The Museo del Prado, with the collaboration of Fundación Iberdrola España, a Benefactor of the Museum’s Restoration Programme, has restored the monumental bronze head from its permanent collection and has identified the subject as Demetrius I, a Hellenistic general and king. The sculpture is one of only a very few known surviving Hellenistic bronzes, dating from around 307 BC and an exceptional example due to its size and quality. It measures 45 cm high and would probably have belonged to a monumental statue of approximately 3.5 meters high. It is now on display for the first time since its recent restoration. This reports the Archaeological News Network.


Prior to restoration the physical state of the head of Demetrius Poliorcetes revealed its long and eventful history over the centuries as well as the signs of numerous previous restorations. In order to preserve it in the past the original surface of the work had been covered with layers of adhesives, polishes and paint.

Technical studies undertaken prior to embarking on the head’s restoration revealed important information on the casting process and on the history of this portrait. They also indicated problems of stability of both the metal in itself and the structure, information essential for establishing the aims of the restoration process and the most appropriate treatments to be employed.

The key aims of this project have been to recover the sculpture’s original surface and colour in order to make it more visually legible; stabilize and protect the materials of which it is made, particularly the bronze; and reinforce the internal structure in order to avoid structural tensions such as the ones that produced the cracks, through the design of a stable and resistant support that does not cover areas of the original surface.

The restoration process consisted of removing the resins, adhesives, protective layers and polishes applied to the surface of the bronze in the past; the correct repositioning of various fragments that had been incorrectly reattached; and the design of new and reversible supports in specific areas.

Following the work’s restoration and in order to ensure its future conservation a special support was designed, lined with buffering material and functioning to distribute the sculpture’s weight across it, thus avoiding pressure points where the work rests on it. In addition, a platform was designed with concealed handles that can be pulled out and used to move the sculpture in a safe manner without any need to touch it directly.

Identifying the work’s subject was a complex undertaking as it has no distinctive attributes or features that clearly correspond to those of a portrait. The head’s ambiguous typology varies depending on whether it is seen from the front or in profile. The frontal view corresponds to the ideal typology found in Greek art for depictions of gods and heroes, such as those created by the Greek sculptor Scopas around 340 BC. In contrast, profile views of the head reveal features characteristic of a portrait; a bulging, muscular forehead, relatively sunken eyes, an oblong face and a slightly open mouth.

Alexander the Great, who was represented as a god and a hero, was the first to employ this type of portrait, which was subsequently imitated by the generals known as the Diadochi who succeeded him. A marble portrait found with other portraits of Hellenistic rulers in the Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum and which has been interpreted as a portrait of Demetrius Poliorcetes, has the same type of monumental head as the Prado example, with a similar hairstyle and the same features, also found in another marble portrait in Copenhagen.

Following the death of Alexander in 323 BC, the diadem, a band tied round the brow to signify absolute power over Asia, became the most important emblem of the Hellenistic kings. This diadem, however, is not to be found on the present portrait of Demetrius Poliorcetes or on other similar ones. In the present day this absence complicates any identification of portraits of the Diadochi. It is possible that after the death of Alexander none of them dared to have themselves depicted in a way that resembled him.

In 307 BC, Antigonus I and his son Demetrius I, the latter aged around 30, were proclaimed kings by the Athenians, but according to the Greek writer Plutarch both avoided using the name of king as it was the only royal attribute exclusively reserved for descendants of Philip and Alexander. A year later, in 306 BC, when Demetrius Poliorcetes defeated the fleet of the Diadoch Ptolemy (367 – 283 BC) off Cyprus, the assembly of the army in Macedonia declared Antigonus I and his son Demetrius kings of Asia and sent them the diadem as successors of Alexander. In that case, the absence of a diadem on the present work suggests that the Prado bronze was created prior to that event, in 307 BC, when Demetrius Poliorcetes and his father Antigonus I were kings of Athens.
...well, I will be. Reebok Spartan Races have finally made it to The Netherlands, and I registered to do a Spartan Sprint. Since I haven't done an obstacle course before, I figured I'd best start "easy": 5 km (3 miles) running punctuated with twenty obstacles ranging anywhere from scaling walls, crawling under barbed wire, climbing ropes, hauling, dragging or carrying heavy weights, swimming in mud, and jumping over fire.


