I got scammed today. Doesn’t happen that often. It was on twitter, and a very respectable person tweeted:
From his blood, Dionysus created the first grapes and so the drinking of wine was the drinking of the God’s blood. It’s not the only parallel between Dionysus and later religious figures.
Of course I was all over this, and replied:
Does any ancient source make this link… drinking the god’s blood? (I can just see the headbangers incoming….!)
To which my friend replied:
How about Euripides?
“Next came Dionysus, the son of the virgin, bringing the counterpart to bread: wine & the blessings of life’s flowing juices. His blood, the blood of the grape, lightens the burden of our mortal misery. Though himself a God, it is his blood we pour out to offer thanks to the Gods” (Bacchae)
Well, there’s no arguing with that; and I expressed my thanks. Until a kindly stranger butted in and asked:
Why does your translation replace the name “Semele” with “virgin”?
Silly me, not to check. I googled, and quickly found the translation above given by “quote” sites; and also, ominously, by Christian-hating crank Tom Harpur in his 2007 book Water into Wine, p.125 (or so I find from Google Books).
At this point, as any of us might, and I should have done first, I reached for Perseus. I quickly found the quote in the English, part of the speech by Tiresias in Bacchae line 266 here:
This new god, whom you ridicule, I am unable to express how great he will be throughout Hellas. For two things, young man,  are first among men: the goddess Demeter—she is the earth, but call her whatever name you wish; she nourishes mortals with dry food; but he who came afterwards, the offspring of Semele, discovered a match to it, the liquid drink of the grape, and introduced it  to mortals. It releases wretched mortals from grief, whenever they are filled with the stream of the vine, and gives them sleep, a means of forgetting their daily troubles, nor is there another cure for hardships. He who is a god is poured out in offerings to the gods,  so that by his means men may have good things.
οὗτος δ᾽ ὁ δαίμων ὁ νέος, ὃν σὺ διαγελᾷς,
οὐκ ἂν δυναίμην μέγεθος ἐξειπεῖν ὅσος
καθ᾽ Ἑλλάδ᾽ ἔσται. δύο γάρ, ὦ νεανία,
275) τὰ πρῶτ᾽ ἐν ἀνθρώποισι: Δημήτηρ θεά–
γῆ δ᾽ ἐστίν, ὄνομα δ᾽ ὁπότερον βούλῃ κάλει:
αὕτη μὲν ἐν ξηροῖσιν ἐκτρέφει βροτούς:
ὃς δ᾽ ἦλθ᾽ ἔπειτ᾽, ἀντίπαλον ὁ Σεμέλης γόνος
βότρυος ὑγρὸν πῶμ᾽ ηὗρε κεἰσηνέγκατο
280) θνητοῖς, ὃ παύει τοὺς ταλαιπώρους βροτοὺς
λύπης, ὅταν πλησθῶσιν ἀμπέλου ῥοῆς,
ὕπνον τε λήθην τῶν καθ᾽ ἡμέραν κακῶν
δίδωσιν, οὐδ᾽ ἔστ᾽ ἄλλο φάρμακον πόνων.
οὗτος θεοῖσι σπένδεται θεὸς γεγώς,
285) ὥστε διὰ τοῦτον τἀγάθ᾽ ἀνθρώπους ἔχειν.
Which clearly indicates that Semele, not “virgin”, is given; that there is no reference to wine as the blood of Dionysus; rather that the wine itself is the god, not his blood.
So where did the original quotation come from? I found an attribution here: to Michael Cacoyannis, a film maker. It looks as if Mr Cacoyannis took liberties in order to sell his film! His translation was published in 1987. I’ve not been able to access it to verify the quote, but I do believe it. Sadly the link is for an Indiana University class; which suggests that the university has fallen for this one too.
You have to be so careful, don’t you?