless earth. And so soon as he had cut off the members with flint and cast them from the land into the surging sea, they were swept away over the main a long time: and a white foam spread around them from the immortal flesh, and in it there grew the maiden Aphrodite.
Hesiod, Works and Days 143–147
Zeus the father made a third age of mortals, this time of bronze, not at all like the silver one. Fashioned from ash trees, they were dreadful and mighty and bent on the harsh deeds of war and violence; they ate no bread and their hearts were strong as adamant.
Homer, Iliad 14.231
There in Lemnos Hera encountered Hypnos, the brother of Thanatos. She clung fast to his hand and spoke a word and called him by name: ‘Hypnos … do as I ask; and all my days I shall know gratitude. Put to sleep the shining eyes of Zeus under his brows as soon as I have lain beside him in love …’
Then Hypnos the still and soft spoke to her in answer: ‘Hera, honoured goddess and daughter of mighty Kronos, any other one of the gods, whose race is immortal, I would lightly put to sleep but I would not come too close to Zeus, the son of Kronos, nor put him to sleep, unless he himself were to tell me …’
Then in turn the lady ox-eyed Hera answered him: ‘Hypnos, why do you ponder this in your heart, and hesitate? Or do you think that Zeus of the wide brows, aiding the Trojans, will be angry as he was angry for his son, Herakles? Come now, do it, and I will give you one of the younger Charites for you to marry, and she shall be called by you lady; Pasithea, since all your days you have loved her forever.’
So she spoke, and Hypnos was pleased and spoke to her in answer: ‘Come then! Swear it to me on Styx’s ineluctable water. With one hand take hold of the prospering earth, with the other take hold of the shining salt sea, so that all the undergods who gather about Kronos may be witnesses to us. Swear that you will give me one of the younger Charites, Pasithea, the one whom all my days I have longed for.’
He spoke, nor failed to persuade the goddess Hera of the white arms, and she swore as he commanded, and called by their names on all those gods who live beneath the Pit, and who are called Titanes.
Hyginus, Fabulae 167
Liber, son of Jove and Proserpina, was dismembered by the Titans, and Jove gave his heart, torn to bits, to Semele in a drink. When she was made pregnant by this, Juno changing herself to look like Semele’s nurse, Beroe, said to her, “Daughter, ask Jove to come to you as he comes to Juno, so you may know what pleasure it is to sleep with a god.” At her suggestion Semele made this request of Jove, and was smitten by a thunderbolt.
Lucian, On the Dance 79
The Bacchic dance, practiced mainly in Ionia and the Pontic region, although it is a satyr dance, has taken possession of the people there to such an extent that at the appointed time everyone comes, forgetting everything else, and spends all day sitting
watching Titans, Corybantes, Satyrs, and Boukoloi.
Lycophron, Alexandra 1358
The Pelasgians who drew the root of their race from the blood of the Sithonian Giants.
Johannes Lydus, On the Months 72
According to Terpander of Lesbos, Dionysos, who is sometimes called Sabazios, was nursed by Nysa; he was the son of Zeus and Persephone and was eventually torn in pieces by the Titans.
Firmicus Maternus, The Error of Pagan Religion 6.5
To soften the transports of their tyrant’s rage, the Cretans made the day of the death into a religious festival, and founded a yearly rite with a triennial dedication, performing in order all that the child in his death both did and suffered. They tore a live bull with their teeth, recalling the cruel feast in their annual commemoration, and by uttering dissonant cries through the depths of the forest they imitated the ravings of an unbalanced mind, in order that it might be believed that the awful crime was committed not by guile but in madness. Before them was borne the chest in which the sister secretly stole away the heart, and with the sound of flutes and the clashing of cymbals they imitated the rattles with which the boy was deceived. Thus to do honour to a tyrant an obsequious rabble has made a god out of one who was not able to find burial.
Maximus of Tyre, Philosophumena 4.4.5-8
But consider also the work of the man from Syros: Zen and Chthonie and Eros between them, and the birth of Ophioneus and the battle of the gods and the tree and the robe.
