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The Dionysiacs in the Florence manuscript, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana , Plut, written in 1280 . 32,16, fol. 92r

The Dionysiacs ("Stories of Dionysus") are an epic written in late antiquity that describes the life and triumph of Dionysus and above all his military victories in India and his triumphs through cities in the Middle East. The author is Nonnos of Panopolis , who lived in the fifth century, probably in Egypt.

The setting of the epic, rich in epithets and metaphors , is the entire world known at the time. Nonnos bases his hexameters on stricter rules than his predecessors.


Only one copy of the text of the work has survived, the Codex Laurentianus 32.16 . The manuscript was created around 1280 and was acquired by Francesco Filelfo in 1423 . The name of the author is not mentioned in the manuscript and initially remained unknown. It was not until Angelo Poliziano (1489) and Gerhard Falkenburg (1569) assigned the text on the basis of Agathia's histories 4.23 to Nonnos of Panopolis. This origin was confirmed in 1907 by the Berlin Papyrus 10567 .

The Dionysiacs were first published in Antwerp in 1569 by Gerhard Falkenburg on the basis of a manuscript from the possession of Arsenios , who was Archbishop of Monemvasia in the 16th century . The Hungarian humanist Johannes Sambucus made it available to Falkenburg.

Another version was cataloged by Cyriacus of Ancona in 1444 when visiting the monastery libraries on Mount Athos . The manuscript, which has unfortunately been lost, seems to have been a version independent of the text preserved in the Laurentianus Codex.


Typhon (Etrurian fresco)

The Dionysiacs are divided into 48 books or chants. With over 21,000 hexameters , it is the longest surviving epic of antiquity. The number of books divided into two groups of 24 corresponds to that of Homer's great works, Iliad and Odyssey , combined. At the beginning the kidnapping of Europa , the battle between Zeus and Typhon and the mythical history of Thebes are described. Only in the eighth book is Dionysus born. This is followed by the description of the god's youth until books 13 to 24 depict his march to India and his battles there (24-40). The last books deal with the withdrawal to Europe.

The following is a summary:

1st song: invocation of the muse. Zeus kidnaps Europe. Her brother Kadmos is looking for her and helps Zeus in the fight against Typhon, who stole his lightning bolts.

2. Song: Typhon is put to sleep by the shepherd disguised by playing shawm . Zeus succeeds in retrieving the lightning bolts. Typhon is defeated and banished under Mount Etna . The gods who fled to Egypt from Typhon are returning to Olympus .

3. Song: In search of Europe, Kadmos comes to Samothrace , where Harmonia , the daughter of Ares and Aphrodite , is brought up by the Pleiad Elektra . Kadmos asks Harmonia to be his wife.

Cadmus kills the dragon ( Hendrick Goltzius )

4th song: Kadmos sails with Harmonia to Greece and brings the Greeks the knowledge of the alphabet and astrology . After a visit to the oracle of Delphi, he kills a dragon at the site of the future Thebes, from whose teeth the branches sprout, armed men who immediately fight each other.

5. Song: Kadmos founds Thebes with the five surviving divisions. He celebrates marriage with Harmonia in the presence of all gods. He married his daughter Autonoë to Aristaios . Their son Aktaion is transformed into a deer by Artemis and torn to pieces by his own dogs. His second daughter Ino married Kadmos to Athamas . Beginning of the report of the procreation of Bakchos- Zagreus , by Zeus, who attends Persephone , the daughter of Demeter , in the form of a dragon.

6. Song: Demeter, who fears for her daughter's future, lets Astraios read her fate from the stars. Warned about the threat of stalking, Persephone hides them in a cave guarded by dragons. But Zeus enters there in the form of a snake, the fruit of the union with his daughter is Zagreus, who is murdered by titans soon after the birth . Enraged by the murder, Zeus sends a deluge to earth.

7. Song: At Aion's persuasion , Zeus plans to procreate Dionysus, the second Bakchos, who is supposed to ease the difficult lot of people through the gift of wine. Hit by the arrow of Eros , he approaches the bathing Semele , another daughter of Kadmos, in the form of an eagle.

Apotheosis of Semele ( Antoine Caron , 1585)

8th song: Phthonos , the personification of envy, incites Hera and Athena to take revenge on Zeus' pregnant Semele for his infidelity. In the guise of the old nurse of Kadmos she persuades Semele to ask Zeus to show himself to her as he did at his wedding with Hera. Zeus fulfills this wish and appears before Semele surrounded by lightning, which burns her. But the unborn child is saved by its father.

