ZAGREUS - ZAGRÉFS- ΖΑΓΡΕΥΣ
The purpose of this page is simply to create a space to collect and share quotations from a variety of sources, mostly ancient but not necessarily all, regarding all aspects of Diónysos-Zagreus (more properly pronounced Zagréfs, with the accent on the second syllable). When it is warranted, the quotations will be put into some kind of logical order.
Please also visit the page on Diónysos, where you will find the foundational quotations regarding the mythology of Zagréfs.
Fragment from the Alkmaiohnís:
This fragment comes from the Etymologicum Gudianum. It is a tiny quotation, believed to be the earliest mention of the name Zagréfs in any text, from a lost Greek epic, the Alkmaiohnís (Alcmaeonis; Gr. Ἀλκμαιωνίς), part of a Theban cycle. The quotation (as well as the introduction of the etymologist) was translated by M.L. West in 2003. It can be found on p. 61 of the book entitled Greek Epic Fragments.
"3 Etymologicum Gudianum
Zagreus: the one who greatly hunts, as the writer of the Alcmeonis said:
'Mistress Earth, and Zagreus highest of all the Gods.' "
Professor West disagrees with the author's etymology of the name Zagréfs, stating in note 17 on p. 61: "The etymologist falsely explains Zagreus' name from za - 'very' and agreuein 'hunt.' In Aeschylus (frs. 5,228) he is a God of the underworld. The line perhaps comes from a prayer in which Alcmaon called upon the powers of the earth to send up his father Amphiaraus."
The ancient historian, Diódohros Sikælióhtis (Diodoros Siculus; Gr. Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης) holds the opinion that there were actually two Dionysi, Zagréfs and Diónysos. While this is not quite the position of this website, it is interesting to hear his opinions:
"Some writers of myths, however, relate that there was a second Dionysus who was much earlier in time than the one we have just mentioned. For according to them there was born of Zeus and Persephonê a Dionysus who is called by some Sabazius and whose birth and sacrifices and honours are celebrated at night and in secret, because of the disgrace resulting from the intercourse of the sexes. They state also that he excelled in sagacity and was the first to attempt the yoking of oxen and by their aid to effect the sowing of the seed, this being the reason why they also represent him as wearing a horn.
"But the Dionysus who was born of Semelê in more recent times, they say, was a man who was effeminate in body and altogether delicate; in beauty, however, he far excelled all other men and was addicted to indulgence in the delights of love, and on his campaigns he led about with himself a multitude of women who were armed with lances which were shaped like thyrsi." (Diodorus Siculus The Library of History II, Book IV.4.1, translated by C. H. Oldfather in 1935, Loeb LCL 303, Harvard Univ. Press [Cambridge MA and London England]. We are using the 2006 edition where this quotation may be found on pp. 349-351)
"He was also called Dimetor, they relate, because the two Dionysi were born of one father, but of two mothers. The younger one also inherited the deeds of the older, and so the men of later times, being unaware of the truth and being deceived because of the identity of their names thought there had been but one Dionysus." (Ibid. Oldfather, IV.4.4-5, p. 353)
"He was thought to have two forms, men say, because there were two Dionysi, the ancient one having a long beard because all men in early times wore long beards, the younger one being youthful and effeminate and young, as we have mentioned before." (Ibid. Oldfather, IV.5.2, Oldfather)
"As for Dionysus, the myths state that he discovered the vine and its cultivation, and also how to make wine and to store away many of the autumn fruits and thus to provide mankind with the use of them as food over a long time. This god was born in Crete, men say, of Zeus and Persephonê, and Orpheus has handed down the tradition in the initiatory rites that he was torn in pieces by the Titans. And the fact is that there have been several who bore the name Dionysus, regarding whom we have given a detailed account at greater length in connection with the more appropriate period of time." (Diodorus Siculus The Library of History III, V.75.4, Oldfather, 1939, Loeb LCL 340, Harvard Univ. Press [Cambridge MA and London England]. We are using the 2000 edition where this quotation may be found on p. 303)
Diódohros Sikælióhtis also relates a story about Príapos (Priapus; Gr. Πρίαπος), similar to that of Zagréfs, relating this myth to Diónysos:
