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Antoine Court de Gebelin – About “Jupiter’s Thigh”

‘Birth of Bacchus’, engraving by Jacob Matham , after David Vinckboons (after) , in Daniel Heinsius’ ‘Hymn in Praise of Bacchus’, [bewerkt door Petrus Scriverius]. Nederduytsche poemata. dl. 3: Hymnus oft Lof-sanck van Bacchus. Amsterdam: Willem Jansz Blaeu, 1616.


Another sharing for the day from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA, an excerpt from Antoine Court de Gebelin’s ‘Le Monde Primitif’, Tome IV, ‘Histoire du Calendrier’, page 564 and 565. English translation by Via-HYGEIA.


The ancients were convinced that the story of Bacchus was an allegory and they were not shy to express it and nobody would hold them grievance for that. The way they would explain it was satisfactory, especially the explanation of the name of Semele, the venerable, which was another name of Ceres or of the Earth. However, they did not explain in an equally satisfactory manner what concerns Jupiter’s thigh of which Bacchus was born a second time. This alleged birth is the result of an ambiguity, that was provided by a word’s double meaning, the Greek word MEROS, which means thigh, and is also given to mountains and hills, and by extension, to vineyards that only are successful on such hills and they took this name. The word also expended to the wood of the wine, to the ceps. Hesychius confirms our thesis and what he says is so important and so little known that we cannot put it aside. Here is what he says:

MEROS means the place and the wood of the wine, a portion of a reed and a mountain’. When, in the common Greek language this word means thigh. Which is in accordance with what Diodorus said, that Bacchus camped at the place called MEROS and this is why it was later said that he came out of Jupiter’s thigh.

This word is just but the softening of the word MAR that means elevated, and of which we have seen it had become the name of diverse vineyards and of the one at Bacchus’s rock or MARO. This word softening more became MEROS, which means a mountain, a hill; and after been mixed with the similar word meaning thigh, it gave ground to the misunderstanding that we have spoken about.’

Original French

We would love to know the origin of this painting and the artist, but we couldn’t find anything. Due credits are important. We welcome your help 🙂


A note by Via-HYGEIA

This is one of the many examples of an allegory, which has been taken too literally, long after the wise people who knew the actual original facts have gone. They cannot smile anymore at the passionate ingenuity of those who take the letter for the Spirit…

And, by the way, we looked at a material explanation of Jupiter’s thigh, linked with the art of wine making, an attribute of Bacchus. If we look now at the sky, we realize that Jupiter’s thigh tell us also a whole story, involving the constellation of the Bull and its thigh, pointing at a specific timing, where ‘Bacchus is born out of Jupiter’s thigh’, all this refers to a calendar event ! The knowledge of the ancient was about the practical understanding of time and its use in agriculture and many other human activities.


Antoine Court de Gebelin – About “Jupiter’s Thigh”

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