“And what’s this nonsense about him slaying Giants? He’s a peaceful, fun-loving God – during the Gigantomachia all he did was ride in on the back of a donkey. The animal brayed and it frightened the sons of Gaia. His ass is more valorous than he is.”
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Apollodoros, Bibliotheca 1.37
In the War of the Giants Dionysos slew the Giant Eurytos with his thyrsos.
Arnobius of Sicca, Against the Heathen 5.5-6
In him there had been resistless might, and a fierceness of disposition beyond control, a lust made furious, and derived from both sexes. He violently plundered and laid waste; he scattered destruction wherever the ferocity of his disposition had led him; he regarded not Gods nor men, nor did he think anything more powerful than himself; he contemned earth, heaven, and the stars. Now, when it had been often considered in the councils of the Gods, by what means it might be possible either to weaken or to curb his audacity, Liber, the rest hanging back, takes upon himself this task. With the strongest wine he drugs a spring much resorted to by Acdestis where he had been wont to assuage the heat and burning thirst roused in him by sport and hunting. Hither runs Acdestis to drink when he felt the need; he gulps down the draught too greedily into his gaping veins. Overcome by what he is quite unaccustomed to, he is in consequence sent fast asleep. Liber is near the snare which he had set; over his foot he throws one end of a halter formed of hairs, woven together very skilfully; with the other end he lays hold of his privy members. When the fumes of the wine passed off, Acdestis starts up furiously, and his foot dragging the noose, by his own strength he robs himself of his sex; with the tearing asunder of these parts there is an immense flow of blood; both are carried off and swallowed up by the earth; from them there suddenly springs up, covered with fruit, a pomegranate tree.
Diodoros Sikeliotes, Library of History
[3.71.3] As for Kronos, the myth relates, after his victory he ruled harshly over these regions which had formerly been Ammon’s, and set out with a great force against Nysa and Dionysos. Now Dionysos, on learning both of the reverses suffered by his father and of the uprising of the Titans against himself, gathered soldiers from Nysa, two hundred of whom were foster-brothers of his and were distinguished for their courage and their loyalty to him; and to these he added from neighbouring peoples both the Libyans and the Amazons, regarding the latter of whom we have already observed that it is reputed that they were distinguished for their courage and first of all campaigned beyond the borders of their country and subdued with arms a large part of the inhabited world.
[3.71.4] These women, they say, were urged on to the alliance especially by Athena, because their zeal for their ideal of life was like her own, seeing that the Amazons clung tenaciously to manly courage and virginity. The force was divided into two parts, the men having Dionysos as their general and the women being under the command of Athena, and coming with their army upon the Titans they joined battle. The struggle having proved sharp and many having fallen on both sides, Kronos finally was wounded and victory lay with Dionysos, who had distinguished himself in the battle.
[3.71.5] Thereupon the Titans fled to the regions which had once been possessed by Ammon, and Dionysos gathered up a multitude of captives and returned to Nysa. Here, drawing up his force in arms about the prisoners, he brought a formal accusation against the Titans and gave them every reason to suspect that he was going to execute the captives. But when he got them free from the charges and allowed them to make their choice either to join him in his campaign or to go scot free, they all chose to join him, and because their lives had been spared contrary to their expectation they venerated him like a God.
[3.71.6] Dionysos, then, taking the captives singly and giving them a libation (spondê) of wine, required of all of them an oath that they would join in the campaign without treachery and fight manfully until death; consequently, these captives being the first to be designated as “freed under a truce” (hypospondoi), men of later times, imitating the ceremony which had been performed at that time, speak of the truces in wars as spondai.
[3.72.3] Near this city an earth-born monster called Campê, which was destroying many of the natives, was slain by him, whereby Dionysos won great fame among the natives for valour. Over the monster which he had killed he also erected an enormous mound, wishing to leave behind him an immortal memorial of his personal bravery, and this mound remained until comparatively recent times.
[3.72.4] Then Dionysos advanced against the Titans, maintaining strict discipline on his journeyings, treating all the inhabitants kindly, and, in a word, making it clear that his campaign was for the purpose of punishing the impious and of conferring benefits upon the entire human race. The Libyans, admiring his strict discipline and high-mindedness, provided his followers with supplies in abundance and joined in the campaign with the greatest eagerness.
[3.72.5] As the army approached the city of the Ammonians, Kronos, who had been defeated in a pitched battle before the walls, set fire to the city in the night, intending to destroy utterly the ancestral palace of Dionysos, and himself taking with him his wife Rhea and some of his friends who had aided him in the struggle, he stole unobserved out of the city. Dionysos, however, showed no such a temper as this; for though he took both Kronos and Rhea captive, not only did he waive the charges against them because of his kinship to them, but he entreated them for the future to maintain both the good-will and the position of parents towards him and to live in a common home with him, held in honour above all others.
