The Mysterious Dionysus – the Thracian God of Festivity, Wine and Fertility

Homer’s Iliad speaks of the thick and sweet wine of the Thracian city of Ismarus. Thousands of years before the drink of the gods found its home in south-western Europe, ancient authors described the qualities of the Thracian elixir. Many of them believed that the cult of the God Dionysus had originated in the lands of ancient Thrace and spread to the Hellenistic world. Dionysus was the ancient Greek god of wine, son of Zeus and the mortal Semele. In the mythology he is presented as a jovial man, surrounded by satyrs and maenads, roaming the lands of men. His whole retinue is friendly, and Dionysus is much revered by the common people because he is always at their service and teaches them how to make wine, the divine elixir. The cult of Dionysus in the Thracian lowlands is very old. Archaeological finds show that Dionysus is one of the most worshiped deities.

An old legend says Dionysus got tired of people who became ungrateful and no longer worshiped the gods. This is why he decided to retreat to sunny Thrace with his retinue and settled there. He took his finest vine stick as a gift for the local people. Dionysus met the Thracians, they honored him, built him sanctuaries, arranged festivals in his honor (the so-called “Rosalia” ) and the god felt he was home. In return, he showed them how to care for the vine, prune it, harvest its fruit and make the sweet Thracian wine.

In the antiquity period in Europe, daily life was regulated by religion. But religion was characterized by great rigidity. Aimed at guaranteeing the prosperity of the community, it did not allow the faithful to establish personal communication with the divine. So it wasn’t long before new forms of worship, known as mysteries, began to develop. Secret and selective, their more or less disturbing rites offered initiates a strong religious life and, often, the promise of salvation in the afterlife, which ensured their considerable success in the first centuries of our era.

The Dionysiac Mysteries were a ritual in Ancient Thrace, Greece and Rome that used wine and other techniques such as dancing and music to remove inhibitions and artificial social constraints, freeing the individual to return to a more natural and primal state. Everyone participates in the mysteries, and in this way some liberation is given to the margins of Greek society: women, slaves, and foreigners. Over the centuries, ceremonies in Dionysus’ honor became riotous, and the secret rites associated with him, the Bacchanalia, were considered subversive so the Senate banned them in 186 BC. One hundred and forty years later, Caesar is said to have decided to allow them again. The land of the Thracians still keeps its secrets today and even a glass of wine can make you travel back in time.  Seek out the labels PGI/PDO and taste history in a glass of wine from the Ancient Thracian Lowlands Protected Geographical Indication region (PGI).



The content of this promotion campaign represents the views of the author only and is his/her sole responsibility. The European Commission and the European Research Executive Agency (REA) do not accept any responsibility for any use that may be made of the information it contains.


By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.