Bacchic Threat

Bacchus with an ecstatic maenad.
Wall painting from the Villa Pamphili in Rome, mid 1st century B.C.

Grotesque theater masks on a silver cup.
Hildesheim treasure, late 1st century B.C.
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The beliefs of the cult struck at the very core value of early Roman religious practices—piety. An upright way of life, coupled with constant attention to all rituals that ensured peace of mind among the ancestors was key to Roman preparation for the Afterlife. The possibility of personal redemption through mystery-laden communion with a divine power such as Bacchus threatened customary patterns of Roman worship. So any circulation of such unusual ideas among the general citizenry was most worrisome, as were rumors of mysterious Bacchic rites which were emotional to the point of frenzy and, it was said, prone to lewdness and drunken devilry:

"When the wine had enflamed their minds, and the dark night and the intermingling of men and women, young and old, had smothered every feeling of modesty, depravities of every kind began to take place because each person had ready access to whatever perversion his mind was inclined." (Livy, A History of Rome XXXIX.14)