Nonnos, Dionysiaka 6. 155 ff
Zagreus the horned baby, who by himself climbed upon the heavenly throne of Zeus and brandished lightning in his little hand, and newly born, lifted and carried thunderbolts in his tender fingers for Zeus meant him to be king of the universe. But he did not hold the throne of Zeus for long. By the fierce resentment of implacable Hera, the Titanes cunningly smeared their round faces with disguising chalk (titanos), and while he contemplated his changeling countenance reflected in a mirror they destroyed him with an infernal knife. There where his limbs had been cut piecemeal by the Titan steel, the end of his life was the beginning of a new life as Dionysos. He appeared in another shape, and changed into many forms: now young like crafty Kronides shaking the aegis-cape, now as ancient Kronos heavy-kneed, pouring rain. Sometimes he was a curiously formed baby, sometimes like a mad youth with the flower of the first down marking his rounded chin with black. Again, a mimic lion he uttered a horrible roar in furious rage from a wild snarling throat, as he lifted a neck shadowed by a thick mane, marking his body on both sides with the self-striking whip of a tail which flickered about over his hairy back. Next, he left the shape of a lion’s looks and let out a ringing neigh, now like an unbroken horse that lifts his neck on high to shake out the imperious tooth of the bit, and rubbing, whitened his cheek with hoary foam. Sometimes he poured out a whistling hiss from his mouth, a curling horned serpent covered with scales, darting out his tongue from his gaping throat, and leaping upon the grim head of some Titan encircled his neck in snaky spiral coils. Then he left the shape of the restless crawler and became a tiger with gay stripes on his body; or again like a bull emitting a counterfeit roar from his mouth he butted the Titanes with sharp horn. So he fought for his life, until Hera with jealous throat bellowed harshly through the air–that heavy-resentful step-mother! And the gates of Olympos rattled in echo to her jealous throat from high heaven. Then the bold bull collapsed: the murderers each eager for his turn with the knife chopt piecemeal the bull-shaped Dionysos.
After the first Dionysos had been slaughtered, Father Zeus learnt the trick of the mirror with its reflected image. He attacked the mother of the Titanes with avenging brand, and shut up the murderers of horned Dionysos within the gate of Tartaros, the trees blazed, the hair of suffering Gaia was scorched with heat … Now Okeanos poured rivers of tears from his watery eyes, a libation of suppliant prayer. Then Zeus calmed his wrath at the sight of the scorched earth; he pitied her, and wished to wash with water the ashes of ruin and the fiery wounds of the land. Then Rainy Zeus covered the whole sky with clouds and flooded all the earth.
Nonnos, Dionysiaka 48.41ff
“Wound him with cutting steel and kill him for me like Zagreus, that one may say, god or mortal, that Gaia in her anger has twice armed her slayers against the breed of Kronides –the older Titanes against the former Dionysos, the younger Gigantes against Dionysos later born.”
Olympiodoros, Commentary on the Phaedrus 1.3
And the mythical argument is as such: four reigns are told of in the Orphic tradition. The first is that of Ouranos, to which Kronos succeeds after cutting off the genitals of his father. After Kronos, Zeus becomes king, having hurled his father down into Tartaros. Then Dionysos succeeds Zeus. Through the scheme of Hera, they say, his retainers, the Titans, tear him to pieces and eat his flesh. Zeus, angered by the deed, blasts them with his thunderbolts, and from the sublimate of the vapors that rise from them comes the matter from which men are created. Therefore we must not kill ourselves, not because, as the text appears to say, we are in the body as a kind of shackle, for that is obvious, and Socrates would not call this a mystery; but we must not kill ourselves because our bodies are Dionysiac; we are, in fact, a part of him, if indeed we come about from the sublimate of the Titans who ate his flesh.
