* Keep it simple, stupid!
I have the greatest respect for the Economic Times as a news paper- though I believe my mother peruses it to a far greater extent than I ever did or will do. The Sunday edition of the paper has a last page section titled ‘feel smart’- full of factoids that can help people feel and come across as smarter. The cocktail conversations column deals with differentiating two very similar subjects. I do normally glance through this out of curiosity but have at times felt that the the differentiation between certain subjects was often a bit forced. Geek Vs Nerd for example. But then, I don’t really know much and there is apparently a difference between a geek and a nerd which only a geek would know or maybe a nerd but I am getting away from the point.
So when last Sunday I looked through the column and found a ‘Dionysus vs Bacchus‘ differentiation I went “Ah ha!”. I have a penchant for classics and assume under normal circumstances that I know slightly more about Roman civilisation than the person sitting next to me. And this made me give this column a more detailed scrutiny than usual. More so because in my limited wisdom there was technically no difference between Dionysus and Bacchus except that the latter was the Roman version of the former. However I first doubt my source of information before doubting a newspaper so I turned to the Goddess of Wisdome aka Google and typed “Bacchus” hoping to see something I had missed in my few years of Amateur Classical Scholarship. Instead what I got was this
I should have stopped right then and said “I rest my case!” but I know that Wikipedia is hardly considered the highpoint of scholarship and so I did my own research.
In his two columned article Yusuf Begg charts out the differences between the two- supremely hard work considering there isn’t much. So what we end up with is finally this
(a) Bacchus is fat and drank whereas Dionysus is slightly more sophisticated (how slight is left to our imagination)
(b) Dionysus is the son of Zeus and Semele whereas Bacchus is the son of Semele and hold your breath …Jupiter, the Roman version of Zeus as mentioned by Begg (am I allowed to snort?)
(d) Dionysus is the God of fertility and wine, untamed energy, freedom and link to primal forces. Bacchus is the God of wine and merriment- patron of stag or off site parties apparently.
(e) Dionysus is the source for the name Dennis whereas Bacchus is the source for the name…umm…Bacchus? (ok I made that up!)
We are strongly warned that “to say he (Bacchus) is the Roman version of Dionysus would be simplistic“. So the father is a Roman version of a Greek God but the son cannot be a Roman version of a Greek version (too many versions I know)?
Herein lies the problem with our modern lives- we love to complicate things that are simple- making mountains out of molehills, creating complex apps for things we never needed and so on. I guess papers have to have articles and hence a difference between Dionysus and Bacchus had to be made and seriously how many people are going to remember the difference between the two at the end of the day (and rightly so?)
There are many scholars of classics who in fact do not differentiate between the two and refer to both as Dionysus contrary to what Begg mentions in his article. Cities such as Pompeii had multiple depictions of Dionysus/ Bacchus and we do not see a fat vs slightly sophisticated Demigod versions.
The Greeks had numerous colonies in Italy and Roman culture and civilisation looked up to and derived a lot from Greek civilisation. Often the local Italic tribes associated their Gods with those of the Greek pantheon which led to the equation of Zeus to Jupiter, Athena to Minerva, Aphrodite to Venus and so on. Similarly Bacchus was just one of the versions of the God who was called Dionysus by the Greeks. There were also other versions of the same God- Liber, Sabazius etc., all leading on the themes of wine, fertility, primal energy and liberation from inhibitions Cultural proximity between the different tribes in the region ensured that most of them had similar Gods which facilitated this equation.
What we have to realise is this – Sometimes the simple version is the true version. And woe to the person who tries to start a conversation with me about the Dionysus- Bacchus difference!