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

SUMMARY: This testimony consists of a number of quotations which say that the music of Orpheus caused the trees, birds, and rocks to follow him, and that the beasts stopped to listen to him, and that he detained the flowing of rivers and the blowing of the wind with his musical art.


Lucius Annaeus Seneca Hercules furens 572:

quae silvas et aves saxaque traxerat

ars, quae praebuerat fluminibus moras,

ad cuius sonitum constiterant ferae.

“The art which had drawn the trees and birds and rocks, which had stayed the course of rivers, at whose sound the beasts had stopped to listen, soothes the underworld with unaccustomed strains, and rings out clearer in those unhearing realms.”

(trans. Frank Justus Miller, 1917)

Lucius Annaeus Seneca Medea 227-228:

munus est Orpheus meum,

qui saxa cantu mulcet et silvas trahit

“Orpheus is my gift,

who softens the rocks by his singing and draws trees after him.”

(trans. Frank Justus Miller, 1917)

Lucius Annaeus Seneca Medea 626:

ille vocali genitus Camena,

cuius ad chordas modulante plectro

restitit torrens, siluere venti,

cura suo cantu volucris relicto

adfuit tota comitante silva,

Thracios sparsus iacuit per agros,

at caput tristi fluitavit Hebro:

contigit notam Styga Tartarumque,

non rediturus.

“That son of the tuneful Muse, at whose sweet melodies the swift stream stood still and the winds were hushed, when the bird, leaving off its own singing, came near him, the whole wood following after – he lay scattered over the Thracian fields, but his head floated down mournful Hebrus; he came to the familiar Styx and Tartarus, never to return.

(trans. Frank Justus Miller, 1917)

Lucius Annaeus Seneca Hercules Oetaeus 1031-1060:

Verum est quod cecinit sacer

Thressae sub Rhodopes iugis

aptans Pieriam chelyn

Orpheus Calliopae genus,

aeternum fieri nihil.

Illius stetit ad modos

torrentis rapidi fragor,

oblitusque sequi fugam

amisit liquor impetum;

et dum fluminibus mora est,

defecisse putant Getae

Hebrum Bistones ultimi.

advexit volucrem nemus

et silva residens venit:

aut si qua aera pervolat,

auditis vaga cantibus

ales deficiens cadit;

abrumpit scopulos Athos

Centauros obiter ferens

et iuxta Rhodopen stetit

laxata nive cantibus;

et quercum fugiens suam

ad vatem properat Dryas;

ad cantus veniunt tuos

ipsis cum latebris ferae,

iuxtaque inpavidum pecus

sedit Marmaricus leo

nec dammae trepidant lupos

et serpens latebras fugit.

tunc oblita veneni.

“True sang the bard beneath the heights of Thracian Rhodope, fitting the word to his Pierian lyre, e’en Orpheus, Calliope’s blest son, that naught for endless life is made. At his sweet strains the rushing torrents’ roar was stilled, and, forgetful of their eager flight, the waters ceased their flow; and, while the river stayed to hear, the far Bistonians thought their Hebrus had failed the Getan. The woods came with their birds to him, yea, perched among the trees they came; or if, in the high air soaring, some wandering bird caught sound of the charming song, his drooping wings sank earthward. Athos broke off his crags, bringing the Centaurs as he came, and next to Rhodope he stood, his snows melted by the music; the Dryad, leaving her oaken haunts, sped to the singer’s side. To hear thy song, with their very lairs the wild beasts came, and close to the fearless herds the Marmaric lion crouched; does felt no fear of wolves, and the serpent fled her gloomy den, her venom at last forgot.”

(trans. Frank Justus Miller, 1917)

Marcus Annaeus Lucanus Orpheus fr. 6 Hos.

Macrobii Ambrosii Theodosii In somnium Scipionis II 3, 8 (~myth. Vat. III 8, 20 v. Raschke De Alberico mythologo 86):

hinc aestimo et Orphei vel Amphionis fabulam, quorum alter animalia ratione carentia alter saxa quoque trahere cantibus ferebantur, sumpsisse principium quia primi forte gentes vel sine rationis cultu barbaras vel saxi instar nullo affectu molles ad sensum voluptatis canendo traxerunt.

“I determine that the fable of Orpheus or of Amphion, of which they say that one drew the irrational animals with songs and the other also attracted the rocks, their origin can be assumed to be because they were, by chance, the first to bring together barbaric races with music to the perception of pleasure, those who were either without reason, or like rocks, were not yielding to emotion.”

(trans. by the author)

Ὀρφέως Ἀργοναυτικά 74:

κηλήσω δέ τε θῆρας ἰδ’ ἑρπετὰ καὶ πετεηνά.

“And charm the wild beasts and the reptiles and the winged fowl.”

(trans. by the author)

Ὀρφέως Ἀργοναυτικά 260:

ἡνίκα δένδρὲ ἔθελγον ἐν ὑλήεντι κολώνηι.

πέτρας τ’ ἠλιβάτους.

Orpheus speaks:

“At the time when I was on the wooded hill, I was charming the trees,

and the craggy rocks.”

(trans. by the author)

Many more (similar quotations) are amassed by Gruppe as found in Rosch. III 1115.

Concerning the vases, one among them which stands out is Attic Archaeol. Zeit. 1884, 272 with the inscription Ὀρφεῦ χαῖρε “Welcome Orpheus!” For other artistic records see Robert Heldens. I 399.

On the Christian accounts in addition to those that Robert has enumerated in 1. 1. 399 n. 5, they wrote Th. Roller Les Catacombes de Rome I (s. a.) 244 pl. 36, II 1881, 26 pl. 55; Edg. Hennecke Altchristl. Malerei 1896, 288; F. X. Kraus Geschichte der christl. Kunst I 1896, 214; K. Michel Gebet und Bild in frühchristl. Zeit 1902, 50. 69 n. 3; Jos. Wilpert Malereien der Katakomben Roms 1903, 38. 241; Carl Maria Kaufmann Handbuch der christl. Archaeologie 1905, 307. 451; L. von Sybel Christl. Antike I 1906, 246; H. Leclerq Manuel d’archéologie chrétienne depuis les origines jusqu’au VIII. siècle I 1907, 127. 163. 172; O. Wulff Altchristl. und mittelalterl. bysantin. und italien. Bildwerke (at the museum in Berlin) I 1909, 23 n. 40; 32 n. 71; 234 n. 1146; Marcel Laurent L’art chrétienne primitive I (1910) 63; R. Henning Denkm. der elsässischen Altertums-Sammlung su Straßburg 1912, 26 tab. 24; Aus’ m Weerth-Witte Fundgruben der Kunst und Ikonographie in den Elfenbeinarbeiten des christl. Altertums und Mittelalters 1912, 1 tab. 4 (the πυξίς [wooden box] of Bobbio Abbey); J. Ficker Altchristl. Denkmäler und Anfänge des Christentums im Rheingebiet ed. II 1914, 41 v. nrr. 149. 150.

A song in Modern Greek from Zakynthos seems even now to look back upon the fable of Orpheus, as found in B. Schmidt Griechische Märchen, Sagen und Volkslieder 204 n. 60:

Ἡ κόρη ἐτραγούδησε τσῆ Τρίχας τὸ γιοφύρι. Καὶ τὸ γιοφύρι ἐρράγισε, κῂ ὸ ποταμὸς ἐστάθη, καὶ τὸ λιοντάρι τ’ ἄκουσε κὴ ἐστάθη κῂ ἀφουγκράστη· ἡ κόρη ποῦ ἐτραγούδησε νὰ ματατραγουδήσηι.

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).

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.

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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