Diodoros Sikeliotes, Library of History 4.15.1
Zeus gave the name of Olympian only to those Gods who had fought by his side, in order that the courageous, by being adorned by so honourable a title, might be distinguished by this designation from the coward; and of those who were born of mortal women he considered only Dionysos and Herakles worthy of this name.
Harpokration, Lexicon of the Ten Orators
Apomatton (wiping off): Demosthenes in For Ktesiphon. Some understand it plainly for ‘wiping away’ and ‘cleaning oneself,’ but others more elaborately, as ‘plastering clay and bran on those being initiated,’ as we say ‘to wipe the statue with clay’: for they used to anoint with clay and bran the initiates, imitating the stories told in myths according to some, that the Titans hurt Dionysos by plastering themselves with gypsum to avoid being recognized. (They say) that then this custom has ceased, but that later people smeared themselves with mud for tradition’s sake. Sophokles in Aichmalotides: ‘purifier of the army and experienced in rites of cleaning’ and again: ‘and most skilled wiper-off of great misfortunes.’
Horace, Odes 2.19
I saw Bacchus on distant cliffs – believe me,
O posterity – he was teaching songs there,
and the Nymphs were learning them, and all
the goat-footed Satyrs with pointed ears.
Evoe! My mind fills with fresh fear, my heart
filled with Bacchus, is troubled, and violently
rejoices. Evoe! Spare me, Liber,
dreaded for your mighty thyrsus, spare me.
It’s right to sing of the willful Bacchantes,
the fountain of wine, and the rivers of milk,
to sing of the honey that’s welling,
and sliding down from the hollow tree-trunks:
It’s right to sing of your bride turned Goddess, your
Ariadne, crowned among stars: the palace
of Pentheus, shattered in ruins,
and the ending of Thracian Lycurgus.
You direct the streams, and the barbarous sea,
and on distant summits, you drunkenly tie
the hair of the Bistonian women,
with harmless knots made of venomous snakes.
When the impious army of Giants tried
to climb through the sky to Jupiter’s kingdom,
you hurled back Rhoetus, with the claws
and teeth of the terrifying lion.
Though you’re said to be more suited to dancing,
laughter, and games, and not equipped to suffer
the fighting, nevertheless you shared
the thick of battle as well as the peace.
Cerberus saw you, unharmed, and adorned
with your golden horn, and, stroking you gently,
with his tail, as you departed, licked
your ankles and feet with his triple tongue.
Hyginus, Astronomica 2.23.2;4
In one part of the constellation are certain stars called Asses, pictured on the shell of the Crab by Liber with two stars only. For Liber, when madness was sent upon him by Juno, is said to have fled wildly through Thesprotia intending to reach the oracle of Dodonaean Jove to ask how he might recover his former sanity. When he came to a certain large swamp which he couldn’t cross, it is said two asses met him. He caught one of them and in this way was carried across, not touching the water at all. So when he came to the temple of Dodonaean Jove, freed at once from his madness, he acknowledged his thanks to the asses and placed them among the constellations.
According to Eratosthenes, another story is told about the Asses. After Jupiter had declared war on the Giants, he summoned all the Gods to combat them, and Father Liber, Vulcan, the Satyrs, and the Sileni came riding on asses. Since they were not far from the enemy, the asses were terrified, and individually let out a braying such as the Giants had never heard. At the noise the enemy took hastily to flight, and thus were defeated.
Lucian, On the Dance 79
The Bacchic dance, practiced mainly in Ionia and the Pontic region, although it is a Satyr dance, has taken possession of the people there to such an extent that at the appointed time everyone comes, forgetting everything else, and spends all day sitting watching Titans, Corybantes, Satyrs, and Boukoloi.
Maximus of Tyre, Philosophumena 4.4.5
But consider also the work of the man from Syros: Zen and Chthonie and Eros between them, and the birth of Ophioneus and the battle of the Gods and the Tree and the Robe.
Nonnos, Dionysiaka 1.18
With ivy-wreathed spear Dionysos destroyed the horrid hosts of serpent-haired Giants.
