ORPHÉFS - ORPHEUS - ΟΡΦΕΥΣ


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"What would not a man give if he might converse with Orpheus and Musaeus and Hesiod and Homer?  Nay, if this be true, let me die again and again."  Plátohn (Plato; Gr. Πλάτων) Apoloyía (Apology; Gr. Ἀπολογία), 71, translated by Benjamen Jowett, 1893 [1]


General Introduction

Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς, ΟΡΦΕΥΣ)  The name is pronounced ohr-FEFS, or-fĕfs', with the accent on the second syllable; the diphthong εύ is pronounced ĕf.)

The earliest mention found in ancient Greek literature concerning Orphéfs is a tiny fragment by the sixth century BCE poet Ívykos (Ibycus; Gr. Ἴβυκος) which consists simply of this phrase: "famous Orphéfs." [2] Indeed he was famous, as his name and story is found in all the major sources of mythology. And he was revered so greatly and beloved, that even in late antiquity, depictions of Orphéfs are found in early Christian art. [3]  Orphéfs is certainly one the most important personages in all of Ællinismόs (Hellenismos; Gr. Ἑλληνισμός) and this brief essay will attempt to give the reader hints of why this is so.


The Mythology of Orphéfs

To understand the importance of the life of Orphéfs, it is necessary to know the background. According to the Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony (See The Sixth King), Zefs created a new generation of beings, as good a generation as was possible constrained by natural laws. This is our generation and while it has great beauty, it is consumed with anxiety. Zefs with his divine prescience contrived a solution to our sufferings by conceiving a son. This son is Diόnysos (Dionysus; Gr. Διόνυσος) who with his Mysteries will free the pious and pure of heart, those who desire them in love of the Gods, from the sorrowful circle of births (κύκλος γενέσεως). These great teachings have come down to us through various lineages all which spring from the auspices of Orphéfs.

The great singer, musician, Mystic, and God, Orphéfs was the son of the Thracian king (or river or wine God) Íagros (Oeagros; Gr. Οἴαγρος) and the Muse Kalliópi (Kalliope; Gr. Καλλιόπη) [4]born in what is called the Golden Age of the Heroes. He is the brother of Línos (Linus; Gr. Λῖνος). [5] Orphéfs had a son (or pupil or both) whose name is Mousaios (Musaeus; Gr. Μουσαῖος)

Diódohros Sikælióhtis (Diodorus Siculus; Gr. Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης), the first century BCE historian, gives us the background for this story. He says that Diόnysos was in the process of invading Europe. A plot by Lykourgos (Lycurgus; Gr. Λυκοῦργος), king of Thráki (Thrace; Gr. Θρᾴκη) against the God, was revealed to him by a local man named Khárohps (Charops; Gr. Χάρωψ). For this favor, Diόnysos gave Khárohps the kingdom of Thráki and initiated him into his Mysteries. Khárohps had a son, Íagroswho inherited not only the kingdom, but the rites and initiations of Diόnysos, and who taught them in turn to his own son Orphéfs. [6]


There is also a claim that Orphéfs was a son of Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων). This belief is likely older than that of him being the son of Íagros [7]Orphéfs is "Apollonian," like Apóllohn, but he is also associated with Diόnysos, hence the other myth. 

There is also evidence that Orphéfs comes from Makædonía (Macedonia; Gr. Μακεδονία) [8], but we find this origin less frequently than that of Thráki. 






Orphéfs was living on Mount Parnassós (Parnassus; Gr. Παρνασσός) with his mother Kalliópi. His brother Línos had taught him something of music and the boy loved to hum melodies. One day, while happily walking through the mountainside, Orphéfs met Apóllohn. The God was charmed by the boy, and, impressed by his singing, gave him a kithára (cithara, a type of lyre; Gr. κιθάρα) and taught Orphéfs how to play it. Kalliópi and her sisters taught him the art of poetry so that he could compose words for the beautiful music he created. Orphéfs' talent blossomed forth and his songs captivated all who heard him, to an amazing extent, enchanting Gods and men, wild beasts, even vegetation and rocks. [9] 

There does not seem to be much mythology concerning the childhood of Orphéfs, but as a man, as told in several accounts, he is known to have been one of the Argonáftai (Argonauts; Gr. Αργοναύται), to whom he gave great comfort with his music and song. [10] He officiated as priest and caused them to be initiated into the Mystíria (Mysteries; Gr. Μυστήρια) of Samothráki (Samothrace; Gr. Σαμοθράκη). He kept the time for the rowers of the Argóh (Argo; Gr. Ἀργώ). [11] Orphéfs saved the lives of his comrades by enchanting them and drawing their attention away from the Seirínæs (Sirens; Gr. Σειρῆνες). [12] He charmed the Sympligádæs (Clashing Rocks; Gr. Συμπληγάδες) with his singing and lulled the Dragon of Kolkhís (Colchis; Gr. Κολχίς) to sleep, enabling the Argonáftai to carry off the Khrysómallon Dǽras (the Golden Fleece; Gr. Χρυσόμαλλον Δέρας).

Some time after these events, towards the end of his life, Orphéfs met a lovely Thrakian Nýmphi (Nymph; Gr. Νύμφη) named Evrydíki (Eurydice; Gr. Εὐρυδίκη. Etym. ευρυ "wide" + δίκη "custom" or "order."). [Some say that her name was Agriópi (Agriope; Gr. Αγριόπη: 'wild-eyed' or 'wild-voiced' or 'silver-faced').] Orphéfs fell deeply in love with Evrydíki, winning her with the beauty of his music, and they married. 

One day while walking through the wood, Evrydíki was bit by a poisonous snake while fleeing the unwelcome advances of Aristaios (Aristaeus; Gr. Ἀρισταῖος), the pastoral God, and died. Orphéfs grieved piteously for Evrydíki and his anguished singing so saddened the Gods and the Nýmphæs (Nymphs; Gr. Νύμφες) that they implored Orphéfs to entreat Ploutohn (Pluto; Gr. Πλούτων) in hopes that the God would return her to the living. Orphéfs journeyed to the land of the Ploutohn, captivating all whom he passed with his beautiful singing, Khárohn (Charon; Gr. Χάρων), Kǽrværos (Cerberus; Gr. Κέρβερος), it was so lovely that it even relieved the sufferings of the eternally tormented. At last, he approached the throne of Aidohnéfs (Aidoneus = Ploutohn; Gr. Ἀϊδωνεύς) and Pærsæphóni (Persephone; Gr. Περσεφόνη). Orphéfs so delighted and enchanted them with his music that they permitted Evrydíki to return to life.
[13] Orphéfs was to walk in front of Evrydíki but he was not to look back on her until they reached the upper land. But Orphéfs forgot himself, looked back at Evrydíki, and lost her forever. [14] (This story of Orphéfs looking back at Evrydíki is not found in all the sources.)

Orphéfs now withdrew from most human contact. He persevered in his singing but now only sang mournful laments about his beloved Evrydíki. He continued to teach, but only to men. Every morning, Orphéfs went out to Mount Pangaion (Gr. Παγγαῖον) to greet the sun. One such morning, he encountered the Thrakian women, Mainádæs (Maenads; Gr. Μαινάδες), devotees of Diόnysos. They disdained the behavior of Orphéfs, who enticed their men away, so the Mainádæs torn Orphéfs to pieces [15] and threw his head into the river Ǽvros (Hebrus; Gr. Ἕβρος) where it continued to sing and call for Evrydíki.  