Oppian, Cynegetica 4. 230
Ino, scion of Agenor, reared the infant Bakchos and first gave her breast to the son of Zeus, and Autonoe likewise and Agaue joined in nursing him, but not in the baleful halls of Athamas, but on the mountain which at that time men called by the name Meros (Thigh). For greatly fearing the mighty spouse of Zeus and dreading the tyrant Pentheus, son of Echion, they laid the holy child in a coffer of pine and covered it with fawn-skins and wreathed it with clusters of the vine, in a grotto where round the child they danced the mystic dance and beat drums and clashed cymbals in their hands, to veil the cries of the infant. It was around that hidden ark that they first showed forth their mysteries, and with them the Aionian women secretly took part in the rites. And they arrayed a gathering of their faithful companion to journey from that mountain out of the Boiotian land. For now, now was it fated that a land, which before was wild, should cultivate the vine at the instance of Dionysos who delivers from sorry. Then the holy choir took up the secret coffer and wreathed it and set it on the back of an ass. And they came unto the shores of Euripos, where they found a seafaring old man with his sons, and all together they besought the fishermen that they might cross the water in their boats. Then the old man had compassion on them and received on board the holy women. And lo! On the benches of his boat flowered the lush bindweed and flooming vine and ivy wreathed the stern. Now would the fishermen, cowering in god-sent terror, have dived into the sea, but ere that the boat came to land. And to Euboia the women came, carrying the god, and to the abode of Aristaios, who dwelt in a cave on the top of a mountain at Karyai and who instructed the life of country-dwelling men in countless things; he was the first to establish the flock of sheep; he first pressed the fruit of the oily wild olive, first curdled the milk with rennet making cheese, and brought the gentle bees from the oak and shut them up in hives. He at that time received the infant Dionysos from the coffer of Ino and reared him in his cave and nursed him with the help of the Dryades and the Nymphai that have bees in their keeping and the maidens of Euboia and the Aionian women. And, when Dionysos was now come to boyhood, he played with the other children; he would cut a fennel stalk and smite the hard rocks, and from their wounds they poured for the god sweet liquor. Otherwhiles he rent rams, skins and all, and clove them piecemeal and cast the dead bodies on the ground; and again with his hands he neatly put their limbs together, and immediately they were alive and browsed on the green pasture. And now he was attended by holy companies, and over all the earth were spread the gifts of Dionysos, son of Thyone, and everywhere he went about showing forth his excellence to men.
Oppian, Halieutica 5.4
Someone created men to be a race like unto the blessed gods, albeit he gave them inferior strength: whether it was the son of Iapetos, Prometheus … or whether we are born of the blood divine that flowed from the Titans; for there is nothing more excellent than men, apart from the gods.
Origen, Contra Celsum 4.17
Dionysos was deceived by the Titans, and expelled from the throne of Zeus, and torn in pieces by them, and his remains being afterwards put together again, he returned as it were once more to life, and ascended to heaven
Orphic Argonautica 17-20
And the offspring of powerful Brimo,
and the destructive deeds of the Earthborn,
who dripped painfully as gore from Heaven,
the seed of a generation of old, out of which arose
the race of mortals, who exist forever throughout the boundless earth.
Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.151
There they lay, grim broken bodies crushed in huge collapse, and Terra, drenched in her children’s weltering blood, gave life to that warm gore; and to preserve memorial of her sons refashioned it in human form. But that new stock no less despised the gods and relished cruelty, bloodshed and outrage–born beyond doubt of blood.
Pausanias, Description of Greece 7.19.4
The stories told of Dionysos by the people of Patrai, that he was reared in Mesatis in Achaia and incurred there all sorts of perils through the plots of the Titanes.
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8.37.5
Those about the sanctuary say that the Mistress was brought up by Anytos, who was one of the Titans, as they are called. The first to introduce Titans into poetry was Homer, representing them as gods down in what is called Tartaros; the lines are in the passage about Hera’s oath. From Homer the name of the Titans was taken by Onomakritos, who in the orgies he composed for Dionysos made the Titans the authors of the god’s sufferings.
Greetings! Oracle of the Sibyl: “When Bakchos, after having shouted euai, is beaten, then blood, fire, and ash will be united.” Set up by Spellios Euethis, archiboukolos, Herakleides son of Alexander being archimystos, Alexandros being speirarchos, Arrianos son of Agathias, Heroxenos son of Magnus, Soterichos son of Dadas, Meniphilos son of Menophilos.
Plato, Laws 3.701bc
Next on this path to liberty would be the wish not to submit to the rulers; and, following this, to flee the service and authority of father and mother and the elders; and, near the end, to seek not to obey the laws, and, at the end itself, to pay no mind to oaths and promises and the entirety of the gods, displaying and imitating the fabled ancient Titanic nature, they return to the same things, experiencing a savage time, never to cease from evils.
