HYMN TO ZEUS
FOTO: by the author of this page, who has placed the picture in the Public Domain, of a hand-sculpted alabaster statue of Zefs in his possession.
Introduction to the Orphic Rhapsodic Hymn to Zefs
The original source of this hymn is, likely, the Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony, an epic poem entitled The Sacred Logos in 24 Rhapsodies. The poem is not extant but its content has been reconstructed from quotations found in many, many ancient texts. The story it tells is the most endearing of Ællinismόs (Hellenismos, Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion, for it shows the great compassion of Zefs (Ζεύς) for his creation and his plan to save us from suffering. Prof. Otto Kern did the research finding the quotations and published his work in Orphicorum Fragmenta (1922), where the hymn to Zefs is fragment 168. It can be found in Περίἀγαλμάτων Πορφυρίου, fragment 3. It appears in Εὑαγγελικὴ προπαρασκευή Εὐσεβίου (Praeparatio evangelica) 3.9, and the σχόλιον Πρόκλου επί Τιμαίου Πλάτωνος.
We also find a shortened and somewhat different version of the poem in Περὶ Κόσμου (de Mundo, On the Universe) of Aristotǽlis (Aristotle, Ἀριστοτέλης) or pseudo-Aristotǽlis because the authorship has been questioned:
This version of the poem must have been written before 322 BCE, since Aristotǽlis quotes it and 322 is the date of his death, and he refers to it as an Orphic hymn; therefore, we know that the Orphic Rhapsodic Hymn to Zefs, in one form or another, existed well before the Common Era and must have been at least 556 some years old when Porphýrios wrote and quoted it.
There is, perhaps, no other hymn to Zefs, the highest deity of the religion, which better conveys his majesty than the Orphic Rhapsodic hymn to the God. There are many people who have difficulty relating to this most important deity. They cannot understand why a God is held in so much esteem when the stories concerning him would appear to portray him in a bad light. But it should be obvious to anyone familiar with Greek mythology that the stories cannot be taken literally and that they will very much mislead the reader if he/she is not instructed as to the hidden meaning of these texts. Zefs is the mighty king of both Gods and men; indeed, he is sovereign over every single thing in the entire Kózmos (Cosmos, Κόσμος). As the hymn itself proclaims,
"...nothing which is, no word nor cry nor noise nor voice, escapes the ear of the mightiest son of Krónos."
Zefs is the supreme lord of justice who has great compassion for all of his creation, but this hymn concentrates more on his cosmic function.
Original ancient Greek text of the Orphic Rhapsodic Hymn to Zefs 
BREAKDOWN OF THE HYMN
Ζεὺς (Zefs/Zeus) πρῶτος (first) γένετο, (comes to be) - Zefs is first
Ζεὺς (Zefs) ὕστατος (last) ἀργιϰέραυνος· (of bright lightning) - Zefs of the bright lightning is last
Ζεὺς (Zefs) ϰεφαλή, (head) - Zefs the head
Ζεὺς (Zefs) μέσσα· (middle or center) - Zefs the middle
Διὸς (gen. of Zefs) δ’ ἐϰ (from) πάντα (all) τέτυϰται. (made, fabricated) - from Zefs all is made
Ζεὺς (Zefs) ἄρσην (male) γένετο, (comes to be) - Zefs is male
Ζεὺς (Zefs) ἄμβροτος (immortal) ἔπλετο (comes forth) νύμφη· (nýmphi [nymph]) - immortal Zefs is a nýmphi (female)
Ζεὺς (Zefs) πυθμὴν (bottom, foundation) γαίης (earth) τε (both and) ϰαὶ (and) οὐρανοῦ (heaven) ἀστερόεντος· (starry) - Zefs is the foundation of both earth and the heavens filled with stars
Ζεὺς (Zefs) βασιλεύς, (king) - Zefs the king
Ζεὺς (Zefs) αὐτὸς (self) ἁπάντων (all together, all) ἀρχιγένεθλος· (origin, primal) - Zefs of himself is the origin of all
ἓν (one) ϰράτος, (power) - one power