The head of Orphéfs and his lyre floated across to Lǽsvos (Lesbos; Gr. Λέσβος) off the Asiatic coast where the inhabitants collected and kept them and from where he spoke in oracle. Philóstratos (Philostratus; Gr. Φιλόστρατος) the Athenian said that the head gained tremendous fame but that its prophesies were put to an end by Apόllohn himself. [16]

Another story says that after they killed Orphéfs, that is, the Thrakian women, together with the Makædonian women, a terrible plague fell on the area. Thus, an oracle was consulted and they were required to retrieve the head of Orphéfs and bury it. A fisherman had found it at the mouth of the river Mǽlis (Meles; Gr. Μέλης), in Iohnía (Ionia; Gr. Ἰωνία), a small river near the walls of Smýrna (Gr. Σμύρνα). To their total astonishment, the head was in perfect condition as if it were not dead at all; in fact, it was still singing. They interred it under a great mound of earth (perhaps at Díon [Latin: Dium; Gr. Δίον]) and built a temple there to honor him. [17]

A
ccording to yet another story, told by Pafsanías (Pausanias; Παυσανίας) the geographer, Orphéfs was buried in Lívithra (Libethra; Gr. Λίβηθρα) which was located near Ólympos (Olympus; Gr. Όλυμπος). He relates the story of a Dionysian oracle of Thráki that "the sun would see the bones of Orphéfs and the town would be ravished by a boar." 
The local populace paid no attention to this oracle until the area was destroyed by flood:

"About midday a shepherd was asleep leaning against the grave of Orpheus, and even as he slept he began to sing poetry of Orpheus in a loud and sweet voice. Those who were pasturing or tilling nearest to him left their several tasks and gathered together to hear the shepherd sing in his sleep. And jostling one another and striving who could get nearest the shepherd they overturned the pillar, the urn fell from it and broke, and the sun saw whatever was left of the bones of Orpheus. Immediately when night came the God sent heavy rain, and the river Sys (Boar), one of the torrents about Olympus, on this occasion threw down the walls of Libethra, overturning sanctuaries of Gods and houses of men, and drowning the inhabitants and all the animals in the city." [18]







 










The city in ruins, the Makædonians in Díon carried off the bones to their own city.

The above are the common myths concerning Orphéfs. You will find variants of these stories which sometimes conflict. For instance, in one version of his story, Orphéfs is killed not by the Thrakian women, but by a thunderbolt of Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς) for having revealed secrets to mankind unknown before, much as Promithéfs (Prometheus; Gr. Προμηθεύς) had been "punished" before him for having helped the mortals. [21] In another version, Orphéfs took his own life in grief over the loss of his wife. 


The Significance of the Life and Teaching of Orphéfs

So, we might ask, what exactly did Orphéfs do that had such an impact on the ancient world? His entirely religious attitude was aimed in every way towards the fostering of peace and benevolence: 

...Orphéfs "by his playing and singing won over the Greeks, changed the hearts of barbarians and tamed wild beasts.'  [22]  He made men give up cannibalistic feasts, an achievement which in Graeco-Roman times was attributed to many Gods without much discrimination; but for Orpheus it can be traced back to the fifth century.  He taught men also the arts of agriculture and in this way inclined their natures towards peace and gentleness." [23]   

Gentle, civilizing, and humane, Orphéfs was instrumental in putting an end to human sacrifice in great antiquity and discouraging animal sacrifice as well.  [24]

Pafsanías (Pausanias) says: 

"In my view Orpheus outdid his predecessors in beautiful verse, and obtained great power because people believed he discovered divine Mysteries, rites to purify wicked actions, cures for diseases, defenses against the curses of heaven. They say that the Thracian women plotted Orpheus' death because he attracted their men to follow him in his wanderings, but because of the men they were frightened to do it; but when they were full of wine they carried the thing through, and, ever since, the men have had the tradition of marching drunk to battle. There are some who say Orpheus died thunderblasted by the God, because of the stories he made public in the Mysteries, which men had never heard before."  [25]

Orphéfs is the source of the Orphic Mysteries, a system of personal progress or evolution leading to the deification of the soul. Orphéfs is known as the originator of all the Mysteries, teachings which are held with a certain degree of secrecy:  

"As founder of Mystery-Religions, Orpheus was the first to reveal to men the meaning of rites of initiation (teletai). We read of this in both Plato and Aristophanes."  [26]   

But not only in Plátohn (Gr. Πλάτων) and Aristophánis (Gr. Ἀριστοφάνης), we find confirmation of this elsewhere such as in Rísos (Rhesus; Gr. Ῥῆσος), the play of Evripídis (Euripides; Gr. Εὐριπίδης):

"...and it was Orpheus, own blood cousin to this man you have slain, who first instructed your people in the rites of Mystery and secrets revealed;..." [27]

Compare this also to this quotation from Pafsanías (Pausanias; Gr. Παυσανίας):

"Of the Gods, the Aeginetans worship most Hecate (ed. Ækáti; Gr. Ἑκάτη), in whose honour every year they celebrate Mystic rites which, they say, Orpheus the Thracian established among them." [28]

The teachings of Orphéfs and his student (possibly son) Mousaios are also intertwined in the Ælefsinian Mysteries as well. [29] The teachings of Orphéfs are deeply entwined with the Mysteries of Diόnysos, which he is said to have founded. [30]

Orphéfs is regarded as the founder of a religion [31] and the great reformer of all Hellenic religion. He is called "the Theologist" [32] because he explained the Thæogonía (Theogony; Gr. Θεογονία), i.e., how the Gods came to be and how they function within the natural world. As such, Orphéfs is again the great reformer who destroyed superstition because, when correctly understood, the Kozmogonía (Cosmogony; Gr. Κοσμογονία) of Orphéfs is a natural and logical explanation of the formation of the universe, despite its fantastic language. Therefore, as can be demonstrated in the lineage which followed him, Orphéfs is the founder of philosophy.

Orphéfs explained the nature of the soul, which he described as being like an egg. He taught how the soul undergoes the process of reincarnation and evolution, or progress, through all forms of life. Consequently, as mentioned above, he is celebrated for discouraging the practice of blood sacrifice [33], pointing out that killing animals is equivalent to murdering ones own kinsmen. 

Orphéfs is intimately connected with the God Apóllohn (Apollo) and the image of the Sun; the vast enlightenment of the Gods illuminates his mythology. He is, further, viewed as a reformer of, and inseparably woven into the Dionysian Mysteries [34] and Dionysos Zagréfs (Zagreus; Gr. Ζαγρεύς).

