ORPHIC CRITICAL TESTIMONY 113
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For links to many more fragments: The Orphic Fragments of Otto Kern.
MORS (Death. V. see also Βούσιρις τοῦ Ἰσοκράτους XI 39 P. II Orphic fragment 17).
SUMMARY: This testimony consists of a quotation from pseudo-Eratosthenes and a quote from Ovid, both saying that Orpheus was torn apart by the Maenads, his body parts strewn about. Ovid says that the head of Orpheus floated across the sea to Lesbos.
ORPHIC CRITICAL TESTIMONY 113.
Καταστερισμοί ψευδούς Ἐρατοσθένους 24 p. 140 Rob.; 29 Ol.
τὸν μὲν Διόνυσον οὐκ ἐτίμα (ὑφ’ οὗ ἦν δεδοξασμένος add. cod. R), τὸν δὲ Ἥλιον μέγιστον τῶν θεῶν ἐνόμισεν (ἐνόμιζεν εἶναι D), ὃν καὶ Ἀπόλλωνα προσηγόρευσεν· ἐπεγειρόμενός τε τῆς νυκτὸς κατὰ τὴν ἑωθινὴν ἐπὶ τὸ ὄρος τὸ καλούμενον Πάγγαιον <ἀνιὼν add. Wilam., ἰὼν Heyn.> προσέμενε τὰς ἀνατολάς, ἵνα ἴδηι τὸν Ἥλιον (τ. Ἥ om. R), πρῶτον· ὅθεν ὁ Διόνυσος ὀργισθεὶς αὐτῶι ἔπεμψε τὰς Βασσαρίδας, ὥς φησιν Αἰσχύλος ὁ τῶν τραγωιδιῶν ποιητής (nr. 45)· αἵ διέσπασαν αὐτὸν (αἵτινες αὐτὸν διέσπασαν D) καὶ τὰ μέλη ἔρριψαν (διέρριψαν D) χωρὶς ἕκαστον· αἱ δὲ Μοῦσαι συναγαγοῦσαι ἔθαψαν ἐπὶ τοῖς λεγομένοις Λειβήθροις. τὴν δὲ λύραν οὐκ ἔχουσαι ὅτωι δώσειν τὸν Δία ἠξίωσαν καταστερίσαι, ὅπως ἐκείνου τε καὶ αὐτῶν μνημόσυνον τεθῆι ἐν τοῖς ἄστροις (τὴν δὲ λύραν - ἄστροις om. R)· τοῦ δ’ ἐπινεύσαντος οὕτως ἐτέθη· ἐπισημασίαν δ’ ἔχει ἐπὶ τῶι ἐκείνου συμπτώματι δυομένη καθ’ ὥραν (συμπτώματι – καθ’ ὥραν om. R).
“He was not honoring Diónysos (Διόνυσος), but acknowledged Ílios (Ἥλιος) as greatest of the Gods, and he called him Apóllôn (Ἀπόλλων). And waking himself at night near the break of day, he was waiting for the sunrise on the mountain called Pangaion (Παγγαῖον), where he wanted to see Ílios from the start. Wherefore Diónysos, angered, sent the Vassarídæs (βασσαρίδες) against him, as Aiskhýlos (Αἰσχύλος), the composer of tragedies, says (nr. 45): they tore him asunder and cast away his limbs, each one separately; and the Mousai (Μοῦσαι) gathered them together again and interred them at the place called Leivîthra (Λείβηθρα). But having no-one to whom they should offer the lyre, they thought it fitting that Zefs (Ζεύς) should place it among the stars, so that the memory of him, and also of themselves, should be set in the stars. And having nodded his assent, it was set in place. It testifies to his misfortune as it makes its way into each season.”
(trans. by the author)
Schol. Germ. BP 84, G 151; Anonymi II Arati epitom. cum schol. ed. Ernest Maaß 231 s.; for Hygini De Astronomica II 7 see Orphic Critical Testimony 117.
It seems that Aeschylus is imitated by Vergil in Georgica IV 521:
inter sacra deum nocturnique orgia Bacchi
“between the rites of the Gods and the nocturnal orgies of Bacchus”
(trans. by the author)
And Publii Ovidii Nasonis Metamorphoses XI 1ss.:
Carmine dum tali silvas animosque ferarum
Threicius vates et saxa sequentia ducit,
ecce nurus Ciconum, tectae lymphata ferinis
pectora velleribus, tumuli de vertice cernunt
Orphea percussis sociantem carmina nervis. 5
E quibus una, leves iactato crine per auras,
“en,” ait “en hic est nostri contemptor!” et hastam
vatis Apollinei vocalia misit in ora,
quae foliis praesuta notam sine vulnere fecit;
alterius telum lapis est, qui missus in ipso 10
aere concentu victus vocisque lyraeque est
ac veluti supplex pro tam furialibus ausis
ante pedes iacuit. Sed enim temeraria crescunt
bella modusque abiit, insanaque regnat Erinys.