εἷς (one) δαίμων (divinity) γένετο, (come to be) - emerging one divinity
μέγας (big, great) ἀρχὸς (commander) ἁπάντων, (all together) - the mighty commander of all things
ἓν (one) δὲ (but, then) δέμας (body) βασίλειον, (royal) - but one royal body
ἐν (in, into) ὧι (which) τάδε (this) πάντα (all, on every side) ϰυϰλεῖται, (revolve) - in which everything revolves
πῦρ (fire) ϰαὶ (and) ὕδωρ (water) ϰαὶ (and) γαῖα (earth) ϰαὶ (and) αἰθήρ, (aithír) - fire and water and earth and aithír
νύξ (night) τε (both and) ϰαὶ (and) ἦμαρ, (day) - both night and day
ϰαὶ (and) Μῆτις, (Mítis) - and Mítis
πρῶτος (first) γενέτωρ (begotten) ϰαὶ (and) Ἔρως (Ǽrohs/Eros) πολυτερπής· (much delighting) - first-begotten and much-delighting Ǽrohs
πάντα (all) γὰρ (for) ἐν (in, into) Ζηνὸς (Zefs) μεγάλωι (big, great) τάδε (this) σώματι (body) ϰεῖται· (laid) - for all this is the great body of Zefs
τοῦ δή τοι ϰεφαλὴ (head) μὲν (indeed, as well) ἰδεῖν (see, behold) ϰαὶ (and) ϰαλὰ (beautiful, handsome) πρόσωπα (face, countenance) - as well behold his head and handsome countenance
οὐρανὸς (sky) αἰγλήεις, (radiant) - the radiant sky
ὃν (his) χρύσεαι (golden) ἀμφὶς (around) ἔθειραι (hair) - around his golden hair
ἄστρων (stars) μαρμαρέων (gleaming) περιϰαλλέες (very beautiful) ἠερέθονται, (flutter, float) - the gleaming stars beautifully fluttering
ταύρεα (of bulls) δ' ἀμφοτέρωθε (from both sides) δύο (two) χρύσεια (golden) ϰέρατα, (horns) - with golden bull's horns on either side
ἀντολίη (rising) τε (and) δύσις (setting) τε, (and [redundant?]) - rising and setting
θεῶν (Gods) ὁδοὶ (pathway) οὐρανιώνων, (the heavenly ones) - the pathway of the heavenly Gods
ὄμματα (eyes) δ' ἠέλιός (the sun) τε ϰαὶ (and) ἀντιόωσα (meeting) σελήνη· (moon) - his eyes are the sun reflected in the moon
νοῦς (mind) δέ ἀψευδὴς (truthful) βασιλήϊος (regal) ἄφθιτος (imperishable) αἰθήρ, (aithír) - His mind is kingly truth itself, the immortal Aithír
ὧι δή πάντα (all) ϰλύει (hear) ϰαὶ (and) φράζεται· (ponder, consider) - hearing and considering all
οὐδέ (nor) τίς (any thing) ἐστιν (be, exist) - no ...
αὐδὴ (word) οὔδ' (nor) ἐνοπὴ (cry) οὐδὲ (nor) ϰτύπος (noise) οὐδὲ (nor) μὲν ὄσσα, (voice) - ...word nor cry nor noise nor voice
ἣ λήθει (escapes) Διὸς (Zefs) οὖας (ear) ὑπερμενέος (very mighty) Κρονίωνος. (son of Krónos) - escapes the ear of the mightiest son of Krónos
ὧδε (thus) μὲν (indeed) ἀθανάτη (immortal) ϰεφαλὴν (head) ἔχει (bear, support) ἠδὲ (and) νόημα· (thought) - thus indeed his immortal head and thought
σῶμα (body) δέ (now, so then) οἱ (his) περιφεγγές, (περιφέγγεια, radiance) - Now then his radiant body,
ἀπείριτον, (boundless) - boundless,
ἀστυφέλιϰτον, (unshaken, undisturbed) - undisturbed,
ἄτρομον, (fearless) - fearless,
ὀβριμόγυιον, (ὀβριμόγυιος, strong-limbed) - strong-limbed,
ὑπερμενές (exceeding mighty) ὧδε (thus) τέτυϰται· (make) - exceedingly mighty and formed thus
ὦμοι (shoulders) μὲν (indeed, thus) καὶ (and) στέρνα (chest) ϰαὶ (and) εὐρέα (wide, broad) νῶτα (back) θεοῖο (God, gen.) - the shoulders and chest and broad back of the God
ἀὴρ (air) εὐρυβίης, (extended might) - the extended might of the air
πτέρυγες (wings) δέ οἱ ἐξεφύοντο, (generate) - he generates wings
τῆις (these) ἐπὶ (upon) πάντα (all) ποτᾶθ', (fly) - whereupon he flies over all
ἱερὴ (divine) δέ οἱ ἔπλετο (is, to be) νηδύς (belly) - his divine belly is
γαῖά (earth) τε παμμήτωρ (mother of all) ὀρέων (hills) τ' αἰπεινὰ (lofty) ϰάρηνα· (head; metaphor: mountain peaks) - Earth, the mother of all, with her lofty hills and mountain peaks
μέσση (middle) δὲ () ζώνη (belt) βαρυηχέος (βαρυηχής, deep-voiced) οἶδμα (a swelling) θαλάσσης (sea) - the belt about his middle is a swelling of the deep-voiced sea
ϰαὶ (and) πόντου· (sea) - and ocean.