Orphiká

There is a body of literature surrounding Orphéfs, known as the Orphiká (Orphica; Gr. Ορφικά), including an epic Argonaftiká (Argonautica; Gr. Ἀργοναυτικά) distinct from that of Apollóhnios Ródios (Apollonius Rhodius; Gr. Ἀπολλώνιος Ῥόδιος). Of relatively recent discovery (1962 CE) is the Dærvǽni (Derveni; Gr. Δερβένι) Papyrus, an Orphic poem, thought to be written by an author in the circle of the philosopher Anaxagóras (Gr. Ἀναξαγόρας), which includes a Thæogonía (Theogony; Gr. Θεογονία). In all likelihood, the most familiar text connected with Orphéfs is The Orphic Hymns, ubiquitous in contemporary Hellenic religious worship. The Orphic Kozmogonía (Cosmogony; Gr. Κοσμογονία) and Thæogonía differs from that of Isíodos (Hesiod; Gr. Ἡσίοδος) in some important ways. This theogony, the Orphic Rhapsodies, exists in fragments scattered amongst the writings of a group of ancient authors. The fragments were found and organized by the scholar Otto Kern (1863-1942). Further, much Orphic teaching can be found in the thought of many of the philosophers, Pythagóras (Gr. Πυθαγόρας), Sohkrátis (Socrates; Gr. Σωκράτης), Plátohn (Plato; Gr. Πλάτων), the Neoplatonists, and many related philosophers who followed Plátohn, as all these are in a direct line from Orphéfs. [35] Some readers of the Platonic dialogues may get the idea that their author and Sohkrátis himself were contrary to the teachings of Orphéfs, but this is certainly not true as is explained by the scholar A. E. Taylor in his book about Sohkrátis, Socrates: The Man and His Thought:

"The Socrates of the Platonic dialogues frequently refers to the dogmas of the Orphic religion as supporting his own convictions about the immortality of the soul and the importance of the life to come, and the details of the imaginative myths which he relates about Heaven and Hell in the Gorgias, Phaedo, Republic, are notoriously Orphic. Plato, too, as we see from allusions in the Laws, regarded ancient sayings, which plainly mean the Orphic doctrines, as fables with a kernel of imperishable religious truth; but we see also from the unsparing attack on immoral mythology and religion in the second book of the Republic, which is aimed much more at Orpheus than at Homer, that it was Plato's view that by the time of his own birth, Orphism had degenerated into vulgar trafficking in 'pardons' and 'indulgences.' The conversation which the Republic proposes to describe must be imagined to take place at the latest in Plato's early childhood, if not earlier, since his eldest brother, Adimantus, who figures there as a young man, was old enough to stand in loco parentis to him in 399, as we see from Apology 34a, where Socrates mentions him as a relative who could be trusted to give an authoritative opinion on the effect of his own society upon Plato. Contemporary Orphism is not likely, therefore, to have inspired either Plato or Socrates with respect. Pindar's greatest Orphic odes, however, belong to the years just before Socrates' birth, and this suggests the probability that Socrates really had been initiated in the Orphic religion in childhood and permanently impressed by it. It must be remembered that the Orphic religion was not that of any political community. It was recruited, like a modern church, by voluntary initiation in its sacraments, and was 'international.' The original Pythagoreans combined a similar religion based on the doctrine of the immortal soul with their science. That fact, if it is a fact, will contribute to account for the standing connection which we shall find between Socrates and the Pythagoreans of Thebes and Phlius, as well as for Plato's obvious anxiety in the dialogue Euthyphro to exhibit the difference between the piety of Socrates and that of the fantastic sectary Euthyphron, and for the existence of a dialogue Telauges by Aeschines, in which Socrates was brought into company with an 'other-worldly' devotee of particularly dirty habits, and apparently made to criticize his ways." [36]

The contemporary reconstructionist community (outside of Greece) tends to subordinate Orphic teaching, saying that the Thæogonía of Isíodos (Hesiod; Gr. Ἡσίοδος) is the older tradition, but W.K.C. Guthrie, in his book Orpheus and Greek Religion says that concerning "...the existence of a sacred literature ascribed to Orpheus, evidence is not lacking to show that this was in being in the fifth and fourth centuries BCE, and moreover that it was believed in those centuries to be of great antiquity." [37]  Isíodos is believed to have lived, perhaps, in the latter half of the eighth century BCE or later. We could likely assume that 'great antiquity' exceeds four or five centuries. Guthrie goes on to say that the later Neoplatonist writers deliberately quoted Orphic literature "to impart an aroma of antiquity to his doctrines." [38]  There are clues within the Orphic Hymns which suggest a very ancient creation date, possibly much earlier than the above suppositions. [40] 

William Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology states that... 

"The history of the extant productions of Greek literature begins with the Homeric poems. But it is evident that works so perfect in their kind are the end, and not the beginning, of a course of poetical development. This assumption is confirmed by innumerable traditions, which record the names of poets before the time of Homer, who employed their music for the civilisations of men and for the worship of different divinities. In accordance with the spirit of Greek mythology, the Gods themselves stand at the head of this succession of poets, namely, Hermes, the inventor of the lyre, and Apollo, who received the invention from his brother, and became the divinity presiding over the whole art of music. With Apollo are associated, still in the spirit of the old mythology, a class of subordinate divinities -- the Muses. The earliest human cultivators of the art are represented as the immediate pupils, and even (what, in fact, merely means the same thing) the children of Apollo and the Muses. Their personal existence is as uncertain as that of other mythical personages, and for us they can only be considered as the representatives of certain periods and certain kinds of poetical development. Their names are no doubt all significant, although the etymology of some of them is very uncertain, while that of others, such as Musaeus, is at once evident. The chief of these names are Olen, Linus, Orpheus, Musaeus, Eumolpus, Pamphus, Thamyris, and Philammon. Of these names that of Orpheus is the most important, and at the same time the one involving the greatest difficulties." [41]

Guthrie says: 

"His date was generally supposed in antiquity to lie in the heroic age, several generations before Homer; and considering his reputation as the Father of Lays, it is not surprising that we find him represented by some of the Greek historians to be Homer's direct ancestor." [42]


Controversy regarding Orphéfs, Orphic texts, and Orphic teachings

Many contemporary scholars state that he who was known as Orphéfs was simply a creation of ancient mythology and that such a person did not actually exist, but regardless of the fact that his life story may seem obscured in mythic language, it is significant to note that the most distinguished authors from antiquity did not question the existence of Orphéfs (with the exception of Aristotǽlis [Aristotle; Gr. Ἀριστοτέλης]). There is, unquestionably, much confusion regarding him in ancient religion, as would be expected if, particularly, he lived in a time of great antiquity. Plátohn mentions spurious Orphic priests who claimed that their rites could purify evil deeds (Πολιτεία [Republic] II 364e) and without which their audience would suffer horrible punishments, implying not so much the spurious nature of Orphic teaching but the perversion and abuse of the name in his time. 

It is not fair to deduce the nature of ancient Orphismós (Orphism; Gr. Ορφισμός) purely from the evidence of how it actually existed amongst common people; this would be akin to deducing the nature of Christianity from how it actually exists amongst typical Christians in our time, with massive numbers of those who profess the religion but who never or rarely attend church services and who hold beliefs (as witnessed by this author) which have been traditionally held to be "heresies" by the religion, and who seem to be practicing what really amounts to a type of folk-religion, and in more formal settings having various teachers who are preaching a wild gamut of things, some who seem to have the accumulation of wealth as their aim rather than anything really substantial to teach. But on the other hand, there does exist a great tradition of Christianity which has significant beliefs and practices which, perhaps, only a small group of people are fully aware of, believe, and practice.

As to whether or not there was an actual person named Orphéfs...this author believes so, and the ancient people seemed to believe so, regardless of whether they were skeptical of some who claimed to teach under that name, or, particularly, as to the authorship of various texts attributed to him or to Mousaios. Certainly much of the Orphic literature attributed to him was not actually created by Orphéfs or Mousaios, not, necessarily, to imply an impious origin to any or all of these compositions. Nonetheless, there are certain ideas which have been passed down which we hold central and call "Orphic":

1. That the Kózmos is natural and material (rather than super-natural and spiritual) and that it is governed by Natural Laws. ("First there was Water, he [Orphéfs] says, and Mud" Damáskios [Gr. Δαμάσκιος] 123c)

2. That beings have an immortal soul. ("For some say that the body is the grave (σῆμα) of the soul which may be thought to be buried in our present life; or again the index of the soul, because the soul gives indications to (σημαίνει) the body; probably the Orphic poets were the inventors of the name..." Plátohn Kratýlos [Κρατύλος] 400c, trans. Jowett)

3. That this soul passes from life to life, the transmigration of the soul (Palingænæsía; Gr. Παλιγγενεσία). ("I have heard from certain wise men and women...Some of them were priests and priestesses...The soul, then, as being immortal, and having been born again many times..." Plátohn Mǽnohn [Μένων] 81a-c) 

4. That there is the possibility of progress (Próödos), and that there is a deeper, more significant religion (Mystíria; Gr. Μυστήρια) which facilitates this progress.

These ideas are fundamental to the practice of Orphism, and when integrated into the Four Foundations of Ællinismós, have the potential to a give a mighty thrust to the progress of an individual, for ideas, when put into action, can be very powerful things, and these ideas have great implications which challenge the ways in which we lead our lives.

It may appear that these ideas are simply Pythagorean or Platonic, indeed they are, and that is why these philosophers are said to be Orphic, such that the entire tradition is called the Orphic-Pythagorean-Platonic tradition. The ancient authors themselves attributed these ideas to Orphéfs. Some authors even say that these ideas are actually Egyptian or that they originate in India. In reality, it does not matter where the ideas specifically came from, if the ideas are true and profound and if your concern is what is useful and valid, rather than what is "ethnic." These ideas are what has been handed down to us and they are worthy of consideration, worthy of dialectic. Like any of the Akoí (Akoe; Gr. κοή), the "things heard," the tradition we inherit, they are not some kind of "catechism," a list of things we are required to believe. Rather, they are our tradition and we test them for ourselves as to how appropriate their influence should be in our lives.



from A Classical Manual:

"ORPHEUS.  The son, according to fable, either of Œager, king of Thrace ; of Thamyras ; or of Apollo and Calliope or Polyhymnia.  Aristotle and Cicero attribute the poems which bear his name to a Pythagorean philosopher, named Cecrops ; and others, to Onomacritus, a poet who lived in the age of Pisistratus : Pausanias and Diodorus Siculus speak of Orpheus as a person equally remarkable for his universal knowledge and for his talents as a poet and musician : some consider him to have introduced and established the rites of the Gods and all Mysterious worship in Greece, to have travelled over many regions of the earth as a priest and a prophet, to have been confounded with Linus, Melampus, and Camus, and his wife Eurydice with the most ancient divinities of paganism ; others maintain that the religious system of Greece did not originate with him, but that he very much contributed to its formation, by the communication of the knowledge which he had acquired in his travels of the Mysteries of Egyptian superstition.  He is said to have delivered his doctrines in verse, and to have added to their recital the accompaniment of the lyre.  From his excellence in playing that instrument, and the melody of his voice, the poets have ascribed to him the power of taming lions and tigers ; of arresting the course of the most rapid rivers ; and of rendering the trees and rocks susceptible of the charm of his tones.  His affection for his wife Eurydice or Agriope (who was one of the Dryads), is a favourite theme among the poets.  While flying from Aristæus, the son of Apollo and the nymph Cyrene, she was mortally stung by a serpent.  Orpheus, disconsolate at her loss, ventured to descend in quest of her into the regions of Pluto.  His harp was there attended with its usual efficacy : influenced by its magic sounds, the wheel of Ixion ceased to turn, the stone of Sisyphus to roll, the vultures to tear the heart of Tityus, the Danaides to perform their thankless labour, and Tantalus to be afflicted by his perpetual thirst ; the Furies themselves were appeased, and Pluto and Proserpine were so overcome by the melody of his strains, that they agreed to restore Eurydice, provided he forbore turning his head to look at her until he should have reached the extreme confines of Tartarus.  Orpheus, in his impatience to behold his restored Eurydice, forgot the imposed injunction ; and she was snatched for ever form his embrace.  He endeavoured in vain to re-enter the infernal regions ; and his sorrows during the remainder of his life admitted of no alleviation but from the sound of his lyre, amid the deepest solitude.  His death is by some ascribed to the Ciconian women, who, irritated at his resisting their solicitations to relinquish his secluded life, availed themselves of the celebration of the orgies of Bacchus, to execute their vengeance upon him.  It is stated that his lyre and head were thrown into the Hebrus, and that, while the torrent impelled them towards the sea, his lyre still emitted sweet chords, and his tongue never ceased to murmur the name Eurydice." [43]



Orphéfs in Iconography

Typically, Orphéfs is pictured wearing a Phrygian cap (freedom-cap) and a loose-fitting tunic. His legs are covered in leggings and he wears short boots. The overall impression of his appearance is almost medieval. He is usually found in a natural setting in the company of birds and other animals, playing his kithára (cithara, a type of lyre; Gr. κιθάρα). The Greek writer Kallístratos (Callistratus; Gr. Καλλίστρατος) gave a description of a beautiful bronze statue of Orphéfs in his work Ækphráseis (Ecphraseis or Descriptions; Gr. Εκφράσεις):

"On Helicon – the spot is a shaded precinct sacred to the Muses – near the torrent of the river Olmeius and the violet-dark spring of Pegasus, there stood beside the Muses a statue of Orpheus, the son of Calliope, a statue most beautiful to look upon. For the bronze joined with art to give birth to beauty, indicating by the splendour of the body the musical nature of the soul. It was adorned by a Persian tiara spangled with gold and rising high up from the head, and a chiton hanging from the shoulders to the feet was confined at the breast by a golden belt. The hair was so luxuriant and so instinct with the spirit of life as to deceive the senses into thinking it was being tossed and shaken by gusts of wind – for the hair behind on the neck fell free down the back, while the parted hair which lay above the eyebrows gave full view of the pure glance of the eyes. The sandal shone brightly with yellowest of gold, and a robe fell ungirded down the back to the ankle; and he was carrying the lyre, which was equipped with as many notes as the number of the Muses. For the bronze even acted the part of strings and, being so modified as to imitate each separate note, it obediently carried out the deceit, almost indeed becoming vocal and producing the very sound of the notes. Beneath his feet heaven was not represented nor the Pleiades coursing the aether nor the revolving Bear that 'has no part in the baths of Oceanus,'  but there was every kind of bird, brought under the spell of the singing, and all beasts of the mountains and whatever feeds in the recesses of the sea, and a horse stood entranced, held in control, not by a bridle, but by the music, and a bull, having abandoned its pasturage, was listening to the strains of the lyre, and lions by nature fierce were being lulled to sleep in response to its harmony. You could see the bronze taking on the shape of rivers flowing from their sources toward the singing, and a wave of the sea raising itself aloft for love of the song, and rocks being smitten with the sensation of music, and every plant in its season hastening from its usual abode towards the music of Orpheus; and though there was nothing that gave out a sound or roused the lyre’s harmony, yet art made manifest in all the animals the emotions excited by their love of music, and cursed their pleasure to be visible in the bronze, and in a wonderful manner expressed the enchantment that springs up in the sense-perceptions of the animals." [44]