Cunctaque tela forent cantu mollita, sed ingens 15
clamor et infracto Berecyntia tibia cornu
tympanaque et plausus et Bacchei ululatus
obstrepuere sono citharae: tum denique saxa
non exauditi rubuerunt sanguine vatis.
Ac primum attonitas etiamnum voce canentis 20
innumeras volucres anguesque agmenque ferarum
Maenades, Orphei titulum, rapuere, theatri.
Inde cruentatis vertuntur in Orphea dextris
et coeunt ut aves, si quando luce vagantem
noctis avem cernunt. Structoque utrimque theatro 25
ceu matutina cervus periturus harena
praeda canum est, vatemque petunt et fronde virentes
coniciunt thyrsos non haec in munera factos.
Hae glaebas, illae direptos arbore ramos,
pars torquent silices. Neu desint tela furori, 30
forte boves presso subigebant vomere terram,
nec procul hinc multo fructum sudore parantes
dura lacertosi fodiebant arva coloni.
Agmine qui viso fugiunt operisque relinquunt
arma sui, vacuosque iacent dispersa per agros 35
sarculaque rastrique graves longique ligones.
Quae postquam rapuere ferae cornuque minaci
divulsere boves, ad vatis fata recurrunt
Tendentemque manus et in illo tempore primum
inrita dicentem nec quicquam voce moventem 40
sacrilegae perimunt. Perque os, pro Iuppiter! illud
auditum saxis intellectumque ferarum
sensibus in ventos anima exhalata recessit.
Te maestae volucres, Orpheu, te turba ferarum,
te rigidi silices, tua carmina saepe secutae 45
fleverunt silvae, positis te frondibus arbor
tonsa comas luxit. Lacrimis quoque flumina dicunt
increvisse suis, obstrusaque carbasa pullo
naides et dryades passosque habuere capillos.
Membra iacent diversa locis. Caput, Hebre, lyramque 50
excipis, et (mirum!) medio dum labitur amne,
flebile nescio quid queritur lyra, flebile lingua
murmurat exanimis, respondent flebile ripae.
Iamque mare invectae flumen populare relinquunt
et Methymnaeae potiuntur litore Lesbi. 55
Hic ferus expositum peregrinis anguis harenis
os petit et sparsos stillanti rore capillos.
Tandem Phoebus adest morsusque inferre parantem
arcet et in lapidem rictus serpentis apertos
congelat et patulos, ut erant, indurat hiatus. 60
Umbra subit terras et quae loca viderat ante,
cuncta recognoscit quaerensque per arva piorum
invenit Eurydicen cupidisque amplectitur ulnis.
Hic modo coniunctis spatiantur passibus ambo,
nunc praecedentem sequitur, nunc praevius anteit 65
Eurydicenque suam iam tutus respicit Orpheus.
Non impune tamen scelus hoc sinit esse Lyaeus,
amissoque dolens sacrorum vate suorum
protinus in silvis matres Edonidas omnes,
quae videre nefas, torta radice ligavit. 70
Quippe pedum digitos, in quantum est quaeque secuta,
traxit et in solidam detrusit acumina terram,
utque suum laqueis, quos callidus abdidit auceps,
crus ubi commisit volucris sensitque teneri,
plangitur ac trepidans adstringit vincula motu: 75
sic, ut quaeque solo defixa cohaeserat harum,
exsternata fugam frustra temptabat; at illam
lenta tenet radix exsultantemque coercet,
dumque ubi sint digiti, dum pes ubi, quaerit, et ungues,
adspicit in teretes lignum succedere suras, 80
et conata femur maerenti plangere dextra,
robora percussit: pectus quoque robora fiunt,
robora sunt umeri, porrectaque bracchia veros
esse putes ramos, et non fallere putando.
“DEATH OF ORPHEUS
“While with his songs, Orpheus, the bard of Thrace,
allured the trees, the savage animals,
and even the insensate rocks, to follow him;
Ciconian matrons, with their raving breasts
concealed in skins of forest animals,
from the summit of a hill observed him there,
attuning love songs to a sounding harp.
One of those women, as her tangled hair
was tossed upon the light breeze shouted, “See!
Here is the poet who has scorned our love!”
Then hurled her spear at the melodious mouth
of great Apollo’s bard: but the spear’s point,
trailing in flight a garland of fresh leaves,
made but a harmless bruise and wounded not.
