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Title: Iacchus  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Dionysus, Persephone, Eleusinian Mysteries, Chthonic, Greek mythology
Collection: Chthonic Beings, Eleusinian Mysteries, Epithets of Dionysus, Greek Gods, Greek Mythology
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


In Greek mythology, Iacchus (also Iacchos, Iakchos) (Greek: Ἴακχος) is an epithet of Dionysus,[1] particularly associated with the Mysteries at Eleusis, where he was considered to be the son of Zeus and Demeter.[2] Iacchus was the torch bearer of the procession from Eleusinion to Eleusis on the sixth day of the greater mysteries, sometimes regarded as the herald of the 'divine child' of the Goddess, born in the underworld, and sometimes as the child itself. Iacchus was called "the light-bringing star of our nocturnal rite",[3] giving him possible associations with Sirius and Sothis.

The most famous mention of Iacchus is in The Frogs by Aristophanes, where the Mystae (mystics) invoke him as a riotous dancer in the meadow, attended by the Charites, who "tosses torches" and is likened to a star bringing light to the darkness of the rites.[4]

Iacchus' identification with Dionysus is demonstrated in a variety of sources. In a Paean to Dionysus discovered at Delphi, the god is described as being named Iacchos at Eleusis, where he "brings salvation".[5] Sophocles, in the Paean in the play Antigone, names the god of the Mysteries at Eleusis as both Bacchos (Dionysus) and Iacchos.[6] The 4th- or 5th-century poet Nonnus describes the Athenian celebrations given to the first Dionysus Zagreus son of Persephone, the second Dionysus Bromios son of Semele, and the third Dionysus Iacchus:

They [the Athenians] honoured him as a god next after the son of Persephoneia, and after Semele's son; they established sacrifices for Dionysos lateborn and Dionysos first born, and third they chanted a new hymn for Iakkhos. In these three celebrations Athens held high revel; in the dance lately made, the Athenians beat the step in honour of Zagreus and Bromios and Iakkhos all together."[7]

The word Iacchos also signified the ritual cry ("Iacchus, O Iacchus!") that accompanied the festival. In Euripedes' The Bacchae, according to the translation by Philip Vellacott, the Bacchants call to dance, crying out in unison on the son of Zeus, "Iacchus! Bromius!". Bromius is another epithet of Dionysus. The Orphic Iacchus was held to have a two-fold personality comprising male and female aspects, the female of which was called 'Misa'.[8][9]

The name Iacchos was also given to one of the days of the Mysteries: the 20th of Boedromion, upon which day Iacchus was taken from his sanctuary in Athens and escorted in solemn procession to Eleusis.[10]

In Dion Fortune's novel The Winged Bull, the main character invokes the name of Iacchus when he is unsure what to call a particular god he wishes to summon.

The god is also referenced in the novel Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence. Lady Chatterley yearns for the passion felt by Iacchos and the Maenads.


  1. ^, "Cult titles of Dionysus"
  2. ^ Smith, p. 545.
  3. ^ Aristophanes, Frogs 342.
  4. ^ Harrison, p. 540; Aristophanes, Frogs 316–353.
  5. ^ Harrison, pp. 416, 541.
  6. ^ Harrison, pp. 541-2; Sophocles, Antigone 1115–1125, 1146–1152.
  7. ^  
  8. ^ Taylor, Thomas (1824). The Mystical Hymns of Orpheus. UK: Chiswick Press. p. 95. 
  9. ^ "Iakkhos". Theoi Project. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  10. ^ Harrison, p. 542.


External links

  • The Theoi Project, "Iakkhos"
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