NAMES AND EPITHETS OF ORPHÉFS:

(For a list of abbreviations: GLOSSARY HOME PAGE)

Aglaóphimos - (aglaophimus; Gr. ἀγλαόφημος, ΑΓΛΑΟΦΗΜΟΣ) Lexicon entry: ἀγλαόφημοςονof splendid fame, Orph.H.31.4 (ed. of the Κουρῆτες); Dor. ἀγλαόφᾱμος, pr. n. of Thracian mystic (ed. Orphéfs), Iamb.VP28.146, etc. (L&S p. 11, left column)

Evainitos - (Euainetus; Gr. Εὐαίνητος, ΕΥΑΙΝΗΤΟΣ) Evainitos is an epithet of Orphéfs meaning much praised. (Πίνδαρος Πυθιόνικαι 4.177)

Founder of All Mystery Religions Orphéfs is regarded as the first to reveal the rites of Tælætai ( = Initiation, Teletai; Gr. Τελεταί). (Orpheus and Greek Religion by W.K.C. Guthrie, 1952 and 1993, p. 17)

- "some consider him to have introduced and established the rites of the Gods and all Mysterious worship in Greece, to have travelled over many regions of the earth as a priest and a prophet, to have been confounded with Linus, Melampus, and Camus, and his wife Eurydice with the most ancient divinities of paganism ; others maintain that the religious system of Greece did not originate with him, but that he very much contributed to its formation, by the communication of the knowledge which he had acquired in his travels of the Mysteries of Egyptian superstition." (A Classical ManualBeing a Mythological, Historical, and Geographical Commentary on Pope's Homer, and Dryden's Æneid of Virgil, 1833; p.442)

Great Reformer, TheOrphéfs is regarded as the great reformer of Hellenic worship (source: oral) and the reformer of the rites of Dionysos (Orpheus and Greek Religion by W.K.C. Guthrie, 1952 and 1993, p. 41-42).

Kælefstís - (Gr. Κελευστής, ΚΕΛΕΥΣΤΗΣ) Orphéfs is the Kælefstís, the boatswain who gives time to the rowers, because of his duties on the Argóh (Argo; Gr. Ἀργώ).

Khrysáoros - (Chrysaorus; Gr. Χρυσάορος, ΧΡΥΣΑΟΡΟΣ; masc. and fem. adj. = χρυσάωρ.) Lexicon entry: χρῡσάορος [ᾱ], ον, (ἄορ) = χρυσάωρ, with sword of gold, epith. of Apollo; also of Demeter; of Artemis; of Orpheus Pi.Fr.139.9; so χρυσᾱορεύς, έως, of Zeus at Stratonicea; also χρυσᾱόριος: hence χρῡσᾱορεῖς, οἱ, of a league formed by his worshippers. (L&S p. 2009, left column, edited for simplicity.)

Khrysolýris - (Chrysolyres; Gr. χρυσολύρης, ΧΡΥΣΟΛΥΡΗΣ) Lexicon entry: χρυσολύρης [λῠ], ου, Dor. χρυσολύραςαwith lyre of gold, of Apollo, Orph.H.34.3 (voc. -λύρη); of Orpheus. (L&S p. 2010, right column, within the entries beginning with χρυσόλοπος, edited for simplicity.)

Orphéfs (Orpheus) - There is a strange story concerning the name of Orphéfs: "The ancients represent Orpheus as living during the time, and sharing in the Argonautic expedition. If we search for the origin of this fable, we must again have recourse to Egypt, the mother-country of fiction. In July, when the sun entered Leo, the Nile overflowed all the plains. To denote the public joy at seeing the inundation rise to its due height, the Egyptians exhibited a youth playing on the lyre, or the sistrum, and sitting by a tame lion. When the waters did not increase as they should, the Horus was represented stretched on the back of a lion, as dead. This symbol they called Oreph, or Orpheus, (from oreph, the back part of the head) to signify that agriculture was then quite unseasonable and dormant. The songs the people amused themselves with during this period of inactivity, for want of exercise, were called the Hymns of Orpheus ; and as husbandry revived immediately after, it gave rise to the fable of Orpheus's returning from hell. The Isis placed near this Horus, they called Eurydice, (from eri, a lion, and daca, tamed, is formed Eridaca, Eurydice, or the lion tamed, i.e. the violence or rage of the inundation overcome), and as the Greeks took all these figures in the literal, not in the emblematical sense, they made Eurydice the wife of Orpheus." (Bell's New Pantheon; or, Historical Dictionary of the Gods, Demi-Gods, Heroes, and Fabulous Personages of Antiquity, 1790; Vol. II, p.145)

Prophítis - (prophetes; Gr. προφήτης, ΠΡΟΦΗΤΗΣ) Lexicon entry: προφήτηςου, Dor. and Boeot. προφάτας [], α, Pi. (v. infr.): · (πρόφημί):— prop. one who speaks for a God and interprets his will to manΔιὸς π. interpreterexpounder of the will of Zeus; Βάκχου π., perh. of Orpheus; esp. of the Delphic Apollo; of the minister and interpreter at Delphi. (L&S p. 1540, left column, within the entries beginning on the previous page, edited for simplicity.)

Rodópeios - (Rhodopeius; Gr. Ροδόπειος, ΡΟΔΟΠΕΙΟΣ) Rodópeios is a name of Orphéfs (Orpheus) from Mount Rodópi (Rhodope; Gr. Ροδόπη), in Thráki (Thrace; Gr. Θράκη). (CM p. 443)

Tælætárkhis - (Teletarches; Gr. Τελετάρχης, ΤΕΛΕΤΑΡΧΗΣTælætárkhis is (ed. Ὀρφεύς) the founder of Mysteries. (L&S p. 1771, left column)

Thæológos - (Theologus; Gr. Θεολόγος, ΘΕΟΛΟΓΟΣ) Thæológos is a surname of Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς) meaning theologian, primarily because he gave us the Thægonía (Theogony; Gr. Θεογονία), the origin of the Thæí (Theoi; Gr. Θεοί), the Gods. The term is also applied to Plátohn (Plato; Gr. Πλάτων), by the Neoplatonists.
Lexicon entry: θεολόγος, one who discourses of the Gods, of poets such as Hesiod and Orpheus; of cosmologists (like the Orphics); of diviners and prophets. 2. theologian  (L&S p. 790, right column, within the entries beginning θεολογεῖον.)
-
 Theologus, (Lat.), one who treats of the deity and of divine things, a theologian.  (LD p. 1867, center column)

Thrákios Sakǽrdohs - (Thracius Sacerdos; Gr. Θρᾴκιος Σακέρδως, ΘΡΑΙΚΙΟΣ ΣΑΚΕΡΔΩΣ, ) - Thrákios Sakǽrdos is a surname of Orphéfs, from his Thracian origin. (source: CM* p. 443)

Urphe - Urphe is the Etruscan name for Orphéfs.