9th song: Zeus sews Dionysus into his thigh in order to complete the pregnancy (see thigh birth ). The newborn Dionysus is brought by Hermes to Ino, Semele's sister, who raises him with her maid Mystis . Finally he is brought to Lydia to the mother of the gods Rhea , who becomes the nurse of the Dionysus boy. Ino falls mad at the wrath of Hera and races like Bakche through the woods of Parnassus , where she drives the Pythia and the virgins from the altar of the Delphic oracle. Eventually she is healed by Apollo .

10th song: Hera's vengeance is not yet complete. Ino and her sons Learchus and Melikertes fall victim to the madness of their father Athamas. Meanwhile Dionysus grows up in Lydia in a bucolic environment. He falls in love with Ampelos of the same age , whose beauty is depicted in rich colors.

11. Song: Ampelos decorates a bull and tries to ride it. But the bull throws him off and Ampelos breaks his neck. Dionysus falls into deep grief over the loss of his beloved. Eros tries in the form of a Silenus to comfort Dionysus by telling the story of Kalamos and Karpos . The hearing of the four seasons go to the house of Helios .

Helios (silver coin from Rhodes )

12. Singing: In the house of Helios the hearing of the seasons and the hearing of the twelve months examine the destiny of the grapevine in an astrological way and find out that it is supposed to be the plant of Dionysus. Dionysus is comforted by the transformation of the Ampelus into a vine and invents the wine that intoxicates the choir of satyrs .

13th song: Zeus orders Dionysus to undertake a campaign against the Indians in order to pave the way to Olympus. Rhea causes Pyrrhichos , one of the corybants , to raise an army. The individual divisions of the army are listed according to their peoples, residences and leaders.

14. Chant: Rhea tries to recruit gods for the army of Dionysus. Verses 17-227 contain a list. From v. 221 the departure of the army and the equipment of the individual departments are described. Hera takes the side of the Indians, who drive out the embassy of Dionysus. V. 329-410 contains a description of the following battle on the banks of the Astacian Gulf . Eventually Dionysus turns the waters of the sea into wine, making his opponents drunk and incapacitated.

15. Singing: The opponents perform all kinds of madness while intoxicated. After falling asleep, Dionysus orders them to handcuff them. From v. 169 to the end the idyllic - bucolic story of the love of the mountain shepherd Hymnos for the huntress Nikaia is described. Hymnos is rejected by the virgin huntress. He asks her to kill him to put an end to his love torments. Nikaia fulfills his request and shoots him. The god Eros is angry about the cold-hearted act and swears to submit Nicaia to the violence of Dionysus. The story takes place in the mountain forests near the Astacian Gulf.

16. Chant: Dionysus is struck by the arrow of Eros while watching Nikaia bathing. At first he pursues her as a languishing lover. When a nymph points out to him that his father Zeus did not ask long for consent to his love affairs, Dionysus changes his strategy: he turns the water of a spring from which Nikaia drinks into wine. Like the Indians, Nikaia also gets drunk and falls into a stupefied sleep in which she is raped and impregnated by Dionysus. When she wakes up, she is desperate to see what has happened to her and tries to kill herself.

Maenad with Thyrsos (red-figure bowl, approx. 480 BC)

17. Song: Dionysus moves on. He meets the farmer Brongos , whom he teaches the art of viticulture. Astraeis, the only one in the Indian army who did not drink and escaped, reports to Orontes , the uncle of the Indian king Deriades , of the army’s capture. Orontes faces Dionysus for battle. When in a single fight with the god his armor is split by Dionysus' Thyrsus , he throws himself into his sword and sinks into the river that bears his name from then on.

Song 18: The Assyrian king Staphylos hears of the approaching army of Dionysus and asks God to be his guest. At a feast in the palace of Staphylos, the Assyrians are all drunk from the wine they do not know. Staphylos tells the story of Zeus' fight with the monster Kampe . Dionysus moves on, but returns again and learns of the sudden death of Staphylos. The names of the king and his family speak for themselves: Staphylos means "vine", his wife is called Methe ("drunkenness") and the son of Botry ("grape").

19. Canto: Methe and Botrys declare themselves to be followers of Dionysus. In honor of Staphylos, funeral games with singing, lyre play and dance are held. Here defeated Oeagrus , the father of Orpheus , the Athens Erechtheus . Silenus stumbles while dancing and is turned into a river.

Hephaestus gives Thetis the shield made for Achilles (red-figure kylix, 490-480 BC)

20. Singing: The funeral games of Staphylos continue until Dionysus is reminded by a dream to continue the India march. Bakchos takes the warning to heart and moves with Methe and Botrys to Arabia, where Lykurgos , the son of Ares, rules. The still jealous Hera sends the Lycurgus an indomitable battle ax, but she sends the Dionysus Iris in the form of Hermes, who persuades him not to face the allegedly benevolent Lycurgus in arms, but in festive garb, only with the gift of wine in his hands accompanied the Bacchae. It becomes an unequal fight: the Bacchae flee into the mountains and Dionysus is forced to take refuge in the sea with Nereus and Tethys .