Spartan races are increasing in popularity in terms of events (170 in 25 countries this year) and participants (1 million last year) of all skill levels. In addition to the US races it designs and organizes, Spartan will usually license its international races. Those non-US Spartan races adhere to the company's brand, product and safety guidelines, and the company provides oversight, guidance and support.

Of course, the historic Spartans are primarily known for their military strength and discipline. Spartan boys were raised to be soldiers and toughened by deprivation of basic needs. The ultimate disgrace for a Spartan was surrender, a philosophy that endures today among those who compete in Spartan races. As a throwback to ancient Hellas, an announcer traditionally asks the crowd, "Who am I?" at the start of each race. The yelled response is "I am Spartan!" followed by the war cry "AROO! AROO! AROO!"

For some people, Running Spartans is a career. Winning enough of these events--especially when you add the financial rewards of sponsorship deals etc.--can land elite racers a hefty sum. I'm not in it for that. I am in it to see if I have what it takes to go through an ordeal like this. And yes, it's devotional for me too.

Traditionally speaking, dedicating activity is not a way to honor the Gods. After all, it does not relate to Them directly, does not strengthen our bond with Them and They get nothing out of it. If I run and complete a Spartan, it's not going to establish kharis. But Hellenismos is a religion of Gods and ethics. Both matter and they strengthen each other. We are called by the Theoi to practice arete, the act of living up to one's full potential. The term arete was applied to anything and anyone superior. It is linked to knowledge and wisdom as well as physical beauty. It could even be applied to an exceptionally well crafted vase, the person who made it or even the seller, who sold it for more than it was worth. Needless to say it is also applied to those who live an ethical life.

Living up to arête is not easy: it challenges up to be our best mentally, physically, and spiritually. It means taking control of our life, to become an active participant in it. To keep trying to reach your goals, no matter what setbacks you suffer. That is the exact spirit of a Spartan race: to overcome literal obstacles that might seem beyond your ability to overcome.

I beast it out in the gym, on a bike or pounding the pavement almost every day, in order to be the best physical version of myself I can be. And I will definitely be calling on the Gods before my run, as well as send Them praise once I have completed the race--because I will finish the race, no matter what. That's the Spartan way, after all.
As Hellenists, we often accept the Gods of our pantheon as a solid block, handed down through the ages as a package deal that magically came into being at the start of the Hellenistic era and did not change during it. Nothing could be father from the truth. Many, if not all members of the Hellenic pantheon were imported into it from other places or the remnants of older religions. Zeus is the Greek continuation of '*Di̯ēus', the name of the Proto-Indo-European God of the daytime sky, Hera most likely already existed for the pre-Hellenic people who moved into the area. Archaeologists suspect that Athena, Médousa and Poseidon found their origins in Libya. They came to Hellas through Crete at the dawn of Hellas. In the beginning of Her rein, Athena may have been a snake and fertility Goddess and Poseidon solely a God of horses. Aphrodite's oldest non-Greek temple lay in the Syrian city of Ascalon where she was known as Ourania, an obvious reference to Astarte. Hekate's worship most likely originated in Thrake. I really could go on and on and on.

The process by which elements of one religion are assimilated into another religion resulting in a change in the fundamental tenets or nature of those religions is called syncretism. The ancient Hellenes practiced syncretism in two ways. The first is a straight-up adoption of a deity into the pantheon by way of mythology. Dionysos is a good example. He may have been worshipped as early as 1500–1100 BC by Mycenean Greeks, but traces of Dionysian-type cult have also been found in ancient Minoan Krete. His origins are uncertain, and his cults took many forms; some are described by ancient sources as Thrakian, others as Greek. In some cults, he arrives from the east, as an Asiatic foreigner, and in some, he was simply born into the pantheon as a "late addition".

This form is what is termed "interpretatio graeca", the Hellenic habit of identifying Gods of disparate mythologies with their own. When the proto-Greeks first arrived in the Aegean and on the mainland of modern-day Greece early in the 2nd millennium BCE, they found localized nymphs and divinities already connected with every important feature of the landscape: mountain, cave, grove and spring all had their own locally venerated deity. The countless epithets of the Olympian Gods reflect their syncretic identification with these various figures. Interpretatio graeca was practiced outside of Central Hellas at a very large scale in the Archaic period.

Very roughly speaking, the reign of ancient Hellas can be divided into the periods: The Archaic period (800 BC - 480 BC), the Classical period (480 BC - 323 BC) and the Hellenistic period (323 BC - 146 BC). Before the Archaic period, there was no Hellas. As the Mycenaean civilization fell, it signaled the end of the Dark Ages. The founders of ancient Hellas founded their own script, based off of the Phoenician alphabet and small social hubs began to emerge. Because the land they lived on was divided into islands, or intercut with mountains, many of these hubs were self-governed. Many wars were fought over the next 300 years or so, as the cities Athens, Sparta, Corinth, and Thebes tried to expand their land, work force and supply of raw materials. For the Hellenic religion, this age was a formative age. The various tribes of the Dark Ages brought their Gods with them as they traveled the land and settled in different places. Various Gods with overlapping domains were worshipped in different parts of the region, forming a cohesive but unstructured whole. There are varying incarnations of Gods and Goddesses and their abilities and strength vary greatly across the land.

The Classical period is the best know period. The Classical period was the foundation of modern Western politics, architecture, scientific thought, literature, and philosophy. It was also the age of Athens; most of what we still know about ancient Hellas comes from records from this city who was at its greatest during the two centuries of the Classical period. This was also the Age of the Olympians. Many of the old Gods got merged into single personas with different epithets to accommodate local worship. This more unified faith was introduced to many of the city states and although it was never a unified whole, this was the closest the ancient Hellenic religion ever got to being a solidified faith.

The Classical period was also the time of the Decree of Diopeithes. Diopeithes (Διoπείθης) was an Athenian general who lived during the 4th century BC. Having gone through the horror of the Peloponnesian War, the Athenians, as Thucydides puts, “decided to enjoy their lives as fast as possible, giving in to pleasures, for they were convinced that life and wealth were equally short-termed. […] They believed that there is no difference between piety and impiety […] because no one believed they’d survive, and thus, the time to answer and get punished for their crimes would never come.” It was the rapid spread of immorality and uncivilized behavior that led the Athenians in 431 BCE to casting their vote for the Decree which made asebeia (impiety) illegal.

If anyone disrespected the Gods of the polis, the Decree of Diopeithes would be applied and the individual prosecuted. This is exactly what happened to Socrates: although he was deeply religious, he was sentenced for impiety and executed in 399. Next to impiety becoming a punishable offense, it became illegal to worship any Gods outside of the established pantheon. Exceptions were sometimes made, but there were a lot of hoops one had to jump through to get the building of a temple approved--especially in Athens. In the case of Thrakian Goddess Bendis, it took the decree of the oracle of Dodona to grant land for a shrine or temple in the Attic region. Although Thrakian and Athenian processions remained separate in the city, both cult and festival became so popular that in Plato's time (429-413 BCE) its festivities were naturalized as an official ceremonial of the city-state, called the Bendideia was introduced.On the fringes of the Hellenic nation syncretism was still practiced.

At the start of the Hellenic period, ancient Hellas was at its largest. Alexander the Great had conquered lands as far as Asia Minor, Assyria, the Levant, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Media, Persia, and parts of modern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the steppes of central Asia. After Alexander the Great died, there was no logical successor. He left his empire to 'the strongest' and thus his generals fought a forty year battle which resulted in four major domains. Next to those four, much of mainland Hellas and the Hellenic islands remained at least nominally independent, although often dominated by Macedon. The four domains, called dynasties, were:

The Antigonid dynasty in Macedon and central Hellas;
The Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt based at Alexandria;
The Seleucid dynasty in Syria and Mesopotamia based at Antioch;
The Attalid dynasty in Anatolia based at Pergam.

