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The god of wine and gaiety, and the son of Zeus and Semele, a daughter of King Kadmos of Thebes His birth was frowned upon by Hera, who was angry at the rival to her husband's affections, disguised herself and proceeded to Thebes, where she met and falsely befriended Semele, encouraging her to ask that Zeus should appear before her (Semele) in all his great majesty as god of thunder. Zeus had no choice but to agree to her request, as he had sworn 'by the black waters of the Styx' (one of the most solemn oaths man or god could swear) to grant her wish, before hearing what it was. He appeared as a display of thunder and lightning to Semele, a display which killed her.
As she died, Semele gave birth to Dionysos, who of course died. Zeus restored him to life, and fearing his wife's reprisals, charged Hermes to convey the child to Nysa, where Silenos and the nymphs brought up the infant. Dionysos' formative years were spent in innocence in the company of the nymphs, satyrs, sileni, herdsmen and vine-tenders of Nysa.

When he attained manhood he set out on a journey through all lands, even into the remotest parts of India, instructing the people how to tend the vine, and other arts of peace, teaching them also the value of just and honourable dealings. Dionysos was praised everywhere as the greatest benefactor of mankind, but for all this if he met stubborn resistance from someone who refused to listen to his teachings, he always punished them severely. A case in point is Lykurgos, whom the wine god caused to become insane, so that he felled his son, mistaking him for a vine plant. The enormity of this deed caused Lykurgos to kill himself.

There was also Pentheus, king of Thebes, whom Dionysos caused to be torn to pieces by his own mother and her following of women, for daring to look on at their orgiastic rites.

As a god of the spring rites, of the flowering plants and fruitful vines, Dionysos was said to be in terrible pain during winter, when most living things sicken and die or hibernate, and in this way he was similar to Demeter, who sorrowed in winter for her lost daughter, Persephone.
Dionysos was also revered as the god of the theatre, and all the performing arts. His sigils were the vine, ivy, pomegranate, and his sacrifices were of goats and pigs.