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.
Click on image for full size
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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