THE LEGEND OF DIONYSUS – The arrival of the vines in Sicily
As we well know, the ancient Greeks, and then the Romans, loved myths and legends – myths and legends that were recorded by the eminent poets and philosophers of their time, and who remain fundamental to western culture today, including Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, just to name a few.
Their narratives touched upon weakness and virtue, nobility and gods, and depicted women and men who confronted wars and adventures, whether for passion or simply in search of a better understanding of the mysteries of the world and this life.
According to some of these legends, it was jealousy that precipitated the arrival of grapevines in Sicily. Zeus, the father of the gods, and always on the lookout for new love interests, fell for Armonia, a beautiful young maiden. It was his wife Hera who, upon learning of this betrayal, went straight for the counterattack, transforming herself into the young maiden’s food, and convincing the young girl to ask Zeus to appear to her in all of his majestic splendor with which he ruled Olympus.
Armonia was already pregnant when, between claps of thunder, and flashes of lightning, Zeus appeared. The glorious sight was too much for her to bear, and the strength of her emotion caused her to give birth prematurely, shedding light on a most breathtakingly beautiful baby boy.
At that moment, Zeus recognized the foul play, and immediately sewed the infant to one of his legs, completing the gestation period much as an incubator would, and for this reason, the child was called “Dionysus,” that is, the son of Zeus, the god of fertility, joy, and well-being. Dionysus decided to leave the Ellade and escape to Sicily, bringing a grape vine with him. As he was undertaking a long sea voyage, and needed to protect the small plant from the elements, he first placed it inside the bone of a bird, and later inside that of a lion, and since it kept growing, he finally placed it in the bone of a donkey. Thus was born the first ancient rule of drinking, and which is still worth remembering today: “A good glass of wine makes you light as a bird, another drink and you are courageous as a lion, but when you exaggerate with wine, you end up an ass!.” Upon his arrival in Sicily, Dionysus planted the first vineyard at Naxos, just below Taormina, the first Greek colony.