According to Euripides, it was Demeter who gave the Greeks grain and Dionysos who introduced them to wine.
Himself a god, he is poured out in libations to the gods, and so it is because of him that men win blessings from them.
- Euripides, Bacchae, 284-85
The connection between Dionysos and wine was celebrated throughout the Greek world in both public and private cult. Evidence from Bronze Age Crete links Dionysos with both wine and ivy. As early as Hesiod (c. 700 BC), Dionysos was associated with grapes and with the production of wine.
Dionysos was, in liquid form, present at every sacrifice, poured out as a libation; wineless libations in the Greek world were extremely rare. The beautifully decorated Attic red-figure plate (below) depicts a woman pouring out a libation onto an altar from a trefoil-lipped oinochoe (wine-jug).
Dionysos’ popularity is reflected by the different ways his image was used. The Athenian oinochoe (above left) is moulded into the shape of a seated Dionysos, holding out a jug of wine. Dionysos, his hair filled with grapes and ivy, decorates an antefix from the Greek colony of Metaponto in Southern Italy. It was used to cover the join in the eaves of a tiled roof.
I, Dionysos, mix up only three bowls of wine for sensible people... The fourth bowl no longer belongs to me but to outrage. The fifth belongs to arguments; the sixth to wandering drunk through the streets; the seventh to black eyes; the eighth to the bailiff; the ninth to an ugly black humor; and the tenth to madness extreme enough to make people throw stones.
- Eubulus, Fragment 93
Although Dionysos is never depicted in art or literature consuming wine, he is often surrounded by figures enjoying his gifts, including satyrs and maenads, sirens and nymphs. According to Euripides, Dionysos himself was poured out as a libation to other gods.
This south Italian oinochoe featuring a quasi-Dionysiac scene was used as a wine jug. The olpe (jug) decorated with a maenad seated below a grape vine playing a flute, was used to decant wine from larger vessels, such as this krater (wine mixing bowl), into cups for drinking. The krater itself is decorated with a Dionysiac thiasos comprising a maenad flanked by a young satyr (below right) holding a rhyton and Silenus (below left) holding a mirror.