21st song: Lykurgos pursues the Bacchae. The bacchante ambrosia is turned into a vine. With its tendrils it wraps around and ties the almost victorious Lykurgos. The captured Lycurgus is whipped by the Bacchae, but continues to refuse to surrender to Dionysus. He is finally freed by Hera, but blinded by Zeus because of his resistance. Ambrosia is placed under the stars as one of the Hyades (v. 293f).

The satyr Pherespondos appears before Deriades and demands submission. He is mockingly rejected and returns to Dionysus, who has left his refuge in the sea. Dionysus orders the Arab Rhadamans to build a fleet and moves to India with the land army. Deriades sends an army under the command of the Thureus , which is ambushed across the Hydaspes River .

Battle of Dionysus with the Indians. 4th century Roman mosaic, Tusculum

22. Song: When Dionysus approaches the Hydaspes with his army, miracles indicate the coming of the god: rivers of milk, wine and honey well up from the ground, wild animals become tame, trees dance, etc. The Indian army wants to despair , but Hera regains her courage and warns her not to drink from any source. Dionysus is warned by a hamadryad of the enemy lurking in ambush. The next day there is a battle. Dionysus kills numerous Indians with his Thyrsos, his leaders Oiagros and Aiakos rage so among the enemy that the Hydaspes fills with dead, wounded and refugees. The model is the 21st chant of the Iliad , where Achilles' rage on the banks of the Skamander is portrayed. Nonnos himself refers to his model (v. 384ff).

23. Song: The slaughter among the Indians continues until all have fallen except Thureus. The army of Dionysus begins to move over the Hydaspes, which, however, instigated by Hera, tries to prevent them by piling up its waves. Here, too, the Iliad is the model. With a burning narthex , Dionysus sets the river on fire until the Hydaspes threatens to dry up. Okeanos , the father of all rivers, asks Zeus to save his son, otherwise he would flood the stars with his floods.

24. Song: At Zeus' command, Dionysus extinguishes the river. Now Deriades occupies the bank of the river and tries to prevent the army of Dionysus from crossing. But the fighters of Dionysus receive divine help. When Tureus reports to Deriades about the destruction of the entire army division, the Indians turn to flee. In their city they mourn their dead. The army of Dionysus, however, holds a victory meal. Leukos of Lesbos sings a ballad in which it is reported how Aphrodite once wanted to imitate Athena at the loom.

Head of Attis (marble sculpture, 2nd century)

25. Chant: The second group of 24 chants begins with a renewed invocation of the muse. Nonnos compares the deeds of Dionysus with the deeds of other heroes, including Perseus and Heracles . Then (v. 271ff) the action of the 24th song continues: The Indians continue to mourn, Dionysus has transformed the water of the Hydaspes into miraculous wine and the fighting is resting. Then Attis appears on a lion's chariot , as a messenger from Rhea: He warns Dionysus not to hesitate any further and to continue the fight, the seventh year of the war will bring the decision. He hands Dionysus a shield made by Hephaestus . Similar to the description of Achilles' shield in the Iliad, the pictorial work of the shield is also described here, including the story of the saga of Tylos and Moria .

26th song: On the Indian side, Athene appears to the war-weary Deriades in a dream in the form of the dead Orontes. The spirit of Orontes admonishes Deriades not to let his death go unavenged. Deriades takes the warning to heart and gathers his peoples. This is followed by the so-called "Indian catalog" (v. 44-349), a list of Indian peoples that is based heavily on the Bassarica of Dionysius , which is only preserved in fragments . A partly ancient, partly obscure geography is used there, with India reaching very far to the west. Such an expansion of India corresponded most closely to the territory of the Sandrocotto at the beginning of the Seleucid period.

Song 27: Now that both sides are determined to fight again, the armies are formed in the morning. Both leaders give pompous speeches. Then the battle begins. Meanwhile there is a gathering of the gods in Olympus. Similar to the Iliad, two parties are formed. On the side of Dionysus are Zeus, Apollon, Athene and Hephaestus, on the side of the Indians Hera, Demeter, Ares with his helpers Deimos (horror) and Phobos (fear) and the river god Hydaspes.

28th song: First the equipment and fighting methods of the Bacchae is described, then the description of the battle begins. Unbelievable heroic deeds are reported: a fighter named Pylos remains upright, although he is riddled with arrows and already dead, and another fighter, whose hands have been cut off, rushes unarmed among the enemy.

