Bacchus – God Of Wine

Bacchus was the god of wine, god of fertility, the god of the banquet, so for the exhibition he’s really important. You can see in this statue he has grapes in his hair, because he was the god of the vine, he has his cup of wine, because wine was his, and he has even got down the bottom, he has got a little panther. And the reason he has a panther is because, like wine, he came from the east, he was an exotic god. The Greeks called him Dionysus, the Romans, Bacchus. And Bacchus was very important to Roman life because wine was one of the main parts of the economy. And certainly in Pompeii, when you see the shrines of the gods, when you see the statues of the gods, very often Bacchus and his followers are so important, because Pompeii was built on the wine industry. This is a fresco from a house in Pompeii and it shows here he’s so fertile he has actually turned into a bunch of grapes. He’s one of the main products of the area around Pompeii, which was grapes. He’s even giving his little panther a glass of wine. This is the only time, as far as we know, that Bacchus is shown as a bunch of grapes. He’s shown with bunches of grapes in his hair, holding them, in his basket but not actually turning into a bunch of grapes like he is here. This is very, very rare. He’s holding a sacred staff, a thyrsus, and this one of Bacchus’ trademarks. He has a cup of wine, a thyrsus, and a panther. When you see those you know you’ve got Bacchus. This fresco was originally found in a shrine. It was a shrine in the slaves’ quarters of the house, and this is very important because it reminds us that the slaves as well were part of the Roman religion, but that the slaves recognise that their well-being depended on their masters’ well-being, and their masters’ well-being in this house depended on Bacchus, depended on wine.

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