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

INSTRUMENTA MUSICA (Musical Instruments)

SUMMARY: This testimony consists of many quotations about Orpheus, each one of which say that he played the cithara, a type of lyre.


τμῆμα 139 b Πινδάρου Schr. e schol. Il. Ο 256:

τὸν χρυσοῦν ἀορτῦρα περὶ τῆν κιθάραν ἔχοντα· καὶ Πίνδαρος χρυσάορα Ὀρφέα φησί.

“He who has a golden strap around the kithára (κιθάρα); Pídaros (Πίνδαρος) also calls Orphéfs (Ὀρφεύς) (by the epithet) khysáoros (χρυσάορος “he with the golden sword”).

(trans. by the author)

Συμπόσιον Πλάτωνος 179 d nr. 60 κιθαρωιδός “he who sings while playing the kithára”:

Ὀρφέα δὲ τὸν Οἰάγρου ἀτελῆ ἀπέπεμψαν ἐξ Ἅιδου, φάσμα δείξαντες τῆς γυναικὸς ἐφ᾽ ἣν ἧκεν, αὐτὴν δὲ οὐ δόντες, ὅτι μαλθακίζεσθαι ἐδόκει, ἅτε ὢν κιθαρωιδός, καὶ οὐ τολμᾶν ἕνεκα τοῦ ἔρωτος ἀποθνήισκειν ὥσπερ Ἄλκηστις, ἀλλὰ διαμηχανᾶσθαι ζῶν εἰσιέναι εἰς Ἅιδου. τοιγάρτοι διὰ ταῦτα δίκην αὐτῶι ἐπέθεσαν, καὶ ἐποίησαν τὸν θάνατον αὐτοῦ ὑπὸ γυναικῶν.

From the speech of Phaidros (Φαῖδρος): “But Orpheus, the son of Oeagrus, the harper, they sent empty away, and presented to him an apparition only of her whom he sought, but herself they would not give up, because he showed no spirit; he was only a harp-player (κιθαρωιδός), and did not dare like Alcestis to die for love, but was contriving how he might enter Hades alive; moreover, they afterwards caused him to suffer death at the hands of women, as the punishment of his cowardliness.”

(trans. Benjamin Jowett, 1892)

Compare to Ἴων Πλάτωνος 533 b, where Orpheus is placed together with Thamyras and Phemius:

ἀλλὰ μήν, ὥς γ᾽ ἐγὼ οἶμαι, οὐδ᾽ ἐν αὐλήσει γε οὐδὲ ἐν κιθαρίσει οὐδὲ ἐν κιθαρωιδίαι οὐδὲ ἐν ῥαψωιδίαι οὐδεπώποτ᾽ εἶδες ἄνδρα ὅστις περὶ μὲν Ὀλύμπου δεινός ἐστιν ἐξηγεῖσθαι ἢ περὶ Θαμύρου ἢ περὶ Ὀρφέως ἢ περὶ Φημίου τοῦ Ἰθακησίου ῥαψωιδοῦ, περὶ δὲ Ἴωνος τοῦ Ἐφεσίου ῥαψωιδοῦ ἀπορεῖ καὶ οὐκ ἔχει συμβαλέσθαι ἅ τε εὖ ῥαψωιδεῖ καὶ ἃ μή.

“And if I am not mistaken, you never met with any one among flute-players or harp-players or singers to the harp or rhapsodes who was able to discourse of Olympus or Thamyras or Orpheus, or Phemius the rhapsode of Ithaca, but was at a loss when he came to speak of Ion of Ephesus, and had no notion of his merits or defects?”

(trans. Benjamin Jowett, 1892)

τμῆμα 45 Κόνωνος nr. 39:

ἐπετήδευε δὲ μουσικὴν καὶ μάλιστα κιθαρωιδίαν.

“And he was pursuing music and most of all singing to the kithára (κιθάρα).”

(trans. by the author)

Ἀγαθαρχίδης de mar. rubr. 7 (GG I 115):

κιθαρίζοντι διὰ φιλομουσίαν τὰ ὄρη καὶ τὰς πέτρας ἀκολουθεῖν.

“The mountains and the rocks follow him because of his love of music in playing the kithára (κιθάρα).”

(trans. by the author)

Hyginus Fabulae 273* nr. 81:

Orpheus Oeagri filius c<i>thara

“Orpheus, son of Oeagrus, the cithara”

(trans. by the author)

*Translator’s note: This is from a list of winners at games conducted by Ákastos (Ἄκαστος), son of Pælías (Πελίας), for the Aryeiϊ (Ἀργεῖοι, i. e. the Argives).

Martianus Capella I 3:

Oeagrius citharista

“Son of Oeagrus, the cithara-player”

Compare to Martianus Capella IX 927, Lib. monstr. nr. 67, the fifth cithara-player.

Gaius Plinius Secundus Naturalis Historia VII 204:

Citharam Amphion (sc. invenit), ut alii, Orpheus, ut alii, Linus.

“Amphion (sc. invented) the Cithara, while others say Orpheus, while others say, Linus.”

(trans. by the author)

Βιβλιοθήκη ἱστορικὴ Διοδώρου Σικελιώτου III 59, 5 (Dionys. Scytobrach.):

τῆς κιθάρας ἐκρῆξαι τὰς χορδὰς καὶ τὴν εὑρημένην ἁρμονίαν ἀφανίσαι. (6) ταύτης δ᾽ ὕστερον Μούσας μὲν ἀνευρεῖν τὴν μέσην, Λίνον δὲ τὴν λίχανον, Ὀρφέα δὲ καὶ Θαμύραν (Θάμυριν cl. II) ὑπάτην καὶ παρυπάτην.

“(Apollo) broke the strings of the lyre and destroyed the harmony of sounds which he had discovered.(6) The harmony of the strings, however, was rediscovered, when the Muses added later the middle string, Linus the string struck with the forefinger, and Orpheus and Thamyras the lowest string and the one next to it.”

(trans. Charles Henry Oldfather, 1935 but Public Domain)

translator’s note: Having felt guilty after he had flayed Marsyas.

Σύνοψις Ιστοριών Γεωργίου Κεδρηνοῦ I 53, 1 s. Bekker (Migne 121, 80):

ὕστερον δὲ Μούσας καὶ Ὀρφέα ταύτην (sc. τὴν κίθαριν) ἀνευρεῖν Λίνωι.

“But which later the Mousai (Μοῦσαι) and Orphéfs (Ὀρφεύς) rediscovered this (the κιθάρα) for Línos (Λῖνος).”

(trans. by the author)

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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