29. Song: The battle continues. Deriades, strengthened by Hera, fights with doubled anger, as does his son-in-law Morrheus. On the side of Dionysus, young Hymenaios stands out. Dionysus is very worried about the boy and does not leave his side, which is why an arrow aimed at him instead wounds Hymenaios in the thigh. Dionysus leads the injured boy out of battle, heals his wound and swears that he would rather lose his entire army than his lover. Finally, nightfall separates the fighting armies. Rheia sends Ares, who is fighting on the side of the Indians, a dream that pretends that Aphrodite has reunited with Hephaestus, whereupon he immediately leaves the Indian army and goes in search of Aphrodite.

30. Song: In the morning the battle continues. More heroic deeds of Morrheus are described. With Hera's help, Deriades appears so powerful that even Dionysus cannot withstand him and flees into the forest. There Athena finds him, gives him a lecture and sends him back into battle.

Megaira and the other Erinyes (illustration by Gustave Doré for Dante's Divine Comedy )

31. Singing: In order to have a free hand in supporting the Indians, Hera decides to distract Zeus. But first she goes to the underworld, where she uses a hate speech to persuade Persephone to provide her Megaira , one of the Erinyes , as a maddening secret weapon against the Bakchenheer. Then she sends the messenger of the gods Iris to Hypnos , the god of sleep, to whom Iris appears in the form of his mother Nyx , the goddess of the night. Because of the nightly carousing of his followers, Dionysus is an enemy of night and sleep, Hypnos should therefore sink Zeus into a deep slumber. As a reward, he is promised Pasithea , one of the Charites . Finally, Hera goes to Lebanon to talk Aphrodite away from her magic belt, which gives her irresistible charm.

32nd song: Hera goes to Zeus adorned with the magic belt of Aphrodite. The belt together with some beauty and magic remedies does its job and Zeus kindles with lust for his wife. While they are still holding their side dish, framed by golden clouds, Zeus is put into slumber by Hypnos. The way is now clear for Hera to deploy the Erinye Magaira. This storms with a crack of the whip and waving snake hair on Dionysus, who goes into a frenzy and assassinated his own entourage by storming through the forest. In addition, Deriades rages together with Morrheus and the returned Ares under the Bakchenheer.

Kottabusspieler (red-figure Attic cylix )

Song 33: Pasithea notices the troubled situation of the Bacchae and rushes to Aphrodite to ask her for help. Aphrodite sends the Charis Aglaia to bring Eros. When she finds him, Eros is playing the drinking game Kottabos with Hymenaios . The course of the game is described in detail. When Eros finally meets Aphrodite, she instructs him to shoot an arrow at Morrheus to divert his passion from fighting to other things. Eros does as he is told and Morrheus falls violently in love with the bakchant Chalkomede. Since Chalkomede flirts but does not listen to him, Morrheus falls into rapturous melancholy, walks lonely under the stars, while Chalkomede worries about her chastity, almost drowning herself in the sea out of caution, had it not been for Thetis to have risen from the sea and had the bakchante calmed down.

Song 34: Meanwhile, the enthusiastic Morrheus is found by his servant Hyssakos and confesses his love for the beautiful bakchantin. In the morning the battle begins again. Morrheus searches for Chalkomede on the battlefield, but initially does not find her. He captures 11 Bacchae and brings them to the city of the Indians, where they are cruelly killed. Finally, Morrheus and Chalkomede face each other, who throws a stone at Morrheus, with which she smashes the image of his wife Cheirobië on his shield. Morrheus pursues them, but cannot catch them.

35. Song: Meanwhile there was a street fight in the city of the Indians. An Indian is tempted to desecrate the bared body of a fallen bacchante. Morrheus continues to pursue Chalkomede, who asks him to get rid of his weapons. Morrheus obeys, whereupon Ares is mocked by Aphrodite because her weapons have proven to be superior to his. Morrheus tries to rape Chalkomede, but she is protected by a snake sent by Thetis. Meanwhile Zeus has awakened again. He strongly reproaches Hera and demands that she cure Dionysus of his madness with her milk. She obeys and the healed Dionysus returns to battle.

Chant 36: Based on the Iliad, the gods now intervene in the course of the battle. Ares is subject to Athena, Hera humiliates Artemis, the battle of Apollo against Poseidon is mediated by Hermes. Dionysus faces the Deriades. It transforms in rapid succession into fire, water, plants and wild animals. Finally, in the shape of a vine, he can embrace and tie up his opponent and his chariot. He threatens to strangle him, but then releases his opponent, who pleads for mercy. The war rages on, year after year. Ultimately, a sea battle should bring the decision, but a three-month ceasefire to bury the fallen is agreed beforehand.