The divide of the rule of Hellas into four dynasties led to a second form of syncretism: one which showed syncretist features, essentially blending Mesopotamian, Persian, Anatolian, Egyptian (and eventually Etruscan–Roman) elements within an Hellenic formula. The Hellenic Gods continued to be worshiped, and the same rites were practiced as before. Athens, Sparta and most cities in the Greek mainland did not see much religious change or new Gods (with the exception of the Egyptian Isis in Athens), while the multi-ethnic Alexandria had a very varied group of Gods and religious practices. Wherever the ancient Hellenes went, they brought their religion, even as far as India and Afghanistan. Non-Hellenes brought Egyptian, Jewish, and a great variety of local Gods into the pantheon. A common practice was to identify Hellenic Gods with native Gods that had similar characteristics and this created new fusions like Zeus-Ammon, Aphrodite Hagne (a Hellenized Atargatis) and Isis-Demeter.

To summarize, during the formative age of the Hellenic state, many local cults were absorbed into a pantheon that solidified into the whole we are so familiar with. This pantheon was protected, especially at the heart of the nation, by decree of lawmakers, but once the Hellenic nation became too large to sustain itself and fell apart, the religion became adaptive. Wherever the ancient Hellenes lived, they saw their Gods in the local cults and thus they adopted Them when they were in great enough numbers to do so.

Syncretism is practiced to this day. Many modern worshippers are drawn to Gods outside of the  pantheon formed in Classical Hellas. In general, the rule of thumb to practice syncretism in a Hellenic fashion is to identify which Hellenic deity the external deity is closest to, to maintain the base Hellenic style of worship for this deity (Ouranic or Khthonic, for example, and by way of the usual steps to proper worship through procession, purification, hymns and prayers, and sacrifice), and then to add elements of the worship of the external deity into that practice. What these are will depend heavily upon the external deity and Their pantheon of origins, so I can't give advice on that. Syncretic practice requires a lot of trial and error to find a blend that respects both Gods and both Their cultures. This is why it's essential to link the external deity to a Hellenic one: it'll allow you to focus the worship by way of domain and/or mythology.
It's about time for another installment of the 'Beginner's guide to Hellenismos', and this time I would like to not so much address a new topic as revisit one. This post about daímones in Hellenismos will replace the old one in the guide.

The word 'daímones' ((δαίμονες)has its etymological origins in the word 'daiō' (δαίω) which means 'to divide', 'to distribute destinies', 'to allot'. For the Minoan (3000 - 1100 BC) and Mycenaean (1500 - 1100 BC), the daímones were seen as attendants or servants to the deities, possessing spiritual power. Later, the term 'daímon' was used by writers such as Hómēros (8th century BC) to describe an incorporial benevolent or benign nature spirit which provides wealth and justice to mortals.

Hesiod gives us our first glimpse into the nature of daímones as he writes about the five Ages of Man in Works and Days. In this standard work, he writes about the golden age of mortals, created by the Theoi when Kronos was still leader of the Gods. There humans lived like Gods, without sorrow and grief. They had all they desired and lived the perfect, ethical life. They died as if falling asleep and knew no pain. These mortals were called pure spirits. Even after this generation of mortal men ended, they continued to roam everywhere over the earth, clothed in mist and keep watch on judgements and cruel deeds. They became givers of wealth because that is what they knew in life and are considered guardians of mortal men. These are the daímones khryseoi: 'golden spirits'.

According to some ancient writers, the spirits of the Silver Age also became daímones: the daímones agryreoi. They were described as earth-dwelling fertility spirits who proffered mankind with rich harvests. They were inferior to the Daimones Khryseoi. The former resided within the earth, while the latter occupied the air.

Hesiod makes clear distinction between the Theoi and the daímones: the Theoi are Gods, the daímones are members of the Gold (and Silver) Age who gained immortality. This differentiation is much less pronounced in the writings of Hómēros, where 'Theos' and 'daímon' are used virtually interchangeably. Especially through Neo-Platonics, comes the placement of daímones between the Theoi and mankind. Daímones are less powerful than the Olympic Gods, with lesser domains; more concerned with the daily happenings of life than the Olympians are, but they, too, are immortal, and deserve honors. Socrates even went so far as to say that a daimon is a personal guardian spirit or the personification of a person's conscience.

