< Balkan history - Thracians

Thracians gods

Eliznik home > Bulgaria > history > thracians > thracians gods

Dionysus - festive God of wine

Dionysus was, in ancient times, a dark and angry god who fertilized the great mother goddess so that the earth could be born. He developed into a more gentle festive god by the 6th century BC. The strange legends of Dionysus' birth and death and his marriage to Ariadne suggest that Dionysus had roots in the early, pre-Greek, people. Each winter Dionysus died and every spring his rebirth was marked by celebrations and lavish festive orgies. Dionysus was also the god of wine for the Thracians were drinking wine long before the Greeks inherited the practice. 

As the Greeks expanded into areas previously occupied by the Thracians, the Thracian god was adopted as the Dionysian cult from which Hellenic tragedy and comedy were developed. Later, when the Romans adopted Hellenic culture the Dionysian festivities and orgies became known as Bacchanalia and Dionysus became known as Bacchus. When Christianity was adopted in Bulgaria the church changed the names of pagan gods and holidays and Dionysus became St. Trifon.

There are some surviving references to remains of Dionysian : In early February Bulgarians celebrate by drinking wine, and in the Rhodopes climb a mountain and then drink. In some regions, and occasionally in Romania, traditional ritual figures use a giant phallus to fertilize the soil.

A silver cone-shaped pitcher suggests that the dead were initiated into the Dionysian cult, since the cone was a symbol of Dionysus.

Hero - the Thracian Horseman

The Thracian Hero, also known as the Thracian Horseman, was an abstract figure. The Hero was a central figure in Thracian religion as protector of life and health of the people. The Thracian Hero was always depicted on a horse, usually slaying an object with a spear. Stone reliefs can be seen in Bulgaria's museums originating from Thracian times, through the Roman period and into the middle ages.  The Christian church succeeded in hiding the Thracian religious altars and Gods, but the culture and rituals still continued. The Thracian Horseman was represented as St. George, on a horse slaying a dragon.

Orpheus - The Poet of Rhodope

Orpheus is the Thracian musician from the Rhodopes whose lyre playing charmed the animals, trees, rivers and rocks to dance. Tradition tells that Orpheus was the son of Calliope, the God of epic poetry, or of Oeagrus a king of Thrace, a Thracian river God, or Apollo. As well as Orpheus, the musical abilities of the Thracian and Dacian tribes were noted in ancient Greek texts, and may be continued in the strong music and dance traditions of Bulgaria, Romania and Macedonia. Orpheus' music became integrated into ancient Greek culture and so into east Mediterranean culture.

Bendis - Goddess of the moon

Bendis is the Thracian goddess of the moon with power of heaven and earth. She was the mother of the Hero, and can be equated to the Greek goddess Artimis.

Since the chariot is always a symbol of the sun god, many scholars believe that the chariot driver is Apollo - the principle god of the Tribally.


© Eliznik2005, Last updated Aug-06