37. Song: The funeral ceremony of Opheltes and the competitions held in honor of the deceased (chariot races, fistfights, wrestling, races, discos, archery and lancing) are described in great detail. Nonnos is based on the description of Patroclus' funeral in the Iliad.

Song 38: In the seventh year of the war, Zeus sends an eclipse of the sun and the apparition of an eagle with a snake in its claws, which it drops in the hydaspes. Hermes interprets these apparitions for his brother as a sign of his victory over Deriades and his sinking in the waters of the Hydaspes. The fall is compared to the fall of Phaeton . On this occasion, the myth of Phaeton is told in detail.

39. Song: Finally the fleet built by the Rhadamans arrives, accompanied by Lykos , one of the Telchines . A sea battle begins. Morrheus is wounded by Dionysus and has to withdraw. Finally, the Kabire Eurymedon ignites its own ship, whereupon the Indians begin to give way and flee ashore.

Heracles Astrochiton, city god of Tire (Cyprus, 5th century BC)

Song 40: Athena appears to Deriades, who is fleeing, and tells him to continue the fight. When he does that, he notices that Morrheus has disappeared and that Athena is assisting Dionysus in her true form. Wounded by his Thyrsos, Deriades falls into the Hydaspes and dies. Dionysus dismisses his army and begins the triumphant journey home with Bacchae and satyrs. He moves across the Caucasus , where he fights with the Amazons , and arrives at Tire . There he visits the temple of Heracles Astrochiton , who tells him the founding legend of the city.

Aion standing in the zodiac (Roman mosaic from Sentinum)

Song 41: Dionysus arrives in Lebanon and the city of Berytos, today's Beirut . The city and its history are described in a prize song. As a result, Berytos is a foundation of prehistoric times: under the rule of Kronos , a family of Mudborns would have settled there for the first time. Nonnos derives the name from the nymph Beroe , to whom he dedicates another prize song, in which he tells a strongly allegorical tale of the nymph's birth.

Accordingly, Beroe is born of Aphrodite over the Solons law book . Hermes, who holds the Roman law of the Twelve Tables , and Themis , the goddess of law, help her in birth. Aion wraps the newborn in the robes of Dike (justice) and Astraea , the daughter of Themis and personification of Dike, becomes the nurse and waters the baby from her breasts with wisdom and a sense of justice. Then Aphrodite wishes that her daughter would become the patroness of the most famous city of justice. Harmonia proclaims that this dignity should only be given to the oldest of all cities, but that Berytos is where the most famous of all law schools will have its place in the distant past. Indeed, from the second century onwards, the Berytus legal school was considered one of the most important in the Roman Empire.

Finally Aphrodite causes her son Eros, Dionysus and Poseidon to fall in love with Beroe by shooting them with appropriate arrows.

Song 42: Disguised as a hunter, Dionysus now pursues the nymph into the forest, but his seductive skills do not work, even when he finally reveals himself to be god, Beroe remains dismissive. Even Poseidon, who, rising out of the sea, woos the nymph in imperious openness, fails to succeed. Finally, Aphrodite proposes a competition to the two suitors of her daughter, in which they have to swear not to turn their anger against the city of Berytos even in the event of a defeat. The competition is agreed, all the gods appear as spectators, but Dionysus is already aware of the impending defeat through a bird sign.

43. Song: The two rivals prepare their retinue for battle. After each of the two has given a cheering speech, the fight breaks out. On the side of Poseidon, the sea gods fight, including Proteus and Nereus , and the rivers and seas also rise and fight against the satyrs, maenads and silenas of Dionysus. The nereid Psamathe begs Zeus to intervene in favor of Poseidon, whereupon Zeus discourages Dionysus from continuing the fight with thunder and lightning. Poseidon celebrates his marriage to Beroe, Dionysus is comforted by Eros, who soon holds out the prospect of more successful love affairs with Ariadne , Aura and Pallene . Thereupon Dionysus returns to Lydia to Rhea. Then he sets out to bring his cult to Europe.

Song 44: When he came to Boeotia , Pentheus , king of Thebes , closed the city from him. Agaue , the mother of Pentheus, dreams a warning dream, whereupon, according to the advice of Teiresias , she and her father Kadmos make a sacrifice on the Kithairon . In the meantime the whole of Thebes is seized by Dionysian frenzy, whereupon the bitter Pentheus orders Dionysus to be taken prisoner and reviled him in a boastful speech. Then Dionysus asks Mene , the goddess of both the moon and madness, for help. Mene grants him the request: Persephone sends the Erinyes, who sprinkle the house of the Agaue with the water of the Styx , bury the knife under the fir tree where Pentheus is to be torn, with which Prokne once dismembered her child and the fir tree itself with the Smear the blood of Medusa . Dionysus penetrates Autonoe , another aunt of Pentheus, and sends her to the mountains, where she can see her son Actaion as Artemis's lover.

