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Page last updated on: April 4th, 2021

The Birth of Dionysus

Semele was a daughter of Cadmus, the first king of Thebes, famous for her extraordinary beauty and grace. When Zeus, the King of the gods, saw the princess, he fell in love with her.

Soon Semele became pregnant by Zeus, but Zeus' jealous wife Hera begrudged Semele's pregnancy and tried to destroy her... so one day she planted seeds of doubt in Semele's mind and made her very suspicious of Zeus' divine nature.

By this time, Zeus was deeply in love with Semele. To please her, he swore on the sacred river of the gods, Styx, to make Semele's every wish come true. Semele demanded Zeus to reveal all his dignity under his lightning and flashes.

Zeus tried to hold back at first... but he had already taken a sacred oath and was forced to obey Semele's command. So he revealed himself! Immediately, lightning appeared and everything Zeus' lightning touched shook and moved, enveloped in fire. Without a doubt, Zeus was the Supreme God of Mount Olympus.

Fire also enveloped the beautiful Semele and burned her body to death, for any mortal who would behold a deity in all her glory was cursed to die.

At this time Dionysus was still in Semele's womb. Zeus, however, managed to save the infant by binding him to his thigh. He then gave Dionysus to his messenger Hermes, who took the baby to Semele's sister Ino and her husband Athamantas. This was the couple Zeus had chosen to raise his newborn child.

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