Daímones are an important part of Hellenismos, but because they are so intangible--both in substance and intellectual pursuit--they seem hard to incorporate. Sorting out the confusion can be done by saying that what defines a daímones is a divine spark--and everything has a divine spark. Clearly, the Gods have a divine spark--They exist solely of it. This is why the terms "daímones" and "God" can be used synonymously. Beings born of a God and a human have a clear divine spark too--these are the heroes, but also nymphs and so called "minor" Gods. Humans also possess a spark of the divine, but we are not divine ourselves. As such, the spark is separate from us: Socrates' idea of a personal daímones that "speaks" to us. What lingers of us after death, the part of us that remains in stories and proper ancestral worship is also divine. As such, the dead are daímones too. Animals and plants, in Hellenismos and ancient Hellenes thought were not divine and did not qualify for the status of daímones.

If one wants to honor the daímones, one needs to look at them not as "daímones"--so in essence "divine"--but as what They actually are, be it Gods, heroes, ancestors, nature spirits, or even your own conscience. All have their own rituals, sacrifices, festival days and particulars to remember when it comes to worship. Consider "daímones" a category in which many types of beings fall. It's a muddled term and one that is best to avoid. Focus on the beings Themselves and honor Them as one should. It'll take the confusion out of it.

Having said that, that leaves one complication: Agathós Daímōn. On the second day of the new Hellenistic month, we give sacrifice to (the) Agathós Daímōn (ἀγαθός δαίμων, Good Spirit). It's an important practice, and the mythology, application and existence of the Agathós Daímōn is muddled. The Agathós Daímōn is a God, married to the Theia Agathe Tyche (Ἀγαθή Τύχη, 'Good Fortune'). It is also an epithet of Zeus, or linked to Zeus Kthesios and/or Zeus Melichios.

The Agathós Daímōn was always a positive in one's life, and was generally seen as the source of personal or familial good fortune. Libations of (unmixed) wine were given to Him with each newly opened case of wine, and during feasts and symposium, Agathós Daímōn received the first libation. When crossing a snake on the road, it was also customary to pour out a libation, just in case it was a herald of Agathós Daímōn, or Agathós Daímōn Himself as He was often seen as a snake.

Agathós Daímōn as the serpent household daímones who brings good fortune, honor and wealth to the oikos, was and is honor, as said, on the second day of the month. He receives libations of unmixed wine and can be asked to watch over the family, to keep honor in the family line, and to let the family name be forever remembered through the deeds of all who carried the name--yours included. One may also draft and read out a list of events and goals for the new month to the daímones, so He may help you achieve it.
The J. Paul Getty Museum has announced the voluntary return of a marble statuette representing Zeus which dates to about 100 B.C. The Museum made its decision to return the Statue of Zeus Enthroned, a 29-inch high marble statuette, following thorough consideration of information provided by Italian officials, including a recently discovered fragment of the statue.


The sculpture may originally have served as a cult statue in a private shrine of a wealthy Greek or Roman home. It appears to have spent a long period of time submerged in the sea and is partly covered in heavy marine incrustations. The Museum acquired the sculpture in 1992. Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, stated:

“The Getty values greatly its relationships with Italian colleagues in museums and other cultural sectors. The decision to return this object continues our practice of working with the Ministry to resolve issues of provenance and ownership of works in our collection in a way that responds to new information as it emerges, and respects the good faith and cultural missions of both parties.”

The ancient sculpture was returned to Italian authorities today at the Getty Center under the supervision of the Italian Consul General for Los Angeles, Antonio Verde, and with the invaluable cooperation of Armando Varricchio, Italy’s Ambassador to the United States.

“The return of the Statue of Zeus Enthroned is a vivid demonstration of the superb cooperation between the United States and Italy and our cultural institutions. It falls within the framework of the bilateral Memorandum of Understanding between Italy and the US, renewed in 2016 for the third time, and underscores our common unwavering commitment to the protection of cultural heritage.”