So-called Dionysus bowl : Dionysus drives across the sea on a ship surrounded by dolphins and the vine grows out of the ship's mast; Attic - black figure - coral-red eye bowl of Exekias , around 530 BC Chr., State Collections of Antiquities, Munich .

Chant 45: Agaua and Autonoe hurry into the mountains, where they join numerous other Theban women with the Thiasos of God. Teiresias and the old man Kadmos want to do the same, but Pentheus tries to stop them. Thereupon Teiresias warns Pentheus of the power of god and tells the story of the Tyrsenian pirates and the giant Alpos , who tried to overpower Dionysus, who was roaming through his mountainous territory, by throwing boulders and tree trunks at him, but of the Thyrsus of Dionysus was pierced. The Tyrsenians had kidnapped Dionysus to sell him as a slave, but when they were at sea with the tied up supposed youth, their prisoner suddenly grew to huge size, the mast of the ship turned into a tree, the ropes into snakes, wine bubbled everywhere and wild animals appeared. The confused pirates jumped overboard and were turned into dolphins . Pentheus does not listen to the warning, but orders again to take Dionysus prisoner. Pentheus' servants find Dionysus and tie him up, but suddenly he disappears, reappears in the form of one of the servants and leads a bull in front of Pentheus, who takes the bull for Dionysus. He has the bull and the captured maenads bound and guarded, but they are soon freed by a miracle. An earthquake occurs and a fire breaks out in Pentheus's palace that cannot be extinguished.

Pentheus is torn apart by maenads (Pompeiian fresco)

Song 46: Now Dionysus appears before Pentheus in human form and persuades the blinded king to watch the orgies in the forest mountains even disguised as a woman. There Dionysus bends the top of a tree down, places Pentheus on it and lets the tree shoot up again. This observation post becomes Pentheus' undoing: the women discover him, mistake him for a lion and overturn the tree. Pentheus desperately tries to identify himself, but his mother does not recognize him either, and together the women tear him apart. Agaue returns to Thebes with her son's head, which she still takes to be the head of a hunted mountain lion. There Dionysus gives her mind back so that she can see what she has done. Autonoe also mourns the loss of her son. Moved by pity, the god gives the two sisters a forgetting drink, sends Kadmos and Harmonia to Illyria and himself moves on to Attica .

Bacchus and Ariadne ( Titian , 1520–1523)

Song 47: Dionysus comes to Athens, where he is received with an enthusiastic celebration. As a guest he comes to the house of Ikarius and his daughter Erigone . He rejects the offered milk and instead pours wine. Since Ikarios is a skilled gardener, Dionysus teaches him the art of viticulture and leaves him vine shoots so that Ikarios can make the cultivation of wine in Attica known. When Ikarios entertains his neighbors with the home-grown wine, they take the symptoms of drunkenness as signs of poisoning and kill Ikarios. When they wake up sobered the next morning, they regret the act and bury the body in a secret place. His daughter searches for his grave for a long time and when she finds it, she hangs herself in desperation. Her dog perseveres on the grave and finally causes passers-by to bury Erigone. The dog then dies on the grave. Then the souls of Ikarios, Erigone and the dog were placed under the stars.

Then Dionysus moves on to Naxos , where he finds Ariadne , who was just abandoned by Theseus, sleeping on the beach . Overwhelmed by her beauty, he appears to her as God, offers her his love and marries her. Then he moves to Argos . There Hera incites the residents to reject the god with abusive words and insulting comparisons with the hero Perseus, who is revered in Argos . Then Dionysus drives the Argives mad, so that they kill their own children in their frenzy. Finally there is a fight between Perseus and Dionysus. He can avert the petrifying effect of the head of Medusa carried with him by using a diamond , but Ariadne is petrified. When the embittered Dionysus made preparations to massacre all the Argives, he is stopped by Hermes, who points out to him that it was the fate of Ariadne to be petrified by Perseus and then placed under the stars.

