The Cult Absorbed

Mosaic detail of "Baby Dionysus."
Paphos, in Cyprus,
5th century A.D.
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With their common theme of forgiveness and resurrection in death, and a meeting with the supreme deity at that time, it was difficult for erstwhile Roman pagans to truly separate the Bacchic and Christian cults from one another. Thus the emperor Constantine's own daughter, Constantina, built her mausoleum in the church of Santa Costanza in Rome and smothered its ceiling with a mosaic of Bacchic symbols while placing herself in the scene entwined with vines.

Just as pagan forces had earlier worked so hard to block the growth of Christinanity, so Christian authorities strove steadily to weaken the significance the Bacchic cult. An edict put out in Constantinople in A.D. 692 forbade public dancing, chorus singing, and mysteries, rating them as "the roots of all evils and ruin...," and "ancient customs altogether alien to Christian life...." Excommunication was threatened against any vintner who might invoke the name of Bacchus while treading his grape crop or casking his wine stock.