Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Birth of Bacchus

Bacchus (Dionysus), god of wine, fertility, and ritual or religious ecstasies, was born under trying circumstances. His mother, Semele, already with child from Jupiter, was induced by a jealous Juno to insist he visit her as a god, not disguised as a mortal.

Birth of Bacchus
Naissance de Baccus, Nicolas Poussin, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA


When Jupiter appeared to her the way he really was, with lightning and thunderbolts, she burst into flames and was consumed to ashes. Jupiter sewed the baby in his thigh and when it was delivered gave him in charge to nymphs and later to be protected by Mercury.

Birth of Bacchus

Giulio Romano. Getty collection


The scene has been painted by several artists, notably Nicolas Poussin, Giulio Romano, as well as by a medieval Flemish artist.

portrait of Edgar Allan Poe
Flemish school 15th century, Moulins, Musee d’Art et d’Archeologie

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