Song 48: In the last song, Dionysus moves on to Thrace . There he fights against the giants, which he breaks off because it is determined that they should only fall in the Gigantomachy by the lightning of Zeus. He then defeats Pallene , the daughter of King Sithon, in a wrestling match and thus wins her as his wife. Then he moves on to Phrygia, where the hunting ground of the goddess Aura is on the Dindymon mountains . Artemis once mocked her because of her feminine forms. As a revenge, Artemis caused Aura to lose her virginity and become a mother herself. Similar to the Nikaia episode in the 15th and 16th song, Dionysus is hit by the arrow of Eros, initially pursues the goddess in vain, but is then able to overpower her with the help of a wine spring carved out of the rock. Aura drinks from the spring and falls into deep sleep. Dionysus ties up and rapes the sleeping woman, then he runs away. When Aura awakens and becomes aware of what has happened, she falls into despair and frenzy, slays everyone she meets and desecrates the temple of Aphrodite . Eventually she notices that she is also pregnant. In the wilderness she gives birth to a pair of twins, kills one child, but the other is rescued by Artemis and brought to Athens by order of Dionysus, where it is suckled by Athena and henceforth appears in the mysteries of Eleusis as the divine child of Iakchos . Finally, Dionysus also places Ariadne's wreath under the stars and climbs up to Olympus himself , where he now lives among the gods.


Text output

  • Gerart Falkenburg (Ed.): Dionysiaca, nunc primum in lucem edita, ex bibliotheca Joannis Sambuci pannonii. Cum lectionibus & conjecturis Gerarti Falkenburgii Noviomagi & Indice copioso. Christophe Plantin, Antwerp 1569.
  • Marie-Louis Jean André Charles, le Comte de Marcellus (ed.): Nonnos de Panopolis. Les Dionysiaques, ou Bacchus, poème grec en XLVIII chants. Firmin-Didot frères, Paris 1856. Greek text and French prose translation.
  • Christian Friedrich Gräfe (Ed.): Nonni Panopolitae Dionysiaccorum libri XLVIII. Suis et aliorum conjecturis emendavit et illustravit Fridericus Graefe. Vogel, Leipzig 1819 a. 1826.
  • Hermann Köchly (Ed.): Dionysiacorum libri 48. Teubner 1857–58.
  • Arthur Ludwich (Ed.): Nonni Panopolitani Dionysiaca. 2 vols. Teubner, Leipzig 1909 a. 1911
  • Rudolf Keydell (Ed.): Nonni Panopolitani Dionysiaca. Weidmann, Berlin 1959.
  • Francis Vian (Ed.): Nonnos de Panopolis: Les Dionysiaques , 19 vols., Paris 1976-2006 (complete edition and French translation)


  • Nonnu Panopolitu Dionysiaka. Nunc denuo in lucem edita, et Latine reddita per Eilhardvm Lvbinvm Poëseos in Academia Rostochina professorem. Ex Bibliotheca Ioannis Sambvci Pannonij. Cum lectionibus, & coniecturis Gerarti Falkenbvrgii Nouiomagi, & Indice copioso. Marnius & Aubrius, Hanover 1605. Verse translation in Latin hexameters by Eilhard Lubinus .
  • Friedrich Graefe (translator): Nonnu tu Panopolitu ta kata 'ymnon kai nikaian. The Nonnos Hymnos and Nikaea. Pluchart, St. Petersburg 1813. Versatility. Text in Greek and German.
  • Marie-Louis Jean André Charles, le Comte de Marcellus (ed.): Nonnos de Panopolis. Les Dionysiaques, ou Bacchus, poème grec en XLVIII chants. Firmin-Didot frères, Paris 1856. Greek text and French prose translation.
  • The Dionysiacs of Nonnos . Translated into German by Thassilo von Scheffer . 2 volumes, Bruckmann, Munich 1929 and [completed] 1933; 2nd, revised and reviewed edition. Dieterich, Wiesbaden 1953. Translation in hexameters.
  • Nonnos. Works in two volumes. Translated from the Greek and edited by Dietrich Ebener . Aufbau-Verlag, Berlin / Weimar 1985. (Library of Antiquity).


