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Become a nitrogen atom in the nitrogen cycle in our Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit/Game. See all our games, activity kits and classroom activities.
Nicolas Poussin: "The Infant Bacchus Entrusted to the Nymphs of Nysa; The Death of Echo and Narcissus" (1657). The painting shows Mercury delivering the newly born baby Bacchus to Ino.
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Image courtesy of the Fogg Art Museum. Gift of Mrs. Samuel Sachs in memory of Mr. Samuel Sachs. To be reproduced only by permission of the Harvard University Art Museums. (c) President and Fellows of Harvard College, Harvard University Art Museums.

Mercury and the Birth of Bacchus

Mercury was popular among the gods because he was playful, innocent, and helpful. Mercury helped his father, Jupiter, when Bacchus was born. Bacchus was the son of Semele and Jupiter. Semele was the daughter of Cadmus, the brother of Europa, and Harmonia, the daughter of Mars and Venus. When Jupiter and Semele first got to know each other, Jupiter was disguised in simple clothes. Jupiter's wife, Juno, was angry with both Jupiter and Semele. Juno disguised herself as Semele's nurse and made Semele curious about her new boyfriend. The next time Jupiter visited, Semele made him promise that the next time he came, he would come to her as he really was. On his next visit, he came as the god Jupiter, and Semele was consumed to ashes by his brillance. Jupiter took Semele's baby, Bacchus, and nurtured him until he was ready to be born. Once he was born, Jupiter gave Bacchus to Mercury to protect the baby from Jupiter's wife, who was jealous. Mercury put the baby Bacchus in the care of Io, Semele's sister.



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