"We shall at this point discuss Priapus and the myths related about him, realizing that an account of him is appropriate in connection with the history of Dionysus. Now the ancients record in their myths that Priapus was the son of Dionysus and Aphroditê and they present a plausible argument for this lineage; for men when under the influence of wine find the members of their bodies tense and inclined to the pleasures of love. But certain writers say that when the ancients wished to speak in their myths of the sexual organ of males they called it Priapus. Some, however, relate that the generative member, since it is the cause of the reproduction of human beings and of their continued existence through all time, became the object of immortal honour. But Egyptians in their myths about Priapus say that in ancient times the Titans formed a conspiracy against Osiris and slew him, and then, taking his body and dividing it into equal parts among themselves, they slipped them secretly out of the house, but this organ alone they threw into the river, since no one of them was willing to take it with him. But Isis tracked down the murder of her husband, and after slaying the Titans and fashioning the several pieces of his body into the shape of a human figure,she gave them to the priests with orders that they pay Osiris the honours of a god, but since the only member she was unable to recover was the organ of sex she commanded them to pay to it the honours of a god and to set it up in their temples in an erect position. Now this is the myth about the birth of Priapus and the honour paid to him, as it is given by the ancient Egyptians." (Diodorus Siculus The Library of History II, IV.6.1, Oldfather in 1935, Loeb LCL 303, Harvard Univ. Press [Cambridge MA and London England]. We are using the 2006 edition where this quotation may be found on pp. 357-359)
The following quotation, which mentions Diónysos-Zagréfs, comes from the Moralia of Ploutarkhos (Plutarch; Gr. Πλούταρχος), the essay entitled The E at Delphi. This essay is presented as a dialogue. The section immediately preceding our quote presents a mathematical explanation of the inscription:
"If, then, anyone ask, 'What has this to do with Apollo?', we shall say that it concerns not only him, but also Dionysos, whose share in Delphi is no less than that of Apollo. Now we hear the theologians affirming and reciting, sometimes in verse and sometimes in prose, that the God is deathless and eternal in his nature, but, owing forsooth to some predestined design and reason, he undergoes transformations of his person, and at one time enkindles his nature into fire and makes it altogether like all else, and at another time he undergoes all sorts of changes in his form, his emotions and his powers, even as the universe does to-day; but he is called by the best known of his names. The more enlightened, however, concealing from the masses the transformation into fire, call him Apollo because of his solitary state, and Phoebus because of his purity and stainlessness. And as for his turning into winds and water, earth and stars, and into the generations of plants and animals, and his adoption of such guises, they speak in a deceptive way of what he undergoes in his transformation as a tearing apart, as it were, and a dismemberment. They give him the names of Dionysus Zagreus, Nyctelius, and Isodaetes; they construct destructions and disappearances, followed by returns to life and regenerations -- riddles and fabulous tales quite in keeping with the aforesaid transformations. To this God they also sing the dithyrambic strains laden with emotion and with a transformation that includes a certain wandering and dispersion. Aeschylus, in fact, says
Fitting it is that the dithyramb
With its fitful notes should attend
Dionysus in revel rout.
But to Apollo they sing the paean, music regulated and chaste.
"Apollo the artists represent in paintings and sculpture as ever ageless and young, but Dionysus they depict in many guises and forms; and they attribute to Apollo in general a uniformity, orderliness, and unadulterated seriousness, but to Dionysus a certain variability combined with playfulness, wantonness, seriousness, and frenzy. They call upon him:
Euoe Bacchus who incites
Womankind, Dionysus who delights
'Mid his honours fraught with frenzy.
not inappositely apprehending the peculiar character of each transformation.
"But since the time of the cycles in these transformations is not equal, but that of the one which they call 'Satiety,' is longer, and that of 'Dearth' shorter, they observe the ratio, and use the paean at their sacrifices for a large part of the year; but at the beginning of winter they awake the dithyramb instead of it in their invocations of the God; for they believe that, as three is to one, so is the relation of the creation to the conflagration." (Plutarch's Moralia, Vol. V, The E at Delphi, Section 9, translated by F.C. Babbitt in 1936. We are using the 1969 edition, Loeb LCL 306, William Heinemann [London, England] and Harvard Univ. Press [Cambridge, MA USA], where this quotation may be found on pp. 221-225.)
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