Consul General Verde complimented the Getty’s decision to return the object, saying:

“It is wonderful that the Getty has such a positive working relationship with Italy, both for issues like this one that involve the repatriation of works of art and for special exhibitions and loans which display Italian masterpieces at the Museum.”

This repatriation follows in the wake of a more controversial one: back in May, the United States returned stolen artifacts worth at least $90,000, dating back as far as the 8th century BC but looted and trafficked overseas, to Italy. The items include a Sardinian bronze ox and Sardinian bronze warrior from the 8th century BC, a Greek bronze Herakles from the 3rd or 4th century BC and a 4th-century BC drinking cup depicting two goats butting heads. There was also a wine jug decorated with rams and panthers dated 650 BC, a 340 BC oil flask depicting a man holding a plate of fruit and a similar flask decorated with a man holding a lyre, dating back to 430 BC.

Six of the items were seized from a Manhattan gallery in April as part of an ongoing investigation into international antiquities trafficking. The seventh object was seized from a different gallery in another part of Midtown Manhattan, US officials said.The antiquities were stolen in the 1990s from burial sites and places of archaeological significance in Italy before they were smuggled overseas.
I am very proud to announce that Mission Blue has become Pandora's Kharis' Thargelion 2017 cause!


The earth's oceans are the largest ecosystems on Earth, they are the Earth’s largest life support systems. Oceans generate half of the oxygen people breathe. At any given moment, more than 97% of the world’s water resides in oceans. Oceans provide a sixth of the animal protein people eat. They’re the most promising source of new medicines to combat cancer, pain and bacterial diseases. Living oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reduce the impact of climate change. The diversity and productivity of the world’s oceans is a vital interest for humankind. Our security, our economy, our very survival all require healthy oceans.

Yet, we're systematically destroying them. Pollution, logging, dredging, draining of wetlands, and coastal development are all factors that lead to marine habitat destruction and the death of entire species of marine life. We're reaching a tipping point. Before long, the oceans won't be able to sustain our way of life anymore. Once this happens, the earth's atmosphere will become incapable of sustaining us, and we will all die. This says nothing about the billions of animals dying a year, the tons of junk we drop in the oceans, leading to dead zones where nothing can grow, and on, and on, and on.

Mission Blue hopes to preserve the healthy ocean we have left, and restore dead zones by creating Hope Spots. Hope Spots are special places that are critical to the health of the ocean — Earth’s blue heart. Hope Spots are about recognizing, empowering and supporting individuals and communities around the world in their efforts to protect the ocean.

World renowned marine biologist Sylvia Earle introduced the concept in her 2009 TED talk and since then the idea has inspired millions across the planet. While about 12 percent of the land around the world is now under some form of protection (as national parks etc.), less than four percent of the ocean is protected in any way. Hope Spots allow us to plan for the future and look beyond current marine protected areas (MPAs), which are like national parks on land where exploitative uses like fishing and deep sea mining are restricted. Hope Spots are often areas that need new protection, but they can also be existing MPAs where more action is needed. They can be large, they can be small, but they all provide hope.

The deadline to donate is June 23th, 2017. You can do so by using the PayPal option to the side of the Pandora's Kharis website or by donating directly to baring.the.aegis@gmail.com. Thank you in advance!
Zagreus, the "first-born Dionysos," is a son of Zeus and Persephone who had been seduced by Zeus in the guise of a serpent. Zeus placed Zagreus upon the throne of heaven and armed Him with his lightning bolts, but Hera got jealous and had the Titanes dismember (and in some versions eat) Him. Zeus recovered only His heart and crafted it into a potion for Semele to ingest and thus give birth to Him as a reincarnation of the first. This myth seems to date back to a time before the version (of the birth) of Dionysos we have accepted into the general mythology of Hellenismos.

