Inspiration: Dionysus and Ampelos

Giorgio Sommer (1834-1914) Ampelos and Bacchus

Bacco e Ampelo, Giorgio Sommer

One of the most entertaining things about writing vampires, especially if you’re a bit of a history geek like me, is drawing on all sorts of different historical inspirations. As I have a character from the 1920s, I wanted to reflect a preoccupation with classical myth, and the ideal of “Greek love” that some gay men of the time drew on to define their own feelings. The character is a sensualist, and indulges in his pleasures without much thought to morality. I took inspiration from the myths of Dionysus, and the practices of his raucous, and sometimes bloodthirsty followers, in his section. He also references the myth of Dionysus and Ampelos.

There are two different myths about Ampelos. Ampelos was a satyr youth, beloved of Dionysus, Greek god of wine and ritual madness.

In Ovid, the story goes that Ampelos fell while picking grapes from a vine hanging on an elm, and died. Dionysus lifted him up to the stars, and he became the constellation Vindemetor, the Grape-Gatherer (also known as Bootes).

In Nonnus, Ampelos was riding on the back of a bull. He boasted to Selene that he was best, as he could drive cattle and had horns. Selene, jealous of his claims, sent a gadfly to harass and chastise him. The gadlfy stung the bull all over, sending him wild. He threw Ampelos off, and gored him to death. Distraught about the death of his beloved, Dionysus transformed him into the first grape vine, and made wine from his blood.

Sources and additional art:

Ovid, Fasti

Nonnos, Dionysiaca


One thought on “Inspiration: Dionysus and Ampelos

  1. , We live and learn. My only knowledge of dialysis up to this point was Rush’s album, Hemispheres, where there is a battle between Dionysus and Apollo. My education is complete.

    Liked by 1 person

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