Plotinos, Enneads 4.3.12
The souls of humans, having seen their images as in the mirror of Dionysos, became there, having leapt from above.
Plutarch, De Esu Carn. 1. 996b-c
It would perhaps not be wrong to mention those verses of Empedokles where he says allegorically that souls, paying the penalty for murders and the eating of flesh and cannibalism, are imprisoned in mortal bodies. However, it seems that this account is even older, for the legendary suffering of dismemberment told about Dionysos and the outrages of the Titans on him, and their punishment and their being blasted with lightning after having tasted of the blood, this is all a myth, in its hidden inner meaning, about reincarnation. For that in us which is irrational and disorderly and violent and not divine but demonic, the ancients used the name ‘Titans’, and this pertains to one being punished and paying the penalty.
Plutarch, On the E at Delphi 9
As for his passage and distribution into waves and water, and earth, and stars, and nascent plants and animals, they hint at the actual change undergone as a rending and dismemberment, but name the god himself Dionysos or Zagreus or Nyktelios or Isodaites. Deaths too and vanishings do they construct, passages out of life and new births, all riddles and tales to match the changes mentioned. So they sing to Dionysos dithyrambic strains, charged with sufferings and a change wherein are wanderings and dismemberment. For Aischylos says:
In mingled cries the dithyramb should ring,
With Dionysos revelling, its King.
In constrast Apollon has the Paean, a set and sober music. Apollon is ever ageless and young; Dionysos has many forms and many shapes as represented in paintings and sculpture, which attribute to Apollon smoothness and order and a gravity with no admixture, but to Dionysos a blend of sport and sauciness with seriousness and frenzy:
God that sett’st maiden’s blood
Dancing in frenzied mood,
Blooming with pageantry!
Evoe! we cry
So do they summon him, rightly catching his changeable character.
Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris 353e-c
As for wine, those who serve the god in Heliopolis bring none at all into the shrine, since they feel that it is not seemly to drink in the day-time while their Lord and King is looking upon them. The others use wine, but in great moderation. They have many periods of holy living when wine is prohibited, and in these they spend their time exclusively in studying, learning, and teaching religious matters. Their kings also were wont to drink a limited quantity prescribed by the sacred writings, as Hecataeus has recorded; and the kings are priests. The beginning of their drinking dates from the reign of Psammetichus; before that they did not drink wine nor use it in libation as something dear to the gods, thinking it to be the blood of those who had once battled against the gods, and from whom, when they had fallen and had become commingled with the earth, they believed vines to have sprung. This is the reason why drunkenness drives men out of their senses and crazes them, inasmuch as they are then filled with the blood of their forbears. These tales Eudoxus says in the second book of his World Travels are thus related by the priests.
Proklos, Commentary on the Timaios 2.819
Dionysos sees his own image in the mirror and goes out into the whole divided creation.
Strabo, Geography 7.40
Since the paian-chant of the Thrakians is called titanismos by the Greeks, in imitation of the cry uttered in paians, the Titans too were called Pelagonians.
The Third Vatican Mythographer 12.5
I recall reading nothing that I have judged worthy to be handed on as to why it is said Bacchus was born of Semele, one of the daughters of Cadmus, when Jove’s lightning shone before her. But I have decided not to pass over the fact that there were four sisters: Ina, Autonoe, Semele, and Agave. And, as Fulgentius says, there are four kinds of drunkenness: from wine, forgetfulness of things, lust, and insanity. The first is Ina, which means “wine”; second is Autonoe, “not knowing herself”; third is Semele, which means “unfettered body”; fourth is Agave, whom I pass over, because the meaning of this name happens to seem unsuitable, or it was unknown to the Romans. But we shall compare her to insanity because, as we read in the story, the drunken Agave cut off the head of her own son, Pentheus. Furthermore, so that we might seem to go more deeply, the story says that the Giants found Bacchus inebriated. After they tore him to pieces limb by limb, they buried the bits, and a little while later he arose alive and whole. We read that the disciples of Orpheus interpreted this fiction philosophically and that they represent this story in his sacred rites.