Nonnos, Dionysiaka 6.155 ff
Zagreus the horned baby, who by himself climbed upon the heavenly throne of Zeus and brandished lightning in his little hand, and newly born, lifted and carried thunderbolts in his tender fingers for Zeus meant him to be king of the universe. But he did not hold the throne of Zeus for long. By the fierce resentment of implacable Hera, the Titans cunningly smeared their round faces with disguising chalk (titanos), and while he contemplated his changeling countenance reflected in a mirror they destroyed him with an infernal knife. There where his limbs had been cut piecemeal by the Titan steel, the end of his life was the beginning of a new life as Dionysos. He appeared in another shape, and changed into many forms: now young like crafty Kronides shaking the aegis-cape, now as ancient Kronos heavy-kneed, pouring rain. Sometimes he was a curiously formed baby, sometimes like a mad youth with the flower of the first down marking his rounded chin with black. Again, a mimic lion he uttered a horrible roar in furious rage from a wild snarling throat, as he lifted a neck shadowed by a thick mane, marking his body on both sides with the self-striking whip of a tail which flickered about over his hairy back. Next, he left the shape of a lion’s looks and let out a ringing neigh, now like an unbroken horse that lifts his neck on high to shake out the imperious tooth of the bit, and rubbing, whitened his cheek with hoary foam. Sometimes he poured out a whistling hiss from his mouth, a curling horned serpent covered with scales, darting out his tongue from his gaping throat, and leaping upon the grim head of some Titan encircled his neck in snaky spiral coils. Then he left the shape of the restless crawler and became a tiger with gay stripes on his body; or again like a bull emitting a counterfeit roar from his mouth he butted the Titans with sharp horn. So he fought for his life, until Hera with jealous throat bellowed harshly through the air–that heavy-resentful step-mother! And the gates of Olympos rattled in echo to her jealous throat from high heaven. Then the bold bull collapsed: the murderers each eager for his turn with the knife chopt piecemeal the bull-shaped Dionysos.
After the first Dionysos had been slaughtered, Father Zeus learnt the trick of the mirror with its reflected image. He attacked the mother of the Titans with avenging brand, and shut up the murderers of horned Dionysos within the gate of Tartaros, the trees blazed, the hair of suffering Gaia was scorched with heat … Now Okeanos poured rivers of tears from his watery eyes, a libation of suppliant prayer. Then Zeus calmed his wrath at the sight of the scorched earth; he pitied her, and wished to wash with water the ashes of ruin and the fiery wounds of the land. Then Rainy Zeus covered the whole sky with clouds and flooded all the earth.
Nonnos, Dionysiaka 25.85
Bakchos cast the battling ivy against Porphyrion, he buffelted Enkelados and drove Alkyoneus to flight with a volley of leaves: then the wands flew in showers, and brought the Earthborn down in defence of Olympos, when the coiling sons of Gaia with two hundred hands, who pressed the starry vault with manynecked heads, bent the knee before flimsy javelins of vineleaves or spears of ivy. Not so great a swarm fell to the fiery thunderbolt as fell to the manbreaking thyrsos.
Nonnos, Dionysiaka 25.206
Euios, wand in hand cut down the snaky sons of Gaia alone – that champion of Zeus! He attacked them all, with huge serpents flowing over their shoulders equally on both sides much bigger than the Inachian snake, while they went hissing restlessly about among the stars of heaven.
Nonnos, Dionysiaka 48.6 ff
Hera addressed her deceitful prayers to Allmother Gaia, crying out upon the doings of Zeus and the valour of Dionysos.
Then Gaia armed all around Bakchos the mountainranging tribes of Giants, Gaia’s own brood, and goaded her sons to battle, “My sons, make your attack with hightowering rocks against clustergarlanded Dionysos–catch this Indianslayer, this destroyer of my family, this son of Zeus. Bring Dionysos to me, that I may enrage the Kronion when he sees Lyaios a slave and the captive of my spear. Or wound him with cutting steel and kill him for me like Zagreus, that one may say, God or mortal, Gaia in her anger has twice armed her slayers against the breed of Kronides–the older Titans against the former Dionysos Zagreus, the younger Giants against Dionysos later born.”
With these words she excited all the host of the Giants, and the battalions of the Earthborn set forth to war, one bearing a bulwark of Nysa, one who had sliced off with steel the flank of a cloudhigh precipice, each with these rocks for missiles armed him against Dionysos; one hastened to the conflict bearing the rocky hill of some land with its base in the brine, another with a reef torn from a brinegirt isthmus. Peloreus took up Pelion with hightowering peak as a missile in his innumberable arms. But Bakchos held a bunch of giantsbane vine, and ran at Alkyoneus with the mountain upraised in his hands: he wielded no furious lance, no deadly sword, but he struck with this bunch of tendrils and shore off the multitudinous hands of the Giants; the terrible swarms of groundbred serpents were shorn off by those tippling leaves, the Giants’ heads with those viper tresses were cut off and the severed necks danced in the dust. Tribes innumerable were destroyed; from the slain Giants ran everflowing rivers of blood, crimson torrents newly poured coloured the ravines red. The swarms of earthbred snakes ran wild with fear before the tresses of Dionysos viperwreathed.
Fire was also a weapon of Bakchos. He cast a torch in the air to destroy his adversaries: through the high paths ran the Bakkhic flame leaping and curling over itself and shooting down corrosive sparks on the Gigante’s limbs; and there was a serpent with a blaze in his threatening mouth, half-burnt and whistling with a firescorched throat, spitting out smoke instead of a spurt of deadly poison.
