Dionysus Temple and Cult Center

Originally built in the third century before Christ, this small, beautiful temple was remodeled by the Romans. It was approached by a twenty-five-step stairway at the end of a 770-foot terrace. Here, people worshiped Dionysus, the fertility god of the vine who was also known as the god of ecstasy, particularly because of the wine he supposedly provided and the orgies related to his worship. During festivals that celebrated him, worshipers consumed wine in great abundance and gorged on raw meat from Dionysus? sacred animal? the bull? all in an effort to be mystically joined to him.

The cult center is believed to have been located on the south side of the acropolis, near wine shops and a bathhouse. This center is eighty feet long and thirty-two feet wide. A niche for the idol of Dionysus was positioned to the right of a marble altar. Murals depicting the Dionysus practices were found in frescoes on the low walls around the room. The wine shop next door had several large, baked-clay jars buried in the floor that probably contained wine used in various cultic practices or sold to the public.

Dionysus was considered to be the source of fertility for the grapevines, and one of his symbols was the phallus. He was also viewed as the source of life, so ceremonies dedicated to him included a variety of sexually immoral practices. The cult attracted the common people because it promised eternal life to worshipers and catered to human lusts aroused by the pagan cults. Drunkenness and sexual immorality was so extreme during celebrations in Dionysus? honor that his worship was banned for a time in Rome because it was too perverted! Again, Satan created a counterfeit to take credit for the things of God: eternal life, happiness, purpose, and fertility.