6. ΔΙΑΘΗΚΑΙ (The Testament)


For links to many more fragments: The Orphic Fragments of Otto Kern.


In the body of Orphic books noted in the Suda (v. test. 223), this poem is absent, but frequently turned to by Christian authors, to prove that Orpheus had sung a recantation (a palinode, παλινῳδία) [of polytheism]. In addition to those collected by pseudo-Justin Martyr, Clement, Eusebius, and Aristocritus Manichaeus:

Compare to (Pseudo-Justin) Λόγος παραινέτικος πρὸς Ἕλληνας Ἰουστίνου μάρτυρος c. 36 c. d p. 118 Otto:

εἰ δέ τις ὄκνος ἢ παλαιὰ τῶν προγόνων ὑμῶν δεισιδαιμονία τέως ἐντυγχάνειν ὑμᾶς ταῖς τῶν ἁγίων ἀνδρῶν προφητέιαις κωλύει, δι’ ὧν δυνατὸν μανθάνειν ὑμᾶς ἕνα καὶ μόνον εἶναι (DG; εἰδέναι BCEF) θεόν, ὅ πρῶτόν ἐστι τῆς ἀληθοῦς θεοσεβείας γνώρισμα, τῶι γοῦν πρότερον ὑμᾶς τὴν πολυθεότητα διδάξαντι, ὕστερον δὲ λυσιτελῆ καὶ ἀναγκαίαν παλινωιδίαν ἆισαι προελομένωι πείσθητε Ὀρφεῖ, ταῦτ’ (τῶι C) εἰρηκότι ἃ μικρῶι πρόσθεν (c. 15) γέγραφα, καὶ τοῖς λοιποῖς (Sibyllae Homero Sophocli Pythagorae Platoni [c. 16-20]) δὲ τοῖς τὰ αὐτὰ περὶ ἑνὸς θεοῦ γεγραφόσι πείσθητε.

“And if any slothfulness or old hereditary superstition prevents you from reading the prophecies of the holy men through which you can be instructed regarding the one only God, which is the first article of the true religion, yet believe him who, though at first he taught you polytheism, yet afterwards preferred to sing a useful and necessary recantation — I mean Orpheus, who said what I quoted a little before; and believe the others who wrote the same things concerning one God.”

(trans. Marcus Dods, 1885)

And Πρός Αὐτόλυκον τοῦ Θεοφίλου Ἀντιοχείας, Βίβλος ΙΙΙ 2 p. 117 c (p. 188 Otto) [Ab. fr. 4]:

τί γὰρ ὠφέλησεν Ὅμηρον συγγράψαι τὸν Ἰλιακὸν πόλεμον καὶ πολλοὺς ἐξαπατῆσαι, ἢ Ἡσίοδον ὁ κατάλογος τῆς θεογονίας τῶν παρ’ αὐτῶι θεῶν ὀνομαζομένων, ἢ Ὀρφέα |190 Otto οἱ τριακόσιοι ἑξήκοντα πέντε θεοὶ, οὓς αὐτὸς ἐπὶ τέλει τοῦ βίου ἀθετεῖ ἐν ταῖς Διαθήκαις αὐτοῦ λέγων ἕνα εἶναι θεόν.

“For what did it profit Homer to have composed the Trojan war, and to have deceived many; or Hesiod, the register of the theogony of those whom he calls Gods; or Orpheus, the three hundred and sixty-five Gods, whom in the end of his life he rejects, maintaining in his precepts that there is one God?”

(trans. Marcus Dods, 1885)

Compare to Lactantius Institutiones Divinae I 7, 6-7 p. 26, 18:

quodsi cultores deorum eos ipsos colere se putant, quos summi dei ministros appellamus, nihil est quod nobis (in quod nobis SHM) faciant invidiam, qui unum deum dicamus, multos negemus. si eos multitudo delectat, non duodecim dicimus aut trecentos sexaginta (trecentis aut sexaginta M) quinque ut Orpheus, sed innumerabiles esse. arguimus errores eorum in diversum, qui tam paucos putant.

“But if the worshippers of the Gods think that they worship those beings whom we call the ministers of the Supreme God, there is no reason why they should envy us who say that there is one God, and deny that there are many. If a multitude of gods delights them, we do not speak of twelve, or three hundred and sixty-five as Orpheus did; but we convict them of innumerable errors on the other side, in thinking that they are so few.”

(trans. William Fletcher, 1886)

Lobeck I 364. 448; Reitzenstein Poimandres 272 n. 3.

It seems to be that there were three redactions of the Testament, which, for reason of brevity, I call (pseudo-) Justin Martyr (fragment 245), Clement or pseudo-Hecataeus (fragment 246), and Aristobulus (fragment 247). A. (Anton?) Elter spoke on this subject very skilfully in the Bonn Indices a. 1894 De monarchia of pseudo-Justin Martyr and Aristobulus I of Judea. II (De Gnomolog. Graec. hist. with its lineage of careful study, as especially found in parts V and VI), opinions which are not all probable; but he corrected many mistakes which were made previously (by others). Which from their number they convey along with Lobeck I 364. 448-465 especially Schuster 56; Gruppe Suppl. 711 742; Rohde Psyche II6 114 n. 3; Zeller Zeitschr. wiss. Theol. XLII 1899, 269 = Kl. Schr. II 184; Maaβ Aratea (Phil. Unters. XII 1892) 131. 253.

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic 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.

How do we know there are Gods? Experiencing Gods.

This logo 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, 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, κιθάρα), the the lyre of Apóllôn (Apollo, Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus, Ὀρφεύς).

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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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