There was infinite tumult. Bakchos raised himself and lifted his fighting torch over the heads of his adversaries, and roasted the Giants’ bodies with a great conflagration, an image on earth of the thunderbolt cast by Zeus. The torches blazed: fire was rolling all over the head of Enkelados and making the air hot, but it did not vanquish him–Enkelados bent not his knee in the steam of the earthly fire, since he was reserved for the thunderbolt. Vast Alkyoneus leapt upon Lyaios armed with his Thracian crags; he lifted over Bakchos a cloudhigh peak of wintry Haimos– useless against that mark, Dionysos the invulnerable. He there the cliff, but when the rocks touched the fawnskin of Lyaios, they could not tear it, and burst into splinters themselves. Typhoeus towering high had stript the mountains of Emathia (a younger Typhoeus in all parts like the older, who once had lifted many a rugged strip of his mother Earth), and cast the rocky missiles at Dionysos. Lord Bakchos pulled away the sword of one that was gasping on the ground and attacked the Giants’ heads, cutting the snaky crop of poison-spitting hair; even without weapon he destroyed the selfmarshalled host, fighting furiously, and using the treeclimbing longleaf ivy to strike the Giants. Indeed he would have slain all with his manbreaking thyrsos, if he had not retired of his own will out of the fray and left enemies alive for his Father.
Origen, Contra Celsum 4.17
Dionysos was deceived by the Titans, and expelled from the throne of Zeus, and torn in pieces by them, and his remains being afterwards put together again, he returned as it were once more to life, and ascended to heaven
Orphic Argonautica 17-20
And the offspring of powerful Brimo,
and the destructive deeds of the Earthborn,
who dripped painfully as gore from Heaven,
the seed of a generation of old, out of which arose
the race of mortals, who exist forever throughout the boundless earth.
Ovid, Metamorphoses 5.319-331
It was shameful to compete with them, but it seemed more shameful to concede. The nymphs were elected, and swore on their streams to judge fairly, and sat on platforms of natural rock. Then, without drawing lots, the one who had first declared the contest sang, of the war with the gods, granting false honours to the giants, and diminishing the actions of the mighty deities. How Typhoeus, issued forth from his abode in the depths of the earth, filling the heavenly gods with fear, and how they all turned their backs in flight, until Egypt received them, and the Nile with its seven mouths. She told how earth-born Typhoeus came there as well, and the gods concealed themselves in disguised forms. “Jupiter” she said, “turned himself into a ram, the head of the flock, and even now Libyan Ammon is shown with curving horns. Delian Apollo hid as a crow, Bacchus, Semele’s child, as a goat, Diana, the sister of Phoebus, a cat, Saturnian Juno a white cow, Venus a fish, and Cyllenian Mercury the winged ibis.
Pausanias, Description of Greece 7.19.4
The stories told of Dionysos by the people of Patrai, that he was reared in Mesatis in Achaia and incurred there all sorts of perils through the plots of the Titans.
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8.37.5
Those about the sanctuary say that the Mistress was brought up by Anytos, who was one of the Titans, as they are called. The first to introduce Titans into poetry was Homer, representing them as Gods down in what is called Tartaros; the lines are in the passage about Hera’s oath. From Homer the name of the Titans was taken by Onomakritos, who in the orgies he composed for Dionysos made the Titans the authors of the God’s sufferings.
Greetings! Oracle of the Sibyl: “When Bakchos, after having shouted euai, is beaten, then blood, fire, and ash will be united.” Set up by Spellios Euethis, archiboukolos, Herakleides son of Alexander being archimystos, Alexandros being speirarchos, Arrianos son of Agathias, Heroxenos son of Magnus, Soterichos son of Dadas, Meniphilos son of Menophilos.
Plutarch, Life of M. Antonius 60.2
In Patrae, while Antony was staying there, the Heracleium was destroyed by lightning; and at Athens the Dionysos in the Battle of the Giants was dislodged by the winds and carried down into the theatre. Now, Antony associated himself with Heracles in lineage, and with Dionysos in the mode of life which he adopted, as I have said, and he was called the New Dionysos.
Suidas s.v. Osiris
Some say he was Dionysos (others say another) who was dismembered by the daimon Typhon and became a great sorrow for the Egyptians, and they kept the memory of his dismemberment for all time.
The Third Vatican Mythographer 12.5
Furthermore the story says that the Giants found Bacchus inebriated. After they tore him to pieces limb by limb, they buried the bits, and a little while later he arose alive and whole. We read that the disciples of Orpheus interpreted this fiction philosophically and that they represent this story in his sacred rites.
Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 4. 235
Typhoeus, boasting that already the kingdom of the sky and already the stars were won, felt aggrieved that Bacchus in his chariot and Pallas with her goatskin adorned with maidenly snakes confronted him.