ADDITIONAL LINKS FROM THIS WEBSITE RELATING TO ORPHÉFS: Orphism - Orphismós - Ορφισμός


The story of the birth of the GodsOrphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.

 

NOTES TO THE TEXT:
(
For a list of abbreviations: GLOSSARY HOME PAGE)

[1] While Plátohn (Plato) regarded many of the writings attributed to Orphéfs (Orpheus) as spurious "...he seems to have believed at least in the existence of Orpheus and in the genuineness of his Theogony.  Not so, however, Aristotle, who held that no such person as Orpheus ever existed, and that the works ascribed to him were forged by Cercops and Onomacritus." (A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, edited by William Smith, 1880; 2007 I.B Tauris edition, Vol. III, p. 60, right column)

[2] Orpheus and Greek Religion by W. K. C. Guthrie, 1935. We are using the 1993 reprint by Princeton Univ. Press (Princeton, NJ USA), p. 1.

[3] Ibid. Guthrie, p. 23

[4] "Calliope and Oiagros (though really Apollo) had Linos, whom Heracles killed, and Orpheus, who was trained to sing to the cithara and moved stones and trees by his singing." (Apollódohros [Apollodorus] Library I.14, trans. R. Scott Smith and Steven M. Trzaskoma, 2007, Hackett Publishing, p. 3)

- "Orpheus, the son of Oeagrus and the Muse Calliope, a Thracian from the city of Flevia, which is located on Mount Olympus on the river Enipeus. He was a prophet and a cithara player." Hyginus Fabulae 14.1, trans. R. Scott Smith and Steven M. Trzaskoma, 2007, Hackett Publishing, p. 100)

And we have a different opinion also: 

"By Oeagrus she (Polyhymnia) became the mother of Orpheus. (Schol. l. c. i. 23.)" (DGRBM)

[5]  "Heracles was taught to drive chariots by Amphitryon, to wrestle by Autolycos, to shoot a bow by Eurytos, to fight in armor by Castor, and to play the lyre by Linos, who was Orpheus' brother."  (Apollódohros [Apollodoros; Gr. Ἀπολλόδωρος] Library, Book II,  Heracles' Boyhood and Education;  Linos 63, translated by R. Scott Smith and Steven M. Trzaskoma, 2007, p. 28)

[6]   From Diódohros Sikælióhtis (Diodorus Siculus; Gr. Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης) III.65.4-6:

"Now when he had led the first of the Bacchantes over into a friendly land, as he thought, Lycurgus issued orders to his soldiers to fall upon them by night and to slay both Dionysus and all the Maenads, and Dionysus, learning of the plot from a man of the country who was called Charops, was struck with dismay, because his army was on the other side of the Hellespont and only a mere handful of his friends had crossed over with him. Consequently he sailed across secretly to his army, and then Lycurgus, they say, falling upon the Maenads in the city known as Nysium, slew them all, but Dionysus, bringing his forces over, conquered the Thracians in a battle, and taking Lycurgus alive put out his eyes and inflicted upon him every kind of outrage, and then crucified him. Thereupon, out of gratitude to Charops for the aid the man had rendered him, Dionysus made over to him the kingdom of the Thracians and instructed him in the secret rites connected with the initiations; and Oeagrus, the son of Charops, then took over both the kingdom and the initiatory rites which were handed down in the Mysteries, the rites which afterwards Orpheus, the son of Oeagrus, who was the superior of all men in natural gifts and education, learned from his father; Orpheus also made many changes in the practices and for that reason the rites which had been established by Dionysus were also called 'Orphic.' "

(trans. C. H. Oldfather in Diodorus Siculus: Library of History Books II.35-IV.58, Loeb LCL 303, 1935; we are using the 2006 edition where this quotation may be found on pp. 299-301.)

[7] Source: Orpheus and Greek Religion by W. K. C. Guthrie, 1935. We are using the 1993 reprint by Princeton Univ. Press (Princeton, NJ USA), p. 63.

"Calliope and Oiagros (though really Apollo) had Linos, whom Heracles killed, and Orpheus..." (Apollodoros' Library, Book I, Offspring of the Muses 14, translated by R. Scott Smith and Steven M. Trzaskoma, 2007, p. 3) 

[8] Orpheus and Greek Religion by W. K. C. Guthrie, 1935. We are using the 1993 reprint by Princeton Univ. Press (Princeton, NJ USA), p. 62.

[9]  Apollódohros [Apollodoros; Gr. Ἀπολλόδωρος] Library, Book I, Offspring of the Muses 14, translated by R. Scott Smith and Steven M. Trzaskoma, 2007, p. 3:

"...Orpheus, who was trained to sing to the cithara and moved stones and trees by his singing."   

From Manilius' Astronomica, 5.324, describing the constellations, translated by G. P. Goold, 1977, p. 327:

"Next, with the rising of the Lyre, there floats forth from Ocean the shape of the tortoise-shell, which under the fingers of its heir gave forth sound only after death; once with it did Orpheus, Oeagrus' son, impart sleep to waves, feeling to rocks, hearing to trees, tears to Pluto, and finally a limit to death."

And from Aiskhylos (Aeschylus; Gr. Αἰσχύλος) Agamemnon 1629, trans. Herbert Weir Smyth, 1926, Loeb:

"The tongue of Orpheus is quite the opposite of yours. He led all things by the rapture of his voice."  


[10] "The ones he (ed. Jason) gathered were: Tiphys son of Hagneias, who was the ship's helmsman; Orpheus son of Oiagros..." (Apollódohros [Apollodoros; Gr. Ἀπολλόδωρος] Library, Book I, The Catalog of Argonauts 111, translated by R. Scott Smith and Steven M. Trzaskoma, 2007, p. 15)

From the list of Argonauts:  

"Orpheus, the son of Oeagrus and the Muse Calliope, a Thracian from the city of Flevia, which is located on Mount Olympus on the river Enipeus. He was a prophet and a cithara player." (Hyginus' Fabulae, 14.1 The Assembly of the Argonauts, translated by R. Scott Smith and Steven M. Trzaskoma, 2007, p. 100)

[11]  "Orpheus son of Oeagrus kept time for the rowers."   (Hyginus' Fabulae, 14.32 The Assembly of the Argonauts,  translated by R. Scott Smith and Steven M. Trzaskoma, 2007, p. 104) 

[12]  "When they sailed past the Sirens, Orpheus sang the music to counteract their song and so restrained the Argonauts."  (Apollódohros [Apollodoros; Gr. Ἀπολλόδωρος] Library, Book I, The Sirens and Other Obstacles 135, translated by R. Scott Smith and Steven M. Trzaskoma, 2007, p. 18)


[13] Apollódohros [Apollodoros; Gr. Ἀπολλόδωρος] Library, Book I, Offspring of the Muses 14, translated by R. Scott Smith and Steven M. Trzaskoma, 2007, p. 3:

"When his wife, Eurydice, died after being bitten by a snake, he went down to the house of Hades, wishing to bring her back, and persuaded Plouton to send her up."

From Manilius' Astronomica, 1.325, describing the constellations, trans. G. P. Goold, 1977, p. 31:

"...and one may see among the stars the Lyre, its arms spread apart in heaven, with which in time gone by Orpheus charmed all that his music reached, making way even to the ghosts of the dead and causing the decrees of hell to yield to his song."

