Today, the term “bacchanal” is bandied about at almost any gathering where the guests get a bit tipsy and mildly frisky, but it originally referred to a specific ancient Roman celebration — the frenzied rites of Bacchus, god of wine and intoxication. Unlike the formal banquets so beloved by Roman aristocrats, these were essentially outdoor rave parties — anarchic romps held after dark in remote forest settings, where the quest for mania (a total festive abandon) could proceed unfettered beneath the stars. Luring hundreds of young initiates, the gatherings were as free-spirited and sexually charged as San Francisco’s Summer of Love, and even in ancient times they scandalized the prudish and disturbed the authorities. Today, those first Bacchanalia still echo through the ages as the prototypical legless debauch, where participants can achieve a pitch of euphoria that hovers between divine ecstasy and the oblivion of death.