Bacchanal: a frenzied sex ritual

Bacchanal by Auguste LevequeThe Bacchanal was a religious rite associated with worship of the Roman God Bacchus, also known by the Greek name of Dionysus. Bacchus is often euphemistically referred to as the “God of Wine”, which makes him sound genteel and sophisticated, but in fact he was the God of drunkenness, self-indulgence and decadent sexuality. Accordingly, the Bacchanal took the form of an uninhibited, drunken orgy. The Roman historian Livy wrote that “More uncleanness was committed by men with men than with women. To regard nothing as impious or criminal was the sum total of their religion.”

Over the years, many artists have chosen to depict Bacchanalian revels in their paintings. The one shown here is the work of the Belgian painter Auguste Levêque.

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