[14] From Apollódohros (Apollodoros; Gr. Ἀπολλόδωρος) Library, Book I, Offspring of the Muses 15, translated by R. Scott Smith and Steven M. Trzaskoma, 2007, p. 3:

"Plouton promised to do this if Orpheus would not turn around as he made his way until he arrived at his own house. But Orpheus, in doubt, turned around and looked at his wife, and she returned to the underworld."

[15] "...he was torn apart by Mainads" (Apollódohros [Apollodoros; Gr. Ἀπολλόδωρος] Library, Book I, Offspring of the Muses 15, translated by R. Scott Smith and Stephen M. Trzaskoma, 2007, p. 3)

[16]  Philóstratos (Philostratus; Gr. Φιλόστρατος) The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, Book IV, Chapter XIV, in the translation by F.C. Conybeare in 1912, found in the 1948 edition on pp. 373-375:   

"He also visited in passing the shrine of Orpheus when he had put in at Lesbos.  And they tell that it was here that Orpheus once on a time loved to prophesy, before Apollo had turned his attention to him.  For when the latter found that men no longer flocked to Gryneium for the sake of oracles nor to Clarus nor (to Delphi) where is the tripod of Apollo, and that Orpheus was the only oracle, his head having lately come from Thrace, he presented himself before the giver of oracles and said:  'Cease to meddle with my affairs, for I have already put up long enough with your vaticinations.' "

[17]  Konon, fab. 45 = Kern, testt. 39 and 115.

[20]  Pafsanías (Pausanias; Gr. Παυσανίας) Boeotia IX. 30.9-11 (the quote begins at 30.10), trans. W. H. S. Jones, 1935; found here in the 1961 Loeb edition on pp. 305-307.

[21] "Some say that Orpheus came to his end by being struck by a thunderbolt, hurled at him by the God because he revealed sayings in the Mysteries to men who had not heard them before." (Pafsanías [Pausanias; Gr. Παυσανίας] Desc. of Greece, IX. Boeotia, 30.5, trans. W. H. S. Jones, 1935; found here in the 1961 Loeb edition on p. 303)  William Smith believed that this particular legend deserves much more attention than the other legends concerning the death of Orphéfs (A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, edited by William Smith, 1880; 2007 I.B Tauris edition, Vol. III, p. 61, left column).  To be struck by a thunderbolt by Zefs (Zeus) is mythically extremely significant.

[22]  Ps.-Kallisth.I. 42, 6.7 = Kern, test. 144

[23] Orpheus and Greek Religion by W. K. C. Guthrie, 1935. We are using the 1993 reprint by Princeton Univ. Press (Princeton, NJ USA), p. 40.

[24]  From Plátohn (Plato; Gr. Πλάτων) Laws VI, 782, from the translation of B. Jowett, 1892, found in the 1920 edition, Oxford University Press, p. 541:

"Again, the practice of men sacrificing one another still exists among many nations; while, on the other hand, we hear of other human beings who did not even venture to taste the flesh of a cow and had no animal sacrifices, but only cakes and fruits dipped in honey, and similar pure offerings, but no flesh of animals; from these they abstained under the idea that they ought not to eat them, and might not stain the altars of the Gods with blood.  For in those days men are said to have lived a sort of Orphic life, having the use of all lifeless things, but abstaining from all living things."  

And Aristophánis (Aristophanes; Gr. Ἀριστοφάνης) Vátrakhi (Batrachoi or The Frogs; Gr. Βάτραχοι), Line 1039, translated by B.B. Rogers, 1909, The Harvard Classics:

"First, Orpheus taught you religious rites, and from bloody murder to stay your hands"

[25] Pafsanías (Pausanias; Gr. Παυσανίας) Guide to Greece 1: Central Greece, Book IX, Boiotia, 30.3, in the translation by Peter Levi in 1971, found in the 1979 edition on pp. 371-372. The quotation follows the description of statuary beginning:

"Mystery is carved standing beside Orpheus the Thracian..."

[26] Orpheus and Greek Religion by W. K. C. Guthrie, 1935. We are using the 1993 reprint by Princeton Univ. Press (Princeton, NJ USA), p. 17.    

Also, in Pafsanías' Guide to Greece 1: Central Greece, 9.30.4,  Peter Levi in the 1979 edition, pp. 371-2: 

"In my view Orpheus outdid his predecessors in beautiful verse, and obtained great power because people believed he discovered divine mysteries, rites to purify wicked actions, cures for diseases, defenses against the curses of heaven." Pausanias implies a connection between the teachings of Orpheus and the Eleusinian Mysteries in 1.37.3-4 from the same translation by Levi, p.104-5: "Across the Kephisos .... A small shrine built along the road is called the shrine of the Bean man. I am not sure whether he was first to grow beans, or they simply named a hero like that because the discovery of beans cannot be traced to Demeter. Those who know the mystery of Eleusis and those who have read Orpheus will know what I am talking about."

In a note to this section concerning the 'Bean Man', Levi points out that... 

"There is a mysterious ancient Pythagorean, Orphic, and Eleusinian prohibition of bean-eating..."

In the Library of History by  Diódohros Sikælióhtis (Diodorus Siculus; Gr. Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης), 4.25.1, in the translation of C.H. Oldfather:  

"But when Heracles had made the circuit of the Adriatic, and had journeyed around the gulf on foot, he came to Epirus, whence he made his way to Peloponnesus. And now that he had performed the tenth Labour he received a Command from Eurystheus to bring Cerberus up from Hades to the light of day. And assuming that it would be to his advantage for the accomplishment of this Labour, he went to Athens and took part in the Eleusinian Mysteries, Musaeus, the son of Orpheus, being at that time in charge of the initiatory rites."

[27] Evripídis (Euripides; Gr. Εὐριπίδης) Rísos (Rhesus; Gr. Ῥῆσος) 943-945, trans. by Richmond Lattimore, 1958, published by the Univ. of Chicago Press (Chicago IL USA) in 1959 in The Complete Greek Tragedies: Vol. IV Euripides, on p.127.

[28] Pafsanías (Pausanias; Gr. Παυσανίας) Book II Corinth 30.2, trans. by W. H. S. Jones, 1918, in Pausanias: Description of Greece I. We are using the 1959 edition where this quotation may be found on p. 409.

[29] From the Parian Chronicle, also called the Parian Marble, translated by Gillian Newing, Fragments 12-15. (This translation can be found on the Ashmolean website: http://www.ashmolean.org/ash/faqs/q004/q004009.html) :

"From when Demeter, coming to Athens, [invented] the seed corn, and the [first festival of ploughing time was celebrated, under the instruction of T]riptolemus, son of Celeus and Neaira, 1146 years, when Erechtheus was king in Athens. From when Tripto[lemus reaped the corn which] he sowed in the Rarian plain called Eleusis, 1[1]45 years, when [Erechtheus] was king of Athens. [From when Orpheus ____] made known his own poetry, the rape of Kore and the search of Demeter and [the seed created by her and the mult]itude of those receiving the corn, 1135 years when Erechtheus was king of Athens. [From when Eumolpus _____] instituted the mysteries in Eleusis and made known the works of the [father of M]ousaios, [11______, when Erechthe]us son of Pandion [was king of Athens]."