πυμάτη (hindmost, last) δὲ () βάσις, (step) - his feet
χθονὸς (earth, gen.) ἔνδοθι (within, at home) ῥίζαι, (root, foundation) - the foundation of the earth
Τάρταρά (Tártaros) τ' εὐρώεντα (moldy, dank) ϰαὶ (and) ἔσχατα (farthest, uttermost) πείρατα (end, limit) γαίης. (earth) - the dismal bowels of the world and earth's furthest limit
πάντα (all) δ' ἀποϰρύψας (hidden) αὖθις (anew) φάος (light) ἐς (into) πολυγηθὲς (delightful) - all hidden yet anew into delightful light
μέλλεν (destined, intend to do) ἀπό (from, away from) ϰραδίης (heart) προφέρειν (bring before) πάλι, (again) - as he intends to do from his heart to bring forth again
θέσϰελα (divinely wondrous) ῥέζων. (doing, acting, performing) - acting in wondrous holiness!
Literal translation of the Orphic Rhapsodic hymn to Zefs
The Great Orphic Rhapsodic Hymn to Olympian Zefs
Zefs is the first and the last, the lord of lightning. 1
Zefs is the head and center, for all things are from Zefs.
Zefs is born male; immortal Zefs comes forth a nýmphi (νύμφη/female).
Zefs is the foundation of earth and starry heaven.
Zefs is sovereign of all for he is the first cause of all things. 5
In one divine power, emerging one divinity, the commander of the world.
One regal body in which everything revolves:
Fire and Water and Earth and Aithír, and both Night and Day,
and Mítis (Μήτις), the first-begotten one and lovely Ǽrohs (Ἔρως).
For these are all in the mighty body of Zefs. 10
Behold his head and handsome countenance,
the radiant sky. Around his golden hair
are the gleaming stars twinkling beautifully.
And there are great golden bull’s horns on either side of his head,
the rising and setting (sun), the heavenly pathway of the Gods. 15
His eyes are Ílios (Helios), reflected in the Moon.
His mind is kingly truth itself, the immortal Aithír,
hearing and considering all: nothing which is,
no word nor cry nor noise nor voice,
escapes the ear of the mightiest son of Krónos. 20
Thus indeed his immortal head and mind,
now then his radiant body, boundless, undisturbed.
His fearless, strong limbs, exceedingly mighty are formed thus:
the shoulders and chest and broad back of the God,
formed of the air all surrounding. He generates wings 25
whereupon he flies everywhere. His divine belly is
Earth, the mother of all, with her imposing hills and mountain peaks.
The belt about his middle is a wave of the deep-voiced sea
and ocean! His feet, the foundation of earth,
are dank Tártaros and earth's furthermost limit! 30
Hiding all things yet causing them to newly emerge into delightful light,
he brings them forth again from his heart, acting in divine wonderment!
Commentary on the Orphic Rhapsodic hymn to Zefs by Porphýrios
“Now look at the wisdom of the Greeks, and examine it as follows. The authors of the Orphic hymns supposed Zeus to be the mind of the world, and that he created all things therein, containing the world in himself. Therefore in their theological systems they have handed down their opinions concerning him thus:
(The above Orphic Rhapsodic Hymn to Zefs appears at this point in the text)
“Zeus, therefore, is the whole world, animal of animals, and God of Gods; but Zeus, that is, inasmuch as he is the mind from which he brings forth all things, and by his thoughts creates them. When the theologians had explained the nature of God in this manner, to make an image such as their description indicated was neither possible, nor, if any one thought of it, could he show the look of life, and intelligence, and forethought by the figure of a sphere.
“But they have made the representation of Zeus in human form, because mind was that according to which he wrought, and by generative laws brought all things to completion; and he is seated, as indicating the steadfastness of his power: and his upper parts are bare, because he is manifested in the intellectual and the heavenly parts of the world; but his feet are clothed, because he is invisible in the things that lie hidden below. And he holds his sceptre in his left hand, because most close to that side of the body dwells the heart, the most commanding and intelligent organ: for the creative mind is the sovereign of the world. And in his right hand he holds forth either an eagle, because he is master of the gods who traverse the air, as the eagle is master of the birds that fly aloft----or a victory, because he is himself victorious over all things.” 
 Περὶ Κόσμου Ἀριστοτέλους 401a.28 - 401b.7. Trans. E. S. Forster, 1914.
 The Greek text as found in ORPHICORVM FRAGMENTA by Otto Kern, 1922, pp. 201-202. It is Orphic fragment 168. This great hymn was quoted from a lost work of Porphýrios (Porphyry, Πορφύριος) in a text by the Christian Church Father Efsǽvios (Eusebius, Εὐσέβιος) entitled Εὑαγγελικὴ προπαρασκευή, more commonly known by its Latin title Praeparatio evangelica. The hymn can be found in Book 3, chapter 9.
 Εὑαγγελικὴ προπαρασκευή Εὐσεβίου Book 3, Chapter 9, quoting Πορφύριος, trans. E. H. Gifford 1903.
Download the Hymn: The Orphic Rhapsodic Hymn to Zefs
Much of the theology of our religion has been preserved in fragments: The Orphic Fragments of Otto Kern.
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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