Originally, Bacchus was simply an epithet for Dionysus, meaning the noisy or riotous god. Both Greeks and Romans used it to refer to the god of wine. He is depicted as being youthful and beautiful. His expression is usually languid, or perhaps slightly intoxicated, and the softness and roundness of his body make him look effeminate. He is typically accompanied by satyrs, centaurs, Pans, and similar beings.

He was the son of Zeus by Semele, but when Zeus appeared to her in thunder and lightning, she was destroyed by the flames, and Dionysus was born prematurely. Zeus saved the child, sewed him into his thigh, and thus preserved him, but when he grew to maturity, Hera drove him mad. He wandered throughout various parts the earth in that state, teaching the inhabitants the cultivation of the vine and introducing the elements of civilization to them. His divine nature was gradually established throughout the earth, but his worship was not part of the original religion of Greece. In Homer he is simply described as the god who teaches man the preparation of wine.

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