Dionysus (/daɪ.əˈnaɪsəs/; Greek: Διόνυσος) is the god of the grape-harvest, winemaking and wine, of fertility, orchards and fruit, vegetation, insanity, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, festivity and theatre in ancient Greek religion and myth.
He is also known as Bacchus (/ˈbækəs/ or /ˈbɑːkəs/; Greek: Βάκχος, Bákkhos), the name adopted by the Romans; the frenzy he induces is bakkheia. Another name used by the Romans is Liber meaning "free", due to his association with wine and the Bacchanalia and other rites, and the freedom associated with it. His thyrsus, sometimes wound with ivy and dripping with honey, is both a beneficent wand and a weapon used to destroy those who oppose his cult and the freedoms he represents. As Eleutherios ("the liberator"), his wine, music and ecstatic dance free his followers from self-conscious fear and care, and subvert the oppressive restraints of the powerful. Those who partake of his mysteries are believed to become possessed and empowered by the god himself.
In his religion, identical with or closely related to Orphism, Dionysus was believed to have been born from the union of Zeus and Persephone, and to have himself represented a chthonic or underworld aspect of Zeus. Many believed that he had been born twice, having been killed and reborn as the son of Zeus and the mortal Semele. In the Eleusinian Mysteries he was identified with Iacchus, the son (or, alternately, husband) of Demeter.
Proserpina (/proʊˈsɜːrpɪnə/ proh-SUR-pin-ə, Latin: [proːˈsɛrpɪna]) or Proserpine (/proʊˈsɜːrpɪni, ˈprɒsərpaɪn/ proh-SUR-pin-ee, PROSS-ər-pyne is an ancient Roman goddess whose cult, myths and mysteries were combined from those of Libera, an early Roman goddess of wine. In Greek she is known as Persephone and her mother is Demeter, goddesses of grain and agriculture. The originally Roman goddess Libera was daughter of the agricultural goddess Ceres and wife to Liber, god of wine and freedom. In 204 BC, a new "Greek-style" cult to Ceres and Proserpina as "Mother and Maiden" was imported from southern Italy, along with Greek priestesses to serve it, and was installed in Libera and Ceres' temple on Rome's Aventine Hill. The new cult and its priesthood were actively promoted by Rome's religious authorities as morally desirable for respectable Roman women, and may have partly subsumed the temple's older, native cult to Ceres, Liber and Libera; but the new rites seem to have functioned alongside the old, rather than replaced them.
Just as Persephone was thought to be a daughter of Demeter, Romans made Proserpina a daughter of Demeter's Roman equivalent, Ceres. Like Persephone, Proserpina is associated with the underworld realm and its ruler; and along with her mother Ceres, with the springtime growth of crops and the cycle of life, death and rebirth or renewal. Her name is a Latinisation of "Persephone", perhaps influenced by the Latin proserpere ("to emerge, to creep forth"), with respect to the growing of grain. Her core myths – her forcible abduction by the god of the underworld, her mother's search for her and her eventual but temporary restoration to the world above – are the subject of works in Roman and later art and literature. In particular, Proserpina's seizure by the god of the Underworld – usually described as the Rape of Proserpina, or of Persephone – has offered dramatic subject matter for Renaissance and later sculptors and painters.