“The weapon of another was a stone,
which in the very air was overpowered
by the true harmony of his voice and lyre,
and so disabled lay before his feet,
as asking pardon for that vain attempt.
“The madness of such warfare then increased.
All moderation is entirely lost,
and a wild Fury overcomes the right.—
although their weapons would have lost all force,
subjected to the power of Orpheus’ harp,
the clamorous discord of their boxwood pipes,
the blaring of their horns, their tambourines
and clapping hands and Bacchanalian yells,
with hideous discords drowned his voice and harp.—
at last the stones that heard his song no more
fell crimson with the Thracian poet’s blood.
“Before his life was taken, the maenads turned
their threatening hands upon the many birds,
which still were charmed by Orpheus as he sang,
the serpents, and the company of beasts—
fabulous audience of that worshipped bard.
And then they turned on him their blood-stained hands:
and flocked together swiftly, as wild birds,
which, by some chance, may see the bird of night
beneath the sun. And as the savage dogs
rush on the doomed stag, loosed some bright fore-noon,
on blood-sand of the amphitheatre;
they rushed against the bard, with swift
hurled thyrsi which, adorned with emerald leaves
had not till then been used for cruelty.
“And some threw clods, and others branches torn
from trees; and others threw flint stones at him,
and, that no lack of weapons might restrain
their savage fury then, not far from there
by chance they found some oxen which turned up
the soil with ploughshares, and in fields nearby
were strong-armed peasants, who with eager sweat
worked for the harvest as they dug hard fields;
and all those peasants, when they saw the troop
of frantic women, ran away and left
their implements of labor strown upon
deserted fields—harrows and heavy rakes
and their long spades.
“After the savage mob
had seized upon those implements, and torn
to pieces oxen armed with threatening horns,
they hastened to destroy the harmless bard,
devoted Orpheus; and with impious hate,
murdered him, while his out-stretched hands implored
their mercy—the first and only time his voice
had no persuasion. O great Jupiter!
Through those same lips which had controlled the rocks
and which had overcome ferocious beasts,
his life breathed forth, departed in the air.
“The mournful birds, the stricken animals,
the hard stones and the weeping woods, all these
that often had followed your inspiring voice,
bewailed your death; while trees dropped their green leaves,
mourning for you, as if they tore their hair.
They say sad rivers swelled with their own tears—
naiads and dryads with dishevelled hair
wore garments of dark color.
“His torn limbs
were scattered in strange places. Hebrus then
received his head and harp—and, wonderful!
While his loved harp was floating down the stream,
it mourned for him beyond my power to tell.
His tongue though lifeless, uttered a mournful sound
and mournfully the river’s banks replied:
onward borne by the river to the sea
they left their native stream and reached the shore
of Lesbos at Methymna. Instantly,
a furious serpent rose to attack the head
of Orpheus, cast up on that foreign sand—
the hair still wet with spray. Phoebus at last
appeared and saved the head from that attack:
before the serpent could inflict a sting,
he drove it off, and hardened its wide jaws
to rigid stone.
“Meanwhile the fleeting shade
of Orpheus had descended under earth:
remembering now those regions that he saw
when there before, he sought Eurydice
through fields frequented by the blest; and when
he found her, folded her in eager arms.
Then lovingly they wandered side by side,
or he would follow when she chose to lead,
or at another time he walked in front,
looking back, safely,—at Eurydice.
“Bacchus would not permit the wickedness
of those who slaughtered Orpheus to remain
unpunished. Grieving for the loss of his
loved bard of sacred rites, at once he bound
with twisted roots the feet of everyone
of those Edonian women who had caused
the crime of Orpheus’ death.
“Their toes grew long.
He thrust the sharp points in the solid earth.
As when a bird entangled in a snare,
hid by the cunning fowler, knows too late
that it is held, then vainly beats its wings,
and fluttering only makes more tight the noose
with every struggle; so each woman-fiend
whose feet were sinking in the soil, when she
attempted flight, was held by deepening roots.
And while she looks down where her toes and nails
and feet should be, she sees wood growing up
from them and covering all her graceful legs.
Full of delirious grief, endeavoring
to smite with right hand on her changing thigh,
she strikes on solid oak. Her tender breast
and shoulders are transformed to rigid oak.
You would declare that her extended arms
are real branches of a forest tree,
and such a thought would be the very truth.”
(trans. Brookes More, 1922)
Carl Robert Griechische Heldensage I 402. 404 n. 3. Of the vases showing the death of Orpheus v. see the same l. l. in the version by Phanocles nr. 77.
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.