ORPHIC CRITICAL TESTIMONY 224

OTTO KERN

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


SUMMARY: This testimony is a long quotation from the Orphic Argonautica, the verses of which seem to refer to various Orphic texts (see the very last entry of this testimony explaining this).

ORPHIC CRITICAL TESTIMONY 244

Ὀρφέως Ἀργοναυτικὰ 7- 46:

νῦν γάρ σοι, λυροεργέ, φίλον µέλος ἀείδοντι

θυμὸς ἐποτρύνει λέξαι, τάπερ οὕποτε πρόσθεν

ἔφρασ’, ὅταν Βάκχοιο καὶ Ἀπόλλωνος ἄνακτος

κέντρωι ἑλαυνόμενος φρικώδεα κῆλα πιφαύσκω 10

θνητοῖς ἀνθρώποισιν, ἀκήρατα δ’ ὄργια μύσταις·

ἀρχαίου μὲν πρῶτα Χάους ἀμέγαρτον Ἀνάγκην

καὶ Χρόνον, ὡς ἐλόχευσεν ἀπειρεσίοις ὑπὸ κόλποις

Αἰθέρα καὶ διφυῆ περιωπέα κυδρὸν Ἔρωτα

Νυκτὸς ἀειγνήτης πατέρα κλυτόν, ὂν ῥα Φάνητα 15

ὁπλότεροι καλέουσι βροτοί· πρῶτος γὰρ ἐφάνθη.

Βριμοῦς[1] τ’ εὐδυνάτοιο γονάς, ἠδ’ ἔργ’ ἀΐδηλα

Γηγενέων, οἳ λυγρὸν ἀπ’ Οὐρανοῦ ἐστάξαντο

σπέρμα γονῆς τό <τε> πρόσθεν ὄθεν γένος ἐξεγένοντο

θνητῶν, οἳ κατὰ γαῖαν ἀπείριτον αἰὲν ἔασι· 20

θητείαν[2] τε Ζηνὸς ὀρεσσιδρόμου τε λατρείην

μητρός, ἅ τ’ ἐν Κυβέλοις ὄρεσιν μητίσατο κούρην

Φερσεφόνη περὶ πατρὸς ἀμαιμακέτου Κρονίωνος·

καὶ Μήλου[3] τε καὶ Ἡρακλέος[4] περίφημον ἄμυξιν·

ὄργια τ’ Ἰδαίων Κορυβάντων τ’ ἄπλετον ἰσχύν· 25

Δήμητρός τε πλάνην καὶ Φερσεφόνης μέγα πένθος,

θεσμοφόρος θ’ ὡς ἦν· ἠδ’ ἀγλαά δῶρα Καβείρων·

χρησμούς τ’ ἀρρήτους Νυκτὸς περὶ Βάκχου ἄνακτος·

Λῆμνόν τε ζαθέην ἠδ’ εἰναλίην Σαμοθράικην

αἰπεινήν τε Κύπρον καί Ἀδωναίην Ἀφροδίτην, 30

ὄργια Πραξιδίκης, καί Ἀρείης μητρὸς Ἀθήνης[5]

θρήνους τ’ Αἰγυπτίων καὶ τ’ Ὀσίριδος ἱερὰ χύτλα.

ἀμφὶ δὲ μαντείης ἐδάης πολυπείρονας οἴμους

θηρῶν <τ’> οἰωνῶν τε καὶ ἥ σπλάγχνων θέσις ἐστίν·

ἠδ’ ὅσα θεσπίζουσιν ὀνειροπόλοισιν ἀταρποῖς 35

ψυχαί ἐφημερίων, ὕπνωι βεβολημέναι ἦτορ·

σημείων τεράτων τε λύσεις ἄστρων τε πορείας·

ἁγνοπόλον τε καθαρμόν, ἐπιχθονίοις μέγ’ ὄνειαρ·

ἱλασμούς τε θεῶν φθιμένων τ’ ἐπινήχυτα δῶρα.

ἄλλα δέ σοι κατέλεξ’, ἄπερ εἴσιδον ἠδ’ ἐνόησα, 40

Ταίναρον ἡνίκ’ ἔβην σκοτίην ὁδὸν Ἄϊδος εἴσω,

ἡμετέρηι πίσυνος κιθάρηι, δι’ ἔρωτ’ ἀλόχοιο,

ἠδ’ ὅτ’ ἓν Αἰγύπτωι ἱερὸν λόγον ἐξελόχευσα,

Μέμφιν ἐς ἠγαθέην πελάσας ἱεράς τε πόληας

Ἄπιδος, ἃς πέρι Νεῖλος ἀγάρροος ἐστεφάνωται· 45

πάντα μάλ’ ἀτρεκέως ἄπ’ ἐμῶν στέρνων δεδάηκας.

“Indeed now, with you singing your lovely song, oh Lyre-player,

my heart urges me to narrate that which I have never before

told, when driven by the goad of Vákkhos (Βάκχος) and Apóllôn (Ἀπόλλων) the king,

I wanted to reveal their awesome arrows 10

to mortal men, and the undefiled Mysteries to the initiates.

First from ancient Kháos (Χάος) (came) terrible Necessity (Ἀνάγκη)

and Time (Χρόνος), which brought forth under their boundless wombs

Aithír (Αἰθήρ) and two-natured, glorious wide-seeing Ǽrôs,

the illustrious father of eternal Nyx, who is Phánîs (Φάνης) 15

as men of later days call him; for he is the first to have appeared.

And (I sing of) the descendants of mighty Vrimóh (βριμώ[1]), and the destructive works of the

Giants, which, dripped from (the blood of) Ouranós (Οὐρανός) the baneful

seed of their family, and from whence before were born the race

of mortals, who are ever (dispersed) throughout the boundless earth; 20

(I sing of) both the nursing[2] of Zefs (Ζεύς) and the worship of the Mother who runs through the hills,

and the undertaking she devised on the Kyvǽlian (Κυβέλοις) mountains for the daughter (Κόρη)

Phærsæphónî (Φερσεφόνη = Περσεφόνη), concerning her father, the irresistible son of Krónos;

and the very famous tearing apart of Kázmilos (Χάσμιλος)[3] and Iraklís (Ἡρακλῆς)[4];

and both the Mysteries of Idaios (Ἰδαῖος = Ida) and the boundless strength of the Korývandæs (Κορύβαντες); 25

and the wandering of Dîmítîr (Δημήτηρ) and the great grief of Phærsæphónî (Φερσεφόνη),

and how she became Thæsmophóros (Θεσμοφόρος, the Law-Giver); and the splendid gifts of the Káveiri (Κάβειροι);

and the unspeakable oracles of Nyx concerning Lord Vákkhos (Βάκχος);

both sacred Límnos (Λῆμνος = Lemnos) and Samothrákî (Σαμοθράκη) surrounded by the sea,

and lofty Kýpros (Κύπρος = Cyprus) and Adônian Aphrodítî (Ἀφροδίτη), 30

the secret rites of Praxídikî (Πραξιδίκη), and of Athîná (Ἀθηνᾶ) the Ares-like (Ἀρείης) mother[5]

and the dirges of the Egyptians and the sacred libations of Ósiris (Ὄσιρις).

Concerning divination, you learned the manifold paths

from beasts and birds and what is the placement of the organs;

and as much as they foretell through the paths of dreams 35

in the souls of mortals, when the heart is stricken with sleep;

the interpretations of signs and wonders and the pathways of the stars;

and the rites of purification, a great boon to the mortals;

and the means of appeasing the Gods and the abundant gifts for the dead.

And I told you other things which I saw and perceived, 40

when at Tainaros (Ταίναρος), the dark road to Áïdis (Ἅϊδης = the Underworld),

trusting in my kithára (κιθάρα, a type of lyre), through love of my wife,

and the sacred discourse I brought forth going to Egypt,

when I went to most holy Memphis and the sacred cities

of Ápis (Ἆπις), around which the strong-flowing Nile confers honor; 45

truly you have learned all of this from my heart.”

(trans. by the author)

Translator’s notes:

[1] βριμώ: epithet of both Ἑκάτη and Δημήτηρ.

[2] literally “the service (or worship) of Zeus, but this translator accepts the logic below, quoted from The Journal of Philology 1899 vol. XXVI p. 69 by Arthur Platt:

θητείαν τε Ζηνός.

θητείην Παιᾶνος, Abel with more zeal than discretion. I think that θητείαν is simply a transposition of τηθείαν “nursing” from τήθη. Whether τήθη could mean ‘τίτθη’ or not is a disputed point; anyhow ‘the words are perpetually interchanged in MSS.’ (L. & S.); ... Tales of the infancy of gods were a stock subject in Orphic, Eleusinian and similar gibberish*.”

*Prof. Platt’s comment referring to Orphic “gibberish” is a common sentiment in authors of the period, with a similar partiality applied to Neoplatonic texts as well. Platt called the Orphic Argonautica a “dreary poem” at the opening of his paper, a comment which I find a bit strange as the poem does not strike me as in any way dreary. But the O. Argonautica is frequently maligned for various reasons, all the way up to the present time. In reality, the Orphic literature in general is the victim of much attack; they give their reasons, of course, but the abuse is so frequent that the entire phenomenon has become quite suspicious and questionable in my mind. A good example of this is the criticism that all the Orphic literature is spurious, since it was written as though Orpheus himself wrote it, while it is known that the texts were actually written by various authors; but I have studied other religious traditions which do the exact same thing...out of piety...in other words, it would be insolent to claim the content of a religious text as one’s own creation. Therefore, I had always assumed that Orphic poems are placed in the mouth of Orpheus, not to deceive those who read them, but, rather, because Orpheus is thought of as the original author of the ideas contained in the poems. And I also assume that in antiquity, most religious and educated readers of these texts were well aware of this manner of writing, and most likely expected it, for, if Orpheus was a historic personage, as I myself assume, he was of such antiquity, that all that he had written – if that consists of anything at all - had been lost by the Classical period, and only the ideas remained. And if Orpheus actually wrote nothing, this would be typical for a religious teacher of his magnitude; consider, for instance, that Socrates, the Buddha, and Jesus wrote nothing at all. Of course Orpheus is famous for the songs he composed, but did he write them down? ... judging from the way he is portrayed in myth, it seems unlikely; and Orpheus - again, if he is a historical personage - would have lived before the Greek Dark Age when the knowledge of writing was lost, and what words of his remained, beyond ideas, would certainly have been retained only in the memories of bards; there is no other way.

[3] M. L. West sees this Μήλου as a corruption of Χασμίλου (= Καδμῖλος), one of the Dactyli. Researching Μήλος as a deity or personage is a dead end.

[4] Not the famous Heracles of the Twelve Labors, but one of the Dactyli: Γεωγραφικὰ Στράβωνος 10.3.22.

[5] In other editions of the text we find ἀρείης νύκτας Ἀθήνης “the nights of warlike Athena.”

-------------------

Otto Kern:

The words spoken to Musaeus (nr. 168) refer to these works of Orpheus (Christian Lobeck Aglaophamus I 589: Giseke Rhein. Mus. VIII 1853, 70):

verses 9-11 Βακχικὰ “Of Bacchus”? Τελεταί “Initiation Rites”?

12-20 Θεογονία “Birth of the Gods” (19. 20 Ἀνθρωπογονία “The birth of man”) Compare 24. 28. 30-32.

21-23 Θρονισμοὶ μητρῶιοι “Enthronements of the Mother.”

24 Θεογονία?

25 Κορυβαντικόν “On the Corybants.” 26

And the beginning of vs. 27 Carmen on the Abduction of Persephone? Θεογονία?

28 Θεογονία?

27. 29 On the Κάβειροι, of which only traces are extant here (I do not know if vs. 28 should be set after vs. 29).

30 Θεογονία?

31 Τελεταί?

32 The Egyptian Ἱερὸς λόγος “Sacred Discourse?” Compare 43-45.

33-36 books of prophecy.

37 Περὶ σεισμῶνOn earthquakes” or like works? Ἀστρονομία “Astronomy.”

38 Καθαρμοί “Purifications.”

39 Ὕμνοι “Hymns.”

40-42 Εἰς Ἅιδου κατάβασις “On the descent to the Underworld.”

43-45 The Egyptian Ἱερὸς λόγος Compare 32.

What I have claimed for Θεογονία (and Ἀνθρωπογονία), is quite possible to have been collected in the Ἱεροῖς λόγοις of the Neoplatonists; compare P. II s. The ΙΕΡΟΙ ΛΟΓΟΙ should not be confused with the Egyptian Ἱερῶι λόγωι.


The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Theogony.

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