If a few weeks ago we talked about Dionysus, now it is time to focus on the figure of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine. With this information, you may be wondering: if there are two gods related to the vine and agriculture, are there also two stories that tell us about wine? Well, it is time to find out.

As history tells us, Roman mythology was inspired by Ancient Greece. Therefore, it is not a new god of wine, but the same god personified in the culture of Ancient Rome. Bacchus was the son of Jupiter, the god of the gods (the representation of Zeus in the Roman Pantheon) and Stimula, a human woman who became a version of Semele. He was also the fruit of an extra-marital relationship, and so, although he was born on Naxos, he was raised by the nymphs of Nyssa. Thus it was Silenus who taught him the whole art of gardening, of planting life; here, the muses take on a more central role, beguiling the young Bacchus in dance and song.

At this point, the mythological narrative changes. The Roman god of wine is said to have conquered India with the help of other second-order gods, including Silenus, Pan and Aristeus (creator of honey). This adventure allowed him to extend his mastery and teaching in the cultivation of the vine and the production of wine, and thus the figure of Bacchus was born!

Unlike Dionysus, the representation of the Roman god is much more “human” and associated with key elements such as ivy (in the form of a crown) and the serpent. He has always been depicted dressed in animal skins – fox or leopard – with a cup of wine in his hand and accompanied by his retinue: nymphs and/or humans in a state of inebriation. One of the best known examples is the painting by Diego Velázquez, entitled ‘The Triumph of Bacchus’.

The Bacchanals

At this point, and after having seen the Spanish painter’s work, you may have related one last concept derived from all this mythology: the bacchanalia. Nowadays used as a party that may have got out of hand, it has its origins in the cults and rites of Bacchus, parties in which excess and frenzy reigned. As an extra note, and as we have already mentioned with Dionysus, this relationship with wine also earned him the nickname of “The Liberator”. It is therefore curious that these bacchanals were attended by the lower classes of the Roman population: women above all, and also slaves and beggars.

Wine is still associated with this history today, as it is usually accompanied by a celebration. The limit, however, is set by oneself. And that’s how life should be, always with a reason to toast. Uncork your Barcolobo and celebrate every moment.