The idea of reincarnation probably dates back to the Iron Age (so around 1200 BC.). It enters the Hellenic stream of thought and philosophy around the 6th century BC, although there is mention of the theoretical subject in pre-Socratic philosophy. The ancient Hellenes most likely did not use the word 'reincarnation'; 'Metempsychosis' (μετεμψύχωσις) is a better word for the phenomenon they believed in. It is a philosophical term in the Hellenic language which refers to the transmigration of the soul, especially its reincarnation after death. The notion that the human soul enters another body upon death was widespread in Hellenic philosophy. The doctrine of transmigration is first associated with the Pythagoreans and Orphics and was later taught by Plato and Pindar. For the former groups, the soul retained its identity throughout its reincarnations; Plato indicated that souls do not remember their previous experiences. Although Herodotus claims that the Hellenes learned this idea from Egypt, most scholars do not believe it came either from Egypt or from India, but developed independently. Reincarnation in the form of transmigration was also a major feature of Orphism, and entirely unsurprisingly Zagreus featured heavily in Orphic mythology.

The Orphics were an ancient mystical cult with affinities to Indian religious systems. They believed in reincarnation and the possibility of liberation. Orpheus, the movement's legendary founder, is said to have taught that soul and body are locked together during life; the soul is divine, immortal and aspires to freedom, and during life, the body acts as a prison to the soul. Death releases the soul for a short while, but is then captured by another body until that, too, dies, and so the soul moves from body to body--both human and animal--until it can attain the highest good: liberation. In order to reach liberation, the Orphic way teaches to turn to God by ascetic piety of life and self-purification: the purer the life lived, the higher will be the next reincarnation, until the soul has completed the spiral ascent of destiny to live for ever as God from whom it comes. This is why their followers wore white, avoided places of death an birth (which are traditionally considered miasmic), and were vegetarians. Zagreus fits in perfectly with this philosophical concept.

So why Dionysos in the form of Zagreus? And why reincarnation? Zagreus was a Year-Daímōn, and reincarnation, as it appears, is the natural cycle of the world. The Year-Daímōn is a title given to any Theos or hero, whose death and rebirth are tied to the turning of the seasons. These scapegoats 'die' with the old year and are 'reborn' with the new year, setting in motion a cycle of renewal for the plant life that forms the basis of the Hellenic food supply. Dionysos is the prime Eniautos-daímōn, but Theseus, Herakles, Apollon, Odysseus, and Orpheus qualify as well, as They are--in some way--linked closely to death and rebirth, either from visiting the Underworld and leaving it, or experiencing a 'second birth' of sorts.

In this version of the myth, Dionysos is twice-born, hence his epithet 'Dimêtôr' (Διμητωρ, Of Two Mothers). Dionysos was considered a fertility God, but also closely related to nature's eternal cycle of birth and death. The ancient Hellenes considered the moment a plant--especially the grape--began to grow for the first time after being planted its first birth, and counted its second birth when it became laden with ripened fruit. As Dionysos is so closely related to to the grape vine, it was Dionysos Himself that was considered being born once from the earth and again from the vine.

Dionysos' cult focused heavily on this part of His mythology, and none more so than the Orphics. This earlier myth of His birth reaches back to  much older--possibly pre-Hellenic--'primitive' tribes which worshipped Dionysos or a God similar to Him with animal and human sacrifices which were torn apart, either before they were killed, or as a means to kill them. Most likely, these were the Thrakians. The God worshipped this way was also a God of life and death, and these sacrifices were conducted to ensure a good harvest in the coming year. This may also explain one of the retellings of the birth of Dionysos where He was torn apart by Titans.

How involved the worship of the Eniautos-Daímōn was, or how far-spread it was, is unclear. I suspect highly that the Orphic mythology and practice was focused on it, and while Orphism was a small mystery cult, it was widespread and even more widely known. Zagreus is one of Dionysos' wildest, most primal epithets and it underlay all believes about Him. It's an aspect of Him that bled into and out of Orphism and out of and into general worship. The two fed on each other, mixed and reformed--much like Dionysos Himself. Zagreus is a critical aspect of Dionysos to understand and yet, one that is most difficult to grasp. Perhaps this post has given you a glimpse.