I think sometimes the less well-read among us today confuse
Dione with Diana, but these are very separate dieties, and one I’m encountering
a lot in my current project. So I thought for this week’s Obscure Gods, I’d
shed some light on the Titaness Dione.
Dione is best known as the mother of Aphrodite. Gladstone
goes so far as to say she was simply a vehicle for the production of Aphrodite,
and he states unequivocally that she has only one child.
Her name tells us that she is a heavenly being, but we know
little enough about her stories and nature.
At Dodona, she is the wife of Zeus, with whom she bore Love.
Dione lives among the Olympians without being one of them,
remaining always a force of the older order of Titans. She makes a solitary
appearance in the Iliad, when Aphrodite seeks her out when the fighting
overwhelms the Golden Goddess and she is injured. Dione sounds a pragmatic tone
about the cruelties of war and of mankind, and heals her daughter’s pain.
Aphrodite’s sanctuaries did not include Dione, in spite of
Indeed, so little survives of Dione’s worship that
speculation abounds. Is she a water-goddess, associated with moisture? A fertility
goddess? Does she share traits of her daughter? When did she become associated
with the earth?
The bulk of the surviving documents are simply references to
the relationship between mother and daughter, or genealogies.
Hesiod speaks of a water goddess by this name, daughter of
Oceanus and Tethys, and Apollodorus speaks of a Nereid Dione. She attended Leto
during the birth of Apollo and Artemis. In vase painting, we find a nymph named
Dione, frolicking with Silenos and the other attendants of Dionysos. And
Diodorus tells us she is the mother of Dionysos.
I find myself wondering if the nymphs and the Titaness are
the same or no.
It seems that She has a long history with Zeus, and we don’t
know when she and Zeus started to share the sanctuary at Dodona. Their names
share a common root. It was a Dodona that it seems Dione was served by three
elderly oracles named the Peleiades.
All this taken into mind, Dione seems to be a Goddess of
moisture and earth, who dwells in the Grove at Dodona and who shares some
traits with her daughter, Aphrodite. She is a wife of Zeus, and associated with
the oracle of Dodona. In my mind, I see Dione aligned best with Zeus as a God
of Storms, and She the moisture hanging in the air and soaking the land when He
rains. Or perhaps She is the wet itself that He sends down into the Earth? We
simply don’t know for certain.
Birch, Samuel. History
of Ancient Pottery, Cambridge, 2015.
Ely, Talfourd. Olympos: Tales of the Gods
of Greece and Rome, Putnam’s Sons, 1891.
Gladstone, William Ewart. Studies on
Homer and the Homeric Age, Cambridge, 2010.
Gounaridou, Kiki. Euripides and Alcestis:
Speculations, Simulations, and Stories of Love in the Athenian Culture,
University Press of America, 1998.
Grigson, Geoffrey. The Goddess of Love:
The Birth, Triumph, Death, and Return of Aphrodite, constable, 1977.
Hadzsits, George Depue. “Aphrodite and the Dione Myth,” American Journal of Philology, Vol. 21-30. Johns Hopkins, 1909. p.
Homer. Iliad, trans.
Samuel Butler, Barnes & Noble, 2013.
Kraemer, Ross Shepard. Women’s Religions
in the Greco-Roman World: A Sourcebook, Oxford, 2004.
Morford, Mark P.O. and Robert J. Lenardon. Classical
Mythology, Oxford, 1999.
Housen, Jean. “View of the Archaeological Site at Dodona,” photo,
2014. Via wikicommons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:20140415_dodoni071.JPG
Roscher, Wilhelm Heinrich. “Coin showing Dione on Throne,” 2011. Via wikicommons: