The bacchanalia were wild and mystic festivals of the Roman and Greek god Bacchus . Introduced into Rome from lower Italy by way of Etruria (c. 200 BC ), the bacchanalia were originally held in secret and only attended by women. The festivals occurred on three days of the year in the grove of Simila near the Aventine Hill , on March 16 and March 17 . Later, admission to the rites was extended to men and celebrations took place five times a month. According to Livy , the extension happened in an era when the leader of the Bacchus cult was Paculla Annia - though it is now believed that some men had participated before that.