Study Guide

Dionysus (The Early Years) Semele

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Oh Semele, what did you get yourself into when you decided to have an affair with Zeus? We guess it's just really hard to say no to the king of the gods (not that he has a reputation for taking no for an answer anyway). Like so many other maidens, nymphs, and goddesses before her, Semele got pregnant with Zeus's child and was then made to pay the price by his wife, Hera. When Semele asks Zeus to let her see him in his true form, he unwillingly obliges, and the mortal maiden is destroyed, leaving behind her unborn son, Dionysus.

Some versions of Semele's story have a happier ending than others, however. Some say that later on Dionysus goes down to the Underworld to fetch his mom. When he brings her back, he transforms her into the immortal goddess, Thyone. She really gets into her son's wild Bacchanal's and actually becomes the goddess of the Bacchic frenzies that take over Dionysus's followers. In Rome, Semele was equated with the goddess, Stimula, who was Bacchus's right hand lady, STIMULAting all the craziness of his wild Bacchanals.

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