chronologically descending

  • Herbert Bannert , Nicole Kröll: Nonnus of Panopolis in Context II: Poetry, Religion, and Society. Proceedings of the International Conference on Nonnus of Panopolis, 26th - 29th September 2013, University of Vienna, Austria. Brill, Leiden / Boston 2017, ISBN 90-04-31011-8 .
  • Domenico Accorinti: Brill's Companion to Nonnus of Panopolis. Brill, Leiden / Boston 2016, ISBN 978-90-04-31011-7 .
  • Berenice Verhelst: Direct Speech in Nonnus' Dionysiaca. Narrative and rhetorical functions of the characters' varied "and" many-faceted "words. Brill, Leiden / Boston 2016, ISBN 978-90-04-32589-0 .
  • Nicole Kröll: The youth of Dionysus. The Ampelos episode in the Dionysiacs of the Nonnos of Panopolis. De Gruyter, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-11-041205-5 .
  • Nina Aringer: Nonnos of Panopolis. Sources and models of the Pentheus chants of the Dionysiacs. (Diss.) Vienna 2002.
  • Wolfgang Fauth : Eidos poikilon: on the subject of metamorphosis and on the principle of change from the contrast in the Dionysiacs of Nonnos of Panopolis. Hypomnemata Vol. 66. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1981. ISBN 3-525-25162-9
  • Barbara Abel-Wilmanns: The narrative structure of the Dionysiacs of the Nonnos of Panopolis. Dissertation Univ. Bochum, Dept. f. Philology. European University Writings Series 15: Classical Languages ​​and Literature Vol. 11. Lang, Frankfurt + Bern 1977. ISBN 3-261-02395-3
  • Maria Blumentritt / Werner Peek (Hrsg.): Lexicon to the Dionysiacs of Nonnos. Published by the staff of the Classical Philology Department of the Oriental and Classical Studies Section at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. Olms, Hildesheim 1975.
  • Joachim-Friedrich Schulze : Investigations into the erotic narratives in the Dionysiaka of the Nonnos of Panopolis. Habilitation thesis Jan. 28, 1970. Philosophical faculty of the University of Halle.
  • Werner Peek: Critical and explanatory contributions to the Dionysiacs of Nonnos. Treatises of the German Academy of Sciences, Class for Languages, Literature and Art 1969.1. Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1969.
  • Werner Peek (Ed.): Lexicon to the Dionysiacs of Nonnos. Published by a working group of the Institute for Classical Philology at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. Olms, Hildesheim 1968-1975.
  • Martin String: Investigations into the style of the Dionysiaka of the Nonnos of Panopolis. Diss. Phil. Faculty of the University of Hamburg from Feb. 4, 1966.
  • Gennaro D'Ippolito : Studi Nonniani. L'epillio delle Dionisiache. Palermo 1964. With a bibliography. Review of: Rudolf Keydell , in: Gnomon 38, 1966, 25–29.
  • Joachim-Friedrich Schulze: The story of Hymnos and Nikaia in Nonnos' Dionysiaka book 15, 169-422. Phil. Faculty of the University of Halle from April 29, 1961.
  • Viktor Stegemann : Astrology and Universal History. Studies and interpretations of the Dionysiacs of the Nonnos of Panopolis. Studies on the history of the ancient worldview and Greek science, Vol. 9. Teubner, Leipzig 1930.
  • Franz Braun: Hymns by Nonnos of Panopolis. Dissertation Koenigsberg 1915.
  • Arthur Ludwich : Contributions to the criticism of the Nonnus. 1873.
  • Gottfried Kinkel : The transmission of the paraphrase of the Gospel Johannis von Nonnos. 1st issue. Report on the Codex Florentinus and the Codex Venetus. J. Herzog, Zurich 1870.
  • Reinhold Köhler: About the Dionysiacs of the Nonnus of Panopolis. Pfeffer, Halle 1853.
  • Sergej Semenovič Uvarov: Nonnos of Panopolis the poet. A contribution to the history of Greek poetry. Pluchart, St. Petersburg 1842

Web links

Wikisource: Nonnos of Panopolis  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. See the edition by A. Ludwich 1909.
  2. ^ Excerpt from the catalog in MS Vat. Lat. 5250 2 fol. 19v. See also: Aubrey Diller : A Lost Manuscript of Nonnus' Dionysiaca. Classical Philology Vol. 48, No. 3, (July 1953), p. 177
  3. The verse numbers of the individual chants are:
    1: 534 - 2: 712 - 3: 444; 4: 463-5: 621-6: 388; 7: 368-8: 418-9: 321; 10: 430-11: 521-12: 397; 13: 568-14: 437-15: 422; 16: 405-17: 397-18: 368; 19: 348-20: 404-21: 345; 22: 401-23: 320-24:348; 25: 572-26: 378-27: 341; 28: 330-29: 381-30: 326; 31: 282-32: 299-33: 387; 34: 358-35: 391-36: 480; 37: 778-38: 434-39:407; 40: 580-4: 427-42: 542; 43: 449-44: 318-45: 358; 46: 369 - 47: 741 - 48: 978 - a total of 21,286, including 21,382 verses with dedicatory letters.
  4. Sotera Fornaro: Nonnos. In: The New Pauly (DNP). Volume 8, Metzler, Stuttgart 2000, ISBN 3-476-01478-9 , Sp. 995-998.
  5. 5th Canto 21.233ff
  6. 18th song
  7. Chants 20 and 21
  8. 25th song
  9. Verses 411-574. See also: The Hymn to Heracles Astrochiton. In: Wolfgang Fauth: Helios Megistos. On the syncretistic theology of late antiquity. Brill, Leiden et al. 1995, ISBN 90-04-10194-2 . Pp. 165-183