[30] "Orpheus also discovered the Mysteries of Dionysos..." (Apollódohros [Apollodorus] Library I.15, trans. R. Scott Smith and Steven M. Trzaskoma, 2007, Hackett Publishing, p. 3)

[31] Lexicon entry: Θεόλογὁς, one who discourses of the Gods, of poets such as Hesiod and Orpheus; of cosmologists (like the Orphics); of diviners and prophets. 2. theologian (L&S p. 790, right column, sub-heading under θεολογ-εῖον).

[32] Orpheus and Greek Religion by W. K. C. Guthrie, 1935. We are using the 1993 reprint by Princeton Univ. Press (Princeton, NJ USA), p. 8. One must be careful in using the term "religion." The Greek word for religion is thriskeia (threskia; Gr.θρησκεία). Thriskeia refers to the outward forms of what we call religion, i.e., the rituals, the costumes of the priests and priestesses, and so forth. But Orphéfs is the great reformer of the Greek devotional tradition: he taught the inner meaning of any ritual and belief. So, Orphéfs was not the creator of empty rituals, but he was the great theologian who explained the Kosmos and how the Gods function in it. Orphéfs explained the natural world.

[33]  From Plátohn (Plato; Gr. Πλάτων) Laws VI, 782, from the translation of B. Jowett, 1892, found in the 1920 edition, Oxford University Press, p. 541:

"Again, the practice of men sacrificing one another still exists among many nations; while, on the other hand, we hear of other human beings who did not even venture to taste the flesh of a cow and had no animal sacrifices, but only cakes and fruits dipped in honey, and similar pure offerings, but no flesh of animals; from these they abstained under the idea that they ought not to eat them, and might not stain the altars of the Gods with blood.  For in those days men are said to have lived a sort of Orphic life, having the use of all lifeless things, but abstaining from all living things."  

And Aristophánis (Aristophanes; Gr. Ἀριστοφάνης) Vátrakhi (Batrachoi or The Frogs; Gr. Βάτραχοι), Line 1039, translated by B.B. Rogers, 1909, The Harvard Classics:

"First, Orpheus taught you religious rites, and from bloody murder to stay your hands"

[34] "Orpheus discovered the Mysteries of Dionysos, ..." (Apollódohros [Apollodoros; Gr. Ἀπολλόδωρος] Library, Book I, Offspring of the Muses 15, translated by R. Scott Smith and Steven M. Trzaskoma, 2007, p. 3)

[35]  Excerpt from Thomas Taylor's introduction to The Theology of Plato by Proclus:   

"I rejoice in the opportunity which is afforded me of presenting the truly philosophic reader, in the present work, with a treasure of Grecian theology; of a theology, which was first mystically and symbolically promulgated by Orpheus, afterwards disseminated enigmatically through images by Pythagoras, and in the last place scientifically unfolded by Plato and his genuine disciples."

Próklos (Proclus; Gr. Πρόκλος), The Theology of Plato, translated by Thomas Taylor, Book I, Chapter 5:  

"For all the Grecian theology is the progeny of the mystic tradition of Orpheus; Pythagoras first of all learning from Aglaophemus the orgies of the Gods, but Plato in the second place receiving an all-perfect science of the divinities from the Pythagoric and Orphic writings."

Próklos (Proclus; Gr. Πρόκλος), The Theology of Plato, translated by Thomas Taylor, Book VII, Chapter 27: 

"...that Timæus being a Pythagorean, follows the Pythagorean principles. But these are the Orphic traditions. For what Orpheus delivered mystically through arcane narrations, these Pythagoras learned, being initiated by Aglaophemus in the Mystic wisdom which Orpheus derived from his mother Calliope. For these things Pythagoras says in the Sacred Discourse."

And here, quoted from The Golden Chain, edited by Algis Uždavinys, 2004, World Wisdom, Inc.; from the introduction p. xviii:

"Though the strong Neoplatonic conviction that the philosophy of Plato was a prolongation of the Orphic theology is disregarded by some modern scholars, Olympiodorus may be partly correct in asserting that 'Plato paraphrases Orpheus everywhere' ('pantachou gar ho Platon paroidei ta Orpheos,' [Olympiodorus, In Phaed. 10.3.13])."

And from Marcilio Facino: Opp p. 386. (=Theologia Platonica 17.1), we have the below quotation. Aglaophamos (Gr. Αγλαοφαμος), mentioned therein, is transmitted as having been the Orphic teacher of Pythagóras (Gr. Πυθαγόρας); he was initiated into the sanctuaries by Agalophamus. S. Iamblichus: Vita Pythagora, and Proclus, in Timaion, p. 289] {All this found on p. 33 of PHILOSOPHIA PERENIS: Historical Outlines of Western Spirituality in Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern Thought by  Wilhelm Schmidt-Biggemann, published by Springer, 2004}:

“In the subjects belonging to theology the six great theologians join together: the first is Zoroaster, chief of Magi, the second Mercurius Trismegistos, the prince of Egyptian priests. Orpheus was successor to Mercurius; Aglaophamus was introduced into the sanctuaries by Orpheus.  Pythagoras followed Aglaophamus in theology; Aglaophamus’ successor was Plato, who, in his works, summarized, improved and illustrated the wisdom of these men.  They all veiled divine Mysteries with poetical shadows, so that they should not be communicated to the profane people. But it happened that their successors communicated the mysteries and everybody interpreted them in his own way.” 

[36] Socrates: The Man and His Thought by A. E. Taylor, 1933, Chapter 2. We are using the 1956 paperback edition of this book published by Doubleday Anchor Books (Garden City, NY USA) where this quotation can be found on pp. 50-52.

[37] Orpheus and Greek Religion by W. K. C. Guthrie, 1935. We are using the 1993 reprint by Princeton Univ. Press (Princeton, NJ USA, p. 11.

[38]  Ibid Guthrie, p. 18.

[39] Such as in the Orphic hymn to Apóllohn with its reference to the day being equal to the night. Also, the language of the hymns pre-dates Classical Greek.

[40] A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, edited by William Smith, 1880; 2007 I.B Tauris edition, Vol. III, p. 59-60.

[41]  (Kern, testt. 7-9)   Guthrie, p. 26.

[42]  (Kern, testt. 7-9)   Guthrie, p. 26.

[43] A Classical Manual, Being a Mythological, Historical, and Geographical Commentary on Pope's Homer, and Dryden's Æneid of Virgil, 1833; pp. 442-443. This very old and amazing reference book does not list an author.

[44] Kallístratos (Callistratus; Gr. Καλλίστρατος) Ækphráseis (Ecphraseis or Descriptions; Gr. Εκφράσεις) 7. On the Statue of Orphéfs trans. Arthur Fairbanks, 1931, in the volume entitled Elder Philostratus, Younger Philostratus, Callistratus, published by William Heinemann (London, England UK), LCL 256.

 

The logo to the left is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The 
Pætilía (Petelia; Gr. Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara; Gr. κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς).



PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this website, you will find fascinating stories about our Gods. These narratives are known as mythology, the traditional stories of the Gods and Heroes. While these tales are great mystical vehicles containing transcendent truth, they are symbolic and should not be taken literally. A literal reading will frequently yield an erroneous result. The meaning of the myths is concealed in code. To understand them requires a key. For instance, when a God kills someone, this usually means a transformation of the soul to a higher level. Similarly, sexual union with a God is a transformation.

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

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