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

MYSTES SAMOTHRACIUS (Initiated in the Mysteries of Samothrace)

SUMMARY: In this testimony, we have quotes from the historian Diodorus of Sicily who says that Orpheus was the only Argonaut initiated into the mysteries of Samothrace, but in a quotation from the Orphic Argonautica, Orpheus causes all the Argonauts to be initiated into these secret rites.


Βιβλιοθήκη ἱστορικὴ Διοδώρου Σικελιώτου IV 43.1, about the Argonauts:

ἐπιγενομένου δὲ μεγάλου χειμῶνος καὶ τῶν ἀριστέων ἀπογινωσκόντων τὴν σωτηρίαν, φασὶν Ὀρφέα, τῆς τελετῆς μόνον τῶν συμπλεόντων μετεσχηκότα, ποιήσασθαι τοῖς Σαμόθρᾶιξι τὰς ὑπὲρ τῆς σωτηρίας εὐχάς.

“But there came on a great storm and the chieftains had given up hope of being saved, when Orpheus, they say, who was the only one on shipboard who had ever been initiated in the mysteries of the deities of Samothrace,​ offered to these deities the prayers for their salvation.”

(trans. Charles Henry Oldfather, 1935)

Compare to Βιβλιοθήκη ἱστορικὴ Διοδώρου Σικελιώτου IV 48.6-7:

6. τοῦ δ᾽ Ὀρφέως, καθάπερ καὶ πρότερον, εὐχὰς ποιησαμένου τοῖς Σαμόθραιξι, λῆξαι μὲν τοὺς ἀνέμους, φανῆναι δὲ πλησίον τῆς νεὼς τὸν προσαγορευόμενον θαλάττιον Γλαῦκον. τοῦτον δ᾽ ἐπὶ δύο νύκτας καὶ δύο ἡμέρας συνεχῶς τῆι νηὶ συμπλεύσαντα προειπεῖν μὲν Ἡρακλεῖ περὶ τῶν ἄθλων καὶ τῆς ἀθανασίας, τοῖς δὲ Τυνδαρίδαις, ὅτι προσαγορευθήσονται μὲν Διόσκοροι, τιμῆς δ᾽ ἰσοθέου τεύξονται παρὰ πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις. 7. καθόλου δ᾽ ἐξ ὀνόματος προσφωνήσαντα πάντας τοὺς Ἀργοναύτας εἰπεῖν ὡς διὰ τὰς Ὀρφέως εὐχὰς θεῶν προνοίαι φανεὶς αὐτοῖς σημαίνει τὰ μέλλοντα γενήσεσθαι· συμβουλεύειν οὖν αὐτοῖς, ὅταν τῆς γῆς ἅψωνται, τὰς εὐχὰς ἀποδοῦναι τοῖς θεοῖς, δι᾽ οὓς τετεύχασι δὶς ἤδη τῆς σωτηρίας.

“6. But when Orpheus, as on the former occasion, ​offered up prayers to the deities of Samothrace, the winds ceased and there appeared near the ship Glaucus the Sea-God, as he is called. The God accompanied the ship in its voyage without ceasing for two days and nights and foretold to Heracles his Labours and immortality, and to the Tyndaridae that they should be called Dioscori (‘Sons of Zeus’) and receive at the hands of all mankind honour like that offered to the Gods. 7. And, in general, he addressed all the Argonauts by name and told them that because of the prayers of Orpheus he had appeared in accordance with a Providence of the Gods and was showing forth to them what was destined to take place; and he counselled them, accordingly, that so soon as they touched land they should pay their vows to the Gods through the intervention of whom they had twice already been saved.”

(trans. Charles Henry Oldfather, 1935)

Ὀρφέως Ἀργοναυτικὰ 466 (de codd. v. nr. 224):

......ἰδὲ ζαθέην (corr. in ζαθέαν Vo) Σαμοθράικην (Σαμοθράκην codd.] Σαμοθρήικην vulgo),

ἔνθα καὶ ὄργια (ὄρκια codd.) φρικτὰ θεῶν, ἄρρητα (ἄρρητα δὲ codd. praeter Vo qui ἄρρηκτα δὲ praebet; δὲ

del. Stephan.) βροτοῖσιν,

ἄσμενοι εἰσεπέρησαν ἐμαῖς (ἐμῇς codd.) ὑποθημοσύνηισιν

ἥρωες· μετὰ (μίγα in marg. Vo) γάρ σφιν ὀφέλσιμον ἀνθρώποισι

τῆσδε θυηπολίης ἀβολεῖν (Herm.] ἄμοτον codd.) πλωτῆρσιν ἑκάστοις (ἑκάστος codd.).

“.......and (they journeyed) to sacred Samothrace,

and to the fearful secret rites of the Gods, unspeakable to mortals,

where the joyful heroes crossed over at my advice;

because among them, it is beneficial to men,

for all seamen to encounter this mystic rite.”

(trans. by the author)

Said differently in Valerii Flacci Argonautica II 437:

obvius at Minyas terris adytisque sacerdos excipit hospitibus reserans secreta Thyotes.

“But the priest Thyotes, meeting the Minyans with hospitality, takes them out to the lands and temples, revealing the Mysteries.”

(trans. by the author)

In the Samothracian cult of the Cabeiri no vestige of Orphic religion is extant (in opposition this see O. Rubensohn Mysterienheiligtümer in Eleusis und Samothrake 139; v. Kern Orpheus 29); however, it was gradually introduced to the cult of Thebes (Kern Herm. XXV 1890, 7; RE2 X 1440).

On the Mysteries of Phrygia see v. nr. 160.

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.

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