A lot of our reading in the past week has in some way or another related to Dionysus, most commonly thought to be the God of the grape harvest and wine. It’s obvious that Dionysus relates because of this, but there is a much deeper almost more intimate connection between Dionysus and the subject matter of our current reading. Dionysus is also the God of festivity and madness.
This means that not only does wine symbolize Dionysus, but the intoxication and after affects of the alcohol also represent Dionysus. It is said that at drinking parties, Dionysus is invoked because the drinkers are becoming closer to him in spirit. This is said to be the ultimate goal in madness is to become closer to Dionysus and eventually witness him spiritually while intoxicated.
There is a certain level of intoxication that needs to be reached to attain the stage of freeness and oneness that is related to Dionysus. I read a book for English last semester about a group of students who were largely devoted to the Greek culture who were determined to reach that level. The measures they went to to attempt that level were insane. They fasted for ridiculous amounts of time and used the effects of self-sacrifice religiously.
This connection with Dionysus and wine, madness, festivity, and oneness I believe was made possible by the circulation and growing dependence on wine. Merely because without wine the connections between wine, madness and festivity are hardly, if at all recognizable. Wine was most likely the beginning of festivity, well, intoxication induced festivity. And this would have been the beginning of obsession with Dionysus. There is the possibility that beer could have provided some sort of intoxication which could eventually prove to be that level of intoxication, but given that they drank beer because it had a high calorie content, which would mean that drinking it in excess and consuming more than you needed